Just because you are a great doctor does not mean you will get patients. You can be a good clinician, but if you are not focusing on the marketing or business side, you will miss new patient opportunities.
This was exactly where Dr. Una was when she first opened her practice Ivy League Pediatrics 10 years ago. She started her own practice and had the philosophy of “Hang the shingle and the patients will come.” In reality, no patients came.
Dr. Una learned that just as it takes time and energy to learn the skills necessary as a doctor, she needed to spend time learning the skills to market her practice.
In addition to pediatrics, Dr. Una now uses her experience to help other physicians build their brands. Her popular EntreMD podcast coaches physicians on the business side of running a successful practice.
The following discussion took place live on my Back to Busy Summit in early June to address how to keep building our private practices now in COVID-19. The full webinar is available on-demand now.
Marketing can take your practice to a different level and allow you to help more people. It’s something that is not covered in undergrad or in medical school because academics don’t need marketing. However, without experience in marketing, it is overwhelming to even know where to start.
Before Coronavirus many practices did not prioritize marketing. Dr. Una says, “A crisis exposed weaknesses. Marketing was very passive in the sense that you receive patients. Now, we are going to have to work harder to get patients to come.”
Don’t think this is just a problem until the pandemic ends. Dr. Una doesn’t think things are ever going back to normal. “People are too sensitized. What mom is going to sit with her newborn in a full waiting room?”
We are going to need marketing like never before. This time, it’s going to have to be active marketing. “We’re not going to get away with sitting and waiting for it to happen. We're going to need to go on the offense and decide these are how many patients we want to see every day and make it happen,” Dr. Una says.
If you are not actively telling patients to come in, they won’t come in. COVID-19 has exposed cracks in the system so that make patients uncomfortable. By making changes like repurposing the waiting room and sending patients text messages when it’s time to come in for their appointment, you are more likely to make people feel comfortable coming in again.
Now that there are urgent care and nurse practitioners with independent practices, the market is much smaller. Dr. Una says, “There are so many more players that you have to compete with. I never thought CVS and Walmart would be my competition, but they are and they offer convenience.”
Although patients may be unaware, “The person who markets the best gets the market share. As a great doctor who believes that you offer the best care, it’s your job to let your patients know that and encourage them to come to you,” says Dr. Una.
As long as a patient’s needs were met, good medicine is the place with the lowest barrier and fast service. You have to convince people why it’s worth coming to your practice and why you are worth the visit.
Dr. Una’s marketing strategy is like a sauce. It’s a mixture of ingredients that when assembled together can increase your patient volumes by 80-85 percent. Dr. Una says,“If you start applying these strategies and use them consistently on a schedule, it will make your practice so much better and none of it is rocket science.”
When you have a patient come into your practice, do not let them leave without scheduling their next appointment. Have the front desk greeter hand them their next appointment card before they leave whether it’s for three months from now or a year away.
It’s just like the dentist, even though patients don’t know what they’ll be doing that far in advance, it’s on the books and they will work around it or at the very least remember it’s time for an appointment and reschedule.
In-house marketing can be very powerful and has a snowball effect. If you have 20 patients come in, that means 20 added appointments in the future without doing any other marketing. Factor in families with multiple kids and that number jumps even higher. In-house marketing is the low hanging fruit; you just do what you normally do and see more success in the future.
Think of calling patients as any other business would. Your patient database is literally gold. Many practices have 50 percent of their patients being up to date with appointments. Have your office staff regularly check in with patients who haven’t been seen in a year and let them know it’s time for their annual physical. You can either schedule it right on the phone or send them a link to schedule it online.
When you recall patients, you will get a constant influx of people who are making appointments. You cannot ignore your database.
Possibly one of the most frustrating parts of marketing, but also a very effective piece is sending emails. From having patients come in, you most likely already have a huge database of their emails. Send your patients weekly emails so that they will expect it regularly.
During Coronavirus, send an email sharing how you are working to make the office safer. Share what appointments will look like going forward. Encourage them to call the office if you need any help, guidance or to schedule an overdue appointment. Sending a weekly email to remind patients you exist and also offer them support will open the floodgates of new appointments.
Sending emails to your patients can radically improve your business without buying ads or making commercials.
You must use social media, but it does not have to be as complicated as it seems. It’s key to keep reminding people that you are there. There are many patients who have probably been meaning to schedule an appointment, and when they see your email or post on social media, it’s a reminder to finally make it. Each time you make a post, your phone will ring. It’s that simple.
Take pictures throughout the day and post them with a caption like, “We’re at lunch after a busy morning taking care of 200 patients. Can’t wait to take care of your kids in the afternoon.” That’s it.
Those kinds of posts will get so much engagement and people really look at them. Patients like seeing doctors taking care of patients and seeing what’s going on behind-the-scenes.
Just because you’re an introvert is no excuse not to post. You don’t have to post about your personal life, but you can share the doctor and entrepreneur side of you.
Right now, speak virtually. You are not getting on stage any time soon, but you do have to embrace speaking. In this context, videos on Youtube or social media are key because people want to experience your brand before they commit. If your competition is making videos, people will look at their videos and your lack of presence.
When patients have heard your videos on potty training and COVID-19 related content, they will be impressed with your dedication and presence and be more likely to join your practice. Patients are appreciative of a doctor who keeps patients updated on what’s going on.
The best part is that when you make one video, you can repurpose it in countless ways. You can use it for your email, social media and YouTube. Even just a 60 second or less video answering a quick, relevant question. You can start by saying, “Hey everyone. I know many parents are worried and wondering if it’s safe to come into the office. Here’s what we are doing at our practice to keep you safe.”
Dr. Una says, “Perfection works as a clinician, but it’s awful as a business person.” When you first starting to do videos, you may have a script, and it will take hours to make the perfect video. It just takes repetition and practice and not expecting perfection in order to get it done faster You’ll look back at that “perfect” video and it will be awful, but that’s part of the process.
The more you put your practice out there, the more patients you will have. If patients are seeing your name online over and over again, they will come to your practice over someone they don’t know.
Doctors do all their own procedures because they need to be done perfectly. Marketing is where you can be an entrepreneur and delegate to your staff. “Your job is to facilitate in-house marketing. Coach your staff to become excellent so it becomes part of the new normal. Have your staff make calls and take care of the emails, just check them to ensure it’s the voice that you want to be sent out,” says Dr. Una.
You can even have your staff remind you to make a video. You can have them surprise you with a question to answer. Don’t worry about having a perfectly polished background. Your patients want to see reality.
Marketing has become so much more important because of COVID-19 and this new way of life. Physicians can start doing more now without reinventing the playbook or getting a whole marketing team before getting started with these simple steps.
This discussion is part of our Back to Busy Summit to help you move your practice forward during COVID-19. Watch it now at https://www.privatepracticematters.com/back-to-busy-summit/