Do you have the feeling you should be doing more to market your healthcare clinic? Worried about coming across as pushy or distasteful? The most successful private practices prioritise marketing as a key focus area for their practices. But healthcare marketing is different from other marketing… Here we explain why and how to do healthcare marketing right.
Owning and running a practice is not for the fainthearted. There are always fires to put out, new billing challenges to overcome, implementing marketing ideas for your health practice, clients to help and just not enough hours in the day to get everything done.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of everything that you have to get through in the day, you’re not alone. According to the Physicians Foundation Survey, 80% of physicians in the US report being overextended or at capacity. This makes it really difficult to prioritise your marketing efforts and it’s no surprise that 63% of companies cite generating leads and traffic as their top marketing challenge. Add to this the natural aversion that many health practice owners have to do marketing, and you have all the ingredients for the perfect storm.
For many who work in healthcare, even the word ‘marketing’ is off-putting, conjuring up images of pushy salesmen and low-quality services.
But if you’re not marketing your practice, you’re doing yourself and your clients a disservice because if potential clients don’t know you’re available and able to help them, how can you attract new clients, fill your schedule and grow your practice?
There’s light at the end of the tunnel! Marketing doesn’t have to be difficult and it can be an exciting, challenging experience. Donna Lynes Miller, the founder of Local Therapy Marketing, writes about the disconnect between practice owners and potential clients:
“Your life’s goal is to help others, but in order to help them, you must make yourself accessible to those needing your help.”
So, in effect, you can think of health practice marketing as helping people because you’re:
- Helping clients find a provider who can help solve an issue they have from rehabbing an injured knee if you’re a physio, to offering trauma counselling if you are a psychologist;
- Helping your local community by offering value-adding services when they’d have to travel further if your practice didn’t exist;
- Overcoming financial pressures that might detract focus from being able to help your clients;
- Employing others in your practice who depend on the financial viability of your practice to make a living.
Rather than thinking of marketing as pushy sales techniques, work on healthcare marketing ideas that add value to potential clients and think of marketing as answering the question, “How do I connect the services we offer with the people who need them?”. This can give you the freedom and space you need to come up with creative ideas for marketing your practice.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Marketing Your Healthcare Practice
As health providers around the world shift their focus from offering a volume-based service to a value-based service, there are many different areas of a practice that need to be realigned to achieve this outcome. As a health provider, there is now an expectation that you will be invested in the long-term health and wellness of your clients, and committed to building an enduring relationship. Add to this the increased knowledge and control that clients want over their own health, and you can quickly see the need to shift the way that you interact with your clients.
But, in order to open the door to long-term relationship building and value-based care, you need a multi-faceted approach to healthcare marketing. We’ll get into some practical ideas soon, but it’s important to keep in mind that it all comes down to communication. From client and community education, to engagement with other healthcare professionals and leaders in the community, to providing high levels of customer service, the goal is to let the people who can benefit from your services know about your practice. Together these steps will allow you as a healthcare provider to help clients and prospective clients understand the need for your services and, from there, achieve better health outcomes, and higher turnover for the practice.
Understanding this is all well and good, and any healthcare practice owner would agree about the importance of communication. So, the next question is, how do you put it into practice? Well, first, you’re going to need to develop a marketing mindset.
Healthcare Professionals Need to Develop a Marketing Mindset
Practice owners are notoriously bad at healthcare marketing, preferring to bury their heads in the sand rather than promote their services. But, as we keep saying, marketing is about communication. It’s not about smarmy salesmen, sneaky marketing techniques, or tricking clients into buying something they don’t need.
The world has changed so much in the last two decades, and it would be naïve to assume that those changes and societal shifts haven’t impacted the healthcare industry. Think about it this way, you have probably changed the way you shop, the services you use, even the restaurants you visit because of the way that technology has developed. Why wouldn’t the same hold true for your practice?
The marketing landscape may feel a bit like a moving target with different strategies and channels to pursue, seemingly on a daily basis. But if you start with the understanding that your service adds value to the lives of your clients and that marketing is simply communicating the value your practice adds, then it’s easier to make the mental shift.
