Maybe it’s an overused expression, but patient attraction (besides providing superior medical service) is the cornerstone for building a successful practice. Let’s face it, if you can’t make your phone ring, your practice is in trouble.
Additionally, a large part of maintaining a successful clinic involves keeping the wolves away. What does that mean? Every day when you open for business, your competitors are actively and aggressively hunting for your patients.
How are your competitors going after my patients, you ask? They do it through their advertising and marketing campaigns. In fact, your competitors may not even realize the chain of events started with a single ad.
Every promotional piece that goes out has been programmed with a selected target. This is a horrible analogy (but accurate), it’s like a heat-seeking missile. It only has one job, that is to grab the attention of and to compel the reader to pick up the phone and call its maker.
Thus, if you live in an average city (where people will only drive so far to do business with you), whom do you think your competitor is targeting with their ad?
According to David Ogilvy (father of modern advertising), “The only purpose of advertising is to get a new client.“
Again, every time your competitor releases a TV or radio spot, a flyer, or some coupons, they’re targeting your patients. What are you doing to keep them away? What are you doing that your competitors aren’t? Are you upgrading the quality and quantity of your business?
Every business keeps its doors open because they attract a constant stream of new patients! Medical practices are no different; unless you become a patient magnet, you will eventually have to close your doors.
Recently, author Rhonda Abrams wrote an exceptional piece for USA Today titled “Strategies: 10 rules for small business success.” Ms. Abrams is a long time business development consultant and strategist provides great insight with robust data that should pay serious dividends for all medical practice owners.
She states that she has dealt with all different types of small businesses, and she’s learned certain realities always apply. These rules are keys to small business success. Ignore these rules at your peril: “I’ve seen many new entrepreneurs fail because they ignored one or more of these business basics to be a patient magnet.”
Here are 10 of the most important “Rhonda’s Rules” for small business success:
1. Go small to grow big. What’s the one sure way to fail in small business? Try to sell to everyone. A key to small business success is carving out a niche — a particular specialty or narrow market segment — rather than competing for every customer.
As a medical practitioner, do an inventory of your patients. You may find that many of them see you for the same condition. For example, you may find that you have many patients suffering from fibromyalgia, TMJ, or chronic joint pain.
Be and brand yourself as the doctor that specializes in fibromyalgia (or TMJ, chronic joint pain, …). Now, make sure every blog, patient satisfaction testimonial video, newsletter, a book you write, etc. focus on alleviating fibromyalgia.
2. Take care of your bread-and-butter business. Entrepreneurs have lots of good ideas, but those can distract you from your core business. Before you consider new directions, clearly define what part of your business brings in the money that pays your bills. Concentrate on that first.
Implement the Pareto principle (which states that 20% of the people account for 80% of the business). For your medical practice, focus on your top 20% best patients, i.e., your most enjoyable and most profitable.
As with the patient inventory I previously referred to, give your highest priority to these patients. Also, provide them your highest value, so they don’t get lured away by your competitors. According to Frederick Reichheld in a study for the Harvard School of Business, just increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. So, patient retention needs to be a commitment.
3. Clearly define your target market. Analyze the characteristics of your customers; the only way to become a patient magnet is to understand exactly who buys from you. Having a clear target market enables you to be much more effective and efficient in both your product development and marketing efforts.
This point is the most valuable tip Ms. Abrams makes. Far too many practices are targeting “everyone” in their message; which unfortunately means, they’re focusing on no one. For medical practice to succeed, you can’t be all things to all people!
4. Build one business at a time. Entrepreneurs see opportunities to grow in many directions. I’ve seen business plans that combine many businesses in one — a combination laundromat, bar, babysitting services, and bookstore, for instance. Most of us aren’t that scattered, but it’s still important to concentrate on only one new direction — product or service line, target market, distribution channel — at a time.
As we discussed above, do a patient inventory. Determine why your patients visit you. Then, create particular promotional pieces for each medical need (i.e., Your website, blogs, newsletters, testimonials, and so on). Caution, as the old saying goes “What is the easiest way to eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at the time!” Likewise, don’t take on more than you can successfully handle. Remember, your mission is to establish yourself as the undisputed authority in town on this ailment. Now is not the time to look amateurish because you “slapped-together” a few things in haste. Take your time, do things right. You a trying to create separation between you and every other doctor in the county. The name of the game here is patient attraction!
