• Market analysis

    Once you have set up a general strategy for your business, you need to decide how to market (or promote) your practice and to attract the patient base you want. Consider five Ps - people, product, price, place and promotion.

    Avant's Getting Started in Practice - The five Ps to consider when marketing (or promoting) your practice

    Keep in mind that marketing for your practice is not a 'hard sell', but a way of letting potential patients know that you are established, and to inform them of the services you provide. Once they have this information, they can decide whether or not to use your services.

    Awareness of your practice will grow over time, and as you develop a reputation, usually some marketing occurs by 'word of mouth'.

    Creating your practice image

    Consider carefully the kind of reputation you wish to build. Make sure that all your marketing 'collateral' or branding matches (it can be useful to sample it with people who know you both professionally and personally). Remember: once you establish a visual image which attaches to your practice, it is difficult to change.

    Consider how your office stationery (e.g. invoices, business cards, brochures and letterhead) can help strengthen your market presence. Consider how you want patients to think of you. You may wish to portray a small family-oriented general practice or an in-demand city specialist practice or anything in between. The colours, logo, font and even the type of paper (glossy or matt) can have an impact on how you are perceived.

    The presentation of your staff and practice will directly influence impressions of your professionalism and indirectly, your credibility and competence. Try to view the practice objectively and look at it as if you are a patient visiting for the first time. What would you notice?

    Implemented wisely, your marketing plan can to some extent influence the type of patients your surgery will attract.

    Defining your market

    Define clearly what services you are offering. Distinguish between core services and additional, or value-added services. Core services include those you are best equipped to supply and which are financially viable. Value-added services are those you would like to be made available, or which you know are not in high demand but you know by offering them it will assist in differentiating your own practice from others. They may or may not be financially advantageous.

    Establish a demographic or target group of potential patients for each individual service, or break them into segments according to their likely age, gender, geographical location, occupation and socio-economic status. For specialists, marketing focused on potential patients needs to target both direct and indirect referral sources such as general practitioners, other specialists and allied health professionals.

    Improving your practice

    Any practice receives great benefit from a business plan with a strong marketing strategy embracing the five Ps (people, product, price, place, promotion). Apart from letting prospective patients know you exist, your marketing strategy can help to develop and strengthen lasting professional relationships with your patients.

    If your marketing profile represents your practice and services well and accurately, and you deliver on the promises you make, the marketing will reinforce your professionalism so that patients will:

    • be loyal
    • become your strongest point of referral
    • pay their accounts on time
    • be less likely to complain.