Get Better at Marketing Your Practice
Finally winter is behind us. For the first time in my 9 years as a Chicagoan winter brought me to my knees. Things got bad. But now with the return of the sun and driving with the top down and al fresco dining, I feel renewed, refreshed, and ready to work.
For well over 6 months I have neglected practice promotion – I just didn’t have the juice to do anything other than take care of my self and my patients. 30+ years have shown me that – at least in my practice – the busy times and the slow ones are determined by complex, likely random forces, but I know for sure that I have been missing in action in the marketing department. It shows! The good news is that I have time to devote to practice promotion and reconnecting with my professional network.
I just finished mailing out over 600 pieces to area clinician colleagues and a different mailing to my current and selected previous patients. The central message in both batches was new science revealing a basic physiologic mechanism explaining sleep’s marvelous restorative quality. I used the information in the mailings to clinicians to market my practice to them in order to improve treatment outcome for their clients. The message was more “non-sell”, informational to my patients. It was so cool I wanted to share it. But this was the first time I had ever directly targeted a patient population, even in an educational mode. I am exploring the boundaries of the business aspects of my practice and direct patient care in my next book, tentatively titled Is There Profit in Professionalism.
My business partner and wife, Laura Lee Anders, MD, has finished her book on the many ways we misuse the mirror. She has now turned her energies to working with our website guru to improve our website traffic. New referrals directly from our site have dropped off recently, we rank far down in search results, and must address this issue. For a long time organic search has brought us a big percentage of our new business. As I wrote on my bio page of our site, psychoanalytic training was an early aim for my career but biology was my first true love. Now I must say that an old relationship is maturing into a deep love – marketing. I am a firm believer that aggressive networking and practice promotion do not violate principles of medical ethics. Nor are they necessarily unprofessional activities.
Would you like to receive a copy of the latest snail mail campaign? Leave your mailing address in the comment (see top of post) and I will send you one right away. What are you doing to promote your practice?
Path to Success
I’m trying to write myself out of a funk. This winter – “Chiberia” – has been the worst of my 10 years in Chicago. Right about now Dallas looks pretty darn good. But the dark, cold winter is a fraction of the blues I’ve been suffering.
I had high hopes for CLP Consulting as it was conceived on that Chilean hillside several years ago. The book has been well-received by a small group of readers. Even enthusiastically praised by a few. But the reactions of a few close colleagues have discouraged me more so than the general lackluster growth of book sales and consulting gigs. A close friend’s reaction during dinner recently is a good example.
Dr. P. and I were at dinner at The Gage, a local favorite, catching up on things in general but especially about my having covered his practice during his recent vacation. As a part of the wide-ranging conversation I told him of my idea to interview a series of psychiatrists in order to gather information about thinking of our practices as businesses. His comment during this chat was right on: “Of course I want to make money, but I am uncomfortable when I focus on that too much.”
When I wrote Starting and Growing Concierge Psychotherapy and Psychiatric Practices I was clearly focused on building and growing cash generating businesses. It puts my people off. I’ll try to engage as many colleagues in this conversation as possible. One vision is that this project of self-exploration through others will develop into a second book on the topic of making a living as a clinician. But this time including what looks to me like a massive ambivalence in doing so.
Are you ambivalent about maximizing your profit in your practice? Tell me all about it!
Thanks. I found it incredibly useful and will refer to it often. I’m … now in academic child, adolescent and adult psychiatry at Brown. I’m feeling fairly fed up with the university practice, its limitations and my inability to deliver the kind of care I think patients deserve. I know Dr. Anders has a thriving practice in Chicago and it’s great to see that you are both doing so well and have used your years of experience to build a business with motivated and appreciative clientele. I’m looking at perhaps moving to private practice in a year or so and may be turning to your consulting services to build a concierge service.
I love getting emails like this one from a former acquaintance of my wife’s. A book purchase is satisfying but when it’s followed by this kind of feedback I’m moved to put more energy into the project. For the next book I’m planning on interviewing psychiatrists about their attitudes about marketing their businesses. But really whether or not they think in terms of their practices as businesses. I expect to have a lot of fun with it.
