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Marketing Your Medical Practice in an Economic Downturn

Your medical practice is really no different than any other type of business when it comes to the economy. marketing-chart.jpg Granted, perhaps medicine is a bit more insulated than the retail industry – people always get sick, but they don’t always need a new car or house. However, discussions we have had with physicians in a variety of specialties suggest that the economic downturn we are experiencing (recession, depression, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it) has had a detrimental effect on medical practices. So, when revenue is down, expenses should be trimmed. And what better area to cut than your marketing budget, right?

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Many educated people confuse marketing and advertising, so it is important to distinguish the two. We all know what advertising is: billboards, magazine ads, radio or tv commercials, etc. But this is just a part of marketing. According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is defined as “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, services, organizations, and events to create and maintain relationships that will satisfy individual and organizational objectives. ” But what does that really mean?

Effective marketing should make the process of “selling” to a customer redundant. Effective marketing compels the customer to desire your product. Really effective marketing can sell a product without the “sales pitch.”

Marketing is everything that comprises the messages that your practice puts out: your advertising message, the local reputation of the practice, the training of the physicians, the practice slogan or tag-line, brochures or pamphlets, etc. These types of things, known as “external marketing” are obvious.

But what about the more subtle things known as internal marketing? The physical condition of your building, how friendly the staff answering the phones are, how clean the waiting room is, etc. These factors can have as much of an impact on your practice as advertising.

John Pinto, a leading ophthalmic practice management consultant, refers to this as the “coffee stain” syndrome. If you saw a coffee stain on the rug of your doctor’s office the first time you visited, you would probably give him a pass. But if it was still there on subsequent visits, you may think twice about letting him perform a procedure on you (“if he doesn’t keep his rugs clean, maybe he never washes his hands”).

So, now that we have established what marketing is, let’s turn our attention back to the original issue: should you cut back on marketing when the going gets tough, or ratchet things up a notch? Is there any evidence to support either case?

There are actually several studies, including some from Penn State’s College of Business and McGraw-Hill Research, that have shown that businesses that maintain or even increase their marketing efforts during a recession are rewarded with significantly more business when the economy improves compared to their cohorts. There is also a corresponding increase in market share.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your medical practice should start running television commercials day and night. But there are many cost-effective ways to get the word out about your business, such as health fairs, direct-mail promotions, community lectures given by the physicians, or hand-delivering welcome packages to new physicians who may be referral sources, to name a few.

Now, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out there!

2 Comments

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  1. As an RN with many years under my belt in a clinical setting as well as a home care setting I have noticed many things that allow a medical practice to stand out. Most recently I have noticed a huge increase in the amount of individuals w seeking alternative health and looking for some sort of direction from their MD about how to take a preventative approach to their health. With the alternative health industry on the rise, many patients are opting to choose a provider that will not only treat them when they are ill, but also be able to offer them services and products to help them stay well.

    You would think that as physicians that you would have that sort of knowledge to offer your patients, but unfortunately medical school provides a small overview and this is not enough for a generation that wants to maintain their youth and remain healthy! I have found the answer to this that would allow any medical practice to stand out!!

    Why not offer a full wellness program that you can provide to your patients that is easy enough that you could get it going in a few days with the support of an RN who will help you incorporate this?? This would not only allow you to provide a key component to your medical practice but also benefit financially from providing these needed services and programs.

    In short, you provide the option of 7 metabolic tests that the individual can take all that measure certain imbalances in the body. Our lab then provides a full report on the findings and a customized, medical grade product that will allow the individual to put their body back in balance, eliminating the associated risk factors! All of this can be done from one simple test kit and there is no stocking of products unless you choose to do so.

    We also offer other wellness programs, products, and services all of which have been used for years but prior to this company, were only available to a physician but now are made affordable enough to allow a physician to offer them.

    I could go on and on all day, but the point is that if you want to stand out from the rest and open new doors for opportunity, providng this type of service will increase interest and add new patients to any practice!!

    If you would like to talk more about this company and how your practice could benefit, please contact me for more information.

    Collette Flaherty RN, BSN

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