Marketing: Why It's Critical for Your Business
Edited by Karen Henry
Francis Moran, founder and managing partner of in media Public Relations Inc., provides straightforward advice on marketing your O&P practice that you can implement today.
Q: Why is marketing so important for O&P practices?
A: Before we get into this, let's distinguish between what I call "Marketing" with a capital "M" and marketing communications. The former is all about figuring out what you're selling, to whom, at what price, through which channels, and so on. The latter, which is what I think we're focused on here, is all about engaging with your marketplace.
Marketing communications is critical because even if you do build a better mousetrap, the world will not beat a path to your door unless you draw a map of the path, lead your customers to it, illuminate it in big, bright lights, guide them along it, and make it an easier path to travel than the one your competitors have built. Even O&P practitioners-at least, even those interested in maintaining a thriving or expanding practice-need to light the path to their doors.
Q: What are some easy-to-follow marketing strategies an O&P practitioner/business owner can implement today?
A: In an age where almost every consumer inquiry begins online, you should most certainly start with your website. If you don't have one, get one. If you do have one, make it better. Make it a useful source of information and make it easy to find.
By the same token, be in the places where people look for services such as yours. Obvious choices include yellow pages and other local directory listings.
Communicate regularly with your existing contact base. This includes current and former patients, suppliers, current and former employees, referring specialists and general practitioners, investors, and other stakeholders you might have. This is an easy place to begin because you already know these people and how to contact them. It's a useful place to begin because future patients will rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations. Your current contacts are the ambassadors through which these future patients will find you. The communications vehicle itself could be hard copy, such as a printed newsletter, or soft copy, such as an e-mail newsletter. The key is to make it of interest to the readers. It should contain information of value to them and not be all about you, and make it as regular as you can.
If you have an instance of a strong, human-interest story-a patient you've helped in a dramatic or novel manner, for example-consider contacting your local media outlets and suggesting they write about it. Local newspapers and television stations love good news stories about people in their areas whose lives have been improved through new technology or who have successfully recovered from an illness or accident. Telling the story will attract other people to your practice. Of course, you must have the active consent of your patient to do this.
Q: What marketing "no-no's" would you caution business owners to stay away from?
A: My top two pieces of advice can be summarized in the phrase, "There is no substitute for planning but planning is no substitute for action."
Every business activity should have a plan or strategy that, at the most basic level, defines what the objectives of the activity are, how they are going to be achieved, and how success is going to be measured. Marketing communications is no different. Develop a quick plan that answers these questions:
- Who are you trying to reach and why?
- What do they need to know or think about you in order to do business with you?
- What's stopping them from knowing or thinking this? Is it simply that there is insufficient awareness about you or about your offering? Or does your market have misconceptions about you or about the viability of what you offer?
- What kinds of messages do you need to communicate in order to overcome these barriers?
- What tactics are available to you to disseminate your messages? How much of each of them can you afford?
- How will you know you're successful? More inquiries? More patients?
Once you have a plan, though, don't delay in executing it. Do as much of it as you can afford as quickly as you can. Track the results and adjust tactics or messages as you go.
In everything you do, try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you're trying to reach. Think from their point of view, not yours. A colleague of mine loves the phrase, "Sell holes in the wall, not drills." In other words, your customers are looking for solutions to their pain, condition, or medical concern; they're not looking for-and they may not even be aware of-a specific technology or treatment.
My final piece of advice is to hire professional help. One of my mentors in this business likes to say, "Marketing is just applied common sense." He may be right, but that common sense is a lot easier to find in someone who does it for a living. Buy the best writing, creative, and implementation talent you can afford, and then let them do their job.
In media Public Relations Inc. is a boutique public relations agency focused exclusively on technology and life sciences with offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Glasgow, Scotland; and Ottawa, Canada. For more information, visit: www.inmedia.com or www.inmedialog.com .