So, if marketing isn’t about cheap sales gimmicks, what is it?
Marketing is About Adding Value
In simple terms, the more people you can reach in the community, the more people you can help. You probably didn’t become a healthcare professional to get rich; it’s much more likely that you did it because you want to help people. That means that if you could put an effective marketing strategy in place that brings more people into your practice, then it would be a win-win. The more people that know about the services you offer and how it will benefit them, the more you get to do what you trained for, and the less you have to worry about making ends meet.
Marketing is Multi-Faceted
It’s important to clarify any misunderstandings at this point. Marketing is not advertising, and it’s not just about blowing your own trumpet. In fact, marketing can align closely with the goals of your practice as you seek to add value, even as you communicate your practice offering to potential clients. In addition to advertising, your marketing strategy will include a range of different tools, including client relationship building and referrals, community involvement and education, public relations, and much more.
Marketing is Ongoing
Another common misunderstanding is that marketing is a one-off event. It’s not. Marketing is ongoing and thus needs to be flexible to adapt as technology advances and the needs of your potential clients as they evolve. A long-term, overarching strategy that focuses on client acquisition and practice growth can change as new and better ways of communicating with potential clients become available.
Marketing is an Investment
Then there’s the money-side to consider. If you’re a health professional, there’s a good chance that the shift to being a business owner wasn’t an easy one. And when your financial advisor starts talking about the fiscal side of the business, you probably have to fight the urge to run and hide. Unfortunately, marketing plays a role in this too – there’s a financial and time cost to marketing, and it may not pay back immediately. To understand the kind of returns that your marketing efforts are generating, you’ll need to be measuring your return on investment.
Marketing is a Conversation
It can be tempting to think of marketing as a one-sided information dump where you tell people what you can do, and then wait for them to book an appointment. But it’s a conversation; it’s two-way communication between your practice and your clients, potential clients, referral partners and others so that you can understand and better meet the needs of your target audience.
Wrapped your head around marketing as a mindset, not just as something you do? Great. Because once you’re on board with marketing your practice, the next step is understanding the fundamentals of marketing. Spoiler alert: a marketing mindset is going to affect every area of your practice because, in order to succeed, you need to have the fundamentals in place.
The Fundamentals of Marketing for Healthcare Businesses
Your marketing mix, also commonly referred to as the 7 P’s of marketing, supports your healthcare marketing strategy and helps you continuously evaluate your business and marketing activities to ensure that you reach your overall goals for the practice.
We’ve started with Product as it’s one of the most important, and most widely misunderstood, components of your marketing mix. As a service-based business, the products your practice offers are not just the list of treatments that a client can book. It goes much deeper than that. The correct products (or services in the case of a healthcare practice) should be designed to exceed the expectations of your clients. Or, to put it differently, if you can add value to the experience of each client, you can improve their levels of satisfaction, which will lead to more referrals, higher loyalty, and a more profitable bottom line. In today’s business environment, it’s not enough to just do your job because the client connection is where you can really add value and differentiate your practice from the competition.
Think about the different services you offer – are there some you’re not offering now but could? Could you add something to your service that clients would like? Could you improve their experience somehow?
We’ll spread the net wide here – there are so many people that are involved either directly or indirectly in your practice. When fleshing out your marketing strategy, you’ll need to keep the needs of your clients, prospective clients, staff, referral partners and more in mind. After all, healthcare is about people, so you can’t afford to overlook this crucial area.
Healthcare providers, administrative staff, and management are all key if you want to successfully promote your practice. As the practice manager, it falls to you to ensure that your staff members feel valued and appreciated for the work they do, whether they are in an administrative position or treating clients. You will also need to invest in training to ensure that each employee understands the importance of perception and creating a good impression with clients.
Clients and Prospective Clients
The clients who visit your practice may not be able to evaluate the efficacy of the interventions you offer, but they can judge how you make them feel. A commitment to making your clients comfortable from the moment they step into the reception, to the way they the appointment is handled, and even follow-up care communicates to the client that they are valued and that you are invested in their health and wellness. To get this right, all staff members need to work as a team, and management needs to be actively involved in ensuring the highest possible level of care at each point in the client treatment process.