Path to Success
“Bill, it was a surprise (pleasant) to hear from you. I’ve quickly read through your work, and found it pithy and insightful.”
Jim was surprised that I sent him an email as soon as I saw that he had bought my book. PayPal automatically sends notification of each purchase. It would not be such a surprise if he realized that that is a sample of how I run my business generally. Believe me, I put things off like everyone else, but when it comes to people buying my book, potential consulting clients contacting me, or patients contacting me, I do all I can to respond immediately.
A perfect example from my clinical practice occurred just minutes ago. A young lady who left my practice well over a year ago emailed asking for an appointment soon. We’re meeting tomorrow morning at 9am. In my book I stress the importance of providing remarkable service in a concierge practice. On our practice’s website we promote excellent psychiatric care delivered in a “premium” and “responsive” manner.
How do you differentiate your practice?
Get Better at Marketing Your Practice
Strange title, yes? Well, it was inspired by the title of a paper in the current Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association – “Psychoanalysis as Poetry”. To be fair to the author (I know tons of hard work goes into writing) I didn’t read the piece. Never will.
I told my story of working my way from the deep woods of East Texas into Psychoanalysis, then the pinnacle of a quality psychiatrist’s development, in my book on developing Concierge Psychotherapy and Psychiatric practices. Graduating from the Dallas Psychoanalytic Institute filled me with pride and disillusionment. You see, by then even I had begun evolving away from the pursuit of the ever more precise interpretation toward doing my best to help my patients quickly resolve their problems then move on. Poetry? No, more like battlefield medicine.
This is one clinician’s opinion, but we don’t have time for all the fancy foot work that once made up my clinical day. Especially when we now know that depressive syndromes cause brain damage there is no excuse for anything other than aggressive pursuit of symptom remission. Poetry? Please just give me a patient willing to engage in a fight for their life and my tool kit full of effective medication. Poetry is wonderful, poets shine a new light on experience, but there is no place in my office for it.
Harsh? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment via the link at the top of this article.
Let's Get Started!
A client recommended this read a few days ago and just today I dug into it during a free hour. Within the opening pages I began to feel inspired. We clinicians have so much to learn from the business world. This is a great place to start.
Get it. Read it!
Get Better at Marketing Your Practice
I haven’t published much here lately. There are tons of excuses and a few very good ones, but lately I’ve felt twinges of motivation to get back in the game. I enjoy writing but the love just disappeared. I vowed to myself that upon my return from visiting my brother, Mark, down “behind the pine curtain” in Deep East Texas this weekend, that I would rededicate myself to these extra-clinical interests.
The spark that got me to the keyboard this morning was receiving an email from CopyBlogger offering a course of sorts on internet marketing. It looks interesting and will be reading material for the plane ride to Texas. I’ve begun to miss the hustle. Where have I been? What has been keeping me quiet?
The twinges and flickers of motivation keep catching my attention. Earlier today while reflecting on them I thought of the concept “to lie fallow”. Exodus 23:11-21 says, “1 but let the land rest and lie fallow during the seventh year. Then let the poor among you harvest any volunteer crop that may come up. Leave the rest for the animals to eat. The same applies to your vineyards and olive groves. 12 Work for six days, and rest on the seventh. This will give your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It will also allow the people of your household, including your slaves and visitors, to be refreshed.”
My donkey and I have been busy in another field, several other fields. This weekend I am allowing my mind to “lie fallow” in order to enjoy the distinctly non-intellectual joys of life in the woods. Mark and I will likely launch assaults on the wild hogs infesting our land down there. Once back to Chicago next week I aim to ramp up my work with Keith to promote my book and with my son Aaron to further our joint project of building an innovative billing system for shrinks with cash-based practices.
For another perspective on lying fallow see Dr. MacKinnon’s post here. Can you relate? Take a little lying fallow time, check out the stuff at CopyBlogger, stay in touch with me and we’ll all get on down the road.
