The Ah-Ha Moment: There Are Six, and Only Six, Ways to Market Your Imaging Center

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Lonnie HirschMarketing and advertising for a radiology practice or imaging center can appear to be complex, confusing and daunting. We’ve met physicians and imaging industry executives who lose business opportunities because they hold back on their marketing potential. But we also see clients relax with an understanding that the road to marketing success is grounded in only six fundamental building blocks.

We think of it as an “ah-ha moment.” It’s that highly gratifying instant in our consulting work when the veil drops, the mystery disappears, the light bulb ignites—and a big idea is understood in a flash. That’s rewarding for us as instructors. And the greater reward is in opening the door to successful marketing and increased revenue for the imaging center or radiology practice.

So here, in only 17 words, is the sentence that frequently leads to an ah-ha moment:

“There are only six ways to market a radiology practice or imaging center. Six and only six.”

Admittedly the broad topic of successful healthcare marketing can be complex. There are hundreds of strategies and thousands of tactics, but understanding this six-point outline provides a manageable starting point for bringing it all together.

We organize each of our client marketing plans and marketing seminar presentations around these fundamental elements. If this is a back-to-basics list for you, take it as a useful refresher. (Consider sharing it with others in your organization.) And if this is an eye-opener, we’re pleased.

For your situation, the order and the emphasis of these elements will vary, but grasping these six elementary building blocks often demystifies healthcare marketing.

The Six Fundamental Elements

  • Professional Referral Marketing: A reliable and continuing stream of inbound patient referrals from other medical or professional sources is the lifeblood of imaging centers. And whether it’s a primary or secondary channel, professional referral sources can’t be taken for granted. Doctor referrals do not happen by magic or simply because you are a good provider or resource. Success requires a written plan and an unfailing system to preserve and grow the flow of inbound professional referrals.
  • Internet Marketing: From websites and social media tools, to patient portals and mobile apps, online marketing is a mainstream channel for branding, marketing, advertising and public relations. Exactly how you use the considerable muscle of the digital freeway can be highly effective and profitable, or a huge waste of time and money.
  • Branding: This is all about standing out from the crowd in a positive way, and it includes virtually everything you say and do. A powerful, differentiating brand for your imaging business is an important part of your reputation and the ability to attract referrals and new business. Meaningful and effective branding does not occur without a deliberate effort to shape and express the right message at the right time.
  • Internal Marketing: This heading includes all the ways and means that you communicate with people who already know you including present referral sources and previous patients. Depending on the nature of your situation, this influential audience can be a rich resource for referrals, additional services, testimonials and/or word-of-mouth advertising.
  • External Marketing: These are the media messages that reach prospective patients and referral sources that don’t know you. Advertising in newspapers, radio, television, billboards and the like targets an audience that needs to know that you provide an answer for their need. An external media budget—if this tool is right for you—is expected to produce a measurable return-on-investment.
  • Public Relations: This heading includes, among other things, planning and generating publicity and free press exposure, such as newspaper articles or broadcast interviews. The end results look easy, and it can be a positive and powerful influence. But “free press” typically results from careful planning, good timing, a clear message and a deliberate effort. PR is free (sort of), but not always easy to get or to control.

Return-on-Investment: The Yardstick of Success

Every successful marketing plan addresses these six, and only six, components. What’s more, an imaging center or radiology practice marketing program is an investment, not an expense. Like many other aspects of business, the yardstick of success is the Return-on-Investment. And in the right combination—the