Healthcare Marketing for Your Small Practice in a World of Conglomerates

medical-marketingYour small healthcare business aims to help people in need, and its focus is on providing high-quality care. But it’s still a business. In today’s complex healthcare environment, staying in business is a challenge — especially when competing with large healthcare conglomerates, such as those found in North Carolina.

Healthcare marketing a small medical business means fighting for a foothold against those big hospitals and their practices, which have far larger marketing budgets. How can you gain recognition and keep new patients coming in? Here are several steps to start your marketing journey. Please note that this is a short overview; there is so much to healthcare marketing we can’t write it all here. We’re happy to answer your questions in more detail.

The Marketing Plan

Healthcare marketing is not just advertising or networking. Those might be two aspects of your marketing plan. The key to marketing effectively is to know your audience: who they are, what they seek in your area of medical practice, and how to reach them. To do this, a small healthcare practice must create a roadmap for the next year that outlines a marketing strategy. Your strategy should include information about:

  • Who is in charge of your healthcare marketing? Even if you hire an outside marketing agency, there needs to be at least one “point” person on your team who handles marketing. If you don’t hire an agency, you may need a few people to help manage everything.
  • Who is your audience? It might be current patients, new patients or their families. If you are a specialty practice that relies on physician referrals, your target audience might be those physicians. Narrow this down as much as possible. Studies show women make most of the health care decisions, so you might target women. But what else defines your target? Location? Type of insurance? Those who are new to the area and seeking new health care providers? Be as specific as you can be for the best possible outcomes with your marketing. Think about age range, gender, income, insurance, and geographic location to get the most clear picture of your audience.
  • What do you offer and what is its value to your target audience? Before you can communicate this, you need to know inside and out, why you are special and why someone might choose your practice. Be sure to keep in mind that what differentiates you from others might be difficult for non-medical people to understand. For example, you might be board-certified, but what does that mean to the average person? Once you create a list of what you offer, compare that to what your audience wants or needs. Do the two lists match?
  • Look internally. Let’s say a healthcare organization spends thousands of dollars on an ad, and with tracking, they know several hundred people viewed that ad. Yet they are not getting any new patients. Consider what your patients need and want from you. Maybe it’s something wrong with your customer service, your hours of operation, your wait times, the length of time it takes to get an appointment, price range, how easy it is to find your office, parking availability or the feel of your waiting room. So many things play a role in how a patient perceives your practice. View everything with a critical eye and make changes if needed.
  • Map out ongoing efforts. One advertisement won’t work. Effective marketing is a well-thought-out plan, with different campaigns and programs at regular intervals. Start with the next year. This is where you decide what approaches you will use to spread awareness about your practice. A lot will depend on your budget (more on that below). Some marketing tools include: newsletters or e-newsletters, promotional items, advertising (on TV, radio, in newspapers, billboards, etc.), social media, videos, content marketing, sponsorships, networking and memberships, health fairs, referral programs, your website, and SEO. Figuring out which tools to use depends on your audience and what will reach them.
  • Measure results. Whatever path you take, the most important part is to measure whether it’s working. You do not want to waste money on a path that isn’t providing results. Are you e-newsletters receiving clicks and opens? If you advertise, list a special phone number so you can track how many calls come in based on that ad. If you sponsor or network, use a special code word for people to use to get a discount or extra service (if that’s possible in your practice). This is one area that requires your front desk team to be organized; make sure they know to ask questions about how a patient found you!
  • Adjust. If something is working well, consider shifting part of the marketing budget toward that tool. Likewise, if something is not working, abandon it or make changes.

Create a Marketing Budget

Creating a marketing budget feels impossible if you’ve never done it. How much should you set aside? One important note: every single marketing-related thing must have its own line item. So an easy way to start is to create a list of any marketing you have already done and how much you spent. For example, you spend $500 on business cards. That’s a line item. Add more items for what you would like to do based on the above tools you chose. Now total it up.

Sticker shock? Many marketing guides suggest you can assume a return on investment of 2:1, but that doesn’t mean every single dollar you spend will get you $2 back — think of it as a guide. According to Physicians Practice, the media budget for multi-specialty practices is $3,000 per FTE physician. Those with an aggressive marketing plan might spend up to 18 percent of gross revenue.

In the end, what you decide to spend is up to you and your goals. One approach is to map out your strategy and what tactics you want to try, then price out those options and see how it totals. However, be sure to consider that buying marketing help a la carte will likely cost far more in the long run than a marketing retainer. We’re happy to help you figure out a good number for your goals and budget. Contact us to learn more.

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