So you’ve got the perfect location and you have your plan down to a t. You’ve procured all the necessary equipment and are ready to hit the ground running. But then you realize that referrals are not enough to keep business flowing. Time to get marketing. But how do you stay on the right side of ethics.
You don’t need to be a marketing guru and neither do you need to spend a fortune in the early stages of your business. There are more than a few audiology marketing services out there who can do it for you if you prefer to outsource, many of whom will be able to point you in the right direction if you are looking for new marketing ideas too. Just remember that the ethics are in your hands and not theirs so best brush up before you get started.
Michael Hyatt once said, “Marketing is really just about sharing your passion.” It’s that simple. As a hearing healthcare professional, you have a passion. Your marketing is simply your mouthpiece to share the passion bubbling up inside with the rest of the world.
Marketing a medical practice is quite different from other retail services and many professional bodies have set out rules to protect both the industry and the consumer.
So how exactly can you market too audiology patients and what do the rules really mean.
What the Rules Say about Marketing Your Practice
There are some overarching rules that should be taken into account when you piece together your marketing strategy for your practice/service. Following them will keep you on the right side of the law.
Below we will explain the 2 main rules that many professionals struggle with as found in (Rule 3, Amendment R68 2nd February 2009 of the Health Professions Act No 56 1974). Do, however, note that these rules will differ between countries and states.
- A practitioner shall be allowed to advertise his or her services or permit, sanction or acquiesce to such advertisement: Provided that the advertisement is not unprofessional, untruthful, deceptive or misleading or causes consumers unwarranted anxiety that they may be suffering from any health condition.
- A practitioner shall not canvass or tout or allow canvassing or touting to be done for patients on his or her behalf.
So What Exactly Is Canvassing and Touting:
- Canvassing: Don’t tell anyone that you have superior knowledge, better quality of service than anyone else.
Don’t offer any professional guarantees, or claim best practice in order to persuade people to utilize your services.
- Touting: If not within your categories of services, just say no to; offers, guarantees and material benefits.
In Layman’s terms
- Don't scare people with your advertising, saying things like “you might be deaf”, “you are going deaf”, or something similar that will create any fear or anxiety.
- A good rule to follow here is to focus on the positive outcomes of hearing testing and treatment, such as “by ensuring your hearing health through old age you may add 15% to your lifespan” or “no orchestra is complete without the violins, never miss the full symphony, test your hearing regularly”
Point 2.3 of Act 56 of 1974 of the HPCSA states that an Audiologists & Speech therapists duties include:
Education of the community regarding communication disorders; utilization of community resources in the recognition, elementary treatment and prevention of communication disorders.
Focusing your marketing on the above point will not only ensure that you are not overstepping any ethical or legal boundaries but will also allow you to tap into one of the most powerful strategies available today, Content Marketing. With that said, let's jump into 5 ways you can promote your practice to ensure success.
5 Ways You Can Promote Your Practice
Content marketing, social media and digital advertising are very powerful tools and, used correctly, could have patients knocking on your doors.
1. Social Media
By interacting on social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn you are able to identify conversations related to specific problems that people are facing in your area. You can then jump in and provide information as a specialist and grow a following of people who will most likely use your service.
Sharing original and curated content to your social channels will educate patients and the public at large, and bring patients to your practice while positioning you as a thought leader in your industry. The key here is to create content that provides value to users. If they find value in your content, they will likely share or interact with it, giving you the opportunity to interact with patients conversationally.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
By creating content around specific search terms that patients may be searching for and posting to your own blog (when done right) will mean that patients will find your practice through their normal search activities on google or similar search engines. This is a long-term strategy that will certainly pay off but can take up to 6 months to yield results.
The main point here is to establish yourself or your practice as thought leaders in your field and a valuable resource for your topic. Patients who read your content and are made to feel at ease will likely share your content and follow through with an appointment at some stage. Registering on local directories and service listings are a great way to ensure that your practice is found by patients actively looking for your specific service.
3.Search Engine Marketing(SEM)
Digital advertising is not cheap but can be very effective and will allow you to set a budget that you can afford and turn it on and off at will. The good news is that the google adwords tool, now simple Google ads, is much easier to use than previously and you can very quickly get started with a campaign that targets peoples as and when they are looking for your service in their area.
Remember to stay clear of the 2 main clauses mentioned above when advertising your content.
Search engine marketing (google ads) allows you to display an advert within search results when a user searches for a specific topic. These adverts can very localized.
A person searches for a topic containing: “audiologist in Cape Town” or “ audiologist near me” and even more likely “where can I get a hearing test in Cape Town”
If you have targeted this search term, you can display an advert promoting your practice and providing your contact information and operating hours.
Because you have focused on the users intent, which in this case, is clear. You will have provided useful, context-specific and actionable information. They are free to click and make an appointment without persuading them or creating any fear.
Another benefit is that this type of advertising allows you to promote your practice in certain areas only, in this example Cape Town.
Pro Tip: A good strategy is to use paid advertising initially until you are able have your SEO content ranked high in search terms.
Traditional advertising such as newspaper or magazine adverts can be effective but are very costly and not entirely focused. For a small business, social media and digital advertising are more effective and cost a lot less.
5.Word of mouth
If you are a thorough clinician, giving good services in a timely fashion, word of mouth is your cheapest and most effective form of marketing and can be very powerful. The “patient is king” and “going the extra mile” should be your mantra. Regardless of what you may believe, you are providing a service and your patients will jump ship the second they start to feel mistreated. On the other hand, positive patient referral will keep your doors open for years to come.
With that said, have fun, be intentional and create content that will be both useful and educational to your patients.
If you are looking at different ways to offer your services and therefore give you even more of an edge, check out this post on 5 ways you can reach more patients