Understanding Your Market
Developing strong relationships with patients and other physician practices hashistorically been a critical component of any practice’s marketing program. Primary carephysicians (PCPs) usually promote their practices directly to patients, while specialiststend to market their services primarily to PCPs and other physicians. In general, PCPsrely on established patients to generate word-of-mouth recommendations that help attractnew patients, while specialists concentrate on referral relationships with other physicians.In recent years, to remain competitive in a marketplace that has a high health insurancecoverage turnover rate, physician practices are forced to market their services to healthplans and employers.
To most effectively market a medical practice, you should first have a clearunderstanding of the environment in which you are practicing. If you are opening a newpractice, a new satellite office, or if you are practicing in a highly competitive area, youwill want to spend extra time researching the area. However, if you have been practicingfor years in a small town, it is not always necessary to undertake a detailed analysis.Instead you may wish to focus on recent changes in the community. For example, anestablished practice attempting to increase its patient base may simply spend a few hoursthinking about the community before implementing a new marketing technique that fitsinto its existing strategy. Regardless of your specific situation, your marketing efforts arelikely to be most successful if they are tailored to the environment in which you arepracticing.
As you begin to understand the marketplace, it is helpful to develop marketing goals tohelp achieve broader objectives. These goals need to be specific so you can monitorprogress to determine if your strategic plan of action is successful or requires refinement.
If you are starting a new practice or opening a new practice location, it will be helpful togather demographic data for that area. Gathering this information is relatively easy if youask your staff to write a description of the community or circulate a set of questions todiscuss at a staff meeting. If your hospital has a planning, marketing or public relationsdepartment, they may be willing to share some of this demographic data with you. Youcan also obtain demographic information for any community from thestate your state website: https://www.usa.gov/states-and-territories. Contact the state help desk for state and city demographic information.
In particular, take note of the following community characteristics: population growthrates, age and sex distribution, racial and ethnic groups, education level, average income,home values and percentage of rental properties. Another important characteristic tounderstand is the availability of public transportation and parking at or near your office,which could directly impact the patients that can access your practice.Another way to gain insight into the demographics of a community is to ask localbusinesses about their health benefits programs and determine if they requireemployment or annual physical examinations, treatment of work-related injuries, worksite safety activities, or rehabilitation services. The benefits and services offered bylocal employers is a good indicator of what will be successful in the marketplace.