If you're a doctor or you work for a healthcare practitioner, you need to read this. Why? Because chances are you're doing something that is jeopardizing your practice and livelihood.
You're doing your own marketing.
Doing so is a virus running rampant and unchecked in the medical industry. If we had such a thing, I would call it "marketing malpractice." If I could give you a quick prescription that would cure you of it, would you consider it? Let's take a look...
If you're a healthcare professional, chances are your time is literally more valuable than an outsourced marketing professional (unless, of course, we're discussing crisis communication; that's a different article). So, every second you're spending on doing your own marketing, you're losing money.
Moreover, particularly in the smaller practices, there's no plan to proactively and purposely do marketing communications activity, so the work tends to be haphazard and disjointed.
Putting out fires or responding "when you can get to it" is not a smart use of time. There needs to be purpose and organization, and both are a rare luxury as a practitioner.
In addition, perhaps one of the worst time sucks is dealing with all the myriad sales representatives seeking to part you with your hard-earned dollars because you should "advertise in their magazine" or "do this direct mail." Or sponsor this kids' soccer team. Seriously, those are not a good use of time because not only are you investing your time on a possible marketing buy, most likely you don't know what you're looking at or how to evaluate it. The television outlet (or radio outlet or print outlet) will always tell you it is the best choice.
Having an objective, experienced marketing advisor can cut right to the chase and make certain your marketing investment is being used in the most cost-effective manner possible.
You have a stethoscope. Or a dental drill. Or rubber gloves. Those all rarely used items in the marketing profession.
Marketers have cool tools, too (but they don't hurt). Those tools enable marketing professionals to painlessly, efficiently, and effectively get their jobs done. The tools usually involve a large investment on the part of the marketing firm to allow it to find and pitch media effectively, plan marketing and media buys, purchase lists, develop direct mail, and so on. These are not tools most practices would purchase because of the cost.
So what we tend to see is the doctor directing poor Suzy receptionist to help with marketing and "Suzy" doing one "fill in marketing activity here." When the "activity" (for example, advertising) doesn't work particularly well, the response becomes, advertising doesn't work.
Advertising, and her kin in marketing, branding, experiential marketing, and public relations, all work very well when done correctly and when using the right tool for the job. Understanding how to use advertising effectively and how to use public relations properly is much the same as knowing when to use a scalpel and when to use an x-ray.
Marketing is very much strategic thinking, effective understanding of what needs accomplished, and employing the right solution based on the diagnoses. Having the right tools, whether you're a marketer, carpenter, construction worker, or doctor, makes all the difference.
You may have a fantastic administrative assistant, but she is not a marketing expert. She is a hard worker, but she doesn't have the time, the tools, and the expertise needed for proper marketing.
Like you in your field, many marketing professionals (like me) have been doing this marketing thing for a long, long time. We've seen many changes, kept up on new technologies and solutions, and have successfully solved, seen, and safely managed any number of campaigns. Little fazes us.
A good marketing professional will properly strategize on the best course of treatment then prescribe the proper medication to achieve a desired results—although results may vary. You can also get a second opinion.
The bottom line is that there are good, solid, expert marketing professionals that specialize in your field that can truly be advisors regarding professionally marketing your practice, keeping your brand (reputation) safely guarded and maintained, and helping you strive toward your definition of success.
What to Do Now
Rather than do your own marketing, consider doing the following course of action:
- Take inventory of your current and past marketing activity.
- From the benchmark numbers you set at the beginning of the year, show growth. (You did set benchmark numbers so you could measure growth, right?
- Survey your customers and understand how they've found you and what they like.
- Take a look at your marketing materials. Are they as professional in quality as you are?
- Hire a marketing professional to do a communications audit at least once a year.
- Get a marketing plan that fits your practice and your budget.