George Bush once said, “You can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow.” Nowhere do I think those words are more true than in the ever growing business of urgent care medical practices — specifically their marketing.
Urgent care centers are a unique brand of medicine, and they should be marketed in just that way. Unfortunately, many people are still marketing them the same way family practices and hospitals have been marketed for years. Perhaps that’s because there’s an unlimited amount of knowledge out there about how to market hospitals, but a limited number of resources on how to market urgent care.
I knew from day one in my role as director of marketing for an urgent centers that falling into the copycat trap of
doing what others are doing could cost us business success. The good news is bad marketing is something you can avoid.
Family practices and hospitals focus a large portion of their advertising on recruiting referrals from other physicians. The language in their ads often reads like a Scrabble board, full of big words that few people understand. Additionally, there are numerous designations following a physician’s name, a list of degrees, and a list of certifications. The images on their ads are doctors in white coats, conversing and sharing information.
Sounds harmless, doesn’t it?
Of course it sounds harmless if you have grown up in the medical community. It’s what everyone has always done. You may be a doctor yourself, and you worked hard to earn those letters behind your name. But falling into this marketing trap is a dangerous practice if you want to grow your patient base.
I guess it’s okay to use these age old marketing tactics when you are marketing to other doctors. The images and letters resonate with them. You speak
the same language and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from making a diagnosis or sharing knowledge
with coworkers. Unfortunately, you’ve entered a new era of medicine. If having those letters on your ads is important to you, you should close this article now and go to work for someone else.
Urgent care marketing is not about you.
Urgent care medicine is all about the consumer, and your marketing must reflect this. While some of the patients who visit your urgent care center may come from family physician and emergency room referrals, they will make up a very small percentage of your overall customer base. So your marketing and branding campaigns must take on a whole new feel. They must promote the convenience and service aspects of your new healthcare business.
Understanding the Consumer’s Mind: From Selling to Buying
The first step to understanding marketing an urgent care business is to understand the shift in how you must market to consumers. While other healthcare entities have a selling mentality, you must have a buying mentality. You can no longer think as though you are selling your urgent care services. People do not want to be sold to. Instead you must think like the people who are going to buy the services you offer. What are they looking for and what do they need to know in order to make the decision to buy from you? No matter what product they are purchasing, customers go through a three step cycle in their buying process: attention, education, and purchasing. Your marketing campaign must be ready to provide information to them at each step along the way.
In urgent care, you may get a patient’s interest with a catchy jingle playing on the radio or a billboard on the road as they’re driving. The primary way many urgent care centers garner attention is through community events and well placed signage. Attention getting is what you are doing in your most basic advertising.
Education involves engaging the patient as you enlighten them on how your urgent care center meets the needs they are seeking to have met. This is where a well planned out website that walks the patient through their most common objections to trying a new medical practice is critical.
Before someone will make a decision to actually use your new facility, you have to overcome the common objections. In doing so, you create desire. Yhis is often accomplished through testimonials from other patients or videos highlighting the perks of visiting your urgent care center. Action is created when you convince the person to actually walk into your urgent care center to be seen. Before the internet, marketing healthcare was fairly easy. You told people what you wanted them to believe about your clinic, and unless someone else told them otherwise, they had to believe you. Selling was easy, and selling became the marketer’s top choice. Today’s healthcare consumer is savvier on all aspects of their care. Just ask one of the doctors on your staff. No doubt they’ll be able to share stories with you on patients who come in with their own self diagnosis and prescription plan ready, all based on information they read on the internet. If they have spent the time researching their ailments, they have also spent the time researching you. From peer-to-peer sites like Facebook, to blogs, Google Rankings, and even your own website, chances are your patients know more about your urgent care center than most people on your staff do.
What does this mean to you?
It means you now have to listen more and talk less. Patients who already know about you want to be heard. Listening is no longer an option in your sales pitch, it is a requirement. You must listen to what your patients tell you they want, and then you must figure out how to provide it. From great customer service, to less time spent waiting to be seen, this is exactly how urgent care medicine has evolved to being the new way people are getting healthcare. Urgent care business owners know they must listen to what the customer wants and successful marketers know how to deliver the message to the patient that those needs will be met.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tina Bell is the founder of TipsOfWisdom.com. She developed her marketing experience serving a variety of industries, mostly in smaller sized companies, where she was hired to build their marketing programs. These experiences provided her the opportunity to wear many hats and learn multiple facets of marketing. She spent over six years in medical marketing, helping build an urgent care business from two urgent care clinics to over 13 clinics in four states. In addition to being well versed in copywriting, grassroots and community marketing initiatives, Tina is a sought after speaker and regularly presents educational webinars. She was ranked the top speaker at the Urgent Care Association of America Conference and spearheaded the development of an online medical training newsletter before she left that industry to start her own consulting business.