Three simple ways to boost your local marketing

By Jill Woods / 01 Sep 2014

Jill Woods explains how to make the most of business in your local area

Marketing any business that is geographically anchored to one town or local area generally makes the whole process easier. Providing there are enough of your ideal patients within 10 miles of your practice, marketing should, in theory, be straightforward. Your ultimate goal is to become well known, and doing that in a relatively small geographical area is much easier than achieving the same level of fame nationally. Even with the odds stacked in their favour, many practices struggle, or at least find it difficult, to attract the numbers of patients they would ideally like to see coming to their clinic. To get the phone ringing and increase the footfall in your practice, there are three key elements of marketing that you need to execute successfully. Once you do, you will find that you have a whole host of new patients making enquires and booking appointments.
Many people misunderstand marketing as just advertising or promoting their practice. In doing so, they miss out on a huge amount of important marketing activity.
Marketing actually covers six key areas known as the ‘6 P’s’
Product - The service you offer
Pricing - What you charge
People - Are your employees performing effectively in their roles?
Place - The environment where you deliver your services
Processes - How you manage the practice and patient communications
Promotion - Raising awareness of you and your practice
To successfully stand out from the crowd you need to deliver a great combination of all of these elements. The following are three areas that you can develop within your practice to help you raise your profile and gain prominence in your local area.

1. SEEK FAME

This is not national celebrity fame, but fame at a local level. If people don’t know about you and the services that you offer in your local area, you are going to struggle to find the new patients needed to turn your practice into the amazing success story it could be. Bear in mind local fame is not going to come looking for you, you have to make it happen. To get known locally you must go out, into the community, and network with as many people as possible.
By this I do not mean visiting networking clubs where thirty people rush around pressing business cards into each other’s hands whilst asking, “How can we do business?” Nor am I talking about seeking individual patients who may be a parent at your daughter’s school.
Instead I’m talking about strategic networking, with individuals or organisations that can put you in front of groups of your ideal patients, and not just one or two of them. This obviously requires you to know exactly who your ideal patients are. If you don’t know this, you need to go back to basics and work out who your best patients are. They will most probably be repeat patients; those that are happy with your service and willing to spend money in your clinic on a regular basis. Your best patients are your ideal patients and you want to find more of them. Once you know who they are, you need to figure out where they congregate en masse, and who has the power to put you in front of them. For example, it may be the editor of Yorkshire Life or the owner of a local health centre, or even the manager or captain of a local netball team. It really does depend on who your ideal patients are. These gatekeepers are the people you need to network with. Get to know them, and help them get to know you and the services you offer. Once you have made a meaningful connection with these people in your community, you need to work out how you can help them to help their audience. What real value can you add that, in turn, demonstrates what you can do, and how you can solve any problem their audience may face. For example, you could help them by giving advice on how to look fantastic for the annual club charity ball using simple self-help techniques, or you could share a six-week countdown calendar to help them get ready for their summer holiday. In the eyes of potential patients you immediately gain credibility by being associated with, and introduced by, a person that they already know and have respect for. However, you still need to demonstrate how you can help these potential patients.

Getting in front of these groups of people can take many forms:

  • A printed article
  • A face-to-face presentation
  • A practical demonstration
  • A joint offer promoted by email
  • A feature on their website
  • A guest post on their blog
  • A video embedded on their website
Please note at this point you are helping them, not selling to them. You have to earn the right to sell to them by building trust and confidence first. So start by demonstrating your expertise and provide them with information or a skill they can get real benefit from – for free. If you can show that you are the best at what you do in your area, you will be demonstrating to potential customers why they should choose you for their treatments rather than a competitor. That is the kind of networking that boosts your local fame quickly and delivers real results in the form of new enquiries and new patients.

2. GET ONLINE

Nowadays almost everyone turns to their favourite search engine to help locate a service that they want to access, even if it is just in their local area. So it goes without saying that you need a web presence in order to show up on these search results. There are two ways I would recommend you do this.

Have a website

Websites are a fantastic way to showcase your expertise, help people get to know you and give them an easy way to make contact. Here are a few points you should consider when putting one together;
a) Host it yourself – don’t use a third party hosted site. You often don’t get a bespoke domain name, are not in complete control of the content and structure, and often don’t own the content on the site.
b) Focus the content on your home page around your ideal patients, and not around you as a practitioner. This is not the place to talk about your qualifications or extensive CPD record. Here is where you should talk about problems that prospective patients can relate to and how (in brief terms) you can help. Also talk about the town/area you are based in so visitors see the local connection and know you are there to help local people.
c) Build in a mechanism for capturing people’s email addresses. Offer something of great value in exchange for their contact details. This means you can start to communicate with them on a regular basis, and build a relationship that is far more likely to convert into paying patients, rather than potential patients visiting your site and leaving without making a connection with you. Consider a cheat sheet or check list, a “Five things you should know” or “How to prevent…” type document that they can access in exchange for leaving their email address.
d) Don’t try to be corporate. Healthcare is all about building trust, and people will relate far more to a site that looks personal and talks about “I” and “me”, or “us” and “we”, than one talking in the third person.Even if you have a relatively large practice, try to be personal and help people decide whether they like you and can trust you. Again here you can incorporate a local spin on the content you write. Talk about local groups you are involved with, events you have attended as a practice, or regional awards you have won.
e) Use pictures of you and real people in your practice. Everyone has seen the stock photos hundreds of times before and they do nothing to help build trust. From a local perspective this also increases awareness of who you are in the community. This will all help to build your local fame. As a general rule, think about the overall message your website images portray. For example, a picture of your empty waiting room will not give the impression of a popular clinic.

