Community Involvement as a Practice Marketing Plan
No one needs to tell you that the competition for new patients can be fierce. No longer can you hang a sign outside your practice and expect patients to find you. The growth of the internet, Google, and smartphone technology have dramatically altered healthcare practice marketing forever. Quality and reputation are still the watchwords that new patients seek, but to be truly successful, practitioners have to be willing to try avenues they haven’t previously considered.
To Boldly Go . . .
With the challenges inherent in modern practice marketing, it’s easy to get frustrated and feel that nothing works. Thinking outside the proverbial box and trying something different can often kickstart your marketing efforts and refocus the attention of your current and potential patients. Here are a few examples to use as your launch pad for new strategic adventures in marketing your practice:
Back to School:
When was the last time you walked into a local school? If your answer is, “Not since I graduated from it,” consider going back. Many elementary schools have health programs where you can speak about your specialty, give kids useful health tips, and send some free samples home with them. The only cost is your time, and whatever samples or give-aways you may have which serve as an inexpensive practice marketing tool.
Many middle schools and high schools also have career days set aside during the school year. Contact the main office of your local school to see if they have such a day, and then volunteer to talk about your practice. Handouts and give-aways are a good idea here, too, and again, it only costs your time.
All Around the Town:
Every year across the United States and Canada, communities hold festivals, celebrate holidays, host carnivals, and gather together to draw closer and learn from each other. These events are often open to letting local healthcare practitioners host an informational booth. State fairs, county fairs, and other opportunities are available throughout the year, so start looking around for available opportunities to market your practice to your neighbors. A little research online can lead you to some inexpensive, local events where hundreds, or even thousands, of potential patients will be happy they found you.
Ask for Help:
One of the most effective, and least expensive, ways to market your practice is to get someone else to do it for you! The best way to do that is to ask your patients to refer their friends and family to your practice. Referrals are an ideal form of marketing because they cost you nothing, and they rely upon the most time-tested form of advertising: word of mouth. You can choose to recognize those patients who make a referral to you if you like. This can be as simple as a thank-you in your newsletter, or as extravagant as a gift card mailed to the patient who made the referral. Regardless of how you choose to say thank you, it is important that you say it.
Making Your Practice Visible:
Promotional items are often overlooked by the healthcare community as a form of practice marketing. However, research has shown that even inexpensive items can have a positive impact. It’s important that the item be reflective of your practice. For example, it makes no sense for a pediatric provider to be offering golf shirts as a means of promoting their practice. The best strategy is to look for items (and there are hundreds!) within your practice marketing budget, and then choose something that would make sense to your patients. The best way to determine what your patients might appreciate? Ask them!
Failure IS an Option:
No matter what you choose to try, remember to pay close attention to the actions you take and the results you get. Tracking your expenses, the dates and times of your efforts, and the results you achieve will help you to better understand the strategy for marketing your practice that works for you so you can build on it and add to it. And if something doesn’t work - that’s okay! You can look at the data and see what it tells you before throwing the effort aside as a failure. Maybe it was the wrong time of year, or maybe you didn’t give it as much attention as you could have. As long as you learned something, it wasn’t wasted.
Be willing to take calculated risks with your practice marketing and you just might be surprised by the results!