Is anyone more emotionally invested in the outcome of his advertising than the writer of a “personals” ad? Personals can be vivid examples of some of the best techniques in advertising.
Odd as it may seem, studying the “personals” can illustrate some highly effective advertising techniques. Shall we look at five rules from the personals that can be used to boost your practice?
1. You don’t want an ad to try to reach everyone.
Personals ads immediately eliminate non-prospects.
If you’re a single woman posting in the personals you don’t want responses from everyone. Its not likely that you’re interested in other women or married men. When your objective is dating, it’s pointless to attempt to reach people that aren’t potential dates.
Trying to reach everyone is a fool’s strategy for your practice, too. You probably don’t have any interest in people who can’t afford your services. You also aren’t likely to want to reach the idly curious. To advance your practice, you need to reach people who are likely to become patients.
Make your ads speak directly to those people.
2. Your headline is critical.
Get your prospect’s attention. Get it immediately. If you don’t, she won’t even notice the rest of your ad.
“Relationship wanted” will never get as much attention as “North Texas filly looking for stable mate“
To draw the parallel for your practice, your headline shouldn’t say “Family Dentistry.” Instead, consider “Don’t be self-conscious about your teeth. You deserve a beautiful smile. “
3. Make me want to learn more.
“Single woman desires long term relationship” is less likely to get the attention of gentlemen reading the ads than is “Witty, flirtatious, and outgoing. I smile easily and enjoy laughing, am open-minded, honest, and like to talk about ideas. I would like to get to know a man who is confident of who he is and what he wants out of life. I’m single, have never been married, but like the idea of finding my soul mate. “
By the same token, “Chiropractic services” is weak when compared to “The primary course of your treatment is spinal manipulation or “adjustments” to return individual vertebrae to their proper position and motion. Additional procedures to relieve your pain and enhance healing may include superficial heat, electro-muscle stimulation, cryotherapy (ice), diathermy, massage therapy and ultrasound. “
4. Tell potential customers what you give them that your competitors can’t.
Nobody spends advertising dollars in hopes of being ignored, and yet every day professional practices fade into obscurity when their ads look and sound exactly like other ads.
Consider an all-too-typical personals listing: “I love sunsets, long romantic walks by the ocean, and candlelight dinners. “
No kidding? Is there a woman alive who doesn’t like sunsets, long romantic walks by the ocean and candlelight dinners?
Similarly, is there a healthcare practice that doesn’t offer courteous service? Courteous service doesn’t make your practice special. It’s the minimum entry-level behavior that patients expect.
When your ads sound like everyone else’s, you’re not likely to be noticed, let alone be remembered.
5. Tell me what’s in it for me.
If you met a stranger who opened the conversation with “I want to tell you all about myself,” how much interest would you have in talking to that stranger?
Here’s the personals ad which takes that posture: “I’m looking for a long term relationship. Honest men only. I’m tired of fakes and game players. And if you are looking for someone to hang on your every word, keep on looking. No mama’s boys need apply. “
Think she gets many replies?
The business equivalent is: “We’re the #1 eye care center serving the tri-state area since 1967. Our prices and service are the best. Talk to us to arrange a payment plan or lay away. We have the best frame selection in the tri-state area.”
“We, our, we” again. Aren’t we something? Just ask us.
Stop talking about you, and what you want from your patients. Start telling them why it’s in their best interest to choose you as their provider.
Here’s a better example from the personals: “Would you like to spend some time with someone who’s optimistic and fun to be around? I hope you’re comfortable in jeans, you know what you want, and aren’t afraid to show it. You’ll find me open-minded, non-judgmental, and loyal. “
Much more effective, isn’t it? Likewise, you’ll get substantially better results when you drop the “we / us / our” verbiage, and replace it with “you.”
“When your eyeglasses become another accessory, you know they’ll complement your face and make you look stunning. You won’t just look good; you’ll look good in glasses.”
Whether their purpose is personal or business, good ads don’t scream for attention, they seduce.
Use these five rules as a starting point. Study the personals, and take note of those that get your attention. The basic principles will make good ads for your practice, too.
Everything we do at BAC Medical Marketing is based upon the real-world experience we have gained by working with medical practitioners.
Our advice is never based upon personal bias or whim, and we aren't interested in creating marketing campaigns that are merely clever, pretty or creative. Rather, our major concern and effort will always be 100% focused upon delivering ethical and sustainable results for you and your practice.
Our clients are successful because they follow the proven strategies we have tested, tracked and developed over the years. They see no reason to reinvent the wheel, and neither should you.
