QUESTION: I am so busy, why do I need marketing?

Everyone has heard the word ‘marketing’, but few understand its real meaning, and how it applies to healthcare. Is it synonymous with sales, public relations, branding and advertising? Yes and no. Marketing embraces all of the above, and services as an umbrella to all of these activities. Is it really as applicable in allied health though?

You essentially have two options:

1. Don’t have a plan and wing it; or,

2. Create a plan so your marketing efforts reflect your business and the directions you want to take.

How do we start a marketing plan and why do we need it at all?

If you look at the definition from Elliott, et al (2012) marketing is

“the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.”

Simply put, marketing not only helps you generate new customers but to also develop value and return services in your current customers. In healthcare, when we operate with referral services, marketing can be extremely beneficial to establish good communication processes and effective timely referrals to your service. This, in turn, contributes to better patient outcomes.

So, what does this "marketing" do that it is so important for your practice?

“Marketing is not a function, it is the whole business seen from the customer’s point of view” (Peter Drucker). All businesses are in business because of customers, and healthcare is no exception. We need customers to stay afloat. Attaining and retaining customers are key to making your practice profitable and for this, you need to have a practical marketing strategy.

Writing a marketing plan is a serious undertaking, but it is manageable. You need three things for the marketing plan to happen:

Teamwork: If you have a team, even if it is only yourself and your secretary, it is going to more successful if you involve all team members to gain realistic insights into the state of your practice and help write a plan that is realistic. Team members can have really great ideas.
Research: You will need to gather lots of data about the healthcare industry and market to evaluate your position and formulate your competitive advantage.
Analysis: After accumulating all the necessary information from your staff and outside sources, sit down and sort through things. Knowledge is power, but only when it is put to use! The other important thing to remember is to develop market strategies that allow you to analyse their effectiveness.

The most important function of the marketing plan is to help you understand who you are and what position can be the most rewarding for you profit-wise.

Your Vision:
In healthcare, often the first thing you do after symptoms review and patient examinations are completed, is come up with a diagnosis. It is definitely hard to assign treatment without knowing what you are to cure. Same here – the business needs to define its purpose before moving on. So sit down and think about where ideally you see your practice in the future. Here is some advice – your vision needs to be:
Short: your vision statement does not have to be long to make an impression. You are not writing a report after all. Most importantly your vision has to describe the outcome you see for your practice.
Simple: Is your vision statement hard for a 5-year-old to understand? Your vision needs to relate to customers, referrers and your team if you have one. This means it might be viewed by a diverse crowd, so accommodate.
Realistic: Does your vision connect with reality? If it is unattainable, you risk to lose employee motivation and make your staff feel unfulfilled, or yourself. Inspire!

So now you get to practice!
Think about your practice or service and what it hopes to be known for in the future. For your reference, below you will find statements of vision statements from healthcare companies so you have a starting point:
Alzheimer’s Association – “A world without Alzheimer’s”
Mayo Clinic Department of Anatomy – “We strive for excellence in anatomy education”
Riverina Hand Therapy – “We go out on a limb for you”

Now it is your turn. Write a couple of sentences about your vision.
Now refine your sentences so you have a once sentence ‘pitch’ about your vision that you would be able to stand up and say to various audiences. Writing this does help to make you accountable for it!

Once you have this first part sorted things are often easier to articulate and plan for.


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