Here, it’s important to think about how you want your clients to feel about your practice. The most obvious is that you want them to have confidence in your ability to provide the services that they need. But you also want to go one step further and design the client experience such that they feel valued and affirmed through their experience with you and your staff.
While digital is all the rage, it is still enormously important to build strong relationships with offline referral partners such as general practitioners, influential leaders in the community and other synergistic partners (such as healthcare practitioners in other fields). This takes time and will mean that you, as the ambassador and representative for your practice, will need to create a good impression.
In the healthcare industry pricing can be difficult to get right, especially if you have to take into account the funding source, be it from private, insurance or an employer. You need to run the numbers for yourself: your pricing needs to be competitive (in line with other health practices that offer similar services), and lead to profit in the long-run. This may require some degree of flexibility because promotional offers, capped insurance payments, and a competitive marketplace all have a role to play in the price you can charge for your services.
Don’t forget that your pricing also sends a message about the quality of your service. Think about what you want this message to be!
Promotion is what generally springs to mind when people think of marketing, but for healthcare industries, it’s more helpful to think of it in terms of communication, rather than promotion. The activities we do under this aspect of marketing involve sharing what you offer with those who need your services, including one-to-one interactions (a powerful source of referrals) and one-to-many interactions (advertising and digital marketing, among others). The overarching goal continues to be letting as many of your target audience know about your practice as possible and educating them about the benefits of your services.
With all promotion (or communication) efforts, it’s important to remain professional at all times, share a consistent message and measure your return. This will help keep you on track and will ensure that you don’t get lost when considering all the various marketing channels that are available.
The channels you use for your messages are also important (and in themselves, send a message about your practice). Choose channels that connect tightly to your target market, but that also reflect your clinic’s ethos.
This is a vital area of consideration when designing and delivering your marketing message. Start with where your practice is based. Most healthcare practices are considered local businesses in that your clients will likely come to you from a small radius around your clinic. Think about what services the people in your community need, and whether your product offering is geared to match that need. In the digital age, this idea of ‘place’ also extends to your web presence, including your website, review sites (such as TrustPilot, Yelp, Google Reviews), and social media channels.
At first glance, this may not appear to be applicable for service-based healthcare practice, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It might be better to think of this ‘P’ as Physical, rather than Packaging because it’s the entire client experience, both tangible and intangible, that impacts their perception of your practice. This extends to your reception and treatment rooms, your website, and your staff which all contribute to your clients’ perception of your practice and services.
This is a favourite point for marketers around the world; it’s how your practice is positioned in the minds (and hearts) of your customers, both existing and prospective. It’s what makes a new client choose your practice over another, and what makes existing clients continue to use your services and refer others to you. And it’s a tricky one too, because that positioning, once formed (positive or negative), can be difficult to shift.
Healthcare Marketing Strategies for Your Practice
With a clearer idea of the importance of a marketing mindset for a healthcare practice and how it impacts different areas of the marketing mix, there’s one more important area to touch on before we dive into the top 21 marketing ideas.
And here it is:
You. Can’t. Do. Everything.
Say it out loud to yourself (and really pay attention): You Can’t Do Everything.
It’s just not possible, and if you go chasing after every new social media platform or ‘get-referrals-quick’ tip, you’ll end up exhausted, burnt out, confused and overwhelmed. And you’re a health practice owner; you’ve already got too much on your plate.
There’s a great quote by the late Steve Jobs that goes like this: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
Let’s unpack that:
- Say “Yes” to only a few focus great ideas.
- Say “No” to everything else, even if the ideas are good because they’ll just end up distracting you.
Working with practices across the globe, we’ve been privileged to get firsthand insights into practices across a range of healthcare disciplines, from solo practitioners to multi-location health franchises. And one of the areas that distinguishes those that grow successfully from those that struggle to get a new practice off the ground is the approach that they take to marketing. As we covered above, they take the time to develop a marketing mindset. And then, crucially, successful practices choose one or two focus areas and build a marketing strategy around those pillars, rather than chasing 101 ideas that they don’t have the resources to execute successfully.
