Preparing To” Market” Your Physician Practice

by Bob Healy

Many physician practices often take a reactionary, shot-gun approach when it comes to marketing initiatives. For example, a competitor starts running ads in a local paper so the practice decides they need to do the same. This leads to careless spending and no integration of what you want to accomplish from a branding and messaging perspective.

While practices consistently plan and budget annually for operational expenditures and activities, the same thought process and attention needs to be devoted to marketing. To be successful, efficient and cost-conscious, developing a marketing plan is a necessary and critical element of a practice’s overall strategic process. The marketing plan will serve as a road map to guide your internal and external activities, define your budget and detail your planned strategies and tactics for a twelve month period.

Developing an effective marketing plan requires that you take both an “inside” and “outside” look at your practice.  As a first step in the marketing planning process you need to conduct an internal marketing assessment. This assessment should evaluate the current state of your practice from a marketing perspective, the effectiveness of past marketing initiatives, referral trends that exist and how you are perceived by your patients and referral sources.

In beginning your internal evaluation, as a first step, it is beneficial to “interview” each of your physician providers, mid-levels and management team members to gain their perspective of your practice. The interviews will allow you to get their view on your unique differentiators, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), key messages, the competitive environment, marketing opportunities, relationships with referring physicians and any barriers to referrals that might exist.

The information they provide will not only be useful to you but it will also give them a feeling of ownership in shaping the future message, positioning and plans for the practice. It is recommended that you send them in advance a questionnaire to consider and then conduct individual face-to-face meetings to gather their input.

Click HERE for a sample Internal Interview Questionnaire  and SWOT Analysis

An important outcome of the internal marketing assessment is the development of a SWOT Analysis which will serve as a key component of the marketing plan. The SWOT Analysis is a subjective, yet useful, strategic look at your practice. The physician and management team interviews will provide the detail for this exercise. The information from the SWOT will help to drive your key messages and define your marketing tactics to help your practice achieve its objectives.

The SWOT Analysis identifies those internal and external factors affecting your practice:

  • Strengths- internal practice aspects that provide a competitive advantage. Examples of strengths might include clinical outcomes in relation to national standards, same day consults, on-site prescription dispensing, bi-lingual staff…
  • Weaknesses- the lack of strengths in certain areas may be considered an internal weakness. Weaknesses could include poor staff customer service skills, scheduling difficulties, not being a provider for a major insurance carrier, office location…
  • Opportunities- external factors which provide growth and differentiation possibilities. Opportunities could include new clinical services not being offered in the community, new physicians and office locations, research initiatives and clinical trials…
  • Threats- market and competitive activity which might negatively impact the practice. Threats could include declining outpatient reimbursement, growth and expansion of other providers, health system integration of our specialty…

In defining your goals which will be elaborated on in the marketing plan, the practice should attempt to capitalize on its strengths in relation to the identified opportunities and attempt to minimize weaknesses or threats or, conversely, develop strategies to transform these areas into strengths and opportunities.

Marketing should be approached as an ongoing process. To position yourself to “market”, you need to develop a plan, looking both internally to evaluate the current state of your practice and externally to analyze your market and define specific goals, tactics and action plans.

The following link  (http://mdpracticemarketing.blogspot.com/2011/08/conducting-marketing-assessment-of-your.html) will provide a guide for conducting an internal marketing assessment of your practice. The assessment will serve as the foundation from which you will be able to develop a systematic and comprehensive marketing plan.

© 2011 Efficiency in Practice

Bob Healy, Managing Partner of MD Practice Marketing, and author of the Physician Practice Marketing Tips blog, has over twenty-five years of healthcare experience helping physician practices to implement programs to grow revenue, referrals and new patient consults.

For assistance in conducting an internal marketing assessment, developing a marketing plan or implementing the plan, contact Bob at mdstrategies@gmail.com or visit http://mdpracticemarketing.com/

 



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