Speech pathology marketing doesn’t have to be difficult, but as a health care professional, it’s easy to get caught up in the details where you’re so busy working in the practice that you don’t take the time to step back and work on your practice (read how Sophie Egan, a Speech Pathologist reduced admin time with the help of Power Diary).
If your goal for this year is to increase your patient volume, you need to hone your marketing strategy so that’s it’s easy to implement and will actually give you the results you want.
But sometimes, knowing what to avoid is as important as knowing what to focus on. And that’s where we can help. At Power Diary we’ve worked with thousands and thousands of health practices, and we can help you avoid some popular, yet ultimately unsuccessful speech pathology marketing clichés.
Here are the top five marketing mistakes we see speech pathology practices making…
1. Thinking it’s unethical to market a Speech Pathology Practice
We understand advertising and promotion efforts don’t come naturally to most speech pathologists because the whole reason you became a healthcare professional was to help people, not because you were focused on building a business empire. But that doesn’t mean that you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater!
Marketing is an essential cog of almost all businesses, but you don’t have to do anything that isn’t in line with your values. What’s important here is to develop a practical marketing strategy that you’re comfortable with, keeping in mind that:
- Marketing is not the same as sales, hard-selling tactics are not what you need, but a cohesive marketing strategy that is consistent with your values and ethos will spread the word about your practice, without pushing people into making a decision;
- Marketing is communication, letting people who need your services know what you offer in a manner that resonates with them;
- In order to keep your practice doors open and help the people that need your services, you need to have enough paying clients to cover the bills and that means putting effort into spreading the word about your practice.
The truth: Marketing a speech pathology clinic is less about selling and more about educating. Reframe your marketing efforts and think of them as a communication framework that will help you get information about your practice to the people that need your services. Consider that if you don’t let people know about your services, you may be doing them a disservice!
2. Trying to be ‘all things to all people’
When you’re trying to grow your client base, it’s very tempting to try and target all possible demographics who might need speech pathology services. In theory, you are a speech pathology clinic and the prospective patient is anyone who wants speech pathology services. But in reality, there is such a diverse range of needs and if you try to target everyone, you’ll end up targetting no-one in particular.
A much smarter approach is to identify your ideal clients so that you know exactly who to target, as well as having a much better idea of where to reach them. When you’re identifying who your ideal clients are, keep in mind that they should be the people that your practice is best able to assist. You probably already have a natural affinity with a certain type of client – so these should be your target market.
Once you have a clear idea of who you want to target, you can hone your marketing strategy based on the following questions:
- What speech pathology services are they most likely to need?
- What words do they use when talking about speech rehab therapy?
- Why would they be motivated to use your services?
- How do they spend their time?
- Where do they look for information on health care and rehab therapy?
- What aspects of health care services are important to them?
The truth: Even though it may seem counterintuitive, you have a better chance of growing your practice if you narrow down your focus and identify your ideal client demographic, rather than trying to make everyone happy. That doesn’t mean that you turn away clients that don’t fit this profile, but it does mean that all of your marketing efforts become much more focused.
3. Believing ‘if we’re good at what we do, clients will come to us’
This is a dangerous cliché because there’s just enough truth in it to distract you from the practical implications. Offering an excellent service should be non-negotiable. But you’re not the only speech pathology practice that offers high-quality care for your clients! So, unfortunately, in most cases ‘being good’ won’t be enough to grow your practice.
Instead, continuing on from point two above, it’s important to tailor your approach to reach and proactively attract your ideal clients. Successful speech pathology marketing begins with identifying your ideal clients and ends with working out how to reach them effectively. This means connecting with them where they’re most likely to be (both online and offline) and communicating in a way that is most likely to resonate.
The truth: Once you’ve identified your ideal client (demographics & psychographics), figure out how to reach them and communicate with them effectively. What messages will resonate? In what format? Don’t be shy! Get yourself out there!
4. Focusing exclusively on new client acquisition
One of the most dangerous clichés of all is thinking that to grow your client base, you should only focus on reaching out to and connecting with new clients. Outreach is vital, but it should never be done at the expense of your existing customers. For one, they’re the ones that have helped get you this far, and studies show that existing customers are much more profitable. And secondly, you’re going to need their help with attracting new clients to your practice.
How can current (and past) clients help market your speech pathology practice? By providing social proof. People are 83% more likely to choose your clinic over another if it’s been recommended to them by friends and family. Even if they’ve just read reviews from others online, 84% of consumers are likely to trust those online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And 94% of healthcare patients use online reviews to evaluate providers.
When it comes to choosing a speech pathology clinic, there are often other parties involved in the decision, such as parents and caregivers who will do their research before selecting a provider. This means that they’re likely to ask friends and family for referrals, as well as going online to look at your reviews and other feedback.
How do you get your clients to leave reviews? It’s simple, keep in touch with them (through emails and newsletters) and ask them for reviews. Clients who have been coming to you for a long time are likely to be happy with your services, and most won’t mind leaving a review – especially if they know how important it is to your practice. If they agree, make it as easy as possible by providing the correct URL and instructions on how to leave a review. To increase the number of clients that leave reviews, include a link in all email communication with your clients.
The truth: Your online reputation is vital and that means your existing loyal customers have an important role to play in growing your speech pathology practice. Keep top-of-mind with all of your clients through regular communications and don’t be afraid to request reviews.
5. Under-estimating online channels for Speech Pathology Marketing
Just because you may not use online avenues to find and research the services you require, your clients probably do! Focusing your marketing efforts exclusively on off-line channels is a mistake we see many speech pathology clinics making.
While there are many offline avenues that you can pursue to market your practice, you can’t afford to ignore the online opportunities for growing your practice. A recent study showed that as many as 77% of people looking for health advice or services start with an online search. So, if you’re only going to focus on building referral partners and putting roots down in your local community using offline channels, your marketing efforts are going to be severely restricted.
We’ve discussed the importance of online reviews, but that’s just the start. Your practice will need a professional website, a blog that’s updated regularly with new articles, active social media accounts and as many positive online reviews from clients as you can get.
The truth: It’s all happening online, from your website presence to social media and online advertising, this is the best way to reach a large audience of potential clients who have never heard of your practice and are only looking online.
If some of these marketing clichés have been holding you back, it’s time to let go of your misconceptions and build a marketing strategy that will quickly grow your speech pathology practice. It’s so easy to get caught up working in your business, trying to stay on top of the day to day activities of keeping your practice running, that you forget to take a step back. Working on your practice, and asking the difficult questions about what you want, and what your goals are, will refocus your marketing efforts which will have a huge impact on the trajectory of your practice.
But there’s no point in doing this if you’re working on bad information. The cliched marketing ideas that we’ve outlined above have the potential to completely derail your practice. So, if you’re ready to do the hard work of giving strategic oversight to your practice, you’ll need a strategy that lines up with the values and ethos of your practice, then:
- Accept that marketing is part of running any successful speech pathology clinic;
- Take the time to identify your ideal client;
- Plan communications that will reach and resonate with your target market;
- Leverage your existing client base;
- Create a strong online presence for your practice.
Do you know a speech pathologist who is looking to grow their practice? Why not forward this article to them – they might be stuck working in their business instead of on it, and anyone of the marketing clichés that we’ve debunked above could be enough to shift their focus so that they can begin building an effective speech pathology marketing strategy.
Important note from our Legal Eagles: We know you know this, but we need to say it anyway. The information in this article is general in nature and is not legal advice. The laws, regulations and professional guidelines relating to the use of reviews and testimonials can vary across jurisdictions, and health professions. If you’re unsure of the rules that apply to you, your professional association is often a good place to start.