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How Practitioners Can Thrive in a Slower Economy
BY HELMUT FLASCH
As the economy remains weak, rising costs for energy and food force consumers to cut back on spending. Many practitioners have been witnessing a decrease in patient visits and the postponing of certain treatments by patients. This presents a problem of great magnitude to private practitioners across the country.
Following are five key points to help you, the private practitioner, counteract any of these changes that your practice may be experiencing.
1. Market Yourself
Recognize that you are only in the business of marketing the business that you are in, and that is it. The number-one mistake private practitioners make is to believe that providing good service or care is all that is needed to succeed. Maybe this was true 100 years ago; but today, if you don't put your service in front of the potential clientele on a continual basis through marketing, then awareness of your practice will never reach the people who need it, and you will have a hard time especially in a slow economy.
Ultimately, only those who continue to learn and who market their practice consistently will survive and prosper.
2. Support Your Community
Becoming a "Jolly Good Fellow" will translate into many more patients. Instead of relying only on traditional advertising, do something positive for the community that will create more goodwill — and ultimately patients — for your practice.
I'm not talking about some PR gimmick here. While most of us try to be good human beings each day, few realize the effect that performing truly good deeds in the community can have. Holding or participating in such community activities as food drives and anti-drug events not only raises your visibility through free press, but your credibility as well. This is where you will stand head and shoulders above your competition. And contrary to common belief, these social participations do not need to take much time — but if done correctly, they will build up trust and respect toward you among potential patients even before the patients select you as their practitioner. This will also prompt more referrals from other practitioners.
I call this the "Un-Advertising" approach, in which by performing actions as a humanitarian in your community, you do not 'advertise' your services but receive positive attention that remains in the public's mind. Practitioners who have done "Un-Advertising" especially in a slow economy have found that the public and referring practitioners remember them for a long time — much longer than their advertising counterparts would elicit.
3. Don't Cut Marketing Efforts
Growing and succeeding well above average can often be easier in a slow economy than in a steady and growing economy. Many millionaires and billionaires have been made during recessions and even in depressions. During a fast-paced economy, many practices experience their normal growth. However, the typical reaction during a slow economy is to "hide one's head in the sand." But when the going gets tough, the tough should get going and step up their marketing efforts.
Most practices that cut down their marketing efforts during slow times do so because they believe the efforts bring in even less business than before. However, this will simply reduce their business even more, and then in one, two, or three years when the economy picks up again, they will be too paralyzed financially to take advantage of the economic upturn.
4. Diversify Your Marketing
If you keep looking for that one marketing action that will bring your business growth, then financial hardship will unfortunately result. There is no one marketing action that increases your patient volume — it is always a combination of several actions done together.
Most practitioners engage in a "bee-hopping" approach to marketing. They try one thing, and if they feel it did not work then they try something else. This shotgun approach will not help you.
Talk to different marketing consultants and put together a system that you can use over and over again. Formulate a complete marketing plan that involves both internal and external marketing activities and that could be done without you spending a lot of personal time or money to implement them.
Marketing is as scientific as engineering is, and important scientific data show that half of your marketing efforts will probably not work, even if you are very good at marketing. Another scientific fact is the principle of synergy, which again supports why a 'bee-hopping' approach does not work. Think of it as winning a war: attack with all the ammunition available and attack from all corners possible.
5. You Might Not Like it
You must also be aware that you do not have to like the marketing action for it to work. Most people do not like root canals, having their transmission fixed, or making the effort to quit smoking. Most do not like to hire lawyers either, but winning a lawsuit and staying out of jail makes the "liking" aspect immaterial. What counts with your marketing efforts is that your practice grows, and that is it.
Proper marketing in a slow or a fast economy not only bolsters the health of a practice, but it is also vital for the prosperity of private healthcare professionals in the long run. CLS
Helmut Flasch is an international business consultant and CEO of Doctor Relations, Inc., Canoga Park, Calif., www.UnAdvertise.com.