Marketing and Communications

Communication is key to attracting new clients to your practice

Medical professionals who are embarking on the journey of building a new practise will be all too familiar with the sometime confusing process of setting up a business in the lead up to opening the doors for the first time.

In addition to finding premises, buying equipment and supplies, setting up processes, installing IT systems and hiring staff, there is of course one more crucial factor to consider – where your patients will come from.

As much as small business operators might like the idea that clients are lining up for your services from the get go, the reality is that every 21st century business enterprise is competitive, regardless of the industry.

So what is the secret to attracting and retaining new clients? Having a viable marketing and communications strategy in place as part of your overall business plan is one of the most important first steps.

In addition to establishing your presence, engaging in effective marketing and public relations activities will help to create your professional image and reputation, as well as foster word-of-mouth referrals.

Those practitioners who believe all referrals still come via another medical professional need to consider how Generation X and Y communicate. The majority of people born in these years (from 1965 onward) are technically savvy meaning they use mobile phones, laptops, email and social media to communicate on not just a daily basis, but a minute by minute basis.

Not only do they conduct business this way, but they profoundly influence the interpersonal recommendation process. One need only look at how strong the referral process in the USA is to know how effective it can be in helping you to build a new business. In a nutshell, if you are not on top of communicating regularly with your existing and potential clients, they will simply seek services elsewhere with someone they already feel confident with, or someone who their associate has told them is the best.

Whilst the notion of marketing for a medical practice may leave some practitioners feeling a little under the weather, it’s not all about flaunting your wares to a mass audience. There are many effective, yet subtle strategies that can be implemented to let new clients know you have opened your premises.

These include obvious methods such as signage and directory listings, but can also include very targeted campaigns such as local newspaper advertising, mailbox drops, open days, community health programs, etc.

Wider scale activities might include use of social media, blogs and forums (the fastest growing method of communication today), as well as development of a website and email database, clever placement of web banners (on high ranking health related websites for instance) and/or sponsorship of a major event relevant to your practice’s services.

Of course, networking will be one of your most important tools. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth within your industry as well as within the community. You should take every opportunity to let colleagues know what has been happening with your practice, get involved in conferences and workshops and offer your services as a speaker/blogger; in other words, be ‘the face’ of your business.

Consumers of services, particularly health related ones, want to feel a connection with their provider. The relationship you have with them will be key to whether or not they return or tell their friends and family to come see you.

To ensure success with a new venture, remember that communication is a key component of your day to day operations. How you carry that out is flexible and can be catered to individual requirements but it must be integrated into your long term plans.

Author: Lisa Randall, PR/Marketing Consultant