Doctors: How to Market Your Practice to Win Both Patients and Admiration The business of marketing for a doctor’s practice has changed considerably in the past few years. In many ways, the process of finding and attracting new patients is more challenging than ever. Notwithstanding sweeping reforms in the healthcare system too numerous to list, some of today’s concerns and changing landscape include… Physicians face increased competition among private and hospital-owned medical practices; Patients are better informed and increasingly empowered to make health decisions; and Consumerism and the voice of the customer (patients) directly impact compensation and revenue. Patients don’t want to see the “second best” doctor. Effectively winning patients and public admiration are nearly inseparable. Healthcare marketing selectively uses communications tools to inform and to influence the way prospective patients recognize who you are and what you do. For serious health concerns, and even routine matters, informed patients select the best provider for the best care. More specifically, marketing engenders trust, it says what you can do for them, and it presents the value you deliver to individuals who need and can benefit from that value the most. Reaching a target audience with a timely marketing message presents your services—and an answer to their problem—in a compelling manner that positively influences your reputation. Historically, physicians have had an attitudinal dichotomy that is a challenge to successful marketing. On one hand, they recognize, and ferociously protect, their professional reputation. And traditionally doctors have reluctantly (and often uncomfortably) approached advertising, promotion and other communications tools for fear of being “less than professional” in the minds of the public and peers and colleagues. The answer, however, is that a doctor’s marketing message—and reputation building—is something you control and direct. The messages that you employ, via proper strategies and tactics, enhance public admiration while winning new patients. Branding is the message foundation… Think of “brand” and “reputation” as nearly interchangeable marketing ideas. Patients, prospective patients, colleagues, (even competitors) have a perception and recognition of your unique presence in the marketplace. Your brand encompasses everything your do, but primarily it is how you clearly differentiate yourself and the practice, and thus present an exclusive competitive advantage as the best choice for the desired audience. When you properly control and direct the message, branding means business. Effectively communicating a strong brand message means standing out from the competition. You break away from being “plain vanilla” in what you do for the people you serve. In our experience, the power of branding, and the reasons that people resonate with a strong brand message are relatively few and easy to understand. People prefer to buy brands: LOWER RISK – Recognized names imply consistent and dependable quality; STATUS – Perceived added value, and a higher cost, attaches to brand names; LOYALTY – Brands inspire trust with passionate followers who refer and recommend; REPUTATION – Name recognition fuels and accelerates a professional reputation; TARGETING – A focused brand message attracts specific and desirable types of new business; ADVANTAGE – Superior brand recognition distinguishes you from the competition; FUTURE WORTH – a desirable brand increases the organization’s business worth. Your plan—the strategies and tactics for marketing to patients—will be a unique roadmap that is driven by specific goals, measurable results, a well-defined target audience and dozens of other considerations. A proper marketing strategy for a doctor’s medical practice that embraces a distinctive branding message will both win new patients and enhance public admiration in the community.