By Victoria Stagg Elliott, amednews staff. Posted Sept. 10, 2012

Online marketing strategies are important, but experts on marketing medical practices say it takes more than a virtual presence to persuade people to visit a particular physician and tell friends and family to do the same. Practices may have to use some good, old-fashioned paper, metal or plastic to get out various messages.

“Patients are seeing 10,000 messages a day,” said Steven V. Dubin, president of PR Works in Kingston, Mass., who works with medical practices “If you want yours to break through the clutter, you need to make sure it’s high-impact and in different forms.”

Such marketing efforts do not have to consume large amounts of money or staff time. Actually, some of these six quick and cheap ways to get the message out are deceptively simple.

1. “Open to new patients” sign. A physician’s current patients may be his or her biggest fans, but they may not know the practice has room for more. A sign in the waiting room saying something along the lines of “Your referrals are among the highest forms of flattery” or “We are accepting referrals at this time. We appreciate recommendations to your friends, family and co-workers,” may persuade current patients to help spread the word.

“A lot of people won’t think of referring until you ask them to,” said Robin Samora, founder and president of Let’s Make You Shine, Business and PR Strategy, a public relations firm in Boston. “You need to tell them you have an opening in the practice.”

The sign should be professionally created out of metal or plastic. Handwritten signage can look tacky and be a turnoff, public relations experts said.

2. Tchotchkes. Another suggestion from experts on marketing medical practices is to offer an item that is appropriate for the practice and that patients would like to use. For example, a pediatric practice could give children silicone wristbands to promote awareness of various health-related causes. Calendars and magnets with the practice’s name and address may work. Practices encouraging physical fitness may do well handing out branded pedometers.

“Practices need to consider their target market and how they are going to reach them,” Samora said.

These tchotchkes may serve as reminders to current patients about the practice, but others also might see the information. For example, a refrigerator magnet may be an easy way for a patient to find a practice’s phone number, but it also could be noticed by visitors.

3. Office open house. Depending on the type of practice, an open house could show established patients that they are appreciated and introduce the office to potential patients. The open house may include an educational component, such as a brief presentation by a physician, or minor health screenings, such as blood pressure checks by other office staff. Or it may be a chance for patients to sit down casually with a physician to discuss philosophy of care. An open house also many be an opportunity for a practice to show off a redesign or new equipment.

“This can be a learning opportunity for both parties,” Samora said. “Patients get to ask questions, and physicians learn what the common questions are.”

These events can be promoted through communication with patients who are asked to invite friends and relatives.

4. Public speaking event. Community organizations usually are looking for speakers, which means opportunities for physicians to talk about their areas of expertise. This, in turn, can make the practice more attractive to current patients and bring in new ones. Marketing experts advocate talking to audiences who mirror the kind of patients the practice is hoping to attract.

“Give your knowledge away,” said Rina Shah, principal and founder of Rilax Strategies, a communications consultancy based in Washington. “What you know about medicine and wellness is interesting and valuable to others. Offer to speak at local health expos, to women’s groups or business clubs on a topic related to public health. You will gain valuable exposure.”

5. “Buck slip.” A billing statement can do more than ask for money. It can include a “buck slip,” or dollar-sized piece of paper with information about the practice, available services, honors the physician may have received recently and requests for referrals.

“You’re already sending out the piece of mail,” Dubin said. “You might as well take advantage of that.”

These may be created simply and cheaply on office word processing software and then photocopied and cut to size. Or they can be more complicated and glossy if ordered from an online printing house for about $100 per 500.

6. “We miss you” mailing or phone call. Attracting patients to a practice is sometimes less about persuading new ones to come in but more about reminding established ones to return. Patients who have not had contact with the practice for a certain amount of time can be mailed a letter or called by staffers. Some patients may have moved or gone through other changes that mean that it is more appropriate to go elsewhere. Or visiting a doctor may have just slipped their minds.

