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There’s a lot to be learned from the cross pollination of marketing and business techniques between industries.  Our company provides marketing services to medical, dental, physical therapy, and other types of healthcare practices, and we’re always a bit quizzical when competing medical marketing companies approach the topic in a way much different than is found in retail or entertainment.  No matter what the industry, you’ve got a customer (we call them patients), you’ve got a product (we call it healthcare), and you’ve got a price (we’d like to call it cash, but usually agree to “reimbursement.”).

By overcomplicating the marketing of healthcare practices I think we’re doing more damage than good.  Remember that the principles of marketing are not too terribly complex, and are almost completely transferrable between industries.  What made you choose to buy Coke over Pepsi just might have more to do with getting patients in your door than you think.  You need to see a product or service (impressions), you need to recognize the value a product or service (the value proposition), and you need to have access to a product or service (distribution).  In a nutshell, that’s it.

This article from Medical Economics does a good job at speaking to many of the most common marketing techniques used in the marketing of medical practices, and you might be surprised to know that the same techniques also work for selling cars.

For many practices, marketing is a survival tool. But with so many ways to approach it—public speaking, print media, radio ads, the Web—it’s a tool that doctors often use haphazardly, or not at all. “One of the biggest mistakes physicians make is that they don’t develop a marketing plan,” says Keith Borglum, of Professional Management and Marketing in Santa Rosa, CA. “In medical terms, it’s like doing treatment without a diagnosis.”

In marketing, as in medicine, you’re much more likely to achieve your goals if you take the time to determine what they are. Begin by setting quantifiable parameters. How many additional patients do you want to attract? Can your practice’s staff and internal systems handle that number of new patients? How much time and money can you invest in marketing? Are you seeking a particular type of patient? If you’re hoping to attract 20-and 30-somethings, say, you’ll probably need to develop a website and fashion an ad campaign aimed at luring that cohort to the site.