The Importance of Marketing for a Medical Practice
“Branding” and “target demographics” are terms typically used in the business world — not in the medical profession. A patient is much more than a customer, and a physician’s goal is to treat patients. But, obviously, before a patient can be treated, he or she needs to show up.
People have many choices when selecting a doctor, so it’s important to find innovative ways to attract patients. Creating a marketing plan can focus your efforts and help your practice achieve its goals.
Defining your demographic
It’s important to evaluate the age range of your patients, where they live and how they found out about you. In theory, if yours is a specialty practice — a pediatrics office, an OB/GYN or a podiatric physician, for example — your patients could be fairly easy to define.
But an analysis of a practice might actually find, for instance, that the pediatrician is spending most of his or her time on teenagers, the OB/GYN might have an unusual number of menopausal patients, or the podiatric physician primarily deals with patients who have sports-related issues. Even a family practitioner might find that the practice skews toward a particular subset of patients.
Why? Some of this may be related to insurance, physician preference and reputation — or even geography. Is the practice located in a college town? Near residential areas with a largely aging population? Or in an area where the dominant employer offers specific health insurance options? All of these can affect practice demographics.
Focusing your efforts
Defining what type of practice you have and whom the practice is serving is a way of determining the practice’s brand identity. And, of course, clarifying and creating the practice’s “brand” helps shape the marketing campaign. Should your marketing aim at an aging population? If so, ads in the local college newspaper are a waste of time and money.
There are many marketing outlets. Examples include a practice website, a regularly updated social media page on a carefully chosen platform, the yellow pages, local or regional newspapers, direct mailings, and radio and TV. Other avenues include:
- Lunches and talks with potential referring physicians,
- Lunches and talks with local public service organizations such as the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis,
- Writing local newspaper columns,
- Visiting nursing home administrators and medical decision makers,
- Holding open houses, and
- Making presentations and setting up booths at local events.
Determining the kinds of patients you are likely to attract and getting a handle on your brand identity can help with the process of selecting the most appropriate marketing targets and outlets.
Estimating your marketing budget
Another factor to take into consideration is a marketing budget. Generally, a marketing budget that’s about 2% to 4% of projected revenues is considered appropriate.
If your budget, or the amount of time you can spend on marketing efforts, is limited, an evaluation of return on investment (ROI) is in order. Correction: An evaluation of ROI is always in order.
How effective are your marketing efforts at hitting your target audience? Once a yellow pages ad was a must-have, but now, thanks to the Internet, many physicians feel these ads aren’t worth the price — especially when a professional website is relatively inexpensive and can be tied to a patient portal and scheduling system.
Ads on radio and TV can be effective, but they’re expensive and depend on the practice’s market area. A major urban market has an enormous reach, but you’ll face higher costs. A smaller, rural or suburban market is likely less expensive but reaches fewer people. In this case, your advertising could be more targeted.
But it’s important to consider that your marketing efforts probably should cross several formats and platforms. Having a website alone isn’t enough. The same is true for a yellow pages ad or a direct mailing. For a physician practice marketing campaign to be effective, it needs to occur on multiple platforms and be geared to your specific target audience.
Getting professional advice
Your expertise is in providing medical care, not in marketing your practice to potential patients. So, you may want to consider obtaining the services of a professional to help you reap the most benefits from your marketing campaign — and avoid any potential pitfalls.
Marketing is simply a communications strategy. When properly used, it can increase public awareness of the care and expertise your practice has to offer — and motivate more patients to walk through the door.
For more information on our services, please visit our healthcare services page or our general services page. If you have any questions, please contact Deirdre Hartmann or Harlene Stevens at (973) 298-8500.