Marketing in Your Community (Offline Marketing)
Don’t just stay in your office or behind a computer to market your practice. One of the best ways to ensure a steady flow of new patients is to be active in your community. Remember that you are in the people business. Your community involvement will be directly proportional to how much you care, to how many people you treat, and to how much you will earn. Remember the law of reciprocation. Your income will reflect how much you help your patients. In essence, the caring, and beneficial value that you put out into the world will come back to you in other forms.
The following is a list of things you can do to start marketing your practice directly to your community:
- Join the Chamber of Commerce
- Join a BNI networking group
- Join an Exchange or Rotary Club
- Host an open house in your office for other doctors in your community.
- Call a neighboring business owner and take him/her to lunch
- Give health lectures to local small businesses and corporations. They are always looking for guest speakers.
- Acquire a booth when a corporation hosts a health fair
- Host regular “Health Nights” at your office or at the local library.
- Join a gym, sports team, or country club
- Special Events
Out of office marketing
Chamber of Commerce –
Joining the chamber is a very easy step toward meeting and networking with other business owners. Most Chambers host networking nights toward this purpose. The key to this type of event is not to go and push yourself and services on everyone in the room. It is to meet people and develop relationships. This takes time. Think of networking as farming not hunting. To be a successful farmer, you have to plant a seed (or
idea), tend to it, fertilize it, and watch it grow. If you have the same attitude about developing relationships, you will be successful.
BNI stands for Business Networking International. This is a global networking group. The local city/area based chapters of BNI allow only one profession to be represented per group. For example, a BNI group allows only one plumber, realtor, accountant, etc. This prevents competition amongst group members and fosters close relationships with other business owners. The group works together, referring customers to one another and promoting each other through word of mouth marketing.
These groups are charitable service organizations whose focus is on public and community service. Members work together to improve the local community. It is a great way to give back to the community and meet others who share the same philosophy.
If you are new in the area, or if you have been there for years, host an open house event for other doctors to come and meet you. This works
great for functional medicine doctors, because we treat all of the complex and difficult patients. Most doctors are looking for someone to pass their difficult patients to. Make sure that they know that you are happy to take on their troublesome patients.
Lunch with a Business Owner
Remember that small business owners usually have a lot of connections and talk to a lot of people. You should make it a point to meet with a new business owner on a weekly basis.
Health Lectures –
I have a lot of layman lectures prepared on Powerpoint ranging numerous health topics. Recently, I was invited to a woman’s group to talk about nutrition and hormones. I gave the talk over my lunch hour and ended up having three new patients call my office to schedule appointments the next week. Finding groups to talk to is easy. You can use the internet to search for local groups in your area. The local Country Club is a great place to find groups. They are always looking for guest speakers. Additionally, you can ask your existing patients if they are involved in a group that would like to have you speak. Examples include:
- Mom’s Club
- Garden Club
- Local gyms
- Rotary, Exchange, & Lions
- Assisted Living Facilities
- Gluten Free Groups
- Diabetes, cancer, or other disease support groups
- Local churches
Health Fairs –
Large local companies typically have 1 to 2 health fairs per year. These are a great place to get your services in front of large amounts of people looking for healthy ideas. Being part of a health fair is typically free of charge. To find these, call all large companies in your area and ask to speak to the human resources department. Let the person in charge know that you would like to volunteer for the next fair. You can also let them know that you can speak on a variety of health topics. Many companies host “lunch and learns” for their employees. They bring in doctors from the local area to discuss a number of preventative medicine based topics.
Health Nights –
Hosting hot topic health nights allows you to showcase your knowledge and services to existing patients and their families. Pick a topic that peaks a lot of interest. Examples Include:
- Weight Loss
- Hormone Balancing
- Gluten Free Diets
- Natural treatments for ADD/ADHD
Create flyers and advertise in your office, with the local papers, at the library, with local business owners, with neighboring doctors, etc.
Join a Gym –
Join a gym, country club, or sports league. Not only will this help keep you in good shape (always practice what you preach), it is a great place to meet people who are health conscience and apt to benefit from your services.
Your planning should reflect holidays and special events in the community. For example: Every year I host a pre-holiday meeting for
all of my gluten free patients. This event is always big because we give away a lot of valuable door prizes, share a lot of gluten free recipes, and provide an educational experience that you cannot find anywhere else. The following is a list of ideas to form your calendar around:
- Back to school supply drive
- Breast Cancer or other disease Awareness
- Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, or any other important holiday
- Get back in shape (weight loss) for the Summer event
- One of my favorite – Halloween – bring in your candy for supplement discounts.
- Fun runs or other athletic events
In Office Marketing
One of the most missed opportunities for marketing is in your office to existing patients. Remember that many of your patients do not know the full scope of what you offer. You should have the following measures put in place to ensure that you and your staff are properly promoting all of your services on a regular basis.
