Conventional wisdom says its tradition which prevents healthcare providers from advertising their services. Truthfully, it may be simpler.
In the pioneer days a new doctor would come to town, “hang out his shingle,” and the resultant word-of-mouth in the community was enough to keep him gainfully employed for the remainder of his life.
In many communities it still works that way. In those communities there are more people looking for a primary healthcare provider than there are doctors willing to accept new patients.
Not all doctors, however!
Not all physicians, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, physical therapists or nurse practitioners have a waiting list of new patients, hoping to become “accepted.”
At a meeting with a television sales staff yesterday I was asked if professionals (other than personal injury lawyers) ever advertised their practices? I had to admit that it’s not common. But, the problem, as I see it, isn’t tradition. The problem is communication.
Healthcare providers tend to be scientifically-trained, analytical, rational, left-brain thinkers. The nature of their professions requires them to critically examine the clues and deduce the optimal treatment.
Marketing? That’s persuasion. That’s an intuitive, perceptive, emotional, right-brain process. Its a way of thinking which runs counter to a health care provider’s mindset.
And when effective salespeople talk about “advertising,” they know that people make decisions emotionally, then come up with a intellectual explanation for the purchase later. Naturally, the salesperson uses emotional reasoning. Just as naturally, the health care provider is making a rational decision.
The doctor asks a rational question:
“If I spend $2,500 on this advertising schedule, how many new patients will I get?”
But the salesperson responds with an intuitive answer, “If you don’t spend the money, how many new patients will you get?”
Since they’re obviously not communicating, no sale happens. No advertising is run. And the doctor still wonders how to effectively (and ethically) attract new patients and grow his practice.
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.