Why Your Medical Practice Should Hire a Marketer for 2014

December 5, 2013
Audrey Mclaughlin, RN

Most physicians still wouldn't dream of hiring a marketer, even though doing so could double or triple your current business.

Most physicians still wouldn't dream of hiring a marketer, or it would be low on the priority list for hiring in their practice. But if you consider that a good marketer can double or triple your current business and help ancillary services take off, it might soon be an investment you are willing to make.

Hiring an additional team member, whose focus is strictly on marketing, might be something entirely new for some practices. So it's important to know the tasks such a team member would be in charge of, including market intelligence, referral source development, advertising coordination, social media, client retention, troubleshooting issues, public relations, and community events.

Keep in mind that marketers usually work odd hours; it is typically not an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day, as they should be in charge of any community events (even those on a Saturday or on evenings). So don't expect them to sit in an office all day onsite (in fact you may want to consider finding a new one if they do).

A few additional points to consider:

 This new hire doesn't specifically need a healthcare degree, although having one may be helpful in discussing clinical details. It is much more important that this candidate is confident and can self-direct their work habits and tasks.

• Marketing in medicine is a somewhat different than marketing in other industries, so make sure if a marketer doesn't join your team with physician-practice marketing experience, you get them a training course or coach for that specific purpose. We often offer our clients training for their new marketers or training to help a member of their staff transition to marketing for the practice.

Consider making this new hire a salaried person rather than hourly. This position will average (nationwide) $40k-50k per year plus benefits. Remember they are going to work odd hours. Part-time may even be the preferred route to get started (though I advise practices to work out a fee-for-service arrangement in lieu of hourly payment).

Hiring a marketer for your clinic can be a daunting task. And if it simply isn't in the budget, there are still some great ways to improve your marketing efforts without adding the expense of new team member. Here are some suggestions:

1. Your office manager can double, for a short time, as the marketer for your clinic. Offer a bonus on new patient referrals or new referring doctors. Be sure and get training for the office manager specific to marketing for medical practices. My consulting firm, for example, has developed a program we call "Patient Acquisition and Retention Training," and there may be other programs throughout the country.

2. Your nursing staff can double, during slow days or when the physician is on vacation, as a marketer for your clinic. (Have I mentioned you should make sure they get some training?)

3. The physician(s)/upper level practitioners can market via networking, media appearances and public-speaking engagements in the community at support groups or seminars for patients with particular health concerns.

4. You can hire an outside company to manage your marketing. Make sure you utilize someone that is specialized to medical clinics; you would not want to hire someone who would promote your clinic as though it was a furniture store or even a skilled nursing facility.

5. Look for a company that meets your needs with varying levels of service. For example, we offer our clients three service levels to choose from that vary from teaching a member of our client's staff to perform marketing services to performing them for our clients and also a combination of the two.

6. Go with your gut on a company that speaks to what is authentic and right for your clinic. You can find these services upwards of $5,000 per marketing platform per month. Don't count on getting these services for free, but somewhere in the $15-25,000 per year investment should be expected. That is still considerably less than a hiring a full-time staffer for $40k or more a year, plus benefits.

One thing to keep in mind: On the surface it may seem that hiring a company to perform these functions is always the best answer. It is certainly the best way to jump in, but keep in mind that a remote company will still require the help of your staff to promote at local events.

7. Look for a company that limits the number of clients they take on at once; this ensures they have the time for you and your needs.

Medical practice marketing is more than just get patients in the door; it is about getting your ideal patients to seek you out for the guidance they need to maintain their wellness. The time to get on board and grow your practice to be the business you want it to be instead of the business that keeps you up at night is today. 

How are you going to market your practice?