Marketing New Practices To Potential Doctors & Patients
When starting a new medical centre, potential owners always discuss the fit-out, medical equipment, IT and of course recruiting doctors to their practice. Marketing or branding never seems high on some agendas. However, marketing is one of the most important aspects of a new practice.
By medical marketing, I also mean branding which influences your medical practice story, logo and design elements. Everything in the medical centre should be focused on branding as it can help differentiate your medical centre from those in the marketplace.
Marketing is important because it shows patients and potential doctors how serious you are about your new business while building trust in your brand. You can have the best-looking medical centre in the area, but if no-one knows you are there or what services and benefits you offer, there will be fewer patients and even less profit. After all, any business that does not aim to make a profit cannot expect to survive in the long term.
When do you need to start marketing your practice?
My recommendation would be during the practice setup, at least six months before opening. You need to be speaking to a marketing specialist or having discussions with your colleagues or partners about the image you want to portray. Marketing is also not going to work if you have half a dozen people working on different aspects of marketing. That is when ideas get lost, branding becomes mixed and things don’t flow. If you have got several business partners, make sure it is a group decision with a united vision and that one person is leading the project.
Your budget will depend on your location. Of course, if you live in a small town, there may be no need to market to the public but remember you could be marketing to potential general practitioners. Rural practices are struggling to recruit new General Practitioners. Hence, a great web site and blogs are a great start in building their confidence in how serious you are about running your practice.
Marketing costs start to escalate in large towns or cities. You are competing with other medical practices and General Practitioners who have had a stamp on that area for a long time. Much effort will be required to match or surpass their presence online and within the community.
Physical locations effect on marketing
So, let’s step back and think about the location. Make sure you research your area carefully. Do a search on Google maps of medical centres and doctors in the area. Look at the population in those postcodes and the types of medical centres. ie bulk billed, community, private. get to know your competition early on so that you can identify your strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities.
If you are recruiting General Practitioners, more often than not they would prefer to work in a medical centre that is already busy and well known in the area. General Practitioners like to focus on their patients not marketing the practice. If doctors are sitting there with no patients, they will get bored and leave.
Plus, it is a lot harder to get your website through the Google ranks if you are competing with other centres. This is particularly the case if some of the medical centres have the name of the location in their medical centre name i.e. You are moving to “Greenvale” and there are three medical centres in the area with the name “Greenvale” in their practice name!
Budgeting for your marketing
You should budget for:
- Branding design
- Google Adwords if you have no online presence
- Good signage is critical especially in high traffic areas
- “Old fashioned media” such as letter drops etc work in some areas
- Site Engine Optimisation or SEO
I would recommend a budget of at least $ 20,000-$ 30,000 for a new centre in a high population area which has four or five medical centres in the same postcode for you. And sorry, that is just the start-up costs. I would budget for at least $ 1500 per month for Google Adwords and SEO.
For smaller populated areas, the start-up costs may be less.
My advice would be to go through all the various marketing media, including television and radio. Write down all the costs and then work out what your budget is.
If you are setting up in a large shopping centre, cinema advertising could be good. But also consider that large shopping centres also charge a lot of money for marketing within their centre. Hence, if you are thinking about setting up a centre in a large shopping centre, look at their marketing costs beforehand.
Also look at what restrictions there are, especially for physical promotion within the centre that is independent of what they offer, for example, the use of an A-Frame sign or handing out of brochures.
If there are restrictions then knowing about them beforehand means that you can use the budget that would have been allocated to those items, elsewhere.
Incorporate SEO from the outset
Your SEO influences all marketing as it should tie into your promotional goals, influence the structure of your website, be reflected in your social media and ultimately maximise the efficiency of your Google Ad reach and spend. This should be considered from the outset so that they can be tied into marketing items as they are developed.
Incorporating SEO afterwards is inefficient and impractical, especially as setting this up properly from day one will enable you to track its progress and the effectiveness of your online marketing.
Social media connections
Social media comes in many forms and just like marketing your mix can incorporate what suits you best, be it Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or something else. Just make sure it portrays a consistent message that is in line with your overall branding.
Making the most of these online social connections can assist one of the most trusted forms of marketing – word of mouth.
It’s also important to monitor these social media platforms to ensure patients are responded to, be that a query about the practice or a complaint. Attending to these promptly is an extension of good customer service and shows that you take the reputation of the medical practice seriously. You can read more about social media marketing here.
Tracking marketing for feedback and improvement
Ensure you have good systems and technology in place. This can be tapped into to help track statistics, such as how the practice is performing or how people have found you. Your marketing company will have access to things such as Google Analytics, but your reception staff will be able to assist marketing from the front desk by providing feedback when the phones aren’t ringing or through collecting information from new patient forms.
All this data can be used to assist your marketing company to know which marketing efforts have potentially attracted patients to the practice. Basically, your marketing person is your best friend as they can get you busy and help keep it that way!
The look of your practice extends beyond the fit-out
Fit-out and looks are important and some of the new medical centre designs are amazing, however, if you are a new practice and do not have an established patient base in the area, it will be hard without a good branding and marketing budget.
My experience has been that doctors who have worked in the area for a long time and have simply moved to a new building, there is not too much of a problem. But if you are a new owner or doctor to the area, have no brand and no marketing strategy, you are going to feel like “Dorothy” in the “Wizard of Oz”.
Hence, the moral of this story is the budget for your branding and marketing. Ensure that those figures are incorporated into your on-going operational costs.
Also, be consistent. Just because you think you have it right and are getting some new patients, don’t immediately stop Google Ads or SEO or you will drop off Google’s radar again. It’s hard enough reaching the top and staying there, but it’s even harder to get there again.
Once you have your brand established, invest the time and money to keep it there – your practice story can be lost faster than it was made and can easily become just “another medical centre”.
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” – Steve Forbes