Consider these two examples:
Example 1 – Physiotherapy Practice
A small physiotherapy practice might read through the marketing ideas and choose one strategy to retain customers and encourage referrals, and one for drawing in new customers.
To Retain Customers:
Here the practice might choose to focus on Email Marketing as a means of keeping in touch with current clients, by sharing articles on their blog and including links in their emails. If the articles are value-adding, this would drive traffic to their site, keep their practice top of mind, encourage subscribers to forward the emails to friends and would lead to new sign-ups from potential clients.
Cost: The financial costs of this approach are low, and the time cost for producing high-quality articles can be split up between the physios in the practice.
To Build Awareness
A hyper-localised Facebook Advertising that builds awareness in the local community is an effective way to grow your brand amongst potential clients. It will also make them more likely to book with you over a competitor if they need your services.
Cost: Facebook ads can be extremely cost-effective because you can set your targeting to only show to people in your geographical radius, and you can further segment by demographics such as age and gender. You also have full control over the ad spend, so when your budget is maxed out, your ads can be set to pause automatically.
Example 2 – Mental Health Solo Practitioner
To build awareness with new and existing clients
A mental health practitioner might decide to focus on one social media channel and build a network of offline referrers. This might mean building a simple, up-to-date website and choosing a platform such as Facebook to grow such as a Facebook page that is updated regularly with self-care tips and mental health checks.
Cost: The financial cost of setting up a website should be considered a sunk cost as it’s a non-negotiable if you are serious about growing your practice. A Facebook page is free but will have an ongoing time cost for updating fresh content. This is where measuring ROI, although difficult, is important, as a Facebook page for your business has the potential to grow your practice, but may not have the best returns for the amount of time that it takes.
To grow new business
Here the healthcare provider might make a list of local healthcare practices including GPs, rehabilitation facilities, and even business leaders with whom they could establish a relationship. The focus would then be on building a long-term relationship that results in ongoing referrals.
Cost: There is an up-front time cost that will reduce as time goes on. If you have open slots, they can be filled with introducing yourself to (and meeting with) potential referral sources.
That’s quite a lot to digest, but it’s simple really if you want your practice to grow, you need to:
- Develop a marketing mindset where you make it your primary focus to communicate what you offer to those who need your services.
- Apply that shift in thinking to all areas of your practice by looking critically at the fundamental areas of your business (the 7 P’s).
- Narrow your choices with so many good options to choose from, you need to choose the ones that best suit your practice, and go after them, saying no to any others that are going to distract you from achieving your goals.
Awesome, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s take a dive straight into our blockbuster list of tried and tested healthcare marketing ideas. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide with 21 specific and highly practical marketing ideas to help your health practice succeed. These strategies will help you grow your practice, gain more clients, and position your brand effectively. We’ve focused on practical online and offline healthcare marketing strategies, so you can customise your approach to growing your practice.
1. Don’t Be Shy – Tell the World!
Got something happening, like a new workshop, therapy offering, new staff member, expansion into new premises? Tell everyone! Send out press releases and announcements to local media outlets, business groups, community newspapers, neighbourhood newsletters and Facebook groups, related businesses, schools, sporting clubs, charity groups or anyone else that you think might be (even a little bit) interested. Think of each contact you make like a small seed that could grow into something big!
2. Provide Free Presentations
Pick a topic (or a few) that you think organisations in your area would like their employees to learn about and offer to do a free 30-60 minute talk on the topic at their workplace. Organisations often jump at the chance to have free professional or personal development provided to their staff, and you’ll get a mountain of exposure and credibility.
Hint: Make sure the topic is interesting and provides genuine value – don’t make it an overt sales pitch. If people like what you have to say bookings will soon start flowing. Relatable topics that suit your profession tend to work best, i.e. Ten Strategies to Get a Good Nights Sleep; or The Six Best Exercises For Busy People.
3. Reach Out to Local Media
Contact local magazines, newspapers, radio stations, community newsletter publishers and offer to provide content (articles, tips, guest appearances) on topics relevant to your profession. You get the exposure and they’re always looking for original content so it’s a win-win. Plus, the more you do this, the more you’ll become their go-to person for your area of expertise.
