Are you tapping into the power of the patients you already have?
Attractive, patient-focused website? Check. Active social media accounts? Check. Targeted, high-quality advertising strategies? Check. More medical practices are upping their marketing game to attract new patients in a competitive health care climate where consumers have more choices than ever.
But many practices are overlooking a free or low-cost marketing tactic right in front of them: their internal marketing strategy. In contrast to external marketing campaigns designed to attract new patients, internal marketing involves reaching out to the patients you already have to encourage them to spend more of their health care dollars on your services and products, and to refer others to your practice as well.
So how do you harness the power of internal marketing in your practice? Here are five internal marketing strategies proven to get results.
1. Train staff to deliver excellent service.
Just like external marketing, internal marketing is a process and it requires a plan. It starts with providing an excellent patient experience. The first step is to “establish a culture within your practice that prides itself on service,” according to health care marketing firm Rx MD Marketing Solutions.
If patients experience bad service, they will find another doctor and tell their friends, generating negative word-of-mouth about your practice.
As we discussed in our recent post, Why You’re Losing Patients, today’s patients expect a high level of customer service. If they’re made to wait too long or encounter rude employees, they will leave your practice and find another, and probably tell several other people about their bad experience. You can’t afford that kind of negative word-of-mouth.
“This means that you will have to implement employee coaching on phone skills, how to welcome patients into your reception area, and how to properly handle conflicts or complaints,” according to Rx MD.
The firm also advises doctors to encourage employees to become “ambassadors for your medical practice. Give them the knowledge and tools they need to easily educate their circle of influence about your practice, and provide rewards to employees who generate new patients to your office.”
2. Provide rewards and incentives to encourage staff to reach internal marketing goals.
Staff incentives are most effective when they are tied to a practice goal—such as offering a bonus pool to be split among employees when you reach the goal of a certain number of new patients per month. This can get staff on board and encourage them to help with the practice’s marketing efforts.
And no-cost incentives like paid time off are often even more attractive to staff. If your practice is typically slow on Fridays, for example, consider taking turns giving employees a paid day off. For more on this, see Use Staff Incentives to Help Your Bottom Line. Here’s How.
3. Automate your internal advertising.
“The core of internal marketing lies with your staff,” agrees McCauley Marketing Services, another health care marketing firm. “Make sure your staff knows that part of their role is to encourage services and products to patients when appropriate. You’d be surprised how many opportunities staff members miss simply because they don’t think about offering those recommendations.” Keep your practice staff informed and up-to-date about any new products or services you’re offering, upcoming sales, or anything else you want them to mention to patients.
Videos in your waiting room can alleviate the burden and awkwardness on staff of asking for patient referrals and promoting products and services.
To alleviate some of the burden on busy staff, do some of the work for them by using videos to highlight certain products or services. For instance, this video is a good way to remind patients that getting their glasses from an eye doctor is a better choice than buying them online. According to McCauley, “One option we may recommend is a slideshow on a TV in your waiting room. The picture catches patients’ eyes more than a flat poster would. Whether you do a slideshow, posters, or both, try to change it up every so often so patients don’t start tuning it out.”
4. Ask for patient referrals without awkwardness.
Videos can also remove some of the pressure and potential awkwardness of asking for patient reviews and referrals. In your waiting room, use a video like this one to ask satisfied patients to like you on Facebook or rate you on Yelp. And, consider sending automated digital patient satisfaction surveys after each appointment.
Many doctors and their staff find it uncomfortable to ask for referrals, acknowledges Solutionreach. The patient relationship management technology company offers tips to ask patients to recommend friends and family without making them feel pressured or awkward, such as following a simple script like this:
Patient: I really love your office. Your staff is so helpful and friendly.
Doctor: (Acknowledge the compliment.) Thank you! I’m very proud of the great team we have.
(Provide a quality statement.) It’s part of our goal to provide a positive experience for patients like you who appreciate what we do here.
(Make a transition statement.) Not everyone has a positive experience like this with their health care providers.
(Ask for the referral.) If you have any family members or friends who might appreciate the same experience you’ve had, we would love for you to recommend them to us. We would really enjoy showing them the same kind of service you’ve had.
5. Toot your own horn.
Have any of the doctors in your practice been quoted in the news or spoken at a conference lately? Does your practice sponsor a charity 5K or a youth sports team? Has your staff volunteered at a community health fair or soup kitchen? These are all great things to highlight in your waiting room videos or share with patients on your social media accounts.
If your practice is involved in any philanthropy, make sure to share that with your patients. Businesses that give to charity are more appealing to consumers–especially millennials.
Studies show that businesses that give to charity make a positive impression on patients–especially millennials. A Fortune poll found that Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 were more likely than older generations to want to work for, buy from, and recommend businesses that contribute to charity. Plus, giving back fosters a feeling of goodwill among your employees. For more on this, see Why Philanthropy Should Be Important to Doctors.