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When it comes to marketing your healthcare practice, you have to be strategic. Otherwise, your marketing budget – both time and money – can spin out of control, without bringing you corresponding results. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together some cheap marketing ideas and guerrilla marketing tactics just for healthcare professionals.

Maybe you have thought of some of these ideas, but dismissed them as old-fashioned. Or said to yourself, “medical professionals don’t do that.” Guess what? You can be a top-notch healthcare professional and still engage in guerilla marketing tactics with the best of ‘em. You can do no less, if you want your practice to grow and thrive.

WHAT’S CHEAP AND EFFECTIVE FOR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS?

Social media. Blogging. Direct mail. Email is still a top choice for one-on-one communication. It’s not only cheap, it’s easy and quick to use. Use it to stay in touch with prospects and current patients. You can send individual emails. You can also send messages to targeted groups, but personalized for each recipient. And then there’s texting – perfect for appointment reminders because it’s more efficient for staff and patients.

Healthcare Success says, “Marketing for a doctor’s office is part science (applying proven strategies and tactics), and part art (creatively and effectively connecting with a target audience). Measurable results – even if they feel like magic – are the product of a carefully designed and well-executed plan.”

WHAT’S YOUR GOAL?

You never thought of goals as “cheap marketing ideas”? Well, setting goals – for your practice or for your marketing – is a no-cost exercise. Each goal represents a separate idea about how you want to build your practice:

  • Establish and reinforce your brand as a healthcare professional
  • Establish and reinforce your practice brand
  • Build your reputation as an expert in your specialty or locale
  • Keep a steady stream of new patients coming through your door
  • Inform and stay in touch with prospects and patients
  • Retain (and upsell) existing patients
  • Build your professional referral network
  • Make more money. Let’s be honest here. You went into some branch of medicine because you care about helping people. Or animals. But you’re in business to earn a living, too.

Each goal sparks its own set of relevant ideas on how to accomplish that.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

No amount of cheap marketing ideas or clever guerrilla marketing tactics will help if your focus is on you. What’s in it for them? That’s the bottom line of all your marketing. Or it should be. Potential patients want to know what you have to offer. Not a list of services, but how those services will help them. Or their family.

Every purchase has an emotional component. And no buying decision is more personal than choosing a healthcare provider. So who you are is as important as what your practice has to offer.

CHEAP MARKETING IDEAS AND GUERRILLA MARKETING TACTICS YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW

  1. Of course you have a website. But is it up to date and user-friendly by today’s standards? Adopting best website practices is just as vital as adopting the latest tools and best practices on the medical side of your practice. And perception is everything. Is your website awkward to navigate? Not optimized for every type of search device? Not individually responsive to visitors? These things suggest to potential patients that your practice may be behind the times, too.
  1. Press releases. It takes only a few minutes to write a short press release. Do it every time you add a new staff member, acquire cutting-edge equipment, receive an accolade of some kind. Don’t forget to include all your contact information, for follow-up questions.
  1. Bonus tip: Get to know the medical and small business reporters for your local paper. They need background information for stories. If they can pick up the phone and call you, you may get quoted. That builds trust and confidence in your practice.
  1. Useful content. Create e-books – Everything You’ve Been Meaning to Ask About Rhinoplasty. Or tip sheets – 10 Tips for Living with Braces.
  1. Yes, those generic posters you get from your vendors are free. They add color, but they aren’t about your practice or your patients. Your local quick-print shop can help you create inexpensive, one-of-a-kind signs and posters that use your words and photos. You can make them relevant and timely. Why not try whitening? 10% off this month!
  1. Or post photo posters in your waiting area of all the kids (and adults) that got braces last month. Where to get those pictures? Take them yourself, in the office. Better yet, see idea #18.
  1. Visuals are more effective than words when it comes to marketing. And moving pictures are more effective than static images. It’s cheap and pretty easy to create your own short videos. You don’t have to be a Hollywood icon. Video is also versatile. You can embed videos on your website. Post links to them on your blog, social media and emails. And show them in your waiting room. Video is ideal for:
  1. Introductions (yourself and other medical staff). Talk about why your love of piano or fishing or your dog makes you a better doctor. It’s not about your bio, it’s about who you are as a person – your patient-side manner.
  1. Procedure explanations. It’s a lot easier to show than tell, especially when it comes to medical and dental work. Be straight-forward, but don’t be gruesome. The point is to inform and build patient confidence.
  1. Today’s patients do a lot of research before choosing any type of healthcare professional. They look for reviews. And they weigh them carefully. If you aren’t asking your happy patients to post reviews for you, do it! Put a little sign by your reception desk: Like us on Facebook, and we’ll donate $1 to the local animal shelter. Or Please review us (with a list of sites they can do that). Use these same messages when you send follow-up emails.
  1. Bonus tip: when you get a great review, create a poster for your waiting area that quotes from the review. This is an effective way to retain patients, by reinforcing their smart decision to choose you.
  1. OK, this is hardly a tactic you’ve never thought of. That said, do you actively solicit referrals from patients and friends? A simple reminder may be all it takes. Add a line to that little sign by your receptionist: Accepting new patients! Are you a specialist that receives referrals from professional colleagues? Join and participate in a couple of relevant LinkedIn groups.
  1. Be visible. Personalize your practice by participating in community activities. Sponsor a kids’ sports team. Have a booth at health fairs and festivals. Volunteer as staff (wearing T-shirts with your logo). Donate a free service to a local charity auction.
  1. Host an open house. This is a great way to show off a remodel, new equipment or new staff. But who needs an excuse for a party? Make it an annual patient thank-you event. Does your chamber of commerce do Business After Hours? Host that, too.
  1. Be the expert. Speak on current health topics or trends at your local rotary. Or a chamber of commerce luncheon. Or a local senior living facilities.
  1. Use the mail. Yes, the kind with stamps. Real mail really stands out these days. Send a hand-written note welcoming each new patient. Send birthday cards to patients. Do a direct mail postcard campaign aimed at new residents to attract new patients.
  1. Do a survey via social media. Everyone loves to be asked their opinion, so make your patients part of your band of guerrilla marketers. Ask what new services they would like you to offer.
  1. Hold a contest. Invite patients to share photos of their healthy pet. Or their big “braces off today!” smile. Or share their “best happy outcome” story in 140 characters or less.
  1. Take the time to ask patients what they want. Ask about their concerns. Sure, you probably already do this, but listen with a “different ear.” Learn as much as you can about what makes your patients tick as people. What worries them about your services. Or excites them. All these thoughts are cheap marketing ideas waiting to be implemented. Cheap, because patient advice is free. Invaluable, because they come from the people you most want to impress.

