The days of hanging your shingle outside your front door and waiting for new patients to arrive has all but disappeared. The perception of how a doctor should grow his or her practice has changed throughout the years. The evolution in medical and dental marketing has become tremendously sophisticated. Fierce competition has caused practices to seek marketing alternatives in order to survive and prosper.
In today’s environment, it is not enough for doctors to rely on just the quality and reputation of the practice, but they must also create an image and brand to generate and sustain their patient base. A good reputation is still the cornerstone to success. However, to grow the practice big enough to earn that reputation, a new doctor must think outside the box. That reputation will come as a direct result of the doctor’s ability to market himself or herself in the community. Health- and dental-care are businesses just like any other sector, and doctors need to apply the same principals and strategies to be profitable as other businesses.
Through the years, Marktronix Corporation has advised health-care professionals on how to grow their practices. Implementing the following marketing strategies will enable you to accomplish these goals and help create new sources of revenue.
Step 1: Target marketing
Target marketing is a direct and affordable way of attracting new patients. Unlike mass marketing where health-care professionals spend a significant amount of money on marketing to a broad audience, target marketing allows health-care professionals to shrink their marketing budget and reach patients they are actually targeting. There are lists of names and addresses within a certain zip code or within a certain geographic radius of your practice. These lists are categorically defined by demographics or life-changing events. A doctor can narrow down the population by selecting a number of different criteria. He or she may be interested in introducing the practice to new residents and/or certain consumer profiles. These might include gender, income level, age, type of treatment needed, etc. For example, if you have a practice that focuses on cosmetic dentistry and you are located in a wealthy area, you may want to target a specific group such as individuals between the ages of 35-65 with incomes of over $100,000 for certain cosmetic procedures. In today’s competitive environment and tough economic times, it is important for doctors to spend their marketing dollars wisely. Target marketing will help you to focus your efforts and spend your advertising budget more efficiently.
Step 2: Utilization of brochures and business cards.
Brochures situated in your office or mailed to new and existing patients can also be an effective marketing tool that establishes an image and attracts new patients to your practice. Information regarding specific dental problems and treatments available can be an informative educational tool that creates awareness about your practice. A brief summary about the doctor(s), the history of the practice, and a description about your state-of-the-art equipment will create an image that today’s patients are seeking when selecting their dental professional. Moreover,, displaying your business cards in your reception area, keeps your name intact. Patients will have access to your information for future reference.
Step 3: Web site and Internet marketing
A web site is an essential key ingredient that provides information and transparency to a practice. The Internet is a permanent part of our lives and will only continue to grow and shape the way we live. More and more patients turn to the Internet to find their dental professional. Your Web site should create an image that is consistent with who you are and what your practice represents. It should list all of the services you perform and information about these services, so that patients can learn about your practice with a simple click of the mouse. Things such as personal bio, office hours, procedures performed, insurance plans accepted, payment policies, and even the ability to make appointments online should all be easily accessible to everyone that uses your site. Flexible hours of operation are highly recommended.
The objective is to impress and educate your new potential patient so they can make an informed decision and call your office for an appointment. Having your Web site positioned and appearing in the hierarchy of the top five slots of a search engine, such as Google and Bing, is crucial to attracting new patients. Hire a firm that specializes in search engine optimization (“SEO”) to get your practice to naturally appear on specific searches. For example, if a dentist from Philadelphia wants to have the first Web site listing to appear when a potential patient searches “dentist in Daytona Beach,” an SEO company such as ours can help him or her achieve that goal. A user friendly and interactive site will enable a patient to communicate their requests to your office, creating interaction via the Web. Creating a Website and making sure it is relevant and accessible is probably the most important marketing tool at a doctor’s disposal.
Step 4: E-mail marketing
Accumulating e-mail addresses of your existing patients is a vital tool to a successful marketing campaign. It is not only ian effective and cost-cutting method of staying in touch with your existing patients, but it can also be used to send reminders, promotional offers, and birthday wishes to them. E-mail marketing saves postage, printing costs, and enables communication instantly. In the age of the “SmartPhone” and other portable smart devices, your e-mail campaigns are surely a cost effective and direct way to market to your patients. Did you ever consider the administrative and economic advantages of confirming patients’ appointments using e-mail? The time saved will allow staff members to be more productive in other areas.
Step 5: Marketing to your existing patient base
Analyzing and marketing to your existing patient base is another excellent method for generating additional revenue. Use of what we call the “3 I” system will make this much easier: “Identify, Isolate, and Initiate” procedures that generate the greatest income and market them to your patients. Ideally, you should promote those procedures and offers that can be given to existing patients to enhance their appearance, overall health, and well-being. Reminders sent to existing patients for an annual checkup via letters, postcards, or e-mail aid in bringing the patient back to the office. Sending imprinted calendars, pens, and magnetic advertising will keep your name visible. Creating special offers during the holiday season or one-time discounts will draw patients to selective procedures and, ultimately, generate more income for you, the doctor.
Step 6: Office appearance and attitude
A health-care professional’s office is a direct reflection of the image he or she is trying to exhibit. The space in which you practice plays an important role in how your patients perceive you. A clean and up-to-date working environment goes a long way. Staff members with a great attitude are also essential to your success. Have your staff greet your patients courteously, professionally, and with a cheerful attitude. After all, the first person a patient meets in the office plays a crucial role in establishing comfort and confidence. Try to make your reception area as user-friendly as possibly by having a water dispenser or an instant coffee maker available. Make sure that your office is Internet accessible for laptop computer users. Have toys that will interest and occupy a child while the parent is waiting to see the doctor. All of these little details will go a long way to adding to your bottom line.
Step 7: Referrals
Specialty practices need a referral base in order to thrive. Getting that new patient as a referral from another doctor requires a relationship-building technique. You first have to identify which areas and doctors you think will recommend your practice. You then have to initiate a strategy to accomplish those goals.
Two successful methods include sending letters to various offices as an introduction or hiring a marketing representative to solicit and help introduce your practice with informational literature. No matter how you slice the cake, you have to sell yourself. Try to set up a face-to-face meeting with a referring doctor, and attempt to develop a relationship. Network yourself with other colleagues. Attend conferences and professional meetings. Send holiday cards and gifts to referring doctors and their office personnel. Try to acknowledge their birthday if at all possible. Make yourself available to your referring doctors’ patients for emergency visits. We have also found that many of the staff members working in general dental practices will recommend patients to specialists they like. Send lunch to their staff three or four times per year. This will not only thank them, but will remind them that you are there. Any general practitoner is an important source of referrals and you want to go out of your way to separate yourself from your competitors.
How can a dentists and physicians implement these marketing strategies? Utilize your internal staff, hire a marketing person, hire a marketing company, or just implement some of these steps. The goal is to increase your profits and be rewarded for all of the years of schooling you went through and all the hours you have spent in your practice. Remember, your competitors are evolving, so why shouldn’t you change for the better as well?
Let our experienced marketing team and the diversity of the Marktronix Corporation assist you in growing your practice.