Carol A. Wilcox
PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc.
As summer comes to a close and vacations are winding down, it’s a good time to think about a business marketing strategy for the fall and winter. Marketing is often the last thing on the mind of a practice owner and is often on the bottom of the “to do” list. But not having a marketing plan – even a modest one – is like leaving money and opportunity on the table. Of course, marketing will incur some costs, and it is recommended that you budget some of your revenue each month to promote your practice. Even if you’re operating on a tight budget, there are still many ways to promote your healthcare practice without breaking the bank. Here are 5 budget-friendly marketing ideas to implement this fall:
1. Introduce a new service, technology or equipment – If you have developed a new service or technique over the spring and summer, fall is a great time to promote it to your community. Have you introduced new technology into your practice such as a patient portal, telemedicine capabilities, or a wearable device? What about new equipment? An easy, cost-effective way to introduce something new is with a press release distributed to local media outlets. If you have a patient mailing list, create a postcard mailing to announce your news. Your local printer or an online company like this resource can print and mail out postcards at a minimal cost. Or, if you have an opt-in patient email list, send out a special announcement. To incentivize your patients to set up an appointment, offer a discount or free gift.
2. Be found online – An easy way to market your practice is to make sure that you have completed local listings on search directories including Google and Bing for free. Patients and potential patients are frequently looking online first to find out the hours and location of a healthcare practice as well as other information including services provided and customer reviews. Make sure that your clinic is accurately listed on these sites.
Prepare a template with all of your clinic information including business name, address, phone number and website and submit to each directory to ensure consistency. Search engines are particular and may confuse small differences in your business listings as multiple businesses. So make sure that if you use something like “Road” in one listing that you don’t use “Rd.” in another. If you have a suite number, be sure to include it consistently in each listing.
3. Form joint ventures – get together with non-competitive businesses that compliment your healthcare practice to form joint ventures. For example, a massage therapist, a nutritionist, an athletic trainer or an acupuncturist might compliment the services you provide. You can increase your visibility by cross-promotion. Use discount coupons, bundled services and adding reciprocal website links. Social media is also another easy and inexpensive way to promote your bundled services to your community. Joint ventures help to expand your customer reach because your business will be exposed to new potential customers.
4. Participate in local seasonal events – most communities have seasonal events such as fairs, arts & crafts festivals, 5K races, charity events and farmer’s markets. You can become an event sponsor or rent a small booth or table at many of these events. The cost is minimal compared to the amount of exposure your business will generate.
Make sure to publicize your participation by issuing a press release, mentioning the event in your social media posts and by sending out an email or flyer letting your existing patients know that you’ll be an event participant.
Purchase some inexpensive giveaways imprinted with your business name, logo, phone and web address to hand out at the event. Offer a free screening or a demonstration at the event to draw more attention to your business.
Most communities have a chamber of commerce or community center website with a listing of upcoming events and registration information. Make a calendar list of the events you’d like to participate in with dates, location, contact person and fees. Some of these events sell out their sponsorships and exhibit space quickly. Be sure to plan well ahead of time to ensure that you are registered, have adequate staff support on hand, as well as any exhibit materials prepared in advance.
5. Host a holiday open house – invite your patients, colleagues, physicians, joint venture collaborators and the public to a holiday open house. This is a great way to thank your patients for their loyalty as well as to generate new patient and referral interest. You can use the open house to showcase your healthcare practice including your staff, any new equipment, space or unique features. Plan the open house well in advance for a late afternoon on a Tuesday or Wednesday to avoid conflicting with the weekends when most people have prior commitments for the holidays.
Be sure to contact your local media to let them know about the event. Send invitations, flyers or an email to invitees. Announce the open house on social media. Make calls to personally invite key people that you would like to see at your event. Have defined open house hours such as 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Serve non-alcoholic beverages, appetizers or small sandwiches.
The key to generating more patients and exposure to your practice is by consistently incorporating marketing into your business model. Revisit your marketing plan every quarter and choose one or two ideas to implement. The small investment and effort you make in marketing your business not only this fall but in all seasons could pay huge dividends in the New Year and beyond.
About the Author:
Carol A. Wilcox is the staff writer and head of marketing communications at PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc. You can reach Carol here.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.