“People are busy and have lives that are moving at a million miles a minute,” Shah said. “It’s important to get them to think of your practice.”

Experts on marketing medical practices say these efforts should fit in with a plan that includes virtual as well as real-world strategies. All messages should be consistent and suit the practice.


Elliott covers practice management issues. She can be reached at 312-464-5577 or by email (victoria.elliott@ama-assn.org).

I’m finishing this email about an hour before I’m up up and away on a hot air balloon with my two daughters, brother and little nieces. This has been a surprise for quite some time, and the excitement is downright contagious.  I’ve never been on a hot air balloon, so I’m a little nervous myself. It reminds me of the thrill of my first ride on Space Mountain!

This summer, I’ve been writing frequently and working with clients to help them get noticed, and recognized for their expert status. This of course helps expand their brand and increase revenue opportunities. Once you set your course, it’s funny how people show up to help you along the way!

Contributing to blogs and guest posting is also another way to get attention in a crowded marketplace. Here’s a post that was just released on Carol Roth’s website and @Business Unplugged on “Tips to Land Speaking Engagements.”  Speaking is one of the top,  free ways to get recognized for your expertise.  If you’re feeling wobbly, check out your local Toastmaster’s group, to learn tricks of the trade.

Check out my contribution on Landing Speaking Engagements here, and see what other experts are recommending:  http://www.carolroth.com/blog/speaking-tips-to-land-speaking-engagements

Enjoy this beautiful summer, and see my note below about open office hours. I’d love to talk with you!

-Robin

PS – Want to learn how to pitch to HARO, Reporter Connection and Profnet to get more publicity – or have other questions? Call me during my open office hours, Thursday, August 16th from 3p – 5pm ET.  I’m happy to talk with you about what’s on your mind.  Best way to reach me is by phone at  617-921-3448 or by  email  Robin@LetsMakeYouShine.com . The best to you and yours!

For InspireMeToday.com

If you’re brave enough to be alone for some length of time, away from the noise and hub bub of activities, friends, family and kids, with a sleeping dog at the foot of your bed, and your palms intentionally or not open, asking what is really going on right now in your life, and how it’s all serving you – that’s the time to listen.

It is without doubt, one of the hardest things to do – to just stop the mind chatter and let thoughts come in, kind of like an air purifier does with air, only with the window open rather than a filter; (who wants to catch the bad stuff). To listen, to the quiet little voice that speaks as softly as a whisper, or in my case, often coming through as a song, lyrics and all. One key phrase repeated often. Most recently, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby”, when asking about a relationship.

Imagine if we could listen, and just breathe in love, and breathe out fear when we were stressed, or angry, or feeling anxious. How would we feel afterwards, and how would that affect the little voice, our gut or innermost thoughts. How would it affect our peacefulness? Blood pressure? Relationships with others, and more importantly the relationship with ourselves? Would it be an exercise that we could all benefit from?

I’ve come to realize that we are often either loving or fearing to some degree. And, what are we afraid of? Responsibility, disappointment, success, drama, not being “all in” when someone wants us to be? Not sure exactly, but the list goes on, with our own twists and turns.

One day, I decided to wash everyone with love that I came across during an entire day. I wished them well, smiled, and noticed that love was taking over. It was contagious. I had amazing eye contact with strangers. On airplanes, in restaurants, at coffee shops, and even with my Fed Ex guy. In my world, a smile is just an extended form of love, and where I grew up, there were a hundred ways to love, just as there were a hundred ways to skin a cat (metaphorically speaking).

Some are lucky to listen to the Voice On Demand, others may need some prompting, but ultimately, the voice is there if you listen. If the connection is good, the Voice is eternal, whether we realize it or not. So being alone now, is never an issue for me. I can hold hands with the Voice, and ask, “what’s really going on.”

The answer is always there.

Today, as my youngest daughter left to go back to college, I got choked up and my voice changed.

