Ten Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

 In Practice Building

Cassandra Shepard

Marketing may just be the most loathed activity in private practice. Most doctors I meet and work with tell me they can’t stand marketing their practices. If you fall into this camp, you’re clearly not alone. For many in the healing profession, marketing is often synonymous with being pushy, annoying or like a “slick used-car salesman.” The type of blatant self-serving selling that simply turns people off and is the polar opposite of the help and healing doctors desire to give.

It’s a frustrating dilemma. Having an abundant flow of quality patients depends on your ability to effectively market your practice. However, while you studied and sacrificed to become a naturopathic doctor to help others, in all likelihood that training did not include much mention of marketing, advertising or promotion.

As a result, without having any real training in this area, many doctors mistakenly choose to market and advertise in the same way they see other doctors doing it; low-key to avoid even the remote impression or feeling of being that self-serving, pushy person. The problem with this approach is that what the majority of other doctors are doing is ineffective, and ineffective advertising and marketing will always get poor, not to mention frustrating, results.

Allow me to share the pattern of 10 costly mistakes being made and suggest ways to make the process of marketing more appealing to, and effective for, you and your practice.

Mistake 1: Having your marketing materials look the same as other practices

You can spot it a mile away. Your brochure or advertisement looks like a glorified business card with the name of your practice at the top, list of conditions you treat, address, and the infamous “Now Accepting New Patients” line. In a word: boring. In today’s competitive market, you need to stand out to get noticed. You can do so in a way that isn’t pushy. Read on to learn how.

Mistake 2: Presenting a “watered down” version of your practice to the world

The purpose of marketing is to tell your prospective patients how you’re unique. However, many doctors downplay the skills and talents that set them apart. Why should you want to stand out? Because if you don’t, your practice will struggle to gain visibility, and new patients. Start by identifying what you do that’s different from everyone else, then feature your unique selling proposition in the headline of your ads, brochures and marketing materials.

Mistake 3: Focusing on conditions you treat rather than on patient benefits

Your prospective patients want your service only for one reason: What it will do for them? Don’t concentrate just on the conditions you treat. Instead, identify each condition and explain how patients who have those conditions can benefit from your services.

Mistake 4: Relying on only one method of promotion

Advertising, referrals, yellow pages, publicity and direct mail all work to some degree, but are more effective when used together. Create synergy by having multiple programs that support and reinforce each other. Your results will be greater than any one method working alone.

Mistake 5: Not staying abreast of how to better market your practice

With the groundswell of public interest in and use of alternative therapies, you can dramatically increase your number of new patients and referrals when you advertise and market your practice effectively. Commit to continuously learning a variety of ways to do so.

Mistake 6: Not asking for referrals

Who is the second-easiest prospective patient to attract? A referral patient, of course. Unfortunately, most naturopathic doctors live with the myth that if they treat their patients well, their patients will refer their friends and family to them without the doctor ever having to say a word about referrals. This simply is untrue. The lack of a referral program is a huge marketing mistake. You need to have a variety of referral strategies. I recommend using at least seven different strategies.

Mistake 7: Failing To stay in touch with current patients

I just told you that referrals are the second-easiest patient to get into your practice, but if you haven’t already guessed, your present patients are the first. I urge you to stay in touch with your patients in a regular fashion. In fact, a survey conducted by DIRECT magazine in 1999 found “The proper frequency to contact your customers is every 20 days.” The survey went on to note that for every month you do not contact your customers, you lose your relationship with 10% of them. It’s much easier to keep your current patients than to attract new ones, so be sure to focus your efforts on your existing patients.

Mistakes 8 and 9: Not realizing the importance of marketing and working too much “in” your business instead of “on” your business

These two marketing mistakes go hand-in-hand. Successful doctors recognize the importance of marketing their practices. As such, they balance the time spent working “in” the business (delivering services to patients) with time, energy and resources to work “on” their practice (growing it and ensuring its viability).

Mistake 10: Not marketing your talents shamelessly

Marketing your talents shamelessly is not about regressing to the level of a slick salesperson. It is about planting seeds, adding value, telling (versus selling), responding, and yes, even marketing. The difference is in how you do it. Done well, it sets up a magnetic system that begins drawing people and opportunities to grow your practice. It’s the component that will either move you to correct mistakes one through nine or will keep you stuck in struggle and frustration trying to grow your practice.

Don’t feel bad if you identify with most of these mistakes. We all have at some point in our practice-building experience. The main thing now is to be honest with yourself about where your greatest opportunity is and to right the ship back on course. And if you’re stuck on mistake 10, stay tuned for next month’s article that digs further into what stops doctors from marketing their talents shamelessly and what to do about it.

Cassandra Shepard, CPBA, CPVA, is president of Prosperity Solutions LLC and an expert on marketing and practice building. She coaches naturopathic doctors in booking their practices solid with proven strategies not taught in medical school.

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