By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
A curious thing about Internal Marketing is that healthcare—be it a hospital or a medical practice—understands the term by a slightly different definition. Many textbooks apply “internal marketing” to leadership and organizational approaches targeting employees and departments.
Although everyone in a medical provider practice plays a role in the service product delivery, Internal Marketing is more than a means to structure or lead a business. In the world of healthcare marketing and advertising, we define Internal Marketing to include a range of strategies and tactics that tap into the power of your established patient base.
In short, it’s about building your business from the inside. What’s more, it can be quite effective.
Internal Marketing is one of six ways (only six) to market any practice or healthcare organization. This heading includes all the ways and means that you communicate with people who already know you, primarily present and previous patients. Depending on the nature of your practice this influential audience can be a rich resource for:
- Inspiring patient referrals,
- Providing additional or follow-on services,
- Converting inquiries,
- Capturing testimonials and/or word-of-mouth advertising, and
- Retaining existing patients for times of future need.
In working with hospitals and private practices around the nation for many years, we’ve found that Internal Marketing is an appealing approach for many practitioners. Most providers are often familiar with the term, and they feel comfortable presenting a low key marketing message to existing patients who already know them.
On the upside, Internal Marketing is…
- Low risk, familiar and feels “safe;”
- Low cost (often with little or no expense);
- High Return-on-Investment (because cost is low).
But on the downside, Internal Marketing is…
- Slow growth (needing time to build);
- Requires consistent and active efforts by doctor and staff;
- Results can be inconsistent and hard to manage.
Internal Marketing Tactics
There are many ways to market to your existing patient base…often one to one and under your practice roof. These include:
- Creating a reliable and effective system to convert phone inquiries to appointments. (After all, the best way to educate the public is to get them off the phone and into your office.)
- Consistently asking patients for referrals. (Surprise, patients appreciate being asked.)
- Present a Theme of the Month message in one minute.
- Provide “Pass Along” invitation certificates.
- Using opt-in (permission) email for continued contact.
- Electronic phone communications for select messages, reminder calls, etc.
- Office signs, posters and video screens.
- Using active listening, open-ended questions and tailored presentations.
- Identifying patient expectations in the office visit (and exceeding them).
- Presenting educational classes, seminars and events.
Remember that Internal Marketing may be low cost and feel safe, but it rarely stands alone, and belongs among the mix in your plan. For more about planning from a higher level, read our companion article on this topic titled, There Are Six, and Only Six, Ways to Market Any Healthcare Organization.