It seems to be the case that many of the people who are attracted into the healing professions are not necessarily the most business-minded of people. This is a generalization, of course, but after coaching with osteopaths, chiropractors, masseurs, sports therapists, fitness trainers and many others in similar fields it would appear to be the case. The idea of selling yourself and letting the world know who you are and what you do is not appealing to everyone, but it is nonetheless vital in establishing a great, profitable business.
So what makes a successful healthcare practice? I would argue that foremost it is marketing. There, I’ve said it. Marketing. Probably one of the most disliked words I hear from colleagues and coaching clients.
What does marketing mean to you? If you are answering: adverts, yellow pages, expensive, waste of money, then you’re probably just being misled by the media portrayal of the marketing industry.
Because marketing is so much more than that…
Every time you see a patient you are engaged in marketing
Every time you speak to a friend, or an acquaintance you are marketing
Every time you even speak to a stranger about what it is that you do, you are marketing.
Sure there are the established ways of advertising and promotional activities, but there are so many more ways to market yourself and your healthcare practice.
In her book on client attraction “Get Clients Now”, CJ Hayden identifies 6 main ways to market yourself if you are a solo professional. She also lists them in terms of their effectiveness. The list looks like this:
1) direct contact
2) networking/ referral
3) public speaking
5) promotional activity (PR)
What this means is that the most effective ways to attract new patients into your practice are direct contact with possible patients and a good networking/ referral scheme for patients to hear about you. In both these cases you establish not just visibility, but also credibility. When it comes to advertising and PR, you have visibility without credibility – you may say you’re the best osteopath in Europe but you would say that wouldn’t you? This isn’t to say that PR and advertising don’t work, but rather that they are perhaps not as effective as the other methods.
What does this mean to us as therapists then? Well first and foremost it means that we could adapt a marketing strategy based entirely around networking with local Doctors (for example), which may be highly cost efficient and also extremely effective. You don’t have to take out high price ads in local papers. Perhaps rather than just advertising in your paper, you could write articles for it, being a health specialist in an area of interest. Or give talks in your area of expertise to groups of people who fall into your “ideal patient” profile. The more you can expose your potential patients to your services the busier your practice will become.
Always remember that there are a variety of ways to market your healthcare business and many of them won’t cost you a single penny.