No matter how I tried to hide it, I couldn’t. After seeing this email from Seth Godin, I decided to share it. It was meaningful for me because in business and in life, your voice will give you away. It’s an expression of who you are.

I send this today as a heads up the next time you give a presentation.

Are you you?

Your Voice Will Give You Away by Seth Godin

It’s extremely difficult to read a speech and sound as if you mean it.

For most of us, when reading, posture changes, the throat tightens and people can tell. Reading is different from speaking, and a different sort of attention is paid.

Before you give a speech, then, you must do one of two things if your goal is to persuade:

Learn to read the same way you speak (unlikely) or, learn to speak without reading. Learn your message well enough that you can communicate it without reading it. We want your humanity.

If you can’t do that, don’t bother giving a speech. Just send everyone a memo and save time and stress for all concerned.

About two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a new client, a prominent TV network in the Arts, at the W Hotel in Boston. We connected through a referral (thank you so much) and I made it a point to drive from my lake house in New Hampshire to meet downtown. I was looking forward to hearing first-hand about the Shakespeare on the Common project, and event details of All’s Well that Ends Well.

At the end of my meeting, the bartender, a lovely woman who was serving us iced tea, asked what I did for work. I explained that my mission was to help entrepreneurs increase their business, get recognition in the marketplace, and the attention they deserve. She replied, “I’d like your card.”

Little did I know that my conversation at the bar must have made an impact. A give and take of ideas. A little of this, and a little of that; jazzed up promotions, speaking gigs, lead generation, special referral offers, and events. A marketing guy and a promotions coach/company. The kind of talk you’d expect from two like-minded folk sharing a mid-afternoon tea at the W (and, not a Long Island Iced Tea)!

This week, I met with the same bartender, who happens to also be a fabulous boot designer with a unique twist, and niche market. She brought four samples of boots to Panera Bread and shared her business ideas. They were thought through, very creative, and ready for the next phase of her business launch.

She overheard a conversation, and believed in me enough to inquire. But, more importantly, to take the leap of faith, because I’m sure she hears a lot at the bar.

I’m taking the liberty of changing the meaning of a phrase. Today, “to give someone the boot”, means totally opposite of what you may think. It means “Let’s go for it.” Let’s talk to Nordstrom’s. Let’s get the boots in the hands of celebrities. Let’s create a story around them, and ultimately, let’s give back to kids with cancer, because that’s what’s important to the bartender – my new client.

What’s your boot? What have you overheard lately that’s made you want to find out more? Nothing come to mind?

Meet me over an iced tea, and let’s see who’s listening.

The night before my MMM Tour, I came down with a vicious stomach flu. Feeling better in the morning, I ventured out, not wanting to cancel my Back Bay coffee stop, and eager to talk with entrepreneurs who might want to toss around a few business ideas.

What I didn’t realize was that it was my stomach that was tossing around.  So, I made an executive decision to call it quits – moments after I found a parking spot on Newbury Street, which is no easy feat!

Needless to say, I couldn’t get home quickly enough, and took it easy for the rest of the day.  Several hours, several naps, and several cups of green tea later, I was feeling better. But, I was home, not at my Make Money Monday Tour, helping small business owners.

So I’m writing with the hopes that anyone who may be tossing and turning with a great idea, and who missed me at my MMM stop in Back Bay,  give me a call for some one-on-one time.

Life happens and we make good.

I’d like to take it one step further.

I’d like to make great — wherever I go, and whatever I do.

You?

I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want something, you’ve got to ask. Want to close a client? Ask for the order.

Have a special request at your favorite bistro?

You’ve got to ask.

Love a dress at in the window at Nordstrom’s and want to see it? You’ll never know how it looks unless you ask!

I will be speaking at Borders Bookstore on Tuesday, May 17th at 7:00pm at Legacy Place in Dedham, Massachusetts because I asked.

Asking for the order = speaking at Borders.