In healthcare, your marketing doesn’t say just anything about you. It says everything. To truly stand out in this highly competitive marketplace, your marketing must be something extraordinary. Something that people identify with, and seek out in a crowd. Something that inspires innovation and transformation. Something that people can believe in.
At BAC Medical Marketing, we believe in the power of great marketing - its ability to alter perception and to redefine a marketplace.
Your marketing is a living thing that you must invest in, nurture and grow. With the right attention, your marketing can motivate, inspire and unite your audiences - internal and external alike. At BAC Medical Marketing, we are experts in marketing cultivation, design and integrated communications. We'll take you from where you are, to where you want to go.
Are you working IN your practice, or ON your practice?
The number of doctors who continue unworkable business models is astounding. They keep working harder, working longer hours and making less money, all the time insisting, "This is the way it's done."
Most schools don’t teach marketing and practice development. Most schools teach the profession. Few have the time to teach business, and there’s a major difference between understanding the technical work of any profession and understanding how to conduct the business that performs that work.
That's why BAC Medical Marketing exists - to help you with the business part of your medical practice.
BAC Medical Marketing is an independently operated consortium made up of the best and brightest minds with the flexibility to explore and create the original ideas that build extraordinary marketing campaigns within the healthcare marketplace. At our core, we are marketing architects, marketing cultivators and marketing ambassadors. We are a unique group of creative and individual thinkers driven to reinvent and revitalize medical and dental practices of all sizes nationwide.
As I’m always ready to embrace the latest and greatest technologies around to expand my reach and assist as many physicians in need of marketing help as possible, I’m now available to consult with you on LivePerson and Ingenio. I recently registered and was accepted as an Expert Advisor in Marketing, with special emphasis on Medical Marketing, by both LivePerson and Ingenio. Please feel free to anonymously contact me with your medical marketing questions on either LivePerson at http://www.LivePerson.com/Medical-Marketing-Maven or on Ingenio at http://www.Ingenio.com/MarketingMaven or 1.888.INGENIO x 03715691. I look forward to sharing and imparting my marketing experience and expertise with you very soon. To learn more about LivePerson and Ingenio, please review the following information listed below.
Founded in 1995, LivePerson is headquartered in New York City and is a leading provider of online communication platforms that facilitate real-time engagement and live expert advice. Intelligently connecting businesses and individual experts with consumers seeking help on the web, LivePerson's platform creates more relevant, compelling and personalized online experiences. Every month, millions of people across the world turn to LivePerson to get the information and advice they need to succeed online. More than 7,000 companies, including EarthLink, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Qwest, and Verizon, and 30,000 individual experts rely on LivePerson to maximize the impact of the online channel.
LivePerson's online expert marketplace connects people seeking personalized, one-on-one information and advice with knowledgeable experts in real time. People from around the world can chat live with registered experts who sell their knowledge and advice in more than 600 categories including business, finance, personal coaching & counseling, education, health, and technology. For more information please visit www.LivePerson.com.
Launched in November 1999, Ingenio has helped 10 million members get advice easily through a web site, www.Ingenio.com, or by telephone, 1-888-INGENIO. Once connected to Ingenio, members select the advisor who's right for them by browsing a directory of listings -- from business and finance advice to computing and Internet help. Listings include the type of advice the advisor wishes to provide, his or her per-minute fee, and how Ingenio members have rated their calls with this advisor in the past.
Once they've chosen an advisor, members can simply click the advisor's "Call Now" icon and Ingenio will automatically connect the two parties for a live, anonymous phone call. People accessing Ingenio through 1-888-INGENIO simply follow spoken prompts to choose an appropriate advisor. Advisors can also provide recorded or email advice to members; these other options also protect both the advisor's and the customer's anonymity. Ingenio offers a full money-back guarantee if callers aren't completely satisfied with their experience.
If word-of-mouth is the best advertising, how can you make sure the word about your practice is positive?
Word-of-mouth works effectively for three reasons, all of which come back to credibility.
1. Friends give recommendations from their personal experience.
2. They do it naturally and sincerely without a sales pitch.
3. They get nothing from the recommendation other than the appreciation of their friends. (In fact, they run the risk of losing credibility with a bad recommendation).
For all three reasons, word-of-mouth has always been a highly credible source of information.
No one will argue that the best way to insure strong, positive word-of-mouth is to provide excellent customer service.
But critical information about managing word-of-mouth, and how it affects your practice, has come from a study of placebos conducted at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Neuroscientist (and radiologist) Jon-Kar Zubieta and colleagues monitored the nucleus accumbens as volunteers were subjected to what appeared to be two, non-related tests.
Subjects were given a placebo “painkiller” before being stuck by a needle.
