Here's a terrific marketing question that popped up again recently: "What's on First? Which is more important, INTERNAL Marketing or EXTERNAL Marketing...and which comes first?"
It's a great question that we hear from time to time, especially as practitioners become more comfortable about marketing and want to take things up a notch to grow the business. It's also a challenging question to answer...but here goes.
It turns out that most healthcare professionals are much more familiar with INTERNAL Marketing. Your current patients are the primary audience for your marketing message. There are many ways to do this, such as telling patients about your services, for example, and simply asking for patient referrals. With Internal Marketing, you're talking to people who already know you, so it feels more comfortable.
Most professionals have heard that they should be doing Internal Marketing. On the upside, there's little or no cost, so the Return-on-Investment is great. On the other hand, a lot of offices confess that they are inconsistent about Internal Marketing; it takes time and often requires an active effort from the doctor and staff. Results are seen as a "slow burn," it builds (with consistency), but slowly.
In comparison, EXTERNAL Marketing is a totally different sort of animal where your message is directed to prospective new patients who do not know you. And, yes, External Marketing—such as Yellow Pages advertising, direct mail, or broadcast—has a higher cost attached to reaching a much larger audience. But the results can be explosive—and far more fun. And when you find the right combination of variables that work for you, many External strategies are passive and don't require much of your time to continue to produce great results.
Many doctors shy away from External Marketing and never move beyond the cost. It looks too much like a big risk (fear), and an expense. True—there's a bit of a risk factor; especially if you do it wrong. But the marketing-smart (and highly successful) practices understand that the budget is an investment in the practice... and the ROI is the big upside when you've done it right in the first place.
But wait...there's yet another front for specialized practices where referrals from other practices are a major revenue stream. Marketing to the audience of referring practitioners and practices is a part of the overall marketing plan for some. And like External and Internal Marketing, taking your message to referring practices requires an organized program with ongoing nurturing. If it's appropriate to your specialty and practice it will likely be in addition to-and not instead of-External and Internal Marketing.
So, exactly What's on First? Do you go with Internal, External (or Professional Referral) Marketing? The REAL answer is:
The "What's on First?" marketing question is tough to answer without doing your homework and defining a clear objective for the year. At the end of the day...if you don't know where you're going, any path will take you there.
This article provides useful information for all healthcare professions and specialties and was adapted from an article originally written by Healthcare Success for publication in DENTAL ECONOMICS.