A hands-on guide to implementing external and internal marketing efforts

Last month in this same space (PSP September 2010), I identified some basic principles that will help you create a successful marketing plan for your practice. The first part of that discussion covered the different practice profiles, from wildly successful to struggling.

With your completed creative brief in hand, you are now ready to start writing your plan. It is important to complete these steps in order, as each step builds on the previous ones.

The following seven-step process can be used to create that plan:

1) Identify Yourself

In writing, identify who you are, your services, and what makes you and your practice unique and high above the rest—in 50 words or less. This and your tagline will become the e-mail signature for all staff-based e-mail correspondence. Ask your staff to memorize it, so that when someone asks any of them about your practice they will answer with a single, unified message. This is the cornerstone to a marketing plan that is integrated throughout your practice’s communications.

2) Identify Your Ideal Target Audience

Refer to the profile you have in your creative brief that describes the types of patients you see. Remember to focus on the audience you would most like to serve, not just the types you currently attract.

3) Decide on a Budget

What are your revenue goals, and what percentage of gross revenue do you want to devote to your marketing efforts? Advertising and marketing are relatively new considerations to the medical field. Whereas retailers and manufacturers historically have allocated anywhere from 1% to 50% of their operating budget to marketing, up until 15 years ago medical practices could rely on word-of-mouth referrals and phone directory listings. As you well know, this is certainly not the case today.

As a general rule of thumb, I typically see 50% of a practice’s budget going to their Web site and search engine optimization, and 50% going to some type of print or brand identity materials.

4) Get Help

Have a marketing professional help you identify the right mix for you, and decide on a month-by-month plan to reach out to your target audience. This plan must be fluid. You must be willing to act on the input that you receive from your patients throughout its duration. Be sure to communicate this plan to the appropriate staff, so that they are ready to field calls and e-mails.

5) Call on Professional Services

Hire a professional design firm to create an image for your practice that represents you perfectly. Every communication piece from your practice should be consistent and reflect the quality of the services you offer. Also, be sure this firm is aware of HIPAA and AMA marketing regulations.

6) Implement Your Plan

Train your patients to look forward to your marketing efforts via updates to your Web site, e-campaigns, cards sent in the US mail, or a new loyalty program.

7) Self-Critique

Track your progress, measure your success, and constantly reevaluate your efforts based on feedback from your patients.

Once you have completed the seven steps, your plan will allow you to jump-start your marketing efforts.


Marketing is fundamentally a conversation between your patients and potential patients and your practice. All marketing, be it internal or external, needs to have the heart of great customer service. It must guide, educate, and encourage your patients.

External marketing tells your target audience you have a service that can help them reach their goals. Internal marketing’s goal is to create and retain loyal patients who will recommend you.

Your Web site is an excellent example of external marketing. At its basic level, it can help new patients find you—and much more. A high-quality, patient-focused Web site will project an image that inspires confidence in your services.

Examples of internal marketing include loyalty programs, maintaining contact with consults and patients via e-mail, personal notes, phone calls, seminars, carefully chosen patient education materials, and a video loop that features all of your services (which plays in your office’s waiting area). Internal marketing generally costs less and produces a higher return.

Did you know that fear motivates people 400% more than pleasure? Do you really want fear to motivate your marketing decisions? It’s better to stick with your well-thought-out plan.

While you may see immediate results from your marketing activities, achieving a balance in your marketing is really a long-term investment. And like most investments, it requires patience, determination, consistency, and commitment if you want to realize your desired goals.

I encourage you to work toward creating a strategic, integrated marketing plan based on measurable goals that are right for your practice. Especially in today’s highly competitive marketplace, it is well worth your time.

Candace Crowe is president of Candace Crowe Design, which specializes in plastic surgery marketing and patient education. She can be reached at (877) 384-7676 or www.candacecrowe.com.