WHAT IS A “GUERRILLA MARKETING TACTIC?”

Really, it’s any creative or unusual way to promote your practice. That could be anything, including a new take on an old favorite. Marketing doesn’t have to be off-the-wall to capture attention. It has to be relevant to the people you want to attract. But it shouldn’t be boring. The more you can do to inject a little humor or fun into your marketing, the more memorable it will be. Showing your lighter side may be the best thing you can do to make patients feel comfortable with you. And it’s absolutely free.

A while back, United Capital Source published our own list of 43 free guerilla marketing tips. You can also check out this great list of http://fitsmallbusiness.com/medical-practice-marketing/ 25 medical practice marketing resources. It was compiled by David Waring, co-founder of the company that owns FitSmallBusines.com. In his article, he makes some important points, including this one: “Studies suggest that patients forget more than 50% of what they are told in the doctor’s office. Add to that misremembering and misinterpretation, and the information holes grow even larger.”

This underscores my earlier point. One of the most valuable cheap marketing ideas out there is sharing your knowledge with patients and prospects.

REALITY CHECK: SOME THINGS COST MONEY

You can’t build your practice solely on free marketing. You have to spend some money. But you don’t want to overspend. Well-targeted paid advertising can be surprisingly affordable. Many healthcare practices use it, and it might work for you, too. Consider Facebook ads, Google AdWords or other pay-per-click options.

Consider upgrading your marketing technology. No, this isn’t one of our cheap marketing ideas. But marketing automation technology can make you much more efficient. Software manufacturer SimplyCast says, “Nowadays, marketing is all about using data to make a personal connection with each unique patient rather than blasting general advertisements to the masses.” Saving time is saving money. And wouldn’t you rather spend your time helping patients?

What is essential is understanding the difference between cheap and return on investment (ROI).

Track your marketing efforts and analyze the results regularly. That tells you what’s working and what isn’t. You can identify which tactics are generating the most interest. And calculate which ones are generating the most revenue. That way, you’ll know if you’re getting great ROI or your marketing ideas are just cheap. You can continue to implement the most effective ideas and ditch those tactics that aren’t so great after all.

You may be the most talented, skilled doctor in town. Or dentist. Or veterinarian. But your practice is a small business. Marketing is a necessity, if you hope to thrive and grow. So you have to make a deliberate investment. You’re smart to look for cheap marketing ideas and guerrilla marketing tactics to augment your investment. But remember, you have multiple marketing goals. It will take a variety of approaches to achieve all of them.

Sometimes it takes a significant amount of cash to expand your marketing plan or launch a new campaign. But cash flow is usually an ongoing concern for healthcare providers. Don’t let that hold you back. Every savvy small business owner relies on strategic borrowing to grow their business, and you can, too. United Capital Source can help.

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