Marketing Mental Health Services

February 1, 2008

I am a psychiatrist who just moved to a new office. I want to announce my move with a marketing strategy. Do you have any specific recommendations as to the type and number of physicians to mail announcements to? Finally, I am bilingual.

Question: I am a psychiatrist who just moved to a new office. I want to announce my move with a marketing strategy. Do you have any specific recommendations as to the type and number of physicians to mail announcements to? Finally, I am bilingual.

Answer: As to the type of physicians, you should target the specialties that work for you now. I assume it is mostly primary care, including family practice, internal medicine, and maybe OB/GYN, depending on your particular clinical interests.

You also might want to target providers in more affluent neighborhoods to have a positive impact on your own payer mix. Or, target neighborhoods with more Spanish-speaking patients (or from your own cultural background, assuming this applies).

As far as industry-wide numbers go, the average response rate to direct mail is around 3 percent. So, you’d want to have some sense of how many referring sources you want and target enough to get that from 2 percent to 3 percent of the total list.

We’ve also seen surprisingly good return from e-mails, though only using our own lists. The ones we’ve bought tend to be dated. You might want to track e-mails for future use if you don’t maintain a list already.

I would encourage you to think through one brand aspect for the practice. Are you accessible (location, language, and appointment availability)? Most skilled? What makes you different and desirable to referring physicians? Make sure that brand promise follows into the business practices of the clinic (if you say you are accessible, you better plan to get those patients appointments right away). Even the colors and wording of the brochure should carry into the new space and its documents, patient materials, and forms back to referring physicians.

Also, devote time and money to a professionally designed piece of marketing collateral. Consider a creative format that echoes your brand promise (e.g., if you promise easy access, make it in the shape of a key or put a Velcro button on the front). Make sure the collateral includes some way for you to know, when physicians call, that they are responding to your marketing piece and not word-of-mouth.

Finally, include a plan for follow-up. Once you send the mailer, what is the next step? A postcard? Phone calls to the top 25 targets? Lectures on depression at the local hospital?

Use your imagination.