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The competitive world in which we live has made it more challenging than ever to run a successful business without marketing. Healthcare is not immune to this need. There is a growing trend for medical marketing, however, what is most effective isn’t always what the doctor ordered.

Over the years we have spoken to many doctors about their marketing needs and goals. While most come open to the marketing recommendations we make, others have a specific need they want filled. The challenge is when what they are asking for isn’t necessarily what will produce the greatest return.

One example is social media marketing. It is a highly useful tool for businesses to connect with existing and potential patients. Yet, not all medical specialties have patients actively using Facebook. Geriatrics is a perfect example of this. In this example, there may be more effective ways to connect and find patients and prospects. It is also important to consider that certain age groups have either parents (pediatrics) or their children (geriatrics) making medical decisions on their behalf. In this case, marketing should be targeted accordingly. That is why pediatric practices should have a very active Facebook presence as moms are heavily using social media networks to connect and learn more about the topics they care about…their children.

Instead of funneling marketing dollars into a program that will produce mediocre results, businesses should first perform an internal assessment and competitive analysis. When done correctly, the results will provide valuable insight into the customers the business serves or wants to serve, whom the healthcare decision maker is, where they go for information, what the competition is doing well (and what they are doing not so well), and what you can do to stand apart from them. This information is powerful when determining where and how to market a medical practice.

Marketing is not one size fits all; it must be customized to the business using it. Avoid choosing how to market based on what everyone else is doing. Instead, figure out what is lacking from a patients’ perspective and determine a unique way to fill that need. For example, if you offer a cancer treatment that can improve a patient’s quality of life, but many don’t know about it, a marketing education push could prove to be very effective.

By taking the time to think through how you want to connect with prospective and existing patients, you can invest marketing dollars appropriately and reap a great return on your investment.