Building a healthcare practice is harder than ever. A phone book listing and a hospital affiliation are no longer enough to establish a strong patient base. Instead healthcare practitioners today must take an entrepreneurial approach to marketing—actively seeking out new patients and referral sources. But entrepreneurial marketing does not need to be expensive. Practices can achieve good results with a few effective healthcare practice marketing techniques.
Differentiate Your Practice
Healthcare consumers today have many choices. To be able to compete, you must focus on something unique about your practice that captures the attention of patients and referring GPs. Differentiate your practice by highlighting where your special interest lie.
Reach Out for Referrals
GPs are much more likely to make a referral when they know you personally and understand your approach to care. This can be achieved through simple and low-cost networking. Contact local family practices and offer to bring a sandwich platter to a lunchtime meeting. During the get-together, spend 20 minutes explaining your services and your care approach to the team. Other options include offering community health talks or attending hospital fundraisers. Any opportunity to meet GPs or office managers is a chance to develop referrals.
Get in Front of Potential Patients
Health expos, charity runs and fitness events can draw large crowds, but allied healthcare providers are usually under-represented. Entrepreneurial practices can create strong market awareness by volunteering at these events. Draw people to your booth by offering health screenings that align with your care approach. Identify a capable “people person” within your office to handle health fairs and other marketing efforts.
Provide “Free Samples”
Free introductory offers are effective in almost every industry. Healthcare practices can also use this approach with good results, as it provides potential patients with a “taste” of your approach to care.
Rethink Patient Service
Many traditional healthcare practices today are losing patients to clinics that offer greater convenience. The good news is that small healthcare practices can compete. The key is to make simple changes that improve the patient experience.
- Use e-mail to send forms to patients before their appointment.
- Filling out forms at home allows them to spend less time in your office.
- Leave schedule slots open to accommodate same-day appointments.
- Phone patients when a practitioner is running behind.
- Offer them the chance to come in later or reschedule their appointment.
- Follow up on sick appointments.
- Have a staff member call patients the next day to see how they are feeling and suggest additional steps as needed.
Practices that do a good job on patient service are in a strong position to ask for referrals. You will find that existing patients are the best source for new patients.
Create Electronic Connections
Patients increasingly expect to be able to manage their lives using digital tools. Healthcare practices that meet this expectation will succeed in building a strong patient base. You can create electronic connections with patients by upgrading your website. The secret is to provide strong content. In addition to providing downloadable forms, update your site often with seasonal health reminders, healthy lifestyle tips, preventive care information and other resources. You can also distribute content via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter or a simple e-newsletter.
Work from a Plan
The key to entrepreneurial marketing is steady progress. To turn a modest time investment into practice growth, create a solid marketing plan and work it consistently. An effective plan will identify your unique selling point, target geography, competition and potential referral sources. List specific marketing initiatives, assign responsibilities and set monthly new-patient goals.
Whatever techniques you use, make sure to track referral sources. Continue marketing efforts that are working and drop those that are not.