1. Killer Customer Service
2. Supplement of the week
3. Condition of the week
4. Nutrient of the week
5. In office referrals
6. Thank you cards for referrals
7. Warrior Patient Recognition
8. Event Flyers
Customer Service –
Customer service is the most critical element in building a successful waiting list functional medicine practice. If your customers/patients are not satisfied with elements of your service, you can lose a referral even if they are happy with their treatment results. One way to monitor customer service in your office is to simply ask your patients if they have had good experience in your office. Many people will not offer suggestions to improve unless asked. I send out
regular customer service questionnaires to my patients. A sample email is below:
I take customer service very seriously. Please help me improve our office by giving your feedback.
1. Was our office clean?
2. Was the staff warm and friendly?
3. Did your visit with Dr. Osborne meet or exceed your expectations?
4. Would you refer your friends or family to our office?
5. Were you seen promptly without having to wait?
6. Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve our services?
Thank you for choosing Dr. Osborne and Town Center Wellness to serve your health care needs!
Not all of your patients will respond, but you will get very good feedback from your patients if you implement this strategy. This will allow you to address issues on a regular basis as they come up instead of waiting until they are a major problem.
Additional Customer Service Musts –
- Respond immediately to an individual at the front desk (Don’t make them wait unless you are helping another person.)
- If the receptionist is on the phone, eye contact and a smile (possibly a hand wave) will acknowledge the patient who walked in, until the phone call can be completely. End the call as soon as possible.
- Make the patient feel welcome and at ease.
- If it is a new patient, introduce yourself and offer your hand to shake.
- If it is an established patient, address the patient by name.
- Offer the patient water, or something to drink.
- If this is an established patient, find something to compliment them about, such as: being on time or staying on schedule.
- If there is an unusual wait time; keep the patient informed of the approximate time he or she will be seen, or possibly offer a reschedule time if necessary.
Supplement/Condition/Nutrient of the Week –
You want to set your office up in such a way that you have a visible supplement case. It is important to feature a select supplement each week. If you have a display area, you can highlight new products frequently. This allows you to sell more featured product, but it also allows you to train your staff on a regular basis. Many of the supplement questions that are asked in your office are directed at your staff not you. If they are not trained to answer appropriately, you are missing easy sales. Have flyers or brochures handy for the featured product. Don’t wait for your patients to waste their money on poor quality supplements.
The same can be said for highlighting a condition of the week. Let your existing patients know that you are dynamic and can treat multiple problems. You can do this through your email newsletters as discussed earlier, or you can implement a white board in your office. Place the board in your waiting room so that it is visible to every patient coming through the office. The picture below illustrates an example of this concept using the magnesium and several diseases linked to a deficiency of the mineral. The purpose of the board is to stimulate curiosity and conversation as well as to educate your patients en masse.
This single picture helped me inform my patients and my staff about the diseases associated with magnesium deficiency, selling more magnesium, but also allowing my patients to understand the greater scope of treatment available in my office. As a side note, I used this drawing in a video post as well. (The video has had several thousand views already). >>> View video here <<<
7 Actions to Help Increase Referrals –
Part of getting your patients to refer is to establish a referral mindset from the very first time they have exposure to your office. The following are times when this should be done:
1. When they call in to schedule their first appointment, your staff should make sure to ask the following question when taking information – “Which one of our patients referred you to Dr. Osborne?”
2. If the new patient was referred by an existing patient, the following should be implemented immediately – a Thank you for referring card should be mailed to the existing patient.
3. New Patient Forms – On the first page of the form, the following question is asked – “Which one of our patients recommended you to our office?”
4. When a new patient comes to the office for their first appointment, the staff member taking care of their paperwork should ask the following question – “Who referred you to see Dr. Osborne?”
5. When the doctor goes into the treatment room for the first time with a new patient, he asks – “How did you find out about my office?”
6. All new patients are put into an automated email series. The verbiage in the series discusses the importance of referring a friend of family member.
7. Reward and recognize your top referring patients (Warrior Patients). When our office hosts Health Nights or Meetings, we always recognize and thank our top referrers.
One of the biggest mistakes I see doctors make is not asking for referrals or testimonials. Remember that your patients want to help you help others get better.
When to Ask For a Referral –
A patient you have been treating is recovering extremely well or has recovered all together. This patient has not referred anyone into your office but is grateful that he/she was able to find your office. This is where the law of reciprocity kicks in. This patient is in the mindset of debt and gratitude. Remember what I said earlier about health? -PRICELESS- Even though this patient has paid you, they still feel indebted because you cannot put a price on feeling good. This would be an appropriate time to ask for a referral. Let them know that you would appreciate it if they would refer someone who also needed help, Pay IT Forward. This is also a good time to ask for a written or video testimony (I prefer video). The following script is a typically the way this is done in my office.
“Mrs. Jones, I am so happy that you are feeling better. Would you mind giving me a testimonial about your experience? There are so many people who could benefit from your story.”