On a different day, so as to appear to be a different test, they played a game in which they could win money.
Zubieta and his colleagues were surprised to find a strong link between reward processing, evidenced by the placebo response, and simultaneous changes in the brain’s reward center (the nucleus accumbens). Those who most enjoyed the game were also those most affected by the placebo. Zubieta says “If you have the capacity to respond to reward, then you have the placebo effect.”
Because placebos have no therapeutic effect, it’s long been assumed that they work only through the power of suggestion. As long as the individual being treated expects the treatment to provide aid in healing, it frequently does. But Zubieta’s research indicates that placebos aren’t simply the result of “faith.” They appear to work by triggering a specific pleasure response.
The ability to predict which people will react well to placebos is exciting to medical researchers, who see possibilities for new treatments.
Marketers also see possibilities.
As already pointed out, excellent customer service is the best way to trigger strong, positive word-of-mouth. Notice how many ads show people in the act of enjoying their purchase. This sets the expectation of positive purchase experience high in the nucleus accumbens potential customers who see / hear / read that ad.
And both medical researchers and marketing professionals understand the importance of doing nothing to contradict the expectations they’ve created in the minds of prospective patients or customers. When the actual purchase experience disappoints the customer, the mental dissonance is comparable to a patient being told the placebo treatment has no value.
Violated expectations lead to negative word-of-mouth. Enough difference between the experience the customer expected, and the one she experienced, can actually increase the perception of bad service. Conversely, the placebo effect predicts that average service, as long as it doesn’t contradict her expectations, may be judged as superior.
How do you apply the placebo effect to the marketing of your practice?
In your ads, tell your patients what to expect. Tell them to call. Tell them when to call (for instance, today during business hours). Tell them why to call (to schedule an appointment for a consultation). Tell them of the benefits of consulting with you. Tell them how they’ll feel.
Then don’t disappoint them.
The good news? You don’t have to be perfect; just better than average!
USA Today recently published its “Most Influential Physicians” list, aiming to give consumers a source of doctors who are most influential to their peers.
This list, which features 6,000 specialists in the treatment areas of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma from more than 300 communities across the U.S., was compiled for USA Today by the Santa Fe medical information firm Qforma. Additional specialists are expected to be added to the list in coming months.
USA Today’s “Most Influential Physicians” list is a unique best-doctor list because it is not opinion-based; it aims to identify the subtle differences in doctors' practice patterns that conclude which doctors most influence their peers. Typical consumer research reveals little or no information about doctors’ quality and performance. Basic research may locate academic background and hospital affiliation, but the “Most Influential Physicians” allows patients to choose from a list of physicians who come recommended by their peers, not Google. Which recommendation would you trust?
To view USA Today’s “Most Influential Physicians” list, go to http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/qforma-most-influential-doctors.htm.
The meteoric rise of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has created new opportunities for web-savvy marketers. But seriously, what can any of these social networking sites do for you and your healthcare practice? In order to answer that question, we must first understand how social networking sites work for the end-user. You, for example…
Since Twitter has the greatest “buzz” right now, I’ll use it as an example. Unless you have been locked in a cave for the past several months, you have, no doubt, heard the terms twitter, tweet, tweeting and tweeple bandied about everywhere. TV news, sports and entertainment programs, radio and print media have all been telling us not only who’s tweeting whom, but what they’re saying and why it’s important for us to know about it.
How can Twitter work for you?
Twitter is basically an online community that incorporated itself in March of 2007 in San Francisco, CA. It’s a virtual “place” where people can connect, gather, stay in touch and share their thoughts and ideas about virtually anything. Though it’s called a social network, it’s already being used rather effectively as a business/professional network. Think of it as a virtual water cooler where you have 24/7 access to 15 million (and growing rapidly) potential new patients and professional referral sources – around the corner or around the world. And best of all: so far, it’s free.
Twitter, paired with special electronic sensors (which are already in final development) could be used to alert doctors when a patient’s blood sugar or heart rate climbs too high. Such real-time data streams could also aid medical researchers. Doctors are already using Twitter to ask for help and share information about the latest techniques and procedures.
Twitter makes it easy for people to connect with other people. The site asks one question, “What are you doing?” Answers must be 140 characters long or less and can be sent via mobile texting, instant messaging or on the web. To begin on Twitter, you open an account as you would on any other site. Set up your username and password and once your account is open, spend some time exploring the site to see what opportunities there are for you.
