Doctors: Make Marketing Hay While The Sun Shines

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Animated sun shine graphicWhat time of year do you think about marketing your healthcare organization?

Well, if you are like a lot of doctors, you probably think about marketing mostly during your slow seasons.

And the logical knee-jerk reaction would be to go out and run some ads.

Makes sense, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that your slow seasons are absolutely the WORST possible times of year for you to market your business or practice. While it would be great if prospective patients thought about you all the time, in real life people have a natural predisposition to think of you during certain times of year.

Just as winter coats don’t sell well in August, it will be very difficult to motivate prospective patients during the wrong times of year.

So, when should you market?

As the title of this article implies, you should only contemplate external advertising during your best times of year.

For many healthcare organizations, the Spring and Fall are best (January is slow due to new deductibles, the “dog days of Summer” are slow due to vacations and general lethargy, and everyone gets distracted by the Holidays).

However, there are many exceptions to this generalization:

  • Primary care doctors tend to be busier during Winter months due to cold and flu season.
  • Orthodontists get flooded with new patients during August before school starts.
  • Sclerotherapy sells amazingly well in April, at the beginning of swimsuit season.
  • Almost everyone practicing in Florida gets busier during “Snowbird Season.”
  • ENTs and allergists get busier in the Fall and Spring due to hay fever.
  • Plastic surgeons often get busy just before the Holidays and during “High School Reunion” season.

Still confused? Here’s a great tip.

Check your past three year’s worth of records, and count up your numbers of new patient visits by month. (Not production or revenues, because those measures will lag.) Make sure you take into account aberrations, like that four week trip you took to Europe last year.

Then come up with averages, and then plot them on a graph where the average new visits are plotted on the Y (vertical) axis, and months are plotted on the X (horizontal) axis. In most cases there will be clear peaks and valleys.

The key is to do your external marketing at the beginning of the busy season, and cut back just before it ends.

“But that means my busy times will get even busier?”

To some degree, yes, so you’ll have to be a good manager. However, here are some ways you can “even things out.”

  1. Remember that just because your new patient inquiries come in at once, for many practices the actual work can be spread out over time. For example, dentists have a large amount of control over their hygiene schedule, so they avoid scheduling those appointments during months where they know they will be busy with new patients.
  2. Internal marketing is more powerful in motivating people to action than external marketing because you have a relationship with patients. Therefore, feel free to ask for referrals all year long (besides, it can never hurt).
  3. If you are a specialist, slow seasons are great opportunities to get out there and build relationships with your professional referral base.

Happy case history:

JM loved to ski, and he always scheduled his annual ski trip for early December. After reviewing his records as we recommend above, he noticed that December was one of his best new patient months, while February was historically his slowest.

Nowadays, you’ll find JM on the slopes in February, smiling broadly because his entire trip was paid for many times over by the extra profits he made by marketing and being available during December.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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