Marketing the Small Medical Practice Doesn't Have To Be 'Slimy'

August 28, 2014

Many doctors feel that promoting their practice is unprofessional. Instead, think of it as a way to help you provide excellent care to established and potential patients.

I have been tweeting a lot this week about why or why not doctors market their practice. One of my most popular tweets on this topic was yesterday and read, "#hcmktg (healthcare marketing) doesn't have to be sales-y, it is just a new way to have a conversation with your patients (and prospective patients)." Followed by "I think medicine lags behind in marketing because they fail to see how to do it authentically."

What do you think?

I stand firmly by the statement. Sure, there are some specialists out there with glossy magazine ads and newspaper inserts. There are some practices out there with huge billboards and maybe even a television or radio spot. But that is not the practice I am talking about or talking to.

The practice that lags behind in their marketing is the family practice that is independently owned, that maybe has one, two, or even three doctors. Maybe they are a pediatric clinic, or internal medicine, maybe even plastics or dermatology, but they don't market because they find the tactics of the others distasteful or even unethical. They think marketing is slimy.

I want you to know that there is another way. There is a way to market your practice that is patient-centered and care-centered. There is a way to market that enhances the care you give your patients, improves and expands the feeling of community, and curates a conversation between you and your patients and prospective patients.

It takes time to begin to turn the marketing wheel, but as you do, you will see that marketing to your patients allows you to do what you do best: help more people.

Here are a few steps to get started:

1. Form a marketing committee. If you are the small practice this may be your whole staff. This committee will help come up with ideal patient profiles, review materials, and campaigns before they roll out.

2. Hire a firm. Do your due diligence, spending money on a flashy firm that doesn't understand the independent practice and your disdain for slick ads will leave you feeling like you sold out. Make sure any marketing company you hire resonates with you, your partners, and understands your ideal patient.

3. Training. Have some or all of your staff trained on techniques of authentic marketing and customer service. They go hand in hand. Not to mention, eventually, you will want to perform the operations a firm like mine handles in-house.

Why hire a firm?

There is a significant learning curve to beginning a marketing program in your practice. Since I cannot create a 28-hour day so that you have enough time to find your ideal patients and speak to them through your marketing, and attract them to your practice, you essentially have only a couple options left. Hiring a firm that will both perform your marketing tasks and train someone to eventually perform them for you is the best all-around solution and budget option.