The opportunity to share my message with a bigger audience. I’m getting attention in a crowded marketplace and being recognized — because I asked for the chance to stand out as an expert in my field.

I’ve made it a point to speak out more often —

…on the radio this week with Loretta LaRoche,

…at the library in June to share tips with job seekers,

…at the Chamber talking with small business owners , and

…with Peter Shankman from HARO (Help A Reporter Out) for my list.

Come visit me next Tuesday at (B)orders and ask me a question. I might ask you one back!

Often we’re so consumed in our own thoughts that we forget to realize — if we’re taking the right steps, and have intention and inspired action in our work, and in our passion, that the pieces of the puzzle will fall together. What puzzle? Projects that require multiple strategic steps, by a handful of people, with a purpose and focused end goal in mind.

And so it happened today, or yesterday really, as I write this in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. The start of the week, and a jam packed day, the kind of day with clarity, activity and excitement every entrepreneur dreams of. Baboom. Our press releases were read, noted, and the media were on their way. A photo session was scheduled, as well as plans for an upcoming interview for Let’s make You Shine, and the Make Money Monday Tour. All this, at today’s MMM stop, the Coffee Break Café in Quincy.

Wow.

Even more Wow, was that a young business owner from Canton, came to see me at the Tour stop, and just happening to be there, had photos taken too, with the Patriot Ledger. Tina Prisco, from Te Salon came to meet me for free business advice, got an hour’s worth of ideas, and just by chance, got unexpected added value to promote her salon. That’s what I call great timing.

One person can start a business, but it takes a team to grow a business. That’s tweetable.

Tina, listen in.

Sales, writing, consulting, social media, payroll, technical work, PR, joint ventures, public speaking gigs, newsletters, interview series, and I could go on, take time. Lots of it. The life of an entrepreneur, and the many hats we wear, and the many who wear those hats, work best when pieces fit like a puzzle.

I am grateful to my team who help lay out the pieces to the puzzle, and strategize where to put them.

I am grateful for their expertise, because I’m only one person.

It takes one person to start a business, but a team, a great team like mine, to grow a business.

Don’t force the pieces of a puzzle to fit. Each has its place, and reason to be there.

You can be an expert, but not of everything.

Share the wealth. Let everyone shine.

There’s such pride in a finished puzzle.

One night, quite late, I visited my local Border’s bookstore.  I was looking for reference material on Confidence and Charisma for an upcoming tele-class.  Most of my lesson was thought through, but being a book junkie,  I wanted more scientific data. After all, is it true that confidence and charisma can be part of your DNA?  My listeners would want to know!

Lucky for me, I had the help of a wonderful Store Manager, Dan, who spent the last 15 minutes of his shift concentrating on my project – in fact, right up to the 10:00PM closing hour. For a slow Monday night, I probably raised his store’s GNP. I purchased four books, all business related, and promised to read every one of them in the next coming month.

While I was checking out, I introduced myself to Dan and told him who I was, what I was doing, and asked if there were ever opportunities for speaking engagements at Borders.

I followed up, about six weeks later in person, and again by phone. Then, by a proposal, bio, and photo – an electronic press kit of sorts.

Next month, on May 17th I have a speaking gig at Borders.  And, it will be customized to Border’s request, but also based on my expertise.

I’ll have six weeks of free publicity and promotion from Borders, and my team will be supporting me — preparing press releases, Facebook postings, and Tweeting about my talk.

One late night visit to a book store.

One opportunity to, “just ask”.

What are you asking for?

Robin Samora, Business & Life Strategist, discussed ways to use your brilliance to boost your bottom line at a gathering for small business owners and entrepreneurs at the Citizen’s Bank in East Milton on February 15.

The group was eager to learn from Samora, a successful entrepreneur who has launched two companies and makes it her mission to help small business owners make more profits, get more attention, and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Robin, who has worked with major Fortune 500 companies promoting products and services, wanted to utilize her talents and years of business experience, realizing that she loved working one on one with clients and small businesses.