Here’s some information to ensure that you only fish in profitable pools of ideal patients. Multiple direct response advertising studies have shown the following: Up to 95% of all ads written target only the remaining 5% of the intended audience. The probability of selling to an existing patient is 60-70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
Therefore, target your marketing messages (your bait) for the medical needs of the “right” audience. Plus, to gain the competitive advantage over your competitors, you need to laser-focus your attention on the “right” patients. Only promote to people who already know you, like you and trust you and the services you provide!
Aim for those individuals who are your biggest fans and provide the largest source of annual receipts. Many major advertising studies indicate that this pool accounts for nearly 95% of all services sold annually. Actually, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5-25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
Not to belabor the point, but the facts are undeniable, this group of prospects, represent an incredibly rich pool. It just doesn’t make much sense to focus your advertising efforts elsewhere.
These strategies work quite well on a larger scale too — the community at large. Just know that if you go outside of your clinic with your promotions, you will ultimately compete for competitors’ patients.
However, if you decide that you will target your entire community, you increase your chances of success for two important reasons:
First: You’re targeting only those patients who have already purchased or are in the process of receiving a service similar to yours. Second: Now, you reward (or incentivize) the competitions’ best patients with rewards for taking immediate action (by contacting you). * By the way, you only reward them after they show you proof of their purchasing intent.
Recall what we spoke of earlier, and ask yourself the following question. Is it possible that your competitors’ best patients have the same health issues as your patients? From this point forward, all of your promotional efforts need to come courtesy of “the plantar fasciitis specialist” in town.
Do the marketing math, they [competitors’ patients] already believe in your type of medical specialty. They have to; otherwise, they wouldn’t be seeing your competitor. Play that hand!
That simple understanding, of whom you are targeting and what you are saying (your content) when you contact them, gives you a competitive advantage!
You now know who to target; your next, and easily as important a step as any other is to concentrate on your message.
Every bit of information you provide (in your blogs, your newsletter, the books you write, or your testimonials) must scream that there is no other option in town other than you!
Your message must convey that no one else in the county knows as much as you do about the subject. No one else successfully treats more patients with this condition than you. No one else is more caring or compassionate in dealing with this condition than you.
So how do you do this type of writing and not appear to be boastful or condescending.? You need to work with a proven and effective business storyteller.
You must align yourself with someone who will understand you and tell your story. Someone who will transform the complex into relatable narratives — from a patient’s perspective and points of interest.
It has been my experience that most medical websites subscribe to the “one-size-fits-all” philosophy. These sites provide a laundry list of all the services that a particular doctor does. Which is exactly what we were speaking about at the onset of this article — they want to appeal to everyone.
Again, the shotgun approach to marketing is ineffective. But it’s unsuccessful because the vast majority of people do not remember bullet points and lists. You need to make psychological connections with your readers. We all remember things which we connect with and understand. So, if your audience can relate to it, they will remember a good story.
Therefore, to become the “go-to” doctor in your area, elevate your brand by developing fruitful and predictable promotional messages.
Remember your goal is not only to attract more patients (traffic). You need to keep them and have them use your services for years to come. Plus, you want them to refer you to all their friends and family.
To surmise, you need to be strategic in your marketing, communicating and marketing. Center your messaging on specific medical needs, based on the percentage of patients needs. Do not compromise on your content; align yourself with a highly qualified business storyteller. Avoid frustration and disappointment, do not resort to a generic, one size fits all, website or communication.
If you don’t know of someone, who can accomplish these needs, allow us to offer our services.
We have been directly responsible for many highly successful patient attraction campaigns for several professional practices. Also, we would like to extend to you or your selected staff members, our proprietary 10-minute Content Strategy Audit Session (i.e., blog posts, social media campaigns, magazine articles, website content, patient newsletters, etc.).
* Every industry has specific guidelines for advertising and promotions. However, there is much that can be done that allows you to adhere to those requirements and boost your business while rewarding patients loyalty.