Twitter, like other networking sites, works most effectively as a marketing tool when you link it back to your practice web site. Think of your web site as the hub of your online marketing wheel, and Twitter as one of the spokes leading to it. Your posts on Twitter, called “tweets”, can include your web URL (address), your latest new patient offers, health tips and new service offerings. You can even tweet about openings in your daily schedule, as one med-spa I know did recently. They filled their entire schedule within a few hours of tweeting. On a long-term basis, using Twitter consistently and effectively can help drive your web site up the rankings on Google.
Michael S., an Orthopedist, decided to leave a large group practice to strike out on his own.
Determined to get off to a fast start he designed a snazzy, four-color, tri-fold brochure, took out an expensive yellow pages ad, participated in every insurance plan he could, and pressed the flesh with countless Primary Care physicians to generate referrals.
His strategy to fill his practice paid off. Soon his waiting room was full and his appointment book was overflowing.
But something’s wrong.
Now, 4½ years later, he finds himself cramming too many patients into too little time just to cover his overhead, inundated with paperwork, and having none of the autonomy and satisfaction he was looking for when he moved from “physician employee” to “owner.”
When you look at how Michael went about starting his practice, on the surface, it looks like he did everything right.
He leased space in a great location, promoted his practice extensively, developed good relationships with referral sources and took care of all of the billing and paperwork for his patients.
But the fact is, the results he got didn’t come anywhere near his expectations.
Now he is both overwhelmed and disillusioned. He wonders whether he has a future in private practice. And, like many physicians, he questions whether it’s even possible for a dedicated doctor to have a rewarding private practice in today’s economy.
Diagnosing the Practice
The real problem isn’t with the state of medicine today or with the economy. I can point to a number of orthopedists who own satisfying practices and have enviable lifestyles.
The problem isn’t even with the tactics Michael used to build his practice.
After all, they brought in the patients!
The problem is that Michael didn’t begin with the end in mind. He didn’t have a plan to guide his actions. So while he was able to build up a full, (practically overflowing) practice, relatively quickly, it was a very different practice than the one he envisioned. It offered him none of personal satisfaction, financial security or confidence in the future that he expected after 4 ½ years.
Before Michael can solve his practice’s problems, he needs an accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms: Too many patients. An overworked, underpaid, disillusioned doctor.
Etiology: Doing anything and everything that looks like it will bring in the patients and increase practice revenue.
Diagnosis: Lack of Strategy
Like most physicians who struggle, at this point Michael is so busy with day to day patient care that he doesn’t have time to step back and look at his practice objectively. If he did, he would see that the reason his practice looks like it does is because of the actions he took when he first opened his doors – and the actions he has continued taking ever since.
Michael, like so many other physicians, has no real business strategy for his practice. Sure, he has an income goal, but he has no clear vision of the practice he needs to create in order to achieve it.
And since he doesn’t have that clear vision, there is no path for him to follow. This means that he has no criteria for selecting the right practice-building options for him. So he ends up jumping on every opportunity that looks promising, from expensive practice management, software and billing services, to new practice marketing and promotion deals.
This floods his practice, but wreaks havoc on his cash flow.
While Michael has done a great job of filling his practice with patients, he has not achieved the autonomy, satisfaction and lifestyle that he expected.
Like so many physicians in his position, he believes that declining reimbursements and the “deterioration of medicine” as a profession are the cause of his dilemma. However, we were able to show Michael a number of highly profitable orthopedic practices around the country, whose physician owners had enviable lifestyles.
So, clearly, having a successful medical practice today is quite doable – if you follow a strategy.
Michael’s major problem comes from jumping right into practice without planning out his business strategy. As a result, his practice is running “by default.” He has a heterogeneous patient population that comes to him largely because he’s “in their plan.”
Once Michael became a client of BAC Medical Marketing, I advised him that he take the following few steps immediately, to begin to turn his practice around:
1. The first thing Michael needs to do is recognize that he has the power to direct the future of his practice. He needs to change his perspective from “coping” with decreasing reimbursements and increasing paperwork, to deciding on the hours he wants to work, the types of patients he wants to see, and the specific procedures he wants to do.
If he wants a high volume practice, he can have that. But he needs to increase his staff, and develop better business systems so he can more efficiently care for a larger number of patients.
If he wants a lower volume practice he can have that too. But he needs a strategy for attracting those higher profit cases that will enable him to keep his practice small.
2. Second, Michael needs to position his practice. Right now he’s a generalist. And while there’s nothing wrong with seeing all kinds of orthopedic cases, he gives patients no specific reason to choose his practice, other than his being “in their plan”. So Michael is stuck having to accept whatever insurance companies are willing to pay.
As Al Reis and Jack Trout pointed out many years ago in their monumental book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, positioning is how you and your services are perceived by your prospective customers.
