7 Deadly Sins of Medical Practice Marketing

Marketing a medical practice can be challengingâ€"even painful, if you don't approach it with the right knowledge, tools, and guidance. By reading about mistakes others have learned the hard way; you can boost your effectiveness and take a shortcut to success. Just make sure you avoid these "Seven Deadly Sins."

“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.”—John D. Rockefeller

Marketing a medical practice can be challenging—even painful, if you don't approach it with the right knowledge, tools, and guidance. By reading about mistakes others have learned the hard way; you can boost your effectiveness and take a shortcut to success. Just make sure you avoid these "Seven Deadly Sins."

Deadly Sin #1: Spaghetti Marketing

Effective marketing is planned communication, so be sure you follow a well-laid plan. When you market without a plan, it's like throwing strategies against the wall to see what sticks. We call that "spaghetti marketing," and it can be truly brutal on your budget and your practice. Plan your marketing carefully, preferably with the guidance of experienced professionals who know the ins and outs. They can steer you toward the tactics that are proven to work in any given situation—and avoid the things that will fall flat. Continue to adjust your plan as you learn, but don't start throwing spaghetti at the wall. Plan first, then execute.

Deadly Sin #2: Analysis ParalysisPhysicians tend to be scientifically minded analytical thinkers. That's great when it comes to practicing medicine, but not so great when it comes time to launch a marketing campaign. Sometimes you think so long and hard about what to do that you confuse thinking with action. Thinking and planning alone don't attract patients. Actions do. Give yourself a short deadline for making your decision, then do something! If this is difficult for you, just remember that no print ad, radio spot or Yellow Pages book is forever. You can make improvements next time. Analysis paralysis is dangerously similar to...

Deadly Sin #3: Marketing Decisions by Committee

Many a practice has put valuable marketing plans aside because they couldn't agree on the minute details involved in executing a plan. When you wait for consensus, you may find yourself waiting idly by as competitors beat you to the punch. Even when you finally reach a group decision, the result is often a watered down version of an effective vehicle that will wind up doing nothing to accomplish your growth goals. Appoint one person to approve the elements of your campaign, and you'll avoid much hassle and lost opportunity.

Deadly Sin #4: Inadequate Training

If external advertising is a part of your marketing campaign, it is vital that your staff receive excellent training in the handling of these new patients. They will come to your practice with different questions, mindsets and concerns than patients your staff may currently be used to. Make sure they understand how to welcome these new patients with open arms.

Deadly Sin #5: Treating Marketing as a Cost CenterMarketing is a revenue center, not a cost center. You must treat it as such. First, that means you need to be willing to give marketing sufficient budget and time to succeed. Second, it means you must follow up rigorously to understand and adjust to improve the return on investment you achieve with each marketing strategy. If you don't know how effective (or ineffective) your marketing is, then you won't know which elements are a complete waste of time and money.

Deadly Sin #6: Insufficient Delegation

A well-designed marketing plan includes countless moving parts. Don't try to oversee everything yourself. Be sure to delegate tasks and use the resources at your disposal to make your marketing efforts blend seamlessly with the operations of your practice.

Deadly Sin #7: InconsistencyMake sure the messages you convey are consistent with your practice. Patients will lose trust if they walk through your doors to find less than they were led to expect. Also, be consistent with your plan. Don't stop running a print ad just because the first insertion didn't ring your phone off the hook. Give your campaign time to work.

Lonnie Hirsch and Stewart Gandolf are the Founding Partners of Healthcare Success Strategies. Together, they have over 30 years experience as private practice marketing experts, having consulted on and created marketing campaigns for over 3,200 practices. Prior to founding HSS, which provides high level, personalized consulting to successful private practitioners who are serious about growing practice profits, Lonnie was president and Stewart was vice-president of marketing with the nation's largest private practice marketing firm. They invite comments at 888-679-0050 or info@healthcaresuccess.com.