As a physician you’ve spent years becoming credentialed and learned about your medical specialization. Now you’re finding that sustaining and growing your practice requires you to enter into competition with other offices to get new patients and referrals. You’ve realized that you have to learn about marketing and branding your practice. Just as you are prepared to treat your patients, a quality marketing and advertising agency is equipped to brand and promote your practice. A sound marketing and branding plan can help with patient-retention by making them feel confident about your practice. And a sound sustained campaign will help get new patients and grow your practice.
This article will give you a comprehensive overview of branding and marketing your practice, so you can work confidently with the best design and marketing team you can afford and decide what projects you can do on your own.
A Twelve Step Action Plan
One. Define your practice. Decide what kind of an image you want your practice to portray to your patients and/or referring physicians.
Two. Define your “unique selling proposition” (USP)-the element(s) of your practice that differentiate you from your competitors. This is also a good way to become familiar with your competition. Test your USP by imagining it as a print ad headline. Does it capture the best part of your practice? Is it unique to your practice?
Three. Design a strong logo and develop graphic standards for fonts and branding colors.
Four. Design cohesive and matching corporate collateral: business card, letterhead, envelope, prescription pads, signage, brochures, newsletters, etc.
Five. Prepare for marketing. But first, what is marketing? Marketing is the process of getting your practice out in front of the people that will sustain your practice-either patients or referring physicians. Marketing requires a plan and then action to follow the plan. Organization along with consistency will help your campaign achieve its goals. And, of course, you will need a budget. Typically 5% of your gross goes to branding, marketing, and advertising.
Six. Design your printed marketing collateral. Cohesive and matching marketing materials build trust with patients, referring physicians and the community. Poorly designed and written materials reflect poorly on your practice. People don’t have time to read loads of information, so employ short paragraphs of text and bullet points. It is recommended that you have a separate short branded brochure for each specialized service you provide and a general one for the practice. Patients and referring physicians alike will be able to easily get the information they need about your practice with this method.
Tip: You can send referring physicians a branded brochure to pass along to their patients as a great marketing tactic. Make sure your brochure is “something of value” with quality information.
Take note: Remember that it will be the combination of all your marketing and branding efforts that will yield results. That being said, more or less, you will only go as far as your budget will allow.
Take note: Your main brochure should contain all the basic information such as office hours, a map, your Web address, and services. Not only will this help market your practice, it can free your office staff from answering frequently asked questions and help avoid potential patient misunderstandings. It is recommended that you employ a professional copywriter.
Seven. Look for high quality strategic partnerships with other practices. Make sure that this is a win-win situation.Take time develop lasting strategic partnerships.
Eight. The Waiting Room. Make sure that your brochures and some giveaways like pens are readily available. Consider a kids corner to help out patients with small children.
Nine. Web design. You must have a brand coordinated website that is easy to navigate and informative. The website will become a prominent part of your marketing plan, so make sure you’ve hired a professional that will make it SEO-friendly (easily picked up and ranked high by search engines). Particularly for plastic surgeons, dentists, psychiatrists and others your goal is to show up on the first page of Google for the keyword search terms that patients will use to find you. Additionally, you also want to show up on Yahoo! and MSN on the first or second page. However, if most of your patients come from referrals, then your web presence will be much more engaged with providing information. In this case while SEO may be less of a priority, credibility certainly is not. And don’t forget to include directions to your practice as well as any patient information sheets or other information that will help spare your receptionist.
Ten. Choosing marketing vehicles. Your marketing strategies depend upon whether you are targeting the individual or the referring practice. If you are targeting the individual or even companies as well, Momentum 18 offers a comprehensive list of marketing ideas available on our marketing ideas page. These will definitely help you generate ideas. If you are targeting referring physicians or practices, your activities will be more focused. In this case you’ll need to decide if you are going to do this through one-on-one meetings or by sending marketing collateral in the mail. Your marketing firm should tailor your efforts to your specific needs. In either case, you’ll need the highest quality marketing and promotional materials you can afford.
Eleven. Before its too late, check in with your own practice. For example, ask yourself, am I doing enough to keep the appointment books filled? Am I contacting patients that need an annual evaluation? Do referring physicians have marketing materials from my practice at their fingertips? Am I doing enough to keep current patients engaged in my practice?
Twelve. Branding goes beyond design, it also applies to your support staff. Your patients are the lifeblood of your practice, so take care of them not only with expert medical care, but also excellent and courteous office and billing support. You and your staff are part of your brand.