Healthy Messages You Need to Effectively Market Your Medical Practice

In these competitive and difficult economic times, today’s medical practices are struggling with shrinking patient bases and lower reimbursement rates. While marketing and advertising costs may seem like the first place to look to cut overhead to offset lower revenues, it is actually the one area where greater emphasis should now be placed.

Marketing your practice should not be something that is entered into lightly. Doing so effectively involves adequate planning, understanding the various methods available, and performing proper follow-up. This article will serve to provide insight into each of these areas.

Planning to Succeed

The first step to planning your marketing is determining how much you are willing to spend. A general rule of thumb is 1{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of total revenues. The next most critical step is to determine the message that you want to deliver — what you are selling.

Once these have been addressed, you will also need to consider who your competitors are and the demographics of your patient base. Finally, you will need to determine which staff, if any, or external consultants you will use to help carry out the plan.

Marketing Methods

To reach a broad demographic, many practices are now utilizing television, newspaper, and radio advertisements. The most significant benefit to these types of advertisements is the exposure that they give to your practice. To be effective, however, you need to focus on the services you are offering. Then, let the audience decide if that is a service that they may need. The drawback to these advertisements can be cost. However, in non-metropolitan areas, the cost will most likely be lower and should be worth considering.

Web sites have become standard for every practice these days. How much you invest in the site should be based upon the demographic that your practice services. Overall, development and maintenance costs have come down substantially over recent years.

When creating a Web site, there are a few items that must be considered, regardless of how extensive it becomes. First and foremost, the site must be user-friendly. Second, the site should be updated regularly, which not only helps to remove stale data, but shows that you are taking an interest in the message you are presenting. Finally, include advice on certain topics that may be of interest to the patients that you are serving. They will appreciate this gesture and will see you as knowledgeable in your specialty.

The yellow pages should be at the top of your list. While it may seem outdated to many people, there is still a large percentage of the population without computers who rely on the phone book to find a practice. Additionally, for those that are computer-savvy, such an advertisement can also link you to the book’s Web page. Make sure, however, that you have considered the different yellow page listings that may be used in your area, and be sure to advertise in all of them.

Brochures are another must-have for every practice, regardless of your location and size. Again, a large percentage of the population is not computer-savvy, and this may be the best way to put your services in front of potential patients. The biggest mistake that practices make with these brochures, however, is that they have them made up and then leave them in a pile at the reception desk. They need to be handed out wherever possible. Some of the best places to distribute them are at speaking engagements and at other practices for which you may offer complementary services.

Public outreach can be a very powerful marketing method, but is many times overlooked. Consider volunteering at the local senior center or making house calls for extremely ill patients. If you are a good public speaker, try connecting with one of the local health fairs, industry publications, or public television to discuss the possibility of speaking on behalf of a new procedure or technique that others may find interesting. Or, if public speaking is not for you, medical advice columns are another great tool and are a way to generate some free advertising.

Always consider your own personal network and relationships, as well as your current patients. Physician referrals are key to the success of any practice, but unless the referring physicians know and trust you, they will be reluctant to refer patients to your practice. There is also no harm in asking current patients for referrals and for thanking them when they do so.

Following Up

After various marketing methods have been utilized and implemented, the biggest mistake made by practices is not following up to see what is working and what is not. At a minimum, you should not only be asking all new patients how they came to know of your practice, and this should be tracked. On a regular basis, you should be updating a tracking report with the results of these questionnaires so that you can evaluate whether or not your advertising dollars are being spent appropriately.

Also, implementing a traffic-monitoring mechanism on your Web site not only shows how many people visited your site and for how long, but also what information they were looking at and how they were directed to the site.

In conclusion, marketing your practice may at first seem to be an unnecessary and expensive undertaking. However, with proper planning, execution, and follow-up, it can be not only cost-effective, but instrumental in the future success of your practice.

James T. Krupienski, CPA, is manager of Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., in Holyoke, certified public accountants and business strategists; (413) 536-8510;www.mbkcpa.com