Mistake #4: Not Marketing Effectively
By: Tina Bell Director of Marketing, HealthCARE Express You have spent six months gearing up for opening day of your Medical Practice clinic. You’ve met with contractors, gone before the city zoning board, hired your staff, decorated the clinic, ordered medical supplies, and now is the day to open your doors to the public. With a $10,000 a month overhead between salaries, rent and medical supplies, you eagerly await the first patient to walk through the door. It doesn’t happen. Day two, still no patient. Week two, five patients have walked through the door. What went wrong? Medical Practice is the business of consumer driven medicine, meaning it’s a combination of medicine and driving consumers to your business in the same manner that retailers drive sales at their stores. A typical family medical practice establishes an office and starts taking appointments. Eventually the doctor has a "full" practice and limits new patients to take care of established ones. Location is based on proximity to other doctors or hospitals. Medical Practice clinics, on the other hand, are walk-in only. New patients are just as important as established patients, and location is critical to drive by traffic. The arenas are different, and the way they are marketed is different too. A key to your Medical Practice’s success is to hire a marketer who will drive around in your company wrapped car going business to business to let people know you are open and to promote the occupational medicine side of your clinic, if your Medical Practice has one. Your marketer needs to be someone who fits the health model you promote – in shape, friendly, outgoing, and smart. Think “drug-rep”. Tip #1: Traditional Marketing Negotiations Traditional and non-traditional marketing are equally important to your clinic in the right combination. Traditional marketing is expensive, but you can always negotiate contracts. Remember the people selling ads on television, radio and billboards, and in newspapers, magazines and on-line, all work off of commission. Their ultimate goal is to get you to sign a lengthy contract at the highest price. If they seem pushy, walk away and ask for another sales person. Never sign a contract longer than six months, and a 3 month or less contract is even better. Often times you can get six month rates split over an entire year instead of back-to-back. Make sure to get any oral agreements put down on the final contract because what your sales person promises you today may not hold up when they’ve left the company two months down the road. Tip #2: Non-Traditional Marketing While traditional marketing can reach lots of people in a short time, it does not build relationships. In the Medical Practice setting, relationships are what will ultimately build your clinic’s patient volume. This is where non-traditional marketing is important. The good news is, non-traditional marketing is much less expensive than traditional marketing, but it is also more time consuming. Non-traditional marketing includes things like social media (Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are the trends right now) and websites. All Medical Practices need a website, even if the site only has one page with directions to the clinic, contact information, and hours. Businesses without websites are not deemed as credible by today’s web-savvy consumers. Non-traditional marketing also includes being active in the local community. Your marketer should do more than just join the local Chamber of Commerce, he/she should become an active part of the Chamber by attending area ribbon cuttings and other Chamber events. Another fairly inexpensive way to get involved in the community is to join civic organizations or participate in large community fundraisers like the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk or the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure. Tip #3: The Only Thing More Expensive than Marketing… While saving money in the early days is important, skimping on marketing can be a huge mistake. You have to let people know your Medical Practice is there. Your mission should be to educate your potential customer on who you are and what you do. There are still a lot of people who do not know what an Medical Practice is or does. Part of your marketing needs to be value added marketing, where you teach your potential customer something of value, even if they choose not to use you. Always remember that the only thing more expensive than marketing is paying for a new Medical Practice building that has no patients utilizing it.