The New Normal for Medical and Hospital Marketing in Tough Economic Times

Healthcare marketing and advertising can appear to be complex, confusing and daunting. But the first steps on the road to success are grounded in only six fundamental building blocks.

puzzleWe think of it as an “ah-ha moment.” It’s that highly gratifying instant in our consulting work with practitioners when the veil drops, the mystery disappears, the light bulb ignites—and a big idea is understood in a flash.

It’s rewarding for the client, seminar attendee or the audience we’re addressing, as well as for ourselves as healthcare marketing instructors.

Here, in 14 words, is a sentence that frequently leads to an ah-ha moment:

“There are only six ways to market any healthcare organization. Six and only six.”

Admittedly the broad topic of successful healthcare marketing is complex and sometimes confusing. There are hundreds of strategies and thousands of tactics, but understanding this six-point outline provides a manageable starting point for bringing it all together.

We organize our seminar presentations and our client marketing plans around these fundamental elements. If this is a back-to-basics list for you, perhaps it’s a useful refresher and something you can share with others. If this is an eye-opener, we’re pleased. For many people, grasping these six elementary building blocks demystifies healthcare marketing in an ah-ha moment.

The Six Fundamental Elements

Professional Referral Marketing: A reliable and continuing stream of inbound patient referrals from other medical, dental or other professional sources is the lifeblood of many specialty providers. And whether it’s a primary or secondary channel, professional referral sources can’t be taken for granted. Doctor referrals do not happen by magic or simply because you are a good provider. Success requires a written plan and an unfailing system to preserve and grow the flow of professional referrals.

Internet Marketing: From websites and social media tools, to patient portals and mobile apps, online marketing is a mainstream channel for marketing, advertising and public relations. Exactly how you use the muscle of the digital freeway can be highly effective and profitable, or a huge waste of time and money.

Branding: This is all about standing out from the crowd in a positive way, and it includes virtually everything you do. A powerful, differentiating brand for your healthcare business is part of your reputation. Meaningful and effective branding does not occur without a deliberate effort to shape and express the right message at the right time.

Internal Marketing: 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 or situation, this influential audience can be a rich resource for referrals, additional services, testimonials and/or word-of-mouth advertising.

External Marketing: These are the media that reach prospective patients that don’t know you. Advertising in newspapers, radio, television, billboards and the like target an audience that needs to know that you provide an answer for their healthcare need. There’s little margin for error in an external media budget that is expected to produce a measurable return-on-investment.

Public Relations: This heading includes, among other things, planning and generating healthcare publicity and free press exposure, such as newspaper articles or broadcast interviews. The end results look easy, and it can be a positive and powerful influence. But “free press” typically results from careful planning, good timing, a clear message and a deliberate effort.

Whether this is familiar territory or an “ah-ha moment”—and whether you work with us or not—there are only six ways to market any healthcare organization. Use this list to guide your healthcare marketing plan for achieving your goals.

As a full-service healthcare marketing and advertising firm, we work with provider practices, medical groups and hospitals to bring these elements into a custom marketing plan. Please call us today at 800-656-0907. Make your strategic marketing plan produce measurable results.

(We’ve included additional links to related, in-depth articles that we’ve authored for our publications, subscribers or for other professional publications.)


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Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success Strategies
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.
Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf


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