Your practice is up and running. Your admin staff are well trained, you have the top clinicians in the area, and your appointment book is ready to be filled. However, if no one knows about your practice, it might as well not even exist. That’s where marketing comes into play. Marketing your practice involves getting the word out about your practice to attract patients and keep them coming back.
The Australia Medical Association estimates there are around 7,000 GP clinics in Australia. How will you ensure your practice stands out amongst the crowd?
When devising your practice’s marketing strategy, you might ask yourself plenty of questions, like: do I need a website? Which demographic should I be targeting? How much should I spend on advertising? Where should I be advertising?
While making these decisions, it’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of marketing your practice. This article is here to help you determine which marketing channels may be the right fit for your practice and get you thinking about advertising regulations that may impact your strategy.
Which Advertising Channels Should You Choose?
Before considering which advertising channels to invest in, it’s important to establish your marketing objectives and budget to achieve those goals. A great place to start is understanding how many patients you need to hit your goals and the amount you’re willing to spend to acquire a patient.
Regardless of your budget’s size, it’s important to figure out what you’re comfortable spending before planning your advertising channels.
You can use countless channels and strategies to market your practice, and a website is the perfect place to start. In an increasingly digital world, you should first build a website for your practice, which will be the hub for your marketing efforts. This is where potential patients will come to learn more about your practice and can likely be their first impression. The simpler your website is, the better! Building a website might sound overwhelming, but plenty of website providers such as Wix, SquareSpace, and WordPress make setting up a site with ready-made templates easy. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. A website is also the backbone of your online marketing; it’s the destination for online ads, social media links, search engine optimisation, and google my business listings. To learn more about building an online presence, check out our recent article.
Despite the prominence of online marketing, offline advertising, such as billboards, street signs, retail signage, and radio, can still play a role in your marketing strategy. Depending on your target demographic and marketing goals, a localised offline advertising push can help to build awareness of your practice. Consider enquiring with nearby retail centres offering signage for advertising, as this is a great way to target locals while they’re doing their regular grocery shopping. A similar option is advertising in local bus shelters, another great way to target a local audience. Remember to include your practice’s name and contact information in your advertisements – you don’t want them to forget who you are!
You’ll also want to consider external signage for your practice. Visiting a medical practice can be stressful for a patient, so you want to ensure their experience locating and arriving at your practice is as seamless as possible. A clear street presence improves your patient’s experience from the moment they arrive at your practice and alerts others passing by that you exist!
You can also consider the signage you have inside your practice. You may have added a new service or would like to remind patients to book in for a routine vaccination or screening. You could consider flyers at the reception desk before patients settle into their social media scroll session or opt for posters with bright colours and bold text that will capture their eyes in the waiting room.
Once a patient has visited your practice, email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with them. You may want to set up automated appointment reminders to reduce last-minute cancellations or no-shows. Or maybe you’d like to send out a monthly newsletter that provides existing patients with updates about your practice and relevant health information. Email marketing is a great way to build patient trust and loyalty to your practice, and plenty of online platforms make the process as easy as possible!
What Considerations Do You Have To Make In Your Advertising?
Whether your marketing strategy includes a website, social media, email, or offline marketing, it is crucial to consider the advertising regulations that can impact your messaging.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) works to protect the public by ensuring Australia’s health practitioners are “suitably trained, qualified, and safe to practice.”
AHPRA’s ‘Guidelines for advertising regulated health services’ provides a great starting point for wrapping your head around the regulatory framework of advertising your practice. It’s also important to note that other legislation may apply to your marketing, such as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Keeping AHPRA’s regulations in mind, below are some dos and don’ts when marketing your practice.
DO: Identify Your Target Demographic
Spending $100,000 on billboards in the city might sound appealing and attract many eyes; after all, the more people that see your ads, the better, right? Not necessarily. if your practice is an hour south of that billboard, you’re unlikely to see a return on your investment. Identifying your target demographic will allow you to tailor your advertising channels and messaging to address their needs. Doing so will also ensure you’re efficiently spending your marketing budget and not wasting it on media your desired audience will never see. Quality over quantity!
If you’re an established practice with existing patient data, your practice management system should have reporting functionality to allow you to extract demographic data. If you’re a Bp Premier user, our training team offers an advanced practice management course that deep-dives into the reporting feature. If you’re a new practice, researching the demographics of your geographical location is a great place to start!
DON'T: Use Misleading Images
AHPRA states that advertising may be in breach if the advertisement doesn’t clearly say which treatment has caused the benefit shown in the image or if the image has been edited. That includes using before and after photos, as this may mislead the audience into thinking they will achieve the exact results as the photo.
If you’d like to use images in your marketing materials, people are increasingly attracted to businesses with an authentic feel, and real photos and videos of your practice and team can go a long way to connecting with potential and existing patients. You can also use licensed images from a site like Shutterstock or Getty Images to supplement your original content.
DO: Encourage Reviews From Current Patients
Despite digital advertising being so prominent in modern society, word of mouth has remained the most trusted marketing channel, with 88% of people saying they trust recommendations from people they know more than any other channel (Neilson 2021). Online reviews are the digital evolution of traditional word-of-mouth, with a BrightLocal consumer survey indicating that 49% of respondents trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from family and friends.
Not only can positive reviews help attract new patients, but they can also help you understand how to improve your patient experience. For example, you may discover a patient had difficulty finding your practice’s location, which indicates you might need to enhance your external signage and check your online listings.
A way to encourage reviews is to strike while their appointment is front of mind. You can request feedback while the patient is still in your practice or set up automated emails requesting feedback a couple of hours after their appointment.
DON'T: Use Testimonials About The Clinical Side Of Your Practice In Your Advertising
AHPRA’s advertising guidelines indicate that your advertising “must not use recommendations or positive statements about the clinical aspects of a regulated health service.” Therefore, if a patient leaves a review about how great the medication the GP supplied was for treating their sore back, that review cannot be used as marketing material. Alternatively, suppose a patient review mentions how the receptionist made them feel comfortable and relaxed. That is a great review to include as a testimonial on your website or advertising.
DO: Use Truthful Messaging In Your Advertising Based On Your Practice's Merit
Content is king! Your marketing messaging should be based on your practice’s merit and speak to your level of care. Clear and professional messaging will go a long way to gaining credibility and trust with potential patients.
On your website, you may include:
• Your doctors’ qualifications.
• The history of your practice.
• Your practice’s vision and approach to patient care.
DON'T: Offer Significant Discounts Or Gifts
A retail store advertising a flash 30% off sale is a vastly different story than promoting 30% off a GP consult. Issues arise when the value of the discount or gift outweighs the value of the offering, as this may encourage people to seek unnecessary treatment. According to AHPRA, you can advertise discounts or gifts if the advertisement states the terms and conditions and that those terms and conditions are not misleading. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to steer clear of this advertising method.
The success of your practice is greatly dependent on your marketing strategy. Your practice may be just the one someone’s been looking for, so let’s make sure they discover what you’re all about. Take the time to figure out what marketing pathways fit best with your practice’s vision and goals, and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it right the first time! Make sure to familiarise yourself and any team members looking after your marketing with the complete list of AHRPA’s advertising guidelines and set up a clear framework within the current regulations.
Marketing & Communications Specialist at Best Practice Software