A Path to Valuable Simplicity
As I wrote in Starting and Growing Concierge Psychotherapy and Psychiatry Practices, moving to credit card as my default payment method changed my business dramatically. It virtually eliminated accounts receivable. I had been using one service for several years that did a good enough job. At least I was satisfied. But a recent visit with Kimberly, my Chase business banker across the street from my office, led to a game changing change.
After taking care of a minor question, Kimberly asked about my credit card processing company. She said that she could provide a quick comparison of my current cost for that service with Chase’s Paymentech. Turns out Chase’s solution was considerably less expensive and funds would arrive in my account the next day vs three with my existing service. I decided to give it a go.
The main problem was finding time to go through an orientation process by phone. Finally I scheduled time with the technician during which he walked me through how to use the system. It seemed pretty straightforward. When I told my wife/business partner, Dr. Laura Lee Anders, that I had just completed the thorough orientation she replied, “You don’t need to know all that!” Within 10 minutes she had me up to speed.
Paymentech is an amazingly easy to use service. It saves me tons of time. It costs less than my old service. And my money zips into my Chase business account overnight.
How do you handle payment for your services? Want some valuable advice? Get yourself a Chase business account, sign up for Paymentech, and kiss your accounts receivable goodbye. Want some help? Give me a shout.
The Fog of the Insurance Company-Government Collective
Asa Cordle graciously allowed me to publish this email message. This was his response to my email to him thanking him for purchasing my eBook and asking for feedback.
Hi Dr Lynch,
I really enjoyed reading this and found it both informative and motivating. I think anyone in training would find it helpful to envision a setting or practice where value creation for the patient (along with promoting the value proposition) is the top consideration. Your book’s discussion of a broad range of abstract ideas and concrete details of starting a concierge practice enables exactly this.
I’m curious about how macroeconomic and policy trends are going to alter the landscape for insurance free models. Popular press contains lots of negative predictions for private practice, which might hold true for insurance-based models forced to adopt practices that increasingly don’t fit their business. For the concierge-type model, however, it seems like there could be a greater number of people wanting to escape from the evolving bureaucratic mess and find independent providers. Any thoughts on this?
All the best,
Dr. Cordle’s question regarding ObamaCare prompted me to look into this issue. Looks like a nightmare on the way. I’ll keep digging and hope to be blogging about it as a way to develop the nucleus for the next book.
Do any of you have a good feel for what’s in store for us and our patients under the new insurance/government regime? Please tell us.
Get Better at Marketing Your Practice
I have heard other clinicians claim that they have “full” practices. That has never been my experience in 30 years of practice. Maybe it’s due to my business model – relatively high fees and not participating in the insurance game. But I also like to treat patients aggressively and am gratified when they leave my practice having gotten what they needed. Whatever the reason, looking ahead in my schedule and seeing open time has for years unnerved me enough to make marketing a top priority.
As I wrote in my book, I have been driven by fear of failure since the beginning of my career. Rather than collapsing in a heap of despair, I actively, aggressively pursued referrals. Back then it was relatively easy since I started practicing in Dallas where I had trained, both for psychiatry and psychoanalysis, thus being well-connected in the community. But even with that advantage I reached out to colleagues letting them know of my time availability and eagerness to work. With my move to Chicago eight years ago all that changed. I had to start over from scratch.
I have developed a habit of sending out mailings to colleagues two to four times per year. How I got started with this method is detailed in my Starting & Growing Concierge Psychotherapy & Psychiatry Practices, All You Need to Know. I have compiled a database of 400 (and growing) contacts. Within the next few weeks each will receive a mailing from me. It will include a cover letter, a print of a brief article relevant to psychiatry, and a top notch marketing “tear sheet” highlighting my practice focused on providing remarkable service. These marketing “shout-outs” routinely result in several referrals and several new connections with clinicians.
To learn more about marketing your practice, purchase my book then contact me for consultation/coaching. I’m eager to help.