We’ve all heard the same story…New Year, new resolutions, right? If you have been putting off your marketing strategy because it seems like a daunting task, I’m here to tell you to how to jumpstart the process to get your programs off the ground in 2014.
Let’s start simple with a short question and answer session, shall we?
- How many email addresses do you have in your patient management database?
- Are you using all the tools available both online and internally to communicate effectively with your patients?
- Are your patients satisfied with your practice – your office, staff, resources and care?
- Are you satisfied with your office staff and their interactions with patients?
- Have you tried traditional marketing methods including direct mail and yellow pages ads, only to find that you’ve wasted money or were unable to track the results?
Now let’s talk about those marketing tips to get you started while looking a little closer at your answers.
- Collect Patient Email Addresses – This is so incredibly important for marketing in the internet age. Emails can be used to confirm appointments, send out newsletters, surveys, introduce new staff members and events. Make sure to contact your patient management software provider and ask them the most effective way to enter this information into your system so it’s easily accessible when running reports. Offer staff incentives to aid in the effort. Sending out quarterly emails using a simple email marketing tool such as Vertical Response, Constant Contact or MailChimp is becoming the norm for medical practices to communicate with their patients.
Take Action: Communicate with staff about the importance of collecting email addresses and make sure your patient registration form asks for this data.
- Communicate with Your Patients – This is the single most important advice I can give. You must find a way to communicate effectively with your patients. Every. Single. Day. I’ve already mentioned the importance of email addresses, but this takes it one step further. If you aren’t internet savvy and do not utilize social media yet, then now’s the time. I’m willing to bet that one of your staff members uses it daily and if given the opportunity, they would enjoy being the elected “voice” of the office with a little guidance from you. It’s not rocket science, but it does require at least 5-10 minutes a day to visit and update your Facebook page status or tweet. The updates could include office happenings, events, contests, trivia, photos, resources, health tips or just fun facts about your office. You get the picture, right? Patients who aren’t online should be able to learn more about your office while sitting in your reception area. Create an office newsletter and leave a stack at the front desk, put an bulletin board on the wall displaying newspaper clippings, cards and photos from patients, run a presentation on a flatscreen TV educating your patients, and have signage mentioning your Facebook page where it’s easy to see.
Take Action: Make it as easy as possible for patients to learn more about you and your staff via many influence points. By acting as a health resource for your patients, you will establish trust and a stronger reputation. Highly engaged patients are proactive in their health care and have become savvy health care consumers who will refer their friends and family to you.
- Send Annual Patient Satisfaction Surveys – Seems simple right? Well, you’d be surprised at how many practitioners do not actually know what their patients think of them. There are abundant resources online these days and this extremely useful tool will give you a birds-eye-view of your patients’ experience. I prefer Vertical Response for my email marketing since they have a built-in tool for surveys that’s simple to use. There are also several survey tools out there including SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang which are fairly simple to execute. If you find that online surveys are a challenge, then take the time to create and print out a survey for patients to fill out at their next office visit. You could also offer a small incentive that will boost your number of survey responses.
Take Action: Implement a patient survey at least once a year either online or in-office. Take your time reviewing the results and make adjustments if necessary based on patient responses.
- Make the Most of Your Internal Marketing – Every office has its good days and bad, but be sure to pay attention to the way your staff interacts with your patients on a continual basis. Your front office staff has the tough job of making a positive first impression for your office, and you want to be sure your patients feel welcome, are greeted with a warm smile and good eye contact. With a long list of tasks, staff members can get caught up staring down at their computer or answering the phone, making patients feel neglected. Team meetings should be held weekly or monthly and all staff members should be present. This is your chance to praise or remind staff of the continued effort of marketing your practice. It’s also a great time to review new procedures, patient survey results and any relevant topics that should be communicated to patients. The more your staff engages with patients, the more you happier your patients are.
Take Action: A continual focus on internal marketing will generate word-of-mouth advertising and patient referrals. Medical practice marketing is a process, not an event. You must consistently implement your internal marketing tactics, and demand the highest standard of customer (patient) service from your staff.
- Resolve to Try Something New in 2014 (but track your results!)– I believe it was Albert Einstein who said that the definition for insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well this year, why not step outside your comfort zone and try something new – you might be surprised by the results! If you answered to the question above that you’ve wasted money on traditional marketing methods, it sounds like its time to re-focus your efforts. Here are some more ideas to consider for 2014:
- Online Marketing – there are many online options now including Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, Local Search Tools and Email Marketing.
- Revamp your Website – finally time for that new website? Launch a professional, successful and engaging design this year and you’ll be on your way to reaching new patients in no time at all.
- Referral Programs – implement a patient referral program or field marketing program to focus on patient and practice referrals.
- Patient Newsletters – enhance your patient communication with a professional newsletter. Leave copies in the office or email them to patients on a quarterly basis.
Take Action: Spend time taking inventory of all your resources, current efforts and future goals. Write down all your ideas for 2014 and start to create a strategy including internal and external marketing efforts. Make a resolution to continue to improve upon your marketing efforts this year and beyond to build upon your patient file.
- Bonus Tip: Consider hosting a practice blog by learning from a New York Times bestselling author. Blogs will increase your website traffic, influence potential patients and dominate search engine results.
While many doctors, dentists, and hospitals recognize the need to market their medical practice, the biggest challenges are developing the actual medical marketing strategy and budget, and tracking the results. Have you been “putting off” ideas because you don’t have the resources internally to execute them? You may want to consider an outside partner to help get your practice on track and build a successful financial future.
So what are your New Year’s marketing resolutions for 2014? Please feel free to leave a comment.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
About Wendy Hamel
As co-founder of Med-Marketers, and serving as Director of Client Programs, Wendy is directly responsible for guiding creative strategy and overall execution on client services for the company. Wendy has over 15 years of marketing and management experience serving technology, healthcare and retail. Prior to Med-Marketers, Wendy was the Director of Marketing at RAID, Inc. where she was instrumental in developing brand awareness and business development programs that helped the company transition into new markets and exceed vertical revenue goals. For the last 5 years, Wendy’s direct focus has been practice consulting and strategic marketing for orthodontists, orthopedists, plastic surgeons, dentists and primary care physicians within the Greater Boston area.
Her areas of expertise include patient file development, field marketing, online marketing, public relations, social media strategy, web design, SEO and collateral design.
The inception of Med-Marketers was based on the clear and compelling need for medical practice owners to be able to drive new business and retain patients through professionally managed marketing programs. We know that consistent contact and effective communication with your patients and referring physicians are the keys to business growth and continued success. We listen carefully about your unique practice needs and take the initiative in working with you to develop a sound strategy within your target market. Finally, we take the lead in making things happen to deliver on your specific business goals.
To learn more about our services, visit www.med-marketers.com.