Doctors spend nearly a decade going to school to get their medical degree, surviving residency, and gaining the knowledge necessary to successfully treat patients; but when it comes to opening their own practice, most of them are winging it based on the little research they've done and the advice they receive from other practitioners or medical facilities.
And not to fault them; after all, they spent a decade studying medicine because that's what they wanted to do - practice medicine. You woudn't expect any doctor or specialist to want to spend any more time than necessary studying something that doesn't make them a better doctor.
But, but, but...a crash course in marketing is sorely needed for those opening their own clinic, because your practice is going to depend on how well you market it just as much as it will depend on how well you take care of patients. With that in mind, let's cover Marketing 101 for New Medical Practices.
How Do You Attract Patients To A New Practice?
Marketing, at its simplest, involves the 4 P's - Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. If you've got an offer (product), or in your case, a medical specialty, you can check off that P. In most cases, price is dependent on the type of healthcare offered, whether or not insurance is involved, and the region care is offered in - we won't dive into the particulars of pricing but your local medical facility or fellow medical practitioners will actually be a good source of information on this P.
That leaves us with 2 P's, promotion and place. These 2 P's (promotion and place) are where most new clinics get off on the wrong foot and waste a lot of money and a lot of time. Taking cues from older, more established practices, they tend to diversify their promotion efforts and the places they advertise, spending a ton of money getting what we call "brand recognition", when what they need most is patients coming through the door, getting great medical treatment, and referring friends and family to the new practice.
Don't get me wrong, brand recognition is important, especially when an established practice wants to start scaling, but for a new medical practice, what REALLY matters is getting a foot in the door. Building trust, getting reviews, earning referrals - all of these make a world of difference to a new medical practice and are where advertising dollars should be spent in a new practice. This can be accomplished by simply establishing a Google Business Profile (GBP) and simple website, then applying a focused marketing campaign to draw attention to those two sites. No billboards, no radio ads, no TV commercials - not yet. Just simple, direct marketing designed to get people in the door.
How Can I Promote My Clinic?
A focused marketing campaign can be posting on social media; using our favorite medium, a press release like the one you're reading now; running a geographically restricted ad campaign (focusing on those closest to your new clinic); getting your Google Business Profile filled out correctly and spreading that Name Address Phone Number (called NAP in the industry) across the internet in the form of citations (think Yelp, Mapquest, YellowPages, etc.); and establishing preliminary relationships with primary care managers (PCMs) in the local area (especially significant for specialists who benefit from PCM referrals).
Implementing this focused marketing campaign on your GBP and website will grow your new practice with a lot less effort and a lot more results than trying to dump a ton of money into television, radio, newspapers, and the like just to be another doctor trying to get his or her name out where people can see it.
How long does it take to grow a medical practice?
It depends. Growing a practice brings a lot of variables into play:
How big is the city you are working in?
Population and geographically?
How many other specialists are in the area?
Generally, the more competitors, the longer it may take to carve out a majority of the patient share.
What's the level of marketing expertise in the other practices?
Those that are just winging it will be far easier to beat than those employing strong advertising firms.
A good planning factor is giving yourself 6-12 months to get yourself from new clinic to the first stage of established clinic. In this beginning stage, focus on the important foundational areas: patient satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and patient satisfaction. It doesn't matter how far you can scale if you aren't producing patients that are simply ecstatic about the care they receive from you.
How do you make a patient happy?
The image above was taken from a marketing study done a few years back and shows why most patients find themselves leaving a 1-star review of a medical practice (aka the kiss of death if you don't something to stop it). 20% of that may be out of your control, as we all know that wait times simply can't always be avoided, especially when you care about your patients. But that leaves 80% of unhappy patients that CAN be affected, by employing good communication (on everything from appointment reminders, confirmations, changes, etc.) and truly educating your patients on the medical care they're receiving and the bills they get from you.
Do those things and you'll see happier patients, more 5-star reviews (ASK every happy patient for a review!), and a solid foundation for growth.
To sum up, growing a new medical practice takes a very specific marketing strategy - do NOT follow the advice of your fellow practitioners or medical facilities and throw money at every advertising venue you see. Focus your marketing and deliver exceptional healthcare - this will get your clinic on the right foot to become profitable as soon as possible and ready to scale even faster.