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Every industry has a particular number one rule that helps to “sell” their product. Most of us know that for real estate, the number one rule is “location location location.” For the medical industry it’s “relationships relationships relationships.”

They are the intangible glue that binds our tangible clinical and technical offering and makes our referrers and patients come to us. But it’s also the side of practice that is most often overlooked.

Scheduling and holding regular education seminars should be part of every medical businesses yearly marketing plan. They keep you “front of mind” and allow you the opportunity to get to know each other. They ensure you strengthen your existing bank of referrers and patients and are the most effective way of gaining new business.

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Most people are just focused on getting through to Christmas. You can stand out by thinking past that and laying the ground-work for a great start to 2014.

Starting back strong in February will put you on the front foot for a successful year ahead so it is really worth thinking about some initiatives to support that now.

What activities can you put in place to make sure you are top of mind before the break?

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When contemplating opening any sort of business, whether in medical or not, part of the process can include seeking finance from a lending body.

Lenders then go through their own processes of determining whether a business is a good risk.

Foremost in their qualifying eligibility criteria is a business plan, marketing plan and strategy. Without a comprehensive business plan, a typical lender to will not approve a new business loan.

However, new entrants into the medical marketplace experience a different journey when venturing into their own practice. The specialist lenders that cater to the medical industry are unique. They are accustomed to dealing with medical practitioners and medical institutions and have historically relied upon the degreed credentials of doctors as a guarantee of their success in private practice. As such their criteria for loan approval is not the onerous process to that experienced by other businesses and loans are often given without submission of a comprehensive business plan and marketing strategy.

So we need to ask the big question, if a business and marketing plan are not required by the lender, should we bother to include them as a part of our own success formula?

If we answer yes to this we have to ask why?

Many medical specialists and practices have achieved success without marketing plans. Past history of marketplace entry has included very little by way of strategic marketing, in most instances it has meant an introductory letter to potential referrers and possibly a visit. Essentially, the premise that doctors and medical specialists would succeed in a private practice based on their clinical and technical skills was expected.

But times really have changed and success in private practice is no longer guaranteed. As exceptional and important as technical and clinical skills are, they no longer guarantee success due to the changes in the marketplace and it’s expectations.

The marketplace has become much more competitive. New entrants are now facing aspects that weren't around 5 years ago. Some factors influencing the marketplace are that:

• There are less public posts and specialists now remain in the marketplace for longer.
• We then have the other new consultant on the block “Dr Google” who is there as a source of information for anyone to access.

For new entrants, these combined factors mean greater pressure to make their private practice work. The recognition of this means that strategic marketing plans are developed and executed to ensure all bases are covered and to minimise delays in gaining a solid business.

A marketing strategy gives you a map to follow and targets to set and achieve along the way. It introduces disciplined and ongoing strategies and communications with your marketplace and helps you to best to engage for mutual benefit.

Think of this analogy:

You’ve bought a brand new car. It’s been detailed – looks great and smells good. You start the engine, there’s a full tank of fuel and it roars to life.

And you’re off…….

So – where are you going?

You have a destination – a successful practice. But you don’t have a sat nav, a chauffeur or a map. You know your destination’s general direction because you’ve been given some basic idea of where to go. So you decide to head there; have a look around on the way and try to get clearer directions as you go….

Chances are you will still get there, but it will definitely take you longer and you will make some wrong turns and waste fuel on the way.

Have a marketing strategy. The effort that it takes you up front will be well worthwhile and will help ensure your success.

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A recent article in Medical Journal of Australia examined the shift in the balance of power when if comes to GP and Specialist referral relationships and the way practices need to make an effort to adapt to the change.

The article goes on to talk about the increasingly competitive specialist environmental where professional marketing plans and strategies can help grow the referral base and overall business for medical specialists.

Caroline Ucherek is General Manager of Specialist Medical Marketer CJU, and says they are receiving more and more requests for assistance with establishing and maintaining referral relationships.

“Five years ago it was unheard of for marketing groups to be involved in the introduction of new specialists to the local GP community. Today it is becoming unexceptional”, she says.

“The new specialists who are coming out recognise that it’s something that needs to be done.”

CJU assists specialists to meet GPs in the local community and to provide what she describes as the intangibles referrers demand.

“What we’ve found is that the whole relationship between specialists and GPs has changed. Referrers expect more from specialists. They expect them to be much more accessible than they once were.

CJU Specialist Medical Marketing focuses on gaining referrals for your practice, your group or facility services by marketing to your existing referral network as well as to new and under-serviced sources for referrals.

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Yes, they are your receptionist, practice manager, yourself or anyone else who has a direct public interface. They are crucial to your practice’s success as they are the face and the first point of contact before you even meet your clients. Training in customer service should be ongoing and an integral part of your Practice business plan.

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