Over the past seven years I have met with many healthcare practices. Everyone has their own unique issues but I have found 10 common mistakes or issues that seem to plague most healthcare practices. Do you fall into one of these categories?
- Failure to create a business strategy
Your marketing plan should always be a component of your overall business strategy, but very often practices neglect to see themselves as a business and forget this important first step. Business plans require you to define your practice’s core competencies, differentiators, growth opportunities and financial forecast. Without these areas defined and agreed upon, at best, marketing will be piecemealed together as opposed to a plan that helps accomplish your business strategy.
- Not truly understanding your competition
I have found that when I ask clients who their competition is they name the big city practices that have a brand that draws people from out of the state. Yes, you may be losing a couple of patients to these heavy hitters, but who is in your backyard grabbing the patients from your catch basin? You may not believe they compete with you on a quality of service level, but if they are seeing patients that could have come to you, they are your competition. Competitors also do not necessarily need to practice the same specialty as you. If you treat a condition that can be addressed by multiple specialties, they are your competition as well.
- Not truly understanding your target market
Most doctors generally know the demographics of their typical patient. However, many times there are other people you should be targeting. For example, a sports medicine physician may see a lot of high school athletes. However how many 18-year-old boys choose which orthopedic surgeon they see? According to the United States Department of Labor, women make approximately 80 percent of health care decisions for their families and are more likely to be the caregivers when a family member falls ill. This also applies to someone who is the primary caregiver of a patient that has a chronic illness. The person you are treating may not always be the one you should be targeting.
- Thinking you are “too good” for marketing
Years ago, practices were built on the quality of services delivered, not the quality of the TV commercial that was produced. While we still agree that you need to deliver top-notch treatment, every practice needs to utilize marketing to get their message out. Too many times I have heard doctors say, “I trained the guy down the road how to do joint replacements and now he is seeing more patients than me. How can that be?” Once I do a little research it becomes apparent that that doctor is actually marketing himself to the community.Patients are now empowered to pick their physicians and have many resources to find out information. If you want potential patients to think a certain way about you, you must say it and use the channels they are listening to.
- Believing that your practice can maintain its growth organically
All it takes is a new competitor moving into your territory or the loss of a couple high referrals to greatly affect the profit line item in your finances. If you are not thinking growth, you are probably thinking retirement.
- Not taking your partners into consideration
So, maybe you are thinking retirement, but are your partners? Just because you want to slow down your practice, that doesn’t mean the rest of the doctors do. I have also seen the ever so common battle of the younger vs. older doctors. Just as described in a previous point, in the past, a practice would grow just by delivering quality healthcare. If you are lucky you can still sustain your practice based on the name you have made for yourself in the community and the physicians that refer to you. However, without active marketing, once you retire, the name and referrers will go away leaving your partners with no lasting brand.
- Becoming paralyzed or inactive
There are a lot of reasons why a practice may delay or hold off on marketing. From internal politics to the unknown of the future of healthcare, I have seen doctors prefer to do nothing and become paralyzed rather than take a chance and make a decision. There is always a chance that money invested in certain marketing efforts may not result in the return on investment you desired. However, if marketing is done properly, you will be able to measure your initial activities, refine the strategy and start to see lasting results.
- Seeing marketing as a sprint and not a marathon
The last point is a good segue into this next common mistake. I often see practices invest a lot of money into a short-term marketing plan. If they do not see immediate results they will stop all efforts and chalk it up to being unsuccessful. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. We always advise our clients to spend less over the longer term, as opposed to a lot all at once. Awareness or behavior change does not happen over night. According to figures from the National Sales Executive Association, and the source The Mind Capture Group, 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. This statistic could be associated to the number of times you need to be exposed to a potential patient before they decide to go to you. Only a long-term marketing plan could accomplish this kind of repetition.
- Taking referrals for granted
Physician referrals have historically been a sore spot for most doctors. Everyone needs them, yet no one wants to go out soliciting them. When you have a high volume referrer, it is essential not to take them for granted. What would happen if your top three referrers started sending just 20% of the patients they used to send to you to one of your competitors? At Points Group, we have many strategies that we use to nurture and grow referrals. However, if you want to begin today, start by thanking your referrals for the patients, ask them if there is anything that you can do to make things easier for them to refer patients, and when possible, refer a patient back to them.
- Lack of budget and strategy
Before working with Points Group, half of the practices we engaged with used to say that their marketing strategy is the yellow pages and community advertisements and their budget it whatever the advertisement costs added up to for all of the high school sports program books. Always start with a strategy and budget. Its is better to start off small but to always have a line item in your budget for marketing. Soon you will realize that marketing will no longer be an expense but part of your profit.
If any of these common mistakes sound like your practice, you may benefit from a marketing consultation with one of our strategists. Call Points Group today to set up a consultation to start marketing your practice.