Whether you like it or not, now more than ever, practicing medicine is running a business. The days of stumbling into medical practice success are gone.  A practice not only needs your clinical expertise, it also needs what you weren’t taught in medical school — business leadership and management. You must think about your bottom line and set realistic but meaningful goals to increase revenue, all while continuing to provide the best care possible for your patients.

Practices that find innovative ways to market to their patients and referral sources are the ones that stay relevant and thrive. Here are a few things that can add value to your business and ensure a successful and thriving future:

1. View marketing as an investment in your practice

The old adage “you have to spend money to make money” is so true. When done right, marketing can produce returns that will ensure your practice thrives for years to come. Professional marketers can help you figure out the best way to achieve your goals and track your returns. Investing in marketing is investing in the long term success of your practice.

2. Stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

A majority of physicians rely on traditional marketing: newspaper articles, billboards, ads in local physician and medical directories, etc. There can be a place for this type of advertising, but it’s likely pricey and newspaper circulation nationwide is on the decline due to competition from Internet media.  The key is finding cost-effective ways to market your practice…strategies that can get you the most “bang for your buck.”

Referral marketing can increase your referral patient base by utilizing a physician liaison to represent you in the offices of your potential referral sources, establishing relationships with referring physicians and their staff. Patients trust the recommendation of their physicians, who refer to physicians they know and trust. You’ve got build that trust and rapport and show your referral sources what makes your practice the best choice for their needs.

Don’t be scared of spending money on marketing and be sure to think outside the box. Look at marketing as an investment, seeing as effective marketing will raise awareness of your practice and increase your patient base.

3. Be proactive about getting positive online reviews

It’s important to pay attention to what patients are saying about you on review sites like Healthgrades, WebMD, RateMDs, ZocDoc and Vitals. Today’s tech-savvy patients and medical providers are very likely to check out your reviews before becoming your patients or referring to your practice, so take some time to see what has been said about you on these sites.

Be proactive in making sure these sites are populated with positive reviews of you and your practice. Many doctors feel awkward asking patients to post a review online, but you’d be surprised at how many happy patients are willing to share. A nurse or physician might say, “What you experienced could be really helpful for others to hear about! Would you mind writing a few words about your experience?”  To facilitate the process, many medical practices print cards to have their staff hand out to patients. We have a client that recently put a computer in their waiting room, with a review site pulled up and signage with instructions on how to write a review, so that patients can do it while they are waiting.

Don’t worry if you don’t get all perfect, positive reviews. In fact, perfection may raise questions, since prospective patients will realize there must have been occasions where a patient got annoyed by being kept waiting or other issues. Use these complaints as a way to reach out to that patient to try and make it right or try to improve your practice’s performance in that particular area.

And remember, these reviews can also be used as testimonials on your website or in social media posts for your practice.

4. Establish or Enhance Your Presence on Social Media

There are many ways to use social platforms to market a practice to potential patients and referral sources.  These days, if you’re not doing it you are very likely a step behind your competition. Use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to share information about your practice, your providers, events you are involved in and health tips related to your specialty.  Encourage patients, family, friends and employees to “like” the page, as more likes will increase direct user traffic to your site. You may also want to consider starting a blog where you provide wellness tips, promote local health events, and discuss general, positive information about yourself and your practice. Promote the blog on Twitter and use it to engage with organizations in your community. As a bonus, all of these things can organically improve your SEO, which can help your practice’s placement in Google searches for your specialty.

5. Increase your community engagement

Get involved in your community! Providing support to local causes will get you and your practice noticed and project a charitable, positive image of your practice to others. Include your staff in community service projects, fundraising events, philanthropic run/walks, local conferences, school fairs, etc. Prospective patients and referral sources will take note!