It goes without saying that healthcare marketing is challenging even at the best of times, and these are not necessarily the best of times. But if you take a little time to address the challenges head on, you may just discover opportunities for marketing you may otherwise have missed. Here are five of the more difficult issues faced by healthcare providers and straight-forward approaches you can apply to help you overcome even the most daunting obstacles.
#1 - Genius Idea Meets Bureaucracy. Marketing often requires out-of-the-box thinking which can lead to off-the-wall ideas. Those great ideas, however, are often stomped out of existence by “higher-ups” who fear anything different, or who just need to prove they they hold the reigns and the purse strings. How do you proceed?
Look for opportunities to build consensus. Before you begin developing your marketing plan, invite those with veto power to be part of the conversation. Ask them to be involved in the brainstorming parts of your planning, include them in the development of ideas and strategies. But cultivating a relationship of inclusion and trust, you’re much more likely to get approval for those left-of-center ideas.
#2 - You Can’t Be All Things to All People. Sure, your practice does a lot of things, and it does them well. But trying to prove you’re the best at everything can backfire with prospective patients. When you’re creating your brand, it’s best to focus on one or two dominant aspects that describe your practice and your people. Do you have the friendliest staff? Is your doctor specially trained in a certain procedure? Is your office conveniently located? What is the shining jewel that stands out in your organization? When you use this to focus your branding, potential patients will be attracted by that special offering, but they’ll assume all the other good things (customer service, friendly staff, knowledgeable doctors) come with it.
#3 - Jane Beats Tarzan. Bragging is a double-edged sword, and when it’s not wielded carefully, it can do more harm than good. Too much chest beating is a turnoff for potential patients. Sure, it’s good to talk up your positive qualities, but too much focus on technology or “us vs. them” will make potential patients uncomfortable. Instead, go for the emotional connection. When your message focuses on having empathy and the benefit to the patient, your audience is much more inclined to pay attention.
#4 - Don’t Try to Beat the Big Kids on Their Playground. There will always be a competitor who is bigger and has a larger budget than you have. If you try to play by their rules while building your brand, you’ll quickly run out of money, or worse, look silly. Instead of taking the fight to their playground, figure out they aren’t, or where you can level the playing field. Make sure your online profile is representing you as completely and accurately as possible. This is one location where you can look and act just like the big kids without breaking the bank. Using social media to your advantage can save money while still building your reputation and enhancing your brand just like your bigger competitors.
#5 - Patients Want it All. Current and potential patients are looking for the best of everything: friendly staff, top-of-the-line equipment, and well-trained physicians who take the time to communicate effectively. Some of your best marketing tools are actually your patient relationship management strategies. Effective communication makes patients feel connected to you and your practice. Providing next-level options in an overall strategy makes every patient feel like the only patient. Patients who have a positive connection with their physician are much more likely to recommend their friends and family to that physician. They are also more likely to leave positive feedback on websites and review sites. Word of mouth feedback is still the most effective form of advertising, and best of all, it’s still free. When your patient relationship management strategy is comprehensive and includes excellent communication, you’re investing in this most potent marketing tool.
When you consider all the obstacles to effective marketing in advance of building your marketing plan, you can better plan for and respond to those obstacles when they arise. Open and honest communication is the key to solving most every problem, and that certainly applies here. With effective planning and communication, you can build your brand and set your practice up for long-term success.