Patients may be returning to your medical practice, but that doesn’t mean that your operation will go back to a pre-pandemic normal. Safety is now a leading concern, and patients are arriving with new expectations. Your intake process has probably changed, as well as the number of patients you can see on a daily basis (which could impact your revenue projections for the year).
As a result, it’s important to think beyond just “reopening” your practice, and instead proceed with a mindset of “restarting” your practice to adapt to changing needs and priorities within your industry.
Here are five tips you can use to make sure your practice is better prepared to succeed as the state of your industry continues to evolve.
Tip #1: Review your previous goals
If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that when the unexpected happens, you have to be willing and ready to pivot your strategy if you want to protect both your patients and your practice. You may have started 2020 with a business and marketing plan that is simply no longer realistic or aligned with your current needs. Take the time to review your previous goals and make adjustments where needed so you can move forward with a plan that best positions you for future growth.
Here are just a few goals you may need to revisit:
- Expected patient volume — At the start of your reopening, you may have to operate your practice at a more limited capacity, whether that is due to safety protocols within your industry or patients taking their time before they feel comfortable coming in again. As a result, you should adjust your expectations for the number of patients you’ll be seeing for your first few months back. You may need to build your way back up to your usual average daily patient volume over time.
- Expected monthly and annual revenue — Changes in patient volume will ultimately impact your revenue, so it’s important to take that into account as you set your expectations for the months ahead. The time you were closed during the COVID-19 shutdown will inevitably impact your annual revenue figures, so you will likely need to make some adjustments to your budgets and revenue goals for the year.
- Service focus — As your practice emerges from the shutdown, you may find that your patients have different priorities, at least for a while. For example, at first, you may find there is an influx of appointments for basic services that your patients want to catch up on, such as general checkups and cleanings if you’re a dentist, or adjustments if you’re a chiropractor. There may also be new services in high demand that were not popular or even available before, such as COVID-testing for pets if you’re a veterinarian. Take these shifting trends into account when deciding which services to focus on as you get your practice up and running again.
- Timing and scope of business growth milestones — You may have started 2020 with big plans for growth for your practice, such as the plan to hire more personnel or to expand to an additional location. Some of those plans may need to be delayed or altered due to setbacks from the COVID-19 crisis. This isn’t to say you can’t move forward with those plans in 2020, but it may be wise to take a conservative approach to account for the changed business climate.
Tip #2: Assess your competitors
Remember that while you are attracting patients into your office or clinic as you re-open, so are your competitors. To capture and keep the attention of your target audience, your message and outreach tactics will need to be not only just as good, but more effective than those being used by other practices in your area.
Start with a competitor analysis, by answering these questions:
- What types of messages are your competitors using in their marketing?
- Which digital channels are they using to promote their services?
- Which keywords are they showing up for in an online search?
- What topics are they writing about on their blogs and social media posts?
- What promotions and incentives are they offering?
- How are they taking extra steps to provide added convenience for patients (offering telehealth appointments, using live chat on their website, etc.)?
Once you have answered these questions, determine what your competitive advantage is. What can you offer that others don’t? If it is compelling, your competitive advantage should be the key message you lead with in your marketing and advertising efforts, and can help you drive traffic to your practice or clinic.
Tip #3: Conduct a new SWOT analysis
In case you're not already familiar with this term, “SWOT” stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” Knowing where your practice stands in each of these areas will help you better understand your positioning within your local market, as well as the best next steps for growing your business and sharpening your competitive advantage.
With COVID-19 completely disrupting the clinical and business landscape for medical practices today, there is a good chance that some of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats have changed from what they were at the start of the year. Therefore, it’s time to dive back into that analysis and carefully consider how circumstances may have changed for your practice.
Here are a few questions to help you get started with your SWOT analysis.
- Strengths: What does your practice offer that provides value to patients?
- Weakness: What does your practice not offer that prospective patients may be looking for or may need?
- Opportunities: Are there new ways you can innovate to provide better, safer, and more convenient care for patients?
- Threats: Are there state or federal requirements that may come up that could interfere with how you deliver care to your patients, or that could get in the way of you meeting your goals?
Tip #4: Prepare a new marketing plan
Now that you have determined what you want to achieve for the year and you have thoroughly examined your competition and your positioning within that competitive climate, you have what you need to effectively update your marketing plan. Your new plan should be designed around communication that emphasizes your practice’s strengths and leverages new opportunities to attract more patients in your local area. It should also include strategies for overcoming weaknesses and addressing newfound threats that didn’t exist before.
Your new marketing may need to involve elements such as:
- Promotion of the ways you’re accommodating patients and keeping them safe (e.g. curbside pickups, telehealth appointments, spaced-out scheduling of appointments to allow for better social distancing, etc.)
- The shifting of your budget to focus more heavily on marketing platforms that your target clientele are using with greater frequency today (e.g. social media platforms)
- The use of recovery-focused marketing campaigns, such as targeted display ads that let potential clients in your area know you’re open for business again
- The use of keywords in your pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns that account for searches that have become more popular in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis (e.g. “dentist open” and “pet COVID testing”)
- Marketing campaigns that focus on services that are now in higher demand, such as telehealth services
Tip #5: Apply the appropriate level of budget to meet your EOY goals
Lastly, it’s important to be realistic with your marketing budget. You can draft up a fool-proof plan for your marketing and business growth for the year, but those efforts will fall short if you don’t have the funding to execute it properly.
If you have a limited budget, you may need to think creatively on how to keep your practice in front of the right prospective patients. The best way to ensure you’re getting the greatest impact from your budget is to work with marketing experts who understand your industry and the nuances of your specific market. Make sure you do your research before choosing a marketing partner!
At Scorpion, we work with medical practices to help them stay visible and competitive online so they can attract more patients and maximize their long-term success. If you would like to learn more about how to grow your practice as you move into the reopening and recovery phase, give us a call or visit our COVID-19 resource page for more helpful tips.