Patient-Centered Marketing — It’s Not About You, It’s About Them

by Katherine Porfilio | Follow on Twitter

How you can change dry, practice-centered copy into a marketing tool that your patients can relate to?

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LET’S SAY YOU HAVE a new patient. They come in for their first appointment and sit in your office. You immediately start talking about your life story, your degrees and accomplishments, the services you offer, the products you sell, the skills you have, the hours you’re open and all the ways they can contact you.

They stare blankly at you, wondering if they’re in the right place. You then say,

“By the way, how can I help you today?”

Sounds ridiculous, right?

I know you would never do this in person, but, what happens when a new visitor comes to your website? Is their experience anything like the scenario above? If so, you’re probably not speaking or connecting to them in a way where they truly feel understood.

Here’s the thing…

Most people don’t understand how or why you can help them.

It takes the average person 7-9 points of contact before they feel comfortable doing business with you. Most patients will not call or buy just from initial exposure.

Patients need nurturing to feel safe making a decision to see you. Your website and marketing materials should transition each person from fear and/or resistance into inspiring them to call you.

Here’s an example of the typical practice-centered approach to marketing and then we’ll look at ways to change that to patient-centered marketing.

Imagine that there’s a woman searching online. We’ll call her Kelly. Kelly is pregnant for the first time and she’s suffering from back pain. She’s uncomfortable and seeking relief, but wants to do it naturally. She’s not keen on taking medication unnecessarily or to just cover up the symptoms. Kelly is looking for the healthiest, safest and most non-intrusive choices for her and her baby.

Kelly starts searching online for how to naturally treat back pain during pregnancy. She finds her way to Dr. Dean’s website, a Naturopathic Doctor. This is what she reads about Dr. Dean:

My name is Dr. Dean and I am a Naturopathic Doctor. I have a special interest in hormone imbalance, menopause support and chronic pain. I work with patients to determine and treat the root cause of their health concerns using dietary counseling, homeopathy and herbal remedies.

This is a very typical example of text you might find on a practitioner’s website. The problem is that it’s focused more on Dr. Dean than Kelly, it’s generic and it doesn’t really help Dr. Dean or Kelly. He wants to find the ideal patient that he knows he can help. She wants to find her ideal practitioner, too.

Let’s analyze the paragraph from the prospective patient’s point of view:

  • Who is the text focused on? Dean. Note the frequent use of phrases such as, “I am… I have… I work…”
  • Who is Dr. Dean trying to reach? You can’t successfully market to “everyone”. Being a generalist will not help your practice. Focus your marketing on a specific niche. This will make your practice many more times valuable to prospective patients – it becomes more discoverable online, makes it easier to produce compelling marketing and increases word of mouth.
  • Who does Dr. Dean work with? Does Kelly think of herself a patient? Probably not. This is a clinical description of who she is when under a practitioner’s care, but not how she is perceiving herself when she’s searching for help. She’s looking for a solution and identifies with her symptoms and/or condition.
  • Dean has a special interest in hormone support, menopause and chronic pain, but how does this relate to Kelly’s specific concern?
  • How does the text convey to Kelly that he’s “the one,” the practitioner that really “gets” what she’s experiencing and could possibly change her quality of life? At this point, she doesn’t have enough information to make an informed decision.
  • Why should Kelly call Dr. Dean for an appointment? Perhaps she’s desperate and calls, but she’s uncertain. She has reservations about Dr. Dean. She doesn’t know him from Dr. Adam. Why should she trust her health with him? She truly wants to believe in Dr. Dean because she hopes he can help her, but she’s uncertain. She is looking for a solid reason to put her faith in him.

I’m going to give you an example of a different way of communicating that empathizes and connects with prospective patients.

I help expectant mothers find relief from back pain, naturally and safely so they can enjoy their pregnancy – worry-free.

What’s the significant difference between the two descriptions? The first one lists everything that Dr. Dean does. The second one relates to Kelly. It reaches out and answers a need. It simply conveys that he understands her pain, concerns and desires.

So, how can you change dry, practice-centered copy into a marketing tool that your patients can relate to?

Your marketing should make people feel that you understand them, and you can’t do that generally. It needs to be specific. It needs to target your ideal patient, the ones that you can help the most. In marketing terms, this is known as POSITIONING.

When that happens, the results are magical.

The patient thinks and feels,

“this is the doctor I should see…he ‘gets’ me… I can trust him… I like what he’s saying to me… I feel safe putting my health (my life) in his hands.”

Your marketing is not your identity, nor does it need to include the entirety of you and your services.

For example, if a man suffering from migraines comes to you for help, you don’t have to say, “Sorry, I only help pregnant women with back pain”.

Positioning doesn’t limit the range of patients you help. It merely focuses on attracting a particular type. You’ll continue to help all kinds of people.

This is one of the greatest secrets to effective marketing and how to become a marketing genius in your practice.

The good news is you don’t have to change what you do every day; you just have to change how you talk about what you do.

Your patient doesn’t care how much you know until they experience how much you care.

About the Author
Katherine Porfilio

Katherine Porfilio is a Holistic Health Marketing Consultant who helps Naturopathic Doctors attract their ideal patient and build a successful practice. Author of The Marketing Manual for Naturopathic Doctors, Katherine has spent over fourteen years serving clients in the healthcare industry–from solo practitioners, busy clinics and wellness spas to online natural pharmacies and nutritional supplement companies. Katherine is the founder of Stark Raven Design, a boutique marketing and design agency that caters to practitioners and President of QEd Motivational, host of the HearthLight Event (The North Georgia Symposium on Holistic and Integrative Medicine).