Musings on Medical Marketing
What feels like a lifetime ago, I got my Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing & Advertising. Marketing, at its core, is the manipulation of the four P's. Price, Product, Promotion and Placement. What I have seen in medicine, particularly with regards to general practice is the lack of consideration when it comes to marketing to the detriment of the practitioner. Therefore, this blog post will cover some of the pitfalls of marketing of general practice alongside the four P's. I'd like to note that I will not be advising as to content as there are strict guidelines as to what content can be marketed and the manner as per AHPRA guidelines. Price (How costly is the practitioner's services?) Price is a tricky one. General practitioners are in the business of healing and helping those in need, not necessarily those with the biggest wallet. So there needs to be a balance struck between practice profitability and the patients. Price too high, and you might get an undesirable name (terrible PR) and a small patient base. As a general rule, the higher the price, the more luxury the service, therefore a higher price would be fitting for the likes of cosmetics and dentistry. The biggest pitfall from my observation is when you have a practitioner who wants a private practice in an area that would otherwise suit a bulk billing practice. Thus the price-point does not match the practice placement.
Product (What does the practitioner offer?) One of the first things we ask when meeting a health practitioner for the first time is what specialty (if any) do they want to bring to the practice? There is nothing wrong with being a general practitioner, however, if you do have niche interest or skills they are worth highlighting and might lead you to a broader patient base due to it being a point of differentiation from the clinic down the road. We have come across doctors who alongside general practice also, for example, perform removal of varicose veins which turned out in the long run to be their bread and butter. So my advice, diversify the health services you can offer, as this diversification of product serves to increase the potential marketability of the practice.
Placement (Where is my practice placed?) Sure there might be one hundred viable sites for you to build your dream practice on, but how many of those will be profitable? There is a myriad of considerations when choosing a site; it's accessibility, frontage, foot traffic and closeness to the nearest medical centre to name a few. In terms of the marketability of the practice, this is one of the considerations I would stress as being one of the most important. Another consideration for placement of the practice relates to the relative income of those in the area. Expect failure where you are trying to have a private practice in a low-income area. Likewise, a bulk billing practice in a higher socioeconomic area would be counterproductive in terms of future profitability. To avoid this pitfall, do extensive research into the potential practice area because there is nothing as soul-destroying as being a practitioner without anyone to practice on.
Promotion (How am I getting to my patient base?)
We knew of a doctor who upon opening his new practice, stood at the front door. When asked what he was doing, he replied: "If they see me they will come". If only it were this easy! Promoting a practice is critical as referrals can dry up, and nobody wants to be in the position of the doctor aforementioned. The pitfalls I see with regards to this are plentiful, from not having a social media presence (need only be basic for general practice), ugly and outdated websites to incorrect information on search engines. The expression "out of sight is, out of mind" is very pertinent here and for a practice can prove to be fatal. On a similar note, extensive SEO as pushed by marketing firms is not necessary, and many fall into the pitfall of finding their way locked into an extensive and costly marketing campaign.
The best marketing of a practice will be through the general practitioner treating patients in an accurate and caring fashion. If you treat them well, they will tell their friends who will tell their friends. However, to not market the practice or consider the marketing of a practice during setup is a folly that can result in the untimely demise of your dream practice.