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Feature | April '13

Building Practices, Changing Lives

The principals of Sandbox Strategic share their thoughts on what the ideal practice of the future will look like and what it will take to get us there.

Dawn Thompson

Dawn Thompson

Dawn's Direction

Amy and I are often asked by surgeons what it takes to successfully market a practice. Unfortunately, Marketing 101 is not something that is currently taught in medical school. As a surgeon just starting a practice you may be asking, where should I start?

Whether it is today, tomorrow, or 10 years from now, I think an ideal practice starts with the key decision maker (the surgeon, the administrator, etc.) determining exactly who he or she wants to be and what kind of practice he or she wants to have. This will serve as a foundation to the “house” and allow the surgeon to build exactly what he or she desires


Once the foundation is set, start to build the first floor. The most important asset is the practice’s people. Make sure the right people are in the right positions to be able to deliver the best possible experience for patients. Do not be afraid to move people out of positions that are not working out well and into something that is a better fit, and do not delay in eliminating a bad overall fit.

If the team is in place and their roles in the patient journey to better vision are clear, start building the second floor: services. What procedures should the practice offer and how will it provide these services? If the practice is set up as an “advanced vision center,” then make sure to feature the most advanced technologies and procedures. Stay current and routinely share the news with patients about the latest advancements in ophthalmology.

So what’s next? The third floor is home to the process or the patient’s journey. The patient’s journey must be precisely timed and executed efficiently from start to finish. Everyone has a role in the process, and education starts at the beginning.

The practice now has a patient experience second to none and is ready to add a roof. This is where raving fans are created! Every practice has happy patients and ones that are not so happy. It is up to the key decision maker to embrace all of them and guide them to their best visual outcomes possible. Make sure checkpoints are in place and remind the staff that it is critical that they take the time necessary to ensure the patient’s journey is unmatched.

The house is built and the practice is ready to go, so now it is time for landscaping. This consists of the marketing and advertising efforts that enhance the practice and allow it to show off its “curb appeal” to new and existing guests. That’s right, they are guests at this point because they have been welcomed into a perfectly built home!

Dawn Thompson is the President of Sandbox Strategic, a unique, creative marketing agency that specializes in health care for the pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotech spaces. Ms. Thompson may be reached at dthompson@sandboxstrategic.com.

Amy Jacobs

Amy Jacobs

Amy's Angle

Now that the house is in order, it is ready for more guests. This is the time to create a checklist for implementing a marketing program into the practice.

Create Invitations

When creating marketing materials, identify what it is about the practice’s brand and its image that is to be communicated. The information should be clear and concise, and contact information should be easy to locate. Focus on and create a single call to action. Too often surgeons feel the need to cram every detail of the practice into one advertisement or one brochure. Think less is more and do not be afraid of white space.

Find Ways to Send the Invitation

Today, there are many different ways to promote a practice, everything from traditional print advertising, newsletters, the Internet, to social media. Keep in mind while evaluating the best way to invite guests that the most important part of any marketing effort is having a plan. Too often marketing is done in a rush or a on a whim. Create a plan for the year and evaluate each piece of the plan every quarter. A consistent campaign requires at least 90 days before it can be effectively measured and tweaked.

Collect and Organize RSVP

Set up a tracking system to measure advertising dollars. Success and opportunities cannot be measured if results are not tracked. Make sure your website’s analytics can be measured. Try using different URLs and phone numbers on different forms of advertising so that the origins of calls and web traffic can be determined. Ask every patient not just how they heard about the practice, but all of the ways they have heard about it. Evaluate these results every quarter.

Hire a Party Planner

The surgeon’s role is best served by treating patients. Bring in a marketing professional on a consulting basis, or as the practice grows, on a full-time basis. Having the right experienced individual in place will help the practice achieve its goals.

Have Guests Invite Their Friends

With the influence of social media, there has never been a better time to capitalize on happy patient referrals. Ask all happy patients for a testimonial. Ask all happy patients to write a positive review or post their experience and link to the practice on their Facebook or Twitter account.

Have Fun

Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your marketing. Surgery is a serious business and too often practices’ marketing materials can be overly direct and intimidating to patients. Focus on positive lifestyle imagery that is inspirational and fun.

Amy Jacobs is the Vice President of Sandbox Strategic, a unique, creative marketing agency that specializes in health care for the pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotech spaces Ms. Jacobs may be reached at