Success doesn’t just happen. You have to plan for it. Creating a marketing calendar is a vital part of this planning. It is important to keep in mind that your events, presentations, speeches, etc should reflect your practice ideals. In other words, you wouldn’t want to host an educational meeting about health while junk food is being served to the attendees. Using the lessons taught in Chapters 13 and 14, plan out your marketing calendar for at least 6 months.
To establish a waiting list practice, you have to saturate your marketing calendar with engagements. One or two events per month won’t cut it when you are first starting out. A waiting list practice relies heavily on patient referrals. If you don’t have a very large patient base, you won’t get as many referrals your first year in practice as your second, third, fourth, etc. That doesn’t mean you cannot accelerate your success, it just means that you have to put in the work.
The calendar diagram shows a typical month in my office.
There are 4 event/lectures scheduled outside of the office (marked in blue). There are 2 lunch meetings scheduled (marked in yellow). The events marked in pink are times that I set aside for research and writing. I read medical articles and write on a variety of health topics for the newsletter and for my office blog. The events marked in green are marketing promotions. For example, the first promotion is for a back to school sale on my website. I will write about the detriment of the typical school lunch on health along with some solutions to the problem. I will write about focus and concentration at school and tie it in with ADD/ADHD. I will also send out information on vaccinations. These blogs and newsletters will be coupled with supplement sales for a child’s multi-vitamin, supplements to aid focus, and immune boosting supplements.
By creating my marketing calendar months in advance, I ensure that I am organized and prepared for common topics that will be a priority in people’s minds. My marketing strategy for “back to school” will be more successful because I am focusing in on topics that are of big concern for parents as they prepare to send their children back to school. In marketing, you have to strike while the iron is hot. If I wrote about breast cancer prevention instead of school related topics, I would have less sales and less interest.
Marketing Calendar Ideas –
- January – Weight loss, weight loss, weight loss. People making resolutions always focus on losing weight. This is a great time to promote lab testing and supplementation with a marketing spin on healthy weight loss goals.
- February – It is still not too late for weight loss. Momentum from Jan. pulls through in February. Valentine’s Day and President’s Day are also good reasons to do a promotional. This is the middle of Winter and people have a tendency to be vitamin D deficient. Now is a good time to discuss the topic of vitamin D, depression, and immune function.
- March – St. Patrick’s Day. Target the green movement. Additionally, the first day of Spring falls in March. This provides a good tie in to renewing health and running an email sequence promotional.
- April – Good Friday and Easter fall in April. As we think about the sacrifice made for us by Jesus, it is good to remind your patients that the body is their temple. Taking care of it should be a priority in their lives. This is also a good time to start talking about seasonal allergy prevention.
- May – Mother’s Day and Memorial Day fall in this month. Offer special discounts or deals for moms and veterans of the armed forces. Additionally, Summer break is right around the corner. Email promotions can be focused on healthy snack ideas and healthy exercise based outdoor activities for children.
- June – Summer vacation is in full swing. This gives the opportunity to discuss healthy eating while traveling on vacation. Father’s Day also fall in June and offers a good opportunity to honor dad.
- July – July 4th is always a good time to run a promotional email series tied into Summer. Promote healthy food alternatives for outdoor cooking. This is a good time to discuss proper hydration in the heat and skin safety issues.
- August – Parents are thinking about preparing for the school year. This is a perfect time to write about school related topics:
- School lunches
- Heavy back packs and back pain
- Immune function with the passage of germs at school
- Focus and concentration for studying
- September – School has started and summer is over. Carry over from August works well during this month as kids are bringing home germs from school and getting sick. Immune boosters are always a good topic. Additionally, focus problems become apparent in this month as children adapt from summer day dreaming to having to focus and concentrate for long periods of the day. Labor Day provides a great excuse to have a sale on supplements. The end of September is a great time to start writing about the upcoming allergy season. Chronic allergy sufferers are always looking for ideas to reduce their symptoms.
- October – Halloween provides an excellent back drop to discuss the detriments of sugar and candy. I like to offer a supplement discount for families who bring in their candy. Allergy season is in full swing. Promote healthy immune function and allergy reduction products.
- November – Elections are typically held in November. This is a great time to do a promotional and tie it in to voting. Additionally, Veteran’s Day is in November and offers another opportunity to honor veterans. Consider a fund raiser or email promotional. And of course, Thanksgiving provides a lot of opportunities to talk about food and healthy eating, holiday recipes, football, etc. We always throw a pre-holiday meeting for my patients. Everyone brings food and recipe information to share.
- December – The holiday spirit allows for a number of promotional ideas. You can do the 12 days of Christmas email series. This is one of the best times of the year to offer help to the community. Consider a toy drive for needy families at your office. Additionally, winter starts this month. Remind your patients about the importance of maintaining a healthy vitamin D level to prevent colds and flues.