6 Practice Marketing Basics that Set the Course for Success

6-practice-marketing-basics-that-set-the-course-for-successBy: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA | kbarlow@barlowmccarthy.com

Marketers can be heard moaning, “Just add it to the list…” Teams of excellent health system marketers are now up to their elbows in one-off needs of employed practices, tri-fold brochures, requests for leave-behinds at the community health fairs, and of course, a marketing plan to quickly bring in the right patients since the practice is losing money. Yes, many marketing techniques are the same, BUT there are nuances, that’s for sure.

As we watch groups who do an excellent job of this, there are some clear difference-makers that can help maintain sanity and prove to be effective.

  1. The customer is complicated. While “customer first” is always the case for marketing, at the practice level this gets more complicated because many of the practices have been directly interfacing with lots of patients every day. Take the time to learn from them. This is personal for the practice, so the marketing approach needs to be more inclusive. Use your best knowledge, but add a dose of listening and observation at the site.
  2. What to do AND what not to do. The urgency makes it easier to just respond to requests. With tight budgets and lots of masters, it’s so important to craft a plan and start with the basics. Dollars are tight in this space, so we have to make sure we calculate the right strategy for the masses and do that first.
  3. The desired audience. Marketers all get this. We need to understand the desired target market and the market we can attract. It’s the “who wants us” that is often a challenging conversation. So, set up a grid that looks at the audiences and do research. In today’s environment, this is much more than “our neighborhood.”
  4. Operational readiness. Create a checklist and let the practice know that their welcoming and tracking process must be in place before you step up the marketing campaign with them. You know this drill: products and services that are of interest, access, customer experience, referring physician communication, systems for authorization and/or payor communication, etc.
  5. All 4 P’s matter. Often in a hospital or service line, the emphasis is on product/service, promotion, and our placement or distribution channel. At the practice level, pricing plays a role. This includes understanding payor relationships up close, knowing what’s out of pocket for patients and the right message to consistently demonstrate price transparency. Some practices are there and others know it’s coming. The savvy teams are working to get ahead in their planning and communication plans.
  6. Create a plan, work the plan, measure the impact. Once the plan is created and steps are in place for implementation, measurement is critical.  Many successful teams enlist the practices to support their measurement. After all, if they are begging you to do something for them, the table is set for an “ask back.” Keep the early measurements simple. Use results to prove value but also to course correct.

The really good teams do sometimes put out wonderful new concepts and ideas. But, when you look under the covers, they all started with the basics and rely on a solid infrastructure to manage the budget and the expectations. There is no indication that practice development will go away, so someone has to own it. Where’s your process today? What did I miss that you would call out as a basic tenet for marketing at the practice level?

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