You hear a lot about marketing a health care practice. You read this blog to get insights, tips and strategies about how to build a profitable practice.
But, if we’re being honest, attracting and retaining clients who are invested in getting better and willing and able to pay you for your expertise is about much more than marketing. You can market well, understand all the formula’s, strategies and “secrets” to an effective marketing campaign and still come up short – way short – of your financial goals.
The truth is there needs to be a solid vision, mission and reason for your practice to exist and a consistent message you want to share with the world to even consider marketing. Many small businesses (not just health care professionals) put the cart before the horse…they get it in their mind that they need to market, start investing in getting their name out into the world and find minimal success. Let’s look at a few reasons why this happens and what to do about it.
- Your service or product doesn’t stand out. Marketing vanilla ice cream is hard. Everybody’s eaten it, usually with cake or pie or hot fudge on top. Nobody ever goes shopping just for vanilla ice cream. And you’ll never see marketing for vanilla ice cream because it won’t get anyone into the store or start a rush on the freezer case. But in the fall people buy pumpkin ice cream and in the winter they get peppermint ice cream. I rushed to my local specialty grocer the other day because I knew they had chocolate mint cookies they only have in stock this time of year. And just like those cookies, your services and products need to stand out. No one is going to call you when you market that you are a therapist. No one. Be unique, stand out, figure out what makes you different from other health care providers, then think about marketing that.
- Your service or product is sub-par. This must be said, because if no one tells you this, you may struggle for the rest of your career. Sometimes we can’t attract or keep clients coming back because we don’t help people as much as we think we do. This might not be for ALL clients, but maybe for a certain subset of them. For instance, no one ever wants me to help them with an eating disorder or major clinical depression. Those are not my areas of expertise and I am ineffectual at treating those conditions. Marketing only makes sense if you know you have the skill set to back up your message. You don’t need to be the next world-wide expert in your niche, but make sure you’re competent enough so that people get better. If none of your clients make progress, that’s a sign that marketing isn’t where you should be focusing your efforts.
- There’s no passion or vision. Marketing is about sending a message out to the community that you stand for something. In my practice I stand for acceptance of all people regardless of their neuropsychology, and a strength-based, family focused treatment approach. Havi Brooks calls this her Damn It! list. These are the things in your business and you life that you stand for, no matter what anyone else says or thinks -Damn It! We all have these ideas somewhere inside us. Unfortunately, years of higher education often stamp out these passions as we comply to our professors whims and demands of what is “expected” and “worth the A.” Shake that off and get passionate again! Why do you choose to do the work you do? What’s your vision for how things can be different or better for the people you treat? Tell the world – damn it!
- There’s no business sense. Health care providers are not trained to think in terms of building a business. However, this lack of education is what bites us in the ass when big business – managed care, and pharma primarily, come at us guns blazing dictating how we make a living and limiting our financial growth. Most health care professionals stand like a deer in the headlights and wait for the misery to come, complaining and hand wringing as things go bad. You can’t do that if you want to grow (professionally or personally). If you have a practice, you have a business. You need to have a focus, a direction, a plan to make the business profitable regardless of the outside influences that will constantly change around you. The goal of marketing is to grow a business, not just attract a few clients. How do you get business sense? You take the time to study and learn. You read business books, hire a coach or consultant. You do what it takes.
- You’re cheap. Effective marketing costs some money. You need a well designed website, some business cards, professional stationery, a decent internet connection, and some money to invest in education (see #4). This is not ‘find an angel investor’ kind of investment. But it is a ‘take out your credit card’ reality. If you’re not willing to put some skin in the game, as they say, your marketing efforts are a waste of time. If you don’t invest in you, why should a client?
- You don’t have a relationship/helping mindset. At the end of the day all marketing is relationship building. You market so people can get to know,like and trust you and your services. People buy from people (or brands) we trust. We build trust by being visible and helpful. We offer valuable information to our community. We come to be seen as smart, expert and as a resource. Marketing is not advertising. We cant’ just send an announcement like, “Hey, I have openings in my practice. Give me a call!” and hope that’s going to generate any new clients. Marketing is being helpful first, then telling people that you are available to work with them.
As you look forward and plan to grow your practice, it might make sense to put marketing a bit farther down your ‘to do’ list. Unless you have a vision, business plan, passion for what you do and are ready to build relationships marketing doesn’t make sense.
But once you get those core concepts in place and your fire up a solid marketing plan, magic can happen! Your practice grows and thrives, people line up to work with you and get the help they need.
If you’re looking to grow a solid, profitable health care practice, a good place to start is with my free e-course, 7 Steps to Build Your Practice.