Marketing to Your Community

January 21, 2010

Where do your patient referrals come from? Do you know?

Where do your patient referrals come from? Most patients are referred by word of mouth, other physicians, or insurer networks. Some of you advertise your practices in the Yellow Pages and have an online presence so that patients searching for a local physician can find you. While this ensures visibility, it does little to actually promote your practice.

Getting to know your patients once they walk in the door is easy. Allowing potential patients to get to know you is another matter altogether. Many of you shy away from advertising, preferring not to be known as the doctor who markets like a realtor and has their face on billboards around town! Don’t despair. There are many ways to promote yourself to your community with integrity and style. Here are some easy ways to get started:

Think about what you have to offer. If you are a pediatrician, perhaps you offer adoption services or breast-feeding advice? As an oncologist, you might be engaged in support services. Cardiologists can offer advice on avoiding heart attacks, and most endocrinologists spend time educating patients on the proper way to use insulin and monitor glucose levels.

Figure out who to offer these services to and how. In the case of adoption services, you will want to get your message in front of adults who may be having trouble conceiving a child or for whom conception is not possible. Find local fertility clinics and OB/GYN practices that offer fertility services and let them know what services you are offering for couples who cannot conceive.

Go beyond clinician referrals. While other clinicians are a great source of referrals, think beyond other practices. What opportunities are there to meet potential patients in your community? Volunteering to give a talk on, say, geriatric nutrition at your local library may be a great way to introduce yourself to the senior members of your locality. If you are a pediatrician, why not volunteer to speak to parents about immunizations at the local school? If you are a cardiologist, try volunteering to give a stress-management talk to the employees at the largest company in town?

Use themes to host an evening open house. Key days of the year are great opportunities for people to get to know your practice. February 3 is “Patient Recognition Day,” February 4 is “Cancer Awareness Day,” March 30 is “Doctor’s Day,” June 6 is “Child Health Day,” and November 14 is “Diabetes Day.” Use theme days as a way to invite your community into your practice to learn more about the topic and pick up literature on your services.

Offer free talks and services. Creating specific sessions or in-services once a month on such issues as monitoring blood sugar, how to get the most from a doctor visit, tips for heart attack prevention, eating for wellness, and so forth is a great way for potential patients to meet you and learn about your services. Many pediatricians offer free pre-natal visits, but how many advertise that fact? Let people know that they can meet with you without incurring cost or obligation.

Bring yourself to the community. In a nutshell, effectively marketing your practice comes down to finding creative ways to get yourself in front of potential patients rather than waiting for patients to come to you.

Susanne Madden, MBA, is founder and CEO of The Verden Group, a consulting and business intelligence firm that specializes in practice management, physician education, and healthcare policy. She can be reached at madden@theverdengroup.com or by visiting www.theverdengroup.com.