4. Use O.P.W.’s (Other People’s Waiting Rooms)
Every day, waiting rooms of other health professions are filled with your potential clients. Why not ask if you can put some brochures there, and offer to do the same for them?
Pro tip: You can provide DL Brochure stands for about $3 / £1.80 a pop. This looks more professional and enables you to put a sticker with “How to order more brochures” instructions at the back of the stand.
5. Create Free Online Business Profiles
Make sure your business is listed in all the free business directories and have your correct website, address, email, and phone contact details. You can get you started with Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and Yellow Pages Online AU, NZ, UK, US)
6. Leverage Your Client Database
Current and past clients are often a practice’s most significant untapped asset. People who know you, and have ‘bought’ from you in the past, are far more likely to do so in the future. If you’ve got empty appointment spots, a new service on offer, an upcoming workshop, or a book you’ve published, make sure you reach out to those in your client database first. Whilst email, SMS and e-mail all can work well, bulk SMS campaigns typically achieve the best results. You can either use third party custom SMS platforms for this or if you’re a Power Diary user you can send them directly from within your account (Here’s how).
Hint: If you’re a Power Diary user you can send bulk SMS and emails to targeted lists of clients, e.g. clients that haven’t had an appointment in 90 days.
7. Get a Poster Made
Put together a list of some useful tips related to your industry and have them turned into a poster. These can then be sent to other businesses to be displayed in waiting rooms, staff kitchens, etc. Ideas like ‘7 Stretches you can do at work’ or ‘10 ways to improve your sleep’ can work really well. Make sure you include some basic information about your business too: Business name, contact details, and a line or two about what you do. Worried about cost? It might be a lot less than you think. Consider having the design work done by a freelancer (checkout upwork.com or airtasker.com), and shop around to find the best rate for printing.
8. Get Some Fresh Eyes on Your Website
Get family and friends to take a fresh look at your website and ask for feedback on anything that could be improved, or that isn’t clear.
9. Stand for Something!
To stand out from the crowd, find something that makes you a bit different and become known for it. Keep it simple, genuine and client focussed. Your ‘something different’ might be your treatment approach or philosophy, or a summary of your values. Health practices that emphasise upskilling patients, setting treatment goals, measuring outcomes, or providing no-jargon treatments tend to do well.
10. Send Letters to Local GP’s (with Photos)
Send a letter to each GP in your area detailing:
- Who you are, including a photo;
- What services you and your team provide, and what makes you different;
- What patients are suitable to send to you i.e age range and condition types;
- How to refer patients to you.
Keep your letter brief (no more than one single-sided page). If you have a large team then include a separate document that lists each clinician’s details, a photo, the type of patients they treat, and any special interests they might have.
11. Build for Health Practices Relationships with Local Organisations
Contact HR or Wellbeing staff at your largest local organisations and introduce yourself and your practice. Let them know what you do, the sorts of things you can help them and their staff with, and let them know you’re happy to provide some free advice if they ever need you. The goal is to establish a relationship, so keep it low key!
12. Grow Your Network via LinkedIn
About 3 years ago Microsoft purchased Linkedin and since then, it’s had a revival! It’s time to check it out, revamp your profile and start connecting with potential clients large and small. Make connections with those you already know, and expand from there. Linkedin has some clever algorithms to work out who best to suggest you connect with to grow your network. Make sure you have a company page too!
13. Try Targeted Advertising with Facebook
It’s super-easy to set up Facebook advertising. Just go to your Facebook business page and you’ll see some options for creating ads or promoting posts. The great thing about Facebook is you can target your ads to really specific audiences, so you can hone in on your target market. Want to target 30-40-year-old teachers, who live in your area, and have an interest in yoga, marathon running, and green tea? Chances are Facebook will let you reach this audience.
14. Dominate with Google Ads
Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) is great for reaching people who are specifically looking for your type of service in your area. If someone Googles ‘Physiotherapist for a back injury near me’ then the chances are good that they are looking for an appointment with a physiotherapist soon, and it’s the perfect time to put your business in front of them. Setting up a Google Ads account is fairly simple, and you’ll often find Google will give you a free $50 or $100 credit.
