South Florida Hospital News
Sunday May 24, 2020
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June 2014 - Volume 10 - Issue 12

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What’s the Big Secret? Marketing in a Changing Health Care Marketplace

In today’s world of social media, the temptation is great to focus marketing efforts primarily on this medium. Although communication through electronic formats, such e-newsletters, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others is essential and effective, the secret to solid and successful marketing efforts remains relationship building. Creating an extraordinary patient experience, establishing seamless and consistent communications systems, being a valuable resource and giving back to the local community remain proven strategies for health care providers that want to grow.
 
Extraordinary Patient Experience
Before investing one dime in marketing, be confident about your stellar customer service. Patients who also become raving fans are absolutely the most effective generator of referrals. Is each phone call answered with a happy, friendly voice? Is each patient greeted with a smile and the patience of a saint? Is the waiting room clean, comfortable and inviting? Are the wait times reasonable? Does each patient leave with an armful of written instructions, related articles, and a scheduled follow up appointment as appropriate?
 
Just a few simple steps can go a long way in growing a practice. For example:
• Follow some of the best customer service companies, like Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton and Disney, by offering staff training and creating a culture where extraordinary customer service is a top priority.
• Invest in tiny luxuries that make a big difference, such as complimentary coffee and cookies in the waiting room.
• Reinforce your brand with bright colored uniforms or embroidered shirts for all staff members.
• Offer each patient a folder with your logo and practice name and contact information printed on the front for organizing doctor orders, special instructions, articles of interest and other personal papers.
 
Consistent communications
Stay in touch with your patients without being annoying. Send out a printed or electronic newsletter on a regular basis, such as quarterly, with valuable health tips, reminders for scheduling appointments, news about new doctors or other staff hires, and information about what your practice does to give back to the community.
 
Other ideas for staying in touch can include:
• Letting patients know that you welcome and are grateful for their recommendations of your practice to their friends and family members.
• Sending a card or personal note to patients on their birthdays or other important dates.
• Making sure a staff person calls to check up on patients who were sick, hospitalized or otherwise not feeling well.
• Bragging about happy patients. Provide an outlet for patients who have had extraordinary experiences to tell their stories, on a Facebook page or in writing or other format that can be displayed in the waiting room.
 
Being a valuable resource
Most people enjoy hearing and learning from physicians, so offer to be an educational resource in your local community. For example:
• Take a lunch hour to speak at the local Rotary, Exchange Club or Kiwanis meeting.
• Write a column about a health topic that relates to your practice for a neighborhood newspaper or magazine.
• Participate in a health fair.
• Contact the media if you read about a health-related topic that may not be as complete or accurate as it could be. Become a sought-after resource.
• Start a blog.
 
Giving Back
Support causes that are related to your practice and are of interest to your patients and their families and give you visibility in the neighborhood surrounding your facilities. Staff members gain pride by working for a group that gives back. Here are a few hints for giving back strategically:
• Select no more than three causes and form on-going partnerships versus one-time gifts.
• Get your staff involved.
• Share stories on your website or through other forms of communications about how you and your staff get involved in the community.
 
Whatever strategy you choose, effective marketing should be multifaceted and well planned with clear objectives in mind. Many communication tools exist, so choose carefully those that fit your practice and your goals the best. Think about how your patients chose you and the answers will reveal the secret of a great marketing plan.
 
Ellen Crane Schulman is accredited in public relations (APR) and is the president and founder of ESPR. She can be reached at (954) 895-3152 or ellen@ellenschulman.com or visit www.ellenschulman.com
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