Several years ago, a Chicago-based internist wrote a letter to “Dear Abby.” She was responding to advice the columnist had given to a woman who said she couldn’t make or keep friends because she was a crashingly dull conversationalist.
“Abby recommended that Miss Boring take classes to develop some interests so she’d have something to say,” she recalls. “I suggested to Abby that Ms. B. might be depressed and once she was successfully treated, she’d be more outgoing and fun to be with. I used my own name and city. After the letter ran, I got calls from ‘conversationally challenged’ patients all over the US and wound up seeing a number of them. That experience opened my eyes to the power of promoting my practice and the specific services we provide to patients.”
It also represents thinking outside the box in the tricky milieu of practice building. Self-promotion is something that many physicians find distasteful, but you’re probably already doing some basic marketing — sponsoring a Little League team, say, or speaking at seminars. So why not go a step further and look for other ways to make your practice stand out and help patients to find and remember you?
Where To Start
Consultants advise to begin with a professionally-designed logo for your practice. Your logo is essential to your brand. It helps elevate the visibility of your practice making you memorable to patients. Next, depending on your budget, you might consider a promotional campaign that includes newspaper ads, direct mail and email campaigns. But even little touches can go a long way toward attracting patients. At many practices, the doctors appear at health fairs, or give medical advice on a local TV station.
Even that old standby, Yellow Pages advertising, has options that you can use to your advantage. But be that the design of your ad casts a tasteful light on your practice. Too often, the in-house designer of a publication is too rushed by deadlines and unfamiliar with your services to produce an effective ad. You’ve invested in the advertising space… make sure the design is the best it can be. Hire a designer to create your ad.
The Benefits of Going Where You’re Needed
Sometimes a practice-expanding opportunity sneaks up on you. Recognizing it and capitalizing on it is more of an art than a science. As a case point, the following experience comes from a physician who ran a neuromuscular electrical stimulation program for people with sore backs. Two thirds of the patients seeing him for back therapy were obese. So he launched a medically supervised fasting program as an adjunct therapy. He promoted the program through advertising and direct mail, driving traffic to his website where patients could get more information and enroll
in the program. Because potential patients for such a program were already familiar with the practice, he was able to develop the biggest medically supervised fasting program in his state’s region.
A Maryland internist, on the other hand, builds his practice the old-fashioned way. “I make house calls on bedridden patients for routine non-urgent care,” he says. “They tell their friends; every new house-call patient has led to at least two or more office patients.” In this instance, good leave-behind item would be your practice brochure. A professional brochure not only relays information, but appeals to the emotions of your patients and focuses on the strengths and services of your practice. It’s a versatile communication tool that may be used in a variety of ways: to generate referrals, office display, direct mail, and distribution at health fairs and industry events.
Marketing To Established Patients
Your existing patients can be your biggest cheerleaders. Marketing to them not only keeps them in the fold; it increases the likelihood that they’ll send their friends, relatives, and associates to you. Focus on keeping your patients happy. Offer coffee, tea or juice in the reception area. Provide each new patient with a New Patient Orientation Kit including: a personalized welcome letter, practice brochure, business cards, and any cross promotions that you may wish to include. Another patient-pleaser is making — and referencing — notes in the chart about the patient’s family.
Giving Patients Something To Remember You By
For years, a chiropractor in Atlanta had talked to community groups. “I figure that when Chevy or Ford is coming out with a new car,” she said, “they make commercials for the people who are going to buy the car, not the dealers. So that’s what I do. I go to patients.” And she hands them his business card. She adds, “I had my logo, business card and office stationery professionally designed. It always makes a great impression.”
You might prefer to give potential patients a practice brochure or patient education literature. To reinforce your brand, be sure all of your literature has a consistent style and features your logo, name and phone number on the front.
A dentist in Mississippi took to the streets when he started started his practice. He went door-to-door, visiting local businesses, churches, day care centers, and home-owners, handing out brochures and engaging people in conversation. “Our practice grew — and continues to grow — by three or four patients per day,” he says. “I also noticed that my website now receives more hits. So I always keep updated and looking fresh.”
Give your practice a competitive edge by ensuring that your brand differentiates you from your competition. Need help with your branding, marketing or website design? Call Creative Instinct. We specialize in visual branding and website design for health care organizations and physician practices. Our goal is to enhance your professional edge and increase your community visibility. Email owner Gwen Canfield at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 501-244-0573. Visit us online at www.creativeinstinct.biz.