Through the impersonal medium of the internet you have to enable potential patients to make an emotional connection with you and your team.

Claim all of your online business directory listings

Hundreds of different online directories collate basic business information from telephone book listings and include them on their website as free business listings. Depending on what search terms are used, and the location of the people searching the internet, these listings often appear high in the search results if there are no other good quality websites that relate to the search terms. If someone in your area searches for any of the keywords relating to your practice, even if they don’t type the town or location name, the search engines know geographically where they are. The search results provided, including these business directory listings, will be tailored to their location. As you will then be found via one or more of these listings you need to invest time in reguarly updating your website’s content. This way, potential patients find you they see good quality information and know you are the local “go to” clinic for the treatment they want.

Developing your service to please your ideal patients means reviewing every ‘touch point’ - that is, every way that they have contact with your business

Here are some pointers to make the most of business directory listings:
a) Find as many of your existing business listings as you can
Search the internet for your phone number, your name and your practice name (one at a time) – this usually pulls out most of the directory listings.
b) Claim your listings
On sites where you find existing listings, you need to claim ownership of them. Look for buttons that talk about claiming your business, or say “Improve this listing” or “Own this business?” Once you click the appropriate link they will usually lead you through the process of populating your listing.
c) No listing?
On sites where there is no existing listing for your business there will be an option to register your business or set up a profile. Find this option and begin to build a listing. If you have a LinkedIn profile you can also create and add a company page to the listing.
d) Populate your listings
It’s important to complete all of the listing options as extensively as possible. Use logos, pictures, videos, social media profile links, descriptive text and key words – whatever options are available. Most of these sites will offer you a paid upgrade to add further features. In my experience, this option often does not justify the outlay. However if you don’t have a website this may prove worth the investment.
e) Keep a record & remember to update
It’s vital to keep a record of all of the sites you register on and all of your login details for each site. This means that in the future, if you change your phone number or want to add more details, you can quickly update all of your listings.
To aid with this process I have created a spread sheet to help you to easily keep track of your listings. Access it online at www.jillwoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Business-Directory-Tracker.xlsx
If you follow these simple steps you will improve the chances of potential local patients finding you online and picking up the phone, emailing you or calling into your clinic.

3. DELIVER QUALITY

The next element of your marketing that you need to crack is to deliver an exceptional patient experience. Of all of the things you do within your marketing mix, delivering an amazing patient experience is the one that has the power to really grow your practice in your local area. It’s also the one that requires time, honesty and money to get absolutely right.
But that investment will repay you many times over. From the moment the phone is answered to a prospective patient, through to a brilliant clinical outcome and the subsequent follow-up call, the whole patient experience has to be the best it can be. If you succeed in delivering this to your patients, your local fame will grow exponentially. Happy patients will tell anyone who will listen that they received excellent customer service, and direct word-of-mouth recommendation is the most effective business promotion activity there is. By being brilliant at what you do, you will create a local buzz around you and your practice.

Ask – don’t guess

To start this process you have to find out what is ‘exceptional’ in the eyes of your ideal patients. The simplest way to do this is to ask them. Don’t guess and don’t set out to deliver a service that you would love to receive unless you fall exactly into the profile of your ideal patient. Ask patients about every element of the service you offer, leave no stone unturned. Developing your service to please your ideal patients means reviewing every ‘touch point’ - that is, every way that they have contact with your business, both before and after they become a patient. You need to make sure the words, images and environment you create are consistent and resonate well with them. These include your:

  • Website
  • Business card
  • Shop front
  • Reception team
  • Leaflets
  • Voicemail message
  • Internal décor
  • Clinical equipment
  • Online directory listings
  • Promotional videos
  • Products for sale
  • Emails or letters
  • Written marketing material
  • Social media postings
  • Blog posts
  • Stories in the local paper
  • Public speaking events
  • Conversations

If all of these elements resonate with your ideal patient then you will, in their eyes, have created an excellent experience and they will come back for more. Crucially, they will become your local promotional marketing tool, recommending you to their family and friends. This above anything else will sky rocket your local reputation. People trust people they know, so if a friend or family member gives them a recommendation for a solution to a problem they have, they are much more likely to consider that as a good option. Hopefully, this information has helped you see how you can boost your local marketing – how easily you can ensure more people learn about you, find you, benefit from what you do, and tell other people about you. These three elements in combination, and if executed well, will make sure more and more of your ideal patients reach out and pick up the phone.

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