It goes without saying that being perceived as one of many “general” orthopedists will make Michael’s practice less valuable to his patients than if he is perceived as a specialist – for example, a specialist in arthroscopic surgery.
3. Third, once he clearly identifies what he wants to deliver — let’s say arthroscopic surgery — Michael needs to evaluate the patient population he wants to attract. He needs to make sure that he’s promoting the benefits that this group of patients wants and needs. The way to do this is to develop an effective Patient Value Proposition. For example, Michael needs to promote his services in terms of the benefits his patients will get. “Athroscopic meniscal repair” doesn’t mean as much to a patient as “Be free of knee pain.” Instead of “minimally invasive endoscopic spinal surgery,” “get rid of your back pain today, and be walking again tomorrow” highlights the benefits of the minimally invasive procedure as well as the ultimate result the patient is after.*
4. Finally Michael needs to make sure that every piece of literature that comes out of his office - every brochure, every ad, every letter or article reinforces his practice’s new “specialized” position in the mind of his current and prospective patients as well as his referral sources.
Once Michael has a practice-building strategy in place he can more effectively select the right tactics that will move him toward his goals.
Instead of taking a shotgun approach, he’ll be able to target the exact patients he wants with laser precision.
Plus with a clear strategy, he’ll be able to put systems in place that will allow him to deliver quality care, while still having a life.
* Needless to say, I'm not suggesting that you “guarantee” the results of any treatment or procedure. What I'm talking about here is making sure that your prospective patients can understand the value of your services - in their language.
Don’t assume that they have already researched specific procedures and treatment plans for their conditions. Don’t assume that they understand professional terminology. You can explain procedures and treatments in your informational materials, or when they present for their first appointment.
Did you ever wonder why some Healthcare Practitioners only get 10% of their new patients from patient referrals, while others get as many as 70%? Probably the biggest reason is they let their existing patients know they like to get patient referrals – that means they consistently “ask” them for referrals
Me, ask for referrals? I don’t think so – I’d look needy, greedy, even sleazy! Well, if that’s the reason you don’t ask for referrals, I suggest you change your thought patterns. Think more in terms of “helping” your patients’ friends to prevent them from developing problems. Isn’t that what you really do?
Develop one or two “scripts” that you feel comfortable with and practice delivering them. Here’s an example of a general script you can adapt:
“Well, I’ve checked for (fill in the blank) and you’re in good shape – nothing to worry about. But, you know, some people go 2 or 3 years without a comprehensive check up, sometimes resulting in very serious problems which could have been prevented had the condition been identified in the early stages.
So, if you have any friends who are putting their health at risk by not having annual exams, please send them along to me and I’ll check them out. OK?
(And for those brave hearts amongst you) Here, let me give you one of my brochures you can pass along to them”
Or if you are treating a specific condition (for example) patient:
“You know, so many people in this area suffer from (fill in the blank) because they don’t know that there are solutions available. So, if you know anyone suffering from (fill in the blank), please have them call me so we can help them with it, just like we did with you. OK?”
Need an incentive to do it? How about adding 10% to your revenues every year with the additional patient referrals you can generate. May be worth making the effort, huh? Remember, good things come to those who ask!
Question: I am ready to grow a cash-only medical practice in Los Angeles. Besides a web site, what can I do to build and grow a successful practice? – Dr. K.B., Internal Medicine
Answer: A web site is a good starting point, but it is only a beginning. If your true goal is to grow a cash-only or concierge “VIP”-type medical practice, then a strong valued brand is essential.
Your brand, or what marketing professionals call your “Unique Value Position” or the “Why You”, is critically important. This is especially true in the U.S., where patients view healthcare as a right and quite often expect to pay very little for great medical care.
Your brand is actually where you needed to start, even before developing your web site. A brand or value position that is easy and simple to understand by your target audience is what should be on your web site. A brand should differentiate you from the competition and tell simply and uniquely why you are the best choice for medical care.
In a cash-only practice, you will need to do internal marketing and have branded communication material, including brochures, a marketing bio on yourself and material that describes any and all of the services you offer. You will want to develop a patient recognition and reward system that rewards patients who refer to you, as this is one of the least costly methods of marketing.
When it comes to external marketing, there are numerous ways to promote your practice to the general public, one of those being your web site. Most importantly, your web site needs to be optimized for the key terms patients are searching for and to make sure your site appears on the first page of any web search. You may even want to employ a “Pay Per Click” strategy with paid listings.
After that, it really depends on your specific goals for the growth of the practice, both in desired volume of patients and their unique demographic. These specific goals will dictate what types of direct-to-public marketing could work best in achieving your overall marketing strategy and goals.