Are you surprised when I tell you that most physicians with practices and businesses suck at marketing? Me, neither.
Is it because we weren't taught about its importance?
Or that we feel it's tacky and beneath us?
Or that it just plain scares the heck out of us?
It used to be, even when I started out in my family practice, that you just had to treat patients well, spend a minute or two extra with them and (hopefully) provide decent medical care, and that would be enough to guarantee building a steady medical practice.
Those days are gone, unless you're the only game in a small town!
Now, it's vital that you understand what your patients are seeking as they look down their provider list and decide who to select (usually requires an email to a buddy or work colleague!). If you're a specialist deriving most of your business from referrals, you'll need to be the professional your referring doctor knows, likes and trusts. And if you have moved on to build a non-clinical business, you'll need more than ever to figure out where your business is most likely to come from and how to build fruitful relationships.
These are the 5 mistakes I encounter most commonly in my physician business coaching work, with a few hints for how to change:
1. Lack of a Plan
Marketing doesn't happen by accident. And it isn't effective when it consists of a few scattershot activities you launch into when the flow is slow.
The best marketers know that marketing is intentional, systematized, and consistent.
A thriving business has a marketing plan that lays out what activities are to occur at what times of the week, month and year, and adapts to feedback and results (or lack thereof)!
2. Limited to just one activity
Does your marketing plan consist of a yellow page ad? Or an ad in the local paper? Or perhaps you hang out in the doctors' lounge hoping to meet a few colleagues?
Worst of all, do you believe that, because you just paid to have a cool website created, your marketing will now take care of itself?
Effective marketing consists of a number of well-orchestrated and executed activities, from any of the following 8 areas:
* direct contact (emails, letters, cold calls etc)
* writing and publicity: newspaper columns, guest blog posts, articles, press releases and being quoted in the paper
* speaking: from brown bag luncheons to teleclasses to keynote presentations
* obtaining referrals
* promotional events
* Internet marketing
3. No follow-up:
This, in my books, is a major crime! Or at minimum a wasted opportunity. If someone has made the effort to be in touch, to come in and see you even just once, to ask a question, then this is your opening to follow up. Find out whether they got what they were looking for, ask how they are doing, ask how their cat is doing -- anything!! Use your imagination here!
The only way to ensure that you and your staff do this is to have a consistent follow up policy and practice in place. And to measure how regularly you are accomplishing this. Strive for 100%.
4. Being cheap
And I don't mean with just money! Given that so many marketing activities can be undertaken at little or no cost with the sea of technology we're floating in, you can't afford to be cheap with your time.
I intentionally placed advertising last as it is typically the most expensive method of marketing and I'm not sure how many people will buy anything other than a commodity or an easy-to-describe product on the basis of an ad. Prove me wrong, all you ad men!
Well-done Internet advertising using Google Adwords and other equally targeted tools can work well - but then that is not expensive. Billboards, brochures scattered around, radio spots - these are much harder to generate a return on investment.
Wouldn't it be smarter to take that same money and spend it on a tech-savvy articulate assistant who could create and maintain a Facebook fan page, tweet twice a day, or write a blog post? Or how about putting a Speakers' Kit together, with 3-5 current and fascinating topics in your field, writing a dynamic cover letter and having that same assistant research 10 speaking venues that you could mail your letter and kit to?
5. Ignoring your community
As a physician practice or business owner, you occupy a place in your community. This community may be local and geographic, or it may be virtual and global. It's a huge mistake (or to be kind, a missed opportunity) to fail to appreciate your potential role as a leader and contributor of your "people".
What organizations or civic bodies should you be joining? What discussion boards can you be adding a thoughtful voice to? What non-profit boards can you sit on?
Not only will you expose yourself to more people to network with, but you position yourself as one of those professionals who are known, liked, trusted AND referred to!