Carl Sagan said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” I say, “If you want to have a successful practice, start with physics.”
At the center of any good, solid practice is a good doctor—you. What you want to do to attract the largest number of astral orbiting bodies is increase your gravitational pull. Forget the Big Bang theory. Nothing happens instantly. Be patient, be vigilant, and don’t be afraid to make your presence known.
Let’s be frank: With the ever-present worry of reductions in reimbursement and increasing overhead, practices constantly have to look for ways to be more efficient and provide services that generate greater opportunity for income. For example, incentives attached to electronic medical records and premium channels might do just that. Any strategy, however, must start with the practitioner, and this inevitably involves self-promotion (or, if you prefer, “marketing”).
Developing the skills needed for marketing yourself has become increasingly important, as the level of complexity of the workplace and competition in the marketplace have risen. It’s a buyer’s market, and sometimes, your talent and competence aren’t enough. When marketing yourself, think of your skills as the service, and the practice as your product. I know it’s challenging to practice medicine when players (including “third-party players” as I like to call them) keep changing the rules. Everyone is your consumer: patients/clients, referring providers, hospital systems, insurance carriers, and industry. As they orbit around you, though, if you use your presence, you can be one of the first to hear news of emerging opportunities in your field.
How do you do this? When you consider your place in the universe, the first thing you need to do is define your mission.
The next step is to develop a marketing strategy targeted at your audience.
• Participate in cross-marketing team efforts like health fairs.
• Share ideas with others in the field at local scientific meetings and society events, and consider taking on leadership or committee roles in a professional organization.
• Keep up your skills.
• Maintain a relationship with continuing education or develop research opportunities for companies or peer-review publications.
• Present to peers on topics related to your work: be seen as a source for answers.
As you do these things, you’ll be surprised by how many people will feel your gravitational pull. The end result will be an organized system with you in the middle.
Get your name out there and be a presence. Early on, you’ll have to be flexible in your strategic implementation, and periodically, be sure to evaluate your marketing efforts. Learn from others that have done it well, but also glean what you can from your own failed attempts. Being talented and available is only a start. Exerting a large enough force so others will gravitate to you is basic marketing physics!