15. Use an Introductory “First Session Free” Offer
If your business is new it’s great to get as many people to try your services as possible. Running an introductory special where clients can have the first session free will get people coming through the door quickly. Sure you’ll get some people who’ll just come for the free session, but you’ll get lots of people who’ll come back, plus some great word-of-mouth exposure.
16. Learn Super Basic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search Engine Optimisation is just a fancy way of saying ‘making it easier for search engines to find you’. By adding some basic content to your website that contains terms related to where you are and your profession can really boost traffic to your site. Examples like: ‘Psychologists in Torquay’, ‘Osteopaths near Paddington’ can drive clients straight to your website. It can be helpful to create pages on your site that specifically focus on catching this type of traffic. To maximise success use every opportunity to insert the key search term; i.e. Page name, page URL, section headings, text content, links and image labels.
17. Run a Competition on Social Media
Running a competition on social media is a great way to increase awareness of your business. Consider giving away a gift voucher, books, a magazine subscription or anything else you think would appeal to your target market. To avoid looking spammy it’s best not to ask people to share or ‘like’ the post, but rather to enter the draw ask them to take an action like signup to your newsletter, and add a comment ‘Done’ once complete. That way you can contact everyone who didn’t win to let them know, and offer them an incentive to make a booking.
18. Become a Go-To Media Source
Journalists and writers are always looking for subject-matter experts they can speak to and quote in their content. Platforms like Source Bottle and HARO connect journalists with experts like you. They’re usually free to join and are a great way to start making connections and contributing to stories in your chosen area. Being referenced in the media helps position you as a thought leader in your field, and increases people’s confidence in you and your brand.
19. Find Micro Advertising Opportunities
People typically access health practices that are geographically close to their homes. This presents a great opportunity to reach these potential clients via micro-advertising spaces. For example, think about opportunities like; school newsletters, local sporting clubs, your bakery’s noticeboard, or sponsoring local non-profit community events.
20. Exhibit at Local for Health Practices Career Days
Many school districts have career days or expos where students get to meet and talk with people working in many different professions. Find out when the next one is on in your area and let the organisers know you’d like to participate. These events give you an opportunity to meet and talk with hundreds of students (and their parents) over the space of a few hours. Whilst you’ll mainly be talking about what it’s like to work in your field, the students and parents will get to know and trust you, and you’ll be their first preference of service provider in the future. (Don’t forget to bring some brochures, cards, or some other ‘take-way’ material.)
21. Setup Online for Health Practices Bookings & Payments
Often people search for health providers after work or on weekends – outside of when your practice phones are attended. Don’t make people wait until you next open as they may forget, or decide to go with a different practice. Instead, set up a Client Portal that enables clients to securely and confidentially book and pay for their appointments anytime. It’s convenient for clients, reduces your administration costs, and you get paid at the time of booking which is great for cashflow. Check if your practice management system offers a Client Portal and use it if it does. If you’re a Power Diary customer you can set up your Client Portal as shown here.
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Feeling inspired to get started? Lori Gottlieb, a private practice owner herself, said in her bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone that “Most big transformations come about from the hundreds of tiny, almost imperceptible, steps we take along the way.” This profound thought holds true for any journey, and the path of marketing your own practice is no exception. With these 21 marketing ideas for health practices, we’ve laid out a blueprint for your success. This article contains everything you need to grow your practice; you just need to implement them.
If it’s all a bit overwhelming, then take Dr. Gottlieb’s advice and start small, set time aside every day to work on your healthcare marketing ideas, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Making one phone call, setting up one referral source or writing one article will make it easier to take the next step and the next. And remember that you don’t have to do all 21 tactics at once, if you’re a massage therapist, choose two or three massage therapy marketing ideas, get them nailed down and integrated into your daily activities, then move on to the next.
Don’t forget that there are so many practice owners in the same boat as you – wanting to market their private practice in a way that is consistent with their values and ethos, but not knowing where to start. We hope this has helped you, and if you can think of another private practice owner that could benefit from reading this article, please forward it on to them!