5 Steps to Develop a Productive Marketing Strategy for Spine Practices

Laura Dyrda -  
Steven SiwekSteven Siwek, Jr., founded Medical Marketing Solutions in 2009 to help market his father's medical practice. The company has since grown to include medical practices and hospitals across the country. He assists with both traditional and digital media marketing, which many offices find helpful as reimbursements continue to decline and practice responsibilities don't let up.
"Physicians are running a business, and although they are blessed with many talents, it's hard to have a knack for business," says Mr. Siwek. "They are more focused on healing. For the most part, the day-to-day life of a physician precludes them from contemplating the business side of the practice."

As a result, some practices are hiring marketing managers or outside companies to handle their marketing efforts. Here, Mr. Siwek discusses five steps to building a strong medical marketing program.

1. Direction: know your end goal. Going into any marketing efforts without a clear plan often leads to mistakes. Physicians must understand where they want to end up before starting, and take all the necessary steps to get there.

"Know who you are and where you fit in your industry, specialty, patient demographics and how you fair against the competition," says Mr. Siwek. "You need to have a healthy respect for the competition."

Having direction doesn't just mean sticking to the budget. You have to create deadlines for completing projects and stick to them. Make sure each project relates appropriately to patients and the marketing department is communicating with the office staff.

"If you're advertising that your wait time is 15 minutes and the actual wait time is 45 minutes, there isn't correlation between your marketing and the patient experience," says Mr. Siwek. "That all starts with direction."

2. Data: measure return on investment.
One of the major buzz words over the past few years has been "return on investment," but few people actually know how to assess their ROI. Practices should begin by collecting data on the impact of their marketing efforts with an end goal in mind.

"If your goal is to increase patient satisfaction in 2013, the tricky part is figuring out how to measure it," says Mr. Siwek. "You need to come up with your standard of measurement. That means every time you create an ad, you need to use the same methods to track it."

For patient satisfaction, find standard measurements you use with every patient. This could mean asking the same questions and administering questions in the same format. If some patients answer online at home while others answer on paper in the office, you might find more negative responses from people who fill it out online because they are separated from the initial visit and don't have to face office staff when they return their evaluation.

For magazine or internet ads, direct patients to a separate phone number or landing page for each ad style so you know where they are coming from.

3. Design: create an engaging practice brand.
Surgeons may not think about design as an important part of their marketing efforts, but patients will respond better to interesting marketing and practice aesthetics.

"I believe there is a direct correlation between the look and feel of the practice brand and the community's perception of the practice brand," says Mr. Siwek. "If you have a boring brand, what's to say that those looking at you and patients who have never met you think any differently."

When designing your next marketing campaign, be aware of colors, font, photos and content across multiple platforms. When patients look at your website next to your business card, they should be able to tell both come from the same place.

"Legendary IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr., said that good design was good business," says Mr. Siwek. "I am one who strongly believes that patients won't figure out how good you are unless you find a way to attract them to your practice."

However, design isn't just about the marketing; it also means how your practice looks and feels. Surgeons may consider working closely with architects to design a practice that flows intuitively and projects the right feeling for their patients and staff.

4. Digital media: enhance your online presence.
If your practice isn't online or doesn't update its online presence continuously, it won't be socially or culturally relevant. Some surgeons feel they serve an older or more rural demographic, so most of their patients don't use the internet, but their assumptions are wrong. Recent studies show that in 2011, 80 percent of internet users looked for health information online, and 60 percent of people in the United States currently use social networking sites.

"Senior citizens are more tech savvy and the internet is more readily available across the country," says Mr. Siwek. "When considering these things, you have to realize you need to establish a presence on the internet."

He focuses on six points to build a practice's internet presence:
•    Domain name
•    Website aesthetic
•    User friendliness
•    Approach to search engine optimization
•    "Call to action" components
•    Social media

"As our culture becomes more digital, make it an easier experience for the user to get to your practice," says Mr. Siwek. "Making an appointment button on the website changes everything. Include your phone number on social media."

However, surgeons and practices aren't done once the websites and social media pages are launched; they must update their content regularly with pertinent information for their patients and colleagues. "Your presence on social media has to be consistent and informative," says Mr. Siwek. "You have to be consistent and get back to people who write on your wall or message you."

5. Dedication and delegation: trust others with marketing efforts.
If you're serious about your practice's success, you have to dedicate yourself to the marketing efforts. This doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on marketing and spend time reviewing everything that comes your way; learn to delegate and trust others with marketing your practice.

"If you are doing this alone, you will never get a break," says Mr. Siwek. "You have to know when to delegate. Our company has come to the rescue of some other companies and practices because they were overwhelmed by the business operations. It's important to know how to delegate items to experienced professionals."

Physicians are analytical and often spend a great deal of time making decisions — even to decide which colors should represent the practice. Create a timeline for these decisions and stick to the deadlines.

"As physicians, your marketing budget should be something you look forward to creating," says Mr. Siwek. "It is the key to growth and new strategies for revenues."

Whether it's print or online marketing, and whether you hire someone in-house or outsource your marketing, surgeons must trust the marketing team and focus on providing good patient care. Ultimately, your marketing plan should be consistent and focus on developing a positive first impression to new patients.

Medical Marketing Solutions


8320 E. Hartford Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85255

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