Should you market yourself or your medical clinic? was previously published in The Pulse – Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Spring 2014, Issue 73.
Despite the multitude of decisions that get made before initiating a marketing program – positioning, target market, location, services, fees – there’s one underlying question that often gets overlooked.
What are you trying to build – a personal following or a clinic?
Anybody who has followed their naturopath from clinic to clinic, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, will tell you that loyalty to a clinic and loyalty to a person isn’t the same thing.
Marketing a clinic and marketing a person isn’t the same thing either. That said, they’re both valid options. The key is to align your marketing plan with your practice development goals.
So, how do you decide what you’re trying to build – a personal following or a clinic – and how should that decision impact your marketing? Let’s look at two common scenarios and their associated pitfalls:
- If you’re renting space in someone else’s clinic, have no plans to eventually take on your own space or to add employees, you’re building a following. Common pitfalls? Placing undue emphasis on creating and marketing a name for your practice, rather than simply building your name. Missing out on the opportunity to cross promote yourself with the clinic. Creating confusion about your relationship with the clinic.
- If you own a clinic and you have partners or employees, you’re building a clinic. Common pitfalls? Focusing the lion’s share of marketing resources on the individual at the cost of building a reputable and sustainable name for the clinic. Diluting your point of difference with false ties to tenants operating out of your clinic.
If your goal is to build a personal following, every aspect of your marketing plan needs to support that goal.
Whether or not it’s formalized with a logo, tagline and positioning statement, your professional identity will need to capture your philosophy, style, vision, history and context.
You’ll need flagship materials that support your personal marketing efforts, such as a website, brochure, newsletter, business presentation or other.
You’ll also need a personal marketing plan. It will need to be fed, continuously, on an ongoing basis. So, choose activities that call you, or it won’t work. It will feel like drudgery. If you like to press the flesh, network. If you like to write stories, start a blog. If you like to teach, give seminars. If you like people but are shy at large gatherings, use social media. By picking activities that align with your interests and temperament, you’ll bring out your most engaged, natural self. To get noticed, choose one focused activity and take it on with passion and dedication. Make sure everything you do is aligned, not just with your target market and areas of interest but with your positioning, even if it’s as inconsequential as a 140 character tweet.
If your goal is to build a clinic, every aspect of your marketing plan needs to support that goal.
You’ll need a name, logo and tagline founded on a vision that gets supported in a consistent manner by all, from the way someone is greeted on the phone to the way they’re treated and followed up with, no matter who they’re dealing with.
As you would if you were building a following, you’ll need flagship materials, such as a website, brochure, newsletter, business presentation or other.
You won’t need a personal marketing plan. You’ll need several, one for each participant. You’ll also need branded materials, strategies and coaching to align their activities with the vision for the clinic. As an example, beyond setting up a clinic blog (or micro blogs), consider – what type of articles do you want to write? How controversial do you want to get? What is the writing style and tone? What is the blog’s purpose (go deeper, much deeper, than ‘to share information’)…? The same applies to virtually any personal marketing activity: speaking, networking, social media… So, when you’re building a clinic, you’re not just showcasing individuals, you’re doing so within the context of a cohesive, consistent and common purpose that adds value to the brand with each article, smile and handshake. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to do the same thing. It just means that that they bring the same vision to what they do.
So, where do these ideas leave us?
You’re doing everything right. You deliver good patient service. You get out there and give talks. You get published a few times a year. You’re using LinkedIn on a daily basis.
Clarifying which brand you’re building and the distinction between your brand and others sets the stage for you to collect equity for your efforts. Equity that establishes sustainability and multiplies in value over time… as we all know one happy patient tells two of their closest friends and so on.
If you fall into the category of landlord or tenant, there’s one more detail to consider. Your well-organized brand will need equally well-organized paperwork. This will provide clarity about the legal ownership of your patient list, a most critical element of your brand equity. If you’re going to get the marketing piece right, it’s certianly worth your while to make sure your hard won patients stay with you, should anyone decide to move.