Marketing ideas that stick

April 23, 2010

In tough economic times, with fewer people seeking medical care because they've lost insurance coverage or they're hoarding spare cash, attracting new patients and keeping established patients takes on increasing importance.

Key Points

Carol Rupe, MD, a family physician in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently added a Facebook component to her marketing efforts, which have included direct mail, speaking at charitable fund-raisers, and participating in health fairs.

John C. Johnson, MD, an emergency medicine and urgent care specialist in Valparaiso, Indiana, has a "The doctor is IN" sign that faces the highway and, during office hours, is lit in neon red.

In honor of his practice's 100th birthday (his grandfather started the practice in 1910, his father took over in 1951, and he joined in 1988), Peter Menger, MD, an ophthalmologist in Franklin Square, New York, is sponsoring community events and teams, offering free diabetic eye screenings, and speaking about eye health to local community groups and schools.

MARKETING INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT

Determining the best ways to market your particular "brand," however, involves research and careful planning. "If a patient comes in and says 'I want an antibiotic,' you wouldn't just prescribe it for him," says Stewart Gandolf, a founding partner of Healthcare Success Strategies, a medical marketing company headquartered in Irvine, California. "You'd do an exam, make a diagnosis, and come up with a treatment plan. We tell doctor-clients that marketing requires the same approach-diagnose where you are, examine the marketplace, and then develop a promotion plan that suits your practice, because every practice is unique."