Why any practice can benefit from better marketing

July 8, 2014

There are many reasons-and many ways-to spread the word about your practice

Should you market your practice? Yes, if you want to achieve positive change. Marketing has a bad connotation in the minds of many physicians. But there are many reasons-and many ways-to spread the word that your practice provides timely service, knowledgeable and helpful staff, and the best patient care that can be provided.

Marketing affects every aspect of your practice. Timely appointments, a clean and attractive waiting room, friendly staff, attentive bedside manner, and quality patient education materials are all a part of marketing.

External marketing
There are two major categories of marketing: external and internal. External marketing attracts new business, internal marketing keeps patients and generates referrals.

If it’s more patients you seek, classic external marketing still works. Direct mail to targeted audiences, including both healthcare professional referrers and patients, is easier and more accurate and effective than ever. Most Internet-savvy consumers still use the Yellow Pages to find local services if they don’t have a local referral from family or friends. A great location and good signs are still great marketing. Add an attractive website, appropriate social media presence, properly displayed Quick Response codes and a wifi-friendly waiting room, and you’re modernized. Buying a practice-from a nearby retiree or competitor or in a better location-can be great marketing if the price is right.

Internal marketing
If you have too many patients and not enough net income, dumping the worst-paying most-hassling insurance plans will improve profitability even without switching to a concierge or retainer-style model. With good marketing, you can keep and convert many of those patients into out-of-network cash-payers who then become your most profitable, least-insurance-hassle patients.

I have worked with practices that only accept a few capitated plans and no others, because their plans pay more than fee-for-service. Those practices focus their marketing specifically on those plans’ members, with particular emphasis on the quality experience for patients and positive outcomes. Those doctors are often happier and so are their patients.

With compensation moving away from fee-for-service toward quality and outcome rewards, that could be a good marketing strategy for some practices in some markets.

Find your niche
Many regions are under-served in some specialties. If you have a clinical sub-specialty interest you’d like to focus on, marketing can either gradually or quickly shift your patient-mix toward that interest. For example, I’ve seen family physicians doing mostly dermatology, with great success. They treat the easier cases and refer the more complicated cases to the nearest dermatologist.

To gradually shift your practice, dump some bad insurance plans and only accept new patients in your clinical interest area.

Marketing done right can help you have an easier, more profitable, and happier practice.