When it comes to , healthcare practices are often at a distinct disadvantage when compared to major companies. Very few healthcare practices have a dedicated marketing team. And unfortunately, marketing is not usually what anyone in the office studied in school! For most, Marketing 101 was simply a required class that was tucked away into the “not really necessary” category.
In addition, doctors are not only the CEO of their practice, but the business’ main workers. This situation is almost unthinkable in a large corporation. Does the CEO of Ford Motor Company design, market, and assemble vehicles in addition to running the company? Of course not! It’s no wonder marketing can be such a challenge for so many practices.
Practice Marketing Starts with Soft Skills
Marketing is all about connection. It’s about knowing who your patients are—their needs and wants—and then meeting those needs. While you will be happy to see any patient that comes through your doors (of course!), your marketing dollars will be much better spent if you take the time to understand just what your ideal patient looks like and target your messaging specifically to them.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is an awesome example of this. They focus on a very specific demographic—women with cancer. They have done their research when it comes to this demographic. They know what challenges their patients are facing. They understand their fears. Because of this, they have been able to create a very targeted, impactful marketing campaign.
It starts with a powerful slogan: “Right now you may have cancer. But what your cancer doesn’t know is – You Have Us.”
This idea of “we’ve got your back” is spread throughout their marketing—it can be found on social media, their website, testimonials, education, and more. And it has been wildly successful. None of this success would have been possible, however, if they had not first taken the time to “get in the heads” of their target market.
Five easy steps to kick start your marketing
You do not have to have a practice dedicated to a specific niche in order to create targeted marketing. All practices should take the time to research who their ideal patient is and what their needs are. It will take a little bit of time, but that time will be completely worth it. So grab a piece of paper and a pen (or your laptop!) and let’s get started.
Step #1: Identify your ideal patient
Schedule time to sit down and research your ideal patient Give them a name. Make them real to you. The more specifically you define your target patient, the more your marketing message will resonate with them. Start by focusing on some specifics:
- Where do they live? Zip code?
- Family Size?
- What is their general personality?
- What are their challenges?
- What is important to them?
- What would they be looking for in a healthcare facility?
Step #2: Write out a summary of your ideal patient
Once you’ve written down answers to the questions above, put together a small description of your ideal patient. For example:
“Ruth is a 45 year old female. She lives in the zip code 84043 with her husband and two small children. Ruth is a business woman who waited to have children until she was a little older in order to focus on her career. Today, she dedicates just as much energy to raising her kids as she does her career. Her household income is above $90,000. She is looking for a doctor’s office that can streamline its way into her busy schedule. She likes to educate herself on potential medical issues and wants ways to make seeing the doctor easier and faster. She is tech savvy and often found online.”
Now it’s time to really put yourself in Ruth’s shoes. What makes her frustrated? How can you eliminate some of the stresses on her daily life? Which features and services would she be looking for in a doctor? What methods would she employ to find such a doctor?
Write down the answers to each of these below your description.
Step #3: Assess which services your ideal patient would want
It’s time to do a little research. You need to find out what services your ideal patient wants (and which she couldn’t care less about!). You can start with your own search online, and then branch out to patient surveys and talking to a few people who are all part of your ideal demographic. Write down what you find.
Back to our example. What does Ruth want with her healthcare?
- Education – Ruth, like 80% of Americans, wants to understand what is going on with her health. She is likely to read blogs, websites, and more to gain this knowledge. You can expect that she will come into the office armed with knowledge.
- Ease of access – Ruth is extremely busy. Above all, she needs her healthcare to be easy. All information should be easily available wherever Ruth may be. She should be able to access things like bills and lab results online from her phone or her computer.
- Ongoing communication – Along with ease of access comes communication. This deserves its own category because it is so important. Ruth is a patient who needs on-going contact to keep her on track. With such a busy life, it is easy to let “little” things like a dental visit fall through the cracks. She will want appointment reminders and rescheduling messages, emails and newsletters.
Step #4: Find ways to provide these services
Once you’ve determined which services your ideal patient wants, you can do a quick audit of your own offerings. See what you already offer and what you might be able to improve upon. For Ruth, there are a few different solutions.
- –We know Ruth is the type of person who wants to be engaged in her own healthcare. You should be the one to provide that education, which will also help set you up as an expert in your field. This can be done in multiple ways. Newsletters, email, social media, and videos are all great ways to provide information your ideal patient is seeking.
- Ease of Access - Make sure you have a website up and running. This website should include a patient portal where patients can pay their bills, send secure messages, review testing and lab results, and upcoming appointments. You may also want to provide an option for Ruth to make her own appointments online instead of needing to call the office. Any way you can make access easier will be a bonus.
- Messaging -Ruth is an extremely busy person. The best way to reach Ruth is through text message or email. A recent study found that 79 percent of people would like to receive text messages from their doctor. Even more surprising, the majority of people would also like to be able to text back! Fortunately, technology today can allow you to text back and forth from your office number. Communication should be regular and quick.
Step #5: Put your messaging where Ruth will find it
It’s all well and good to know your audience and provide the answer to their problems, but if your ideal patient can’t find out about you, it won’t matter! There are some basic ways to build a reputation that will attract the patients you want.
- Ruth is a tech savvy individual. Like 80 percent of Americans, she will likely turn to online reviews to find out what others are saying about doctors before selecting one. One great place to start is Healthgrades. It is the premier healthcare review site. In addition, Google, Yelp, and Facebook are all popular places for people to seek out reviews. You need to make it easy for patients to go and leave reviews. Request reviews from patients whenever possible. Even better, ask them to mention the services you offer.
- While Ruth is likely to seek out reviews online, she is also going to turn to her like-minded friends and family for their input. Did you know that 91 percent of people say that they would refer friends if you asked them to? Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of practices do! Find every opportunity you can to request referrals. During office visits, via email, newsletters, social media and so on.
- Social Media – Social media can be a great way to share your messaging. In today’s day and age, you simply cannot afford to NOT be on social media. It is where your patients are found, so you need to be there as well. Post regularly, interacting with your patient base. Be sure you highlight all of the services you provide from time to time so that potential patients can know about all of the great ways you can meet their needs.
Each week, review your marketing efforts. Are you getting the right message to the right person in the right place? By taking a little time each week, you can make sure you stay ahead of the game. You can anticipate your clients’ needs before they even know they want something! Talk about connection.
Want to learn more? Read the 10 Ways to Attract New Patients and Keep the Ones You Have.