When it comes to marketing strategies for a practice, one of the most important decisions to make is deciding between external and internal marketing. This according to a recent article, What's on first: internal or external marketing?, authored by Stewart Gandolf, co-founder of Healthcare Success.
According to Gandolf, the question is imperative to answer for those who wish to "take things up a notch" to grow the practice.
Most professionals, Gandolf said, are much more familiar and comfortable with internal marketing because they are talking to people they already know. Telling patients about services and asking them for referrals provides slow, consistent growth, Gandolf said.
However, he tells OrthoNewsline.com there are inconsistencies that can arise with such marketing techniques.
"The inconsistency in internal marketing is due to several issues: Doctors hate coming across as needy greedy or 'salesy' and second, while it works it remains a slow burn and takes time -- it's not explosive," Gandolf said.
The alternative -- external marketing -- can potentially offer a much higher rate of return, according to Gandolf.
"External marketing is a totally different sort of animal where your message is directed to prospective new patients who do not know you," he said.
Gandolf claims virtually all media are effective methods of external marketing and retail media such as coupons, postcards and yellow pages can work well. However, the real work begins once the phone rings and offices have to convert the inquiries into sales.
But, as with internal marketing, the external methods have their drawbacks. Many professionals fear the cost and risk involved with external marketing and again, don't want to appear greedy or desperate, he said.
"Many dentists shy away from external marketing and never move beyond the cost. It looks too much like a big risk (fear), and an expense," Gandolf said. "True, there's a bit of a risk factor, especially if you do it wrong. But the marketing-smart -- and highly successful -- dentists understand that the budget is an investment in the practice."
The third option, referral marketing, is part of the overall plan for professionals, especially orthodontists. Gandolf said that taking your message to referring practices requires an organized program with ongoing nurturing.
"Referral marketing is the traditional stand by for orthodontists. The upside is huge -- a gift that keeps giving. The only downside is that they can become too reliant on several important sources and then lose them," Gandolf said.
Gandolf introduces a series of steps to take in order to further answer the question of which marketing technique to implement. The article can be viewed in its entirety here.