Health care marketing may conjure up images of coffee mugs, pens and stress balls imprinted with medical logos. While offering premiums like this can help with name awareness, a soft sell--subtle or low pressure--approach is often the most effective marketing method in the health care industry. Following are some health care marketing strategies based on soft selling and relationship building.
Enhance the Patient Experience
A pediatrician displays a wall-sized saltwater aquarium chock-full of colorful sea life for his young patients to explore in the lobby, and his exam rooms are decorated with colorful murals and 3-D wall pop-outs. An orthodontist's patients are mesmerized by the electric train running around the perimeter of the ceiling as they recline with their mouths open. New moms are treated to soft slippers and spa products after childbirth at the hospital's women's center. These examples of value-added experiences create positive buzz and free word-of-mouth advertising.
Build Community Goodwill
Volunteer your time at community events and health fairs, or talks to moms' groups or schools to increase your exposure. You may get referrals from people who see you lecture, receive health screenings, or from other professionals participating in the event.
Develop Media Relationships
Send out newsworthy press releases tying in with current events to get positive press coverage. Tie in happenings at your business to national holidays. For example, National Smile Week is celebrated the second week in August; World Osteoporosis Day is on October 20; American Heart Month is during February. Create events, art contests and wellness activities that build goodwill and garner positive news stories and photo opportunities. You also can offer your medical expertise to comment on current events and become a source to the press.
Nurture Professional Relationships
Implement a referral program with other professionals. This is how specialists build their businesses. Imprint giveaways (pens, stress balls, sunblock, post-it pads) with your logo. Create a signature holiday gift to show your appreciation for referrals. For example, give referring medical practitioners jars of your own "Dr. B's Homemade Barbecue Sauce" or hot salsa or homemade pickles or another unique creation that positions you positively in their minds.
Have Fun With Printed Pieces
Imprint invoice stuffers with health care tips, trivia or screening reminders ("an annual colonoscopy if you're over 50"). Dermatologists can send patient birthday cards with a reminder that "a yearly skin check won't show your age." Dentists' birthday cards can inform patients "teeth brighteners will help you stay youthful."
Debbie Withers has been a freelance writer since 2006. She is a qualitative research and marketing consultant with experience as a certified marketing director for shopping malls. Her publishing credits include "Woman's Day," "Lifestyles Magazine," "Shopping Center World" and "Marketing News." Withers holds a Bachelor of Science in advertising from the University of Texas.