By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Too many people wait until disaster strikes to make any serious moves in life. You may wait until your car breaks down before you ever think to replace or service it. Your patients wait until symptoms are severe before seeking medical attention. And you might not take the time to market your practice or hospital until you find yourself with a dwindling patient database.
You prioritize and balance between so many things that putting your hospital or practice in the spotlight seems like an afterthought. Why market yourself when there is still a steady flow of patients to attend to?
Of course, healthcare is constantly changing, and we’ve seen too many good practices suffer because they couldn’t change with it. Take control over the shifting healthcare landscape with a consumer-driven proactive marketing plan.
The new age of medical marketing
Healthcare is changing at an alarming rate, while many hospital and doctor marketing plans are surprisingly stale. Typically, most new patients come from one of three buckets:
- Doctor referrals
- Patient referrals
- Consumer-direct marketing
You might get a good portion of your referrals from other doctors or practices, but in today’s world, you shouldn’t over-rely on one means of reaching patients. Competition has become fierce, and healthcare marketing is changing significantly. Hospitals are buying practices. Healthcare systems are buying hospitals. Private practices become groups which then become supergroups. And now, private equity firms are rolling up dozens or even hundreds of practices.
At the same time, the ways people interact with their doctors are changing too. Today, many digital savvy patients are accustomed to finding their doctors online. If you have a weak internet presence, you miss out on online referrals like social media, patient reviews, and your own content rankings.
When you have a solid marketing plan, it includes traditional means of marketing, like doctor referrals and word-of-mouth. But it also takes into account all of the modern ways your prospects get in front of your business, even after they’ve been referred by a doctor or patient.
Proactive vs. Reactive Marketing
Reactive marketing is a way to see the impact of existing marketing on prospective patients. This can be useful in many ways, but reactive marketing is not a sustainable marketing strategy. It’s leaving your car stranded by the side of the road instead of waiting 30 minutes for a tune-up.
Some signs that your marketing is reactive instead of proactive include:
- Constantly switching gears to keep up with competitors.
- Inconsistent marketing messaging across various platforms.
- Evaluating results only after new strategies are implemented
- “Spaghetti marketing” (throwing stuff against the wall to see if it sticks).
With proactive marketing you can expect…
- Planned strategies for getting in front of prospective patients.
- Plenty of research into market trends.
- Insights into what customers are looking for and when they want it.
With proactive marketing, there will be some ebbs and flows in your strategy over time. But these are logical rather than reactive. For example, you might adjust your budget as needed or change your focus from one service line to another, but the brand messaging and the steps needed to reach your goals remain relatively intact.
All the ways you get ahead with proactive marketing
With solid proactive marketing comes results. Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants marketing is not something you can or should rely on. You get ahead when you focus on proactive marketing, following through on a plan for your brand to keep up with changing trends in the industry, not readjusting to keep up with competitors or making drastic changes during a crisis.
Well thought-out proactive marketing means that your brand messaging is consistent through any channel. The way you respond to reviews, engage prospects on social media, and reconnect with past patients is always consistent with your brand—so people know and recognize your influence.
Reach the Right People at the Right Time
Reactive marketing tends to tap in to trends only after the fact, whereas proactive marketing reaches the right people at the right time. Your brand reaches prospective patients at the right time, with the right messaging, based on research and careful planning.
Grow Your Patient Database
What would you do if one or more doctor referral sources suddenly went away? Your most loyal referring doctors can move, sell out to a hospital, or retire. Having an ongoing source of marketing means your patient database grows regardless of outside referrals.
Proactive strategies involve planning a strategy that works for you, rather than focusing on what other hospitals and practices are doing. Instead of watching what your competitors do and struggling to keep up, you become someone to watch. You become the state-of-the-art SUV speeding past the sedan stranded on the side of the highway when you use proactive planning.