Marketing a GP clinic in Australia requires very careful planning.
Unlike businesses in most other industries, medical practices are tightly regulated when it comes to marketing and advertising.
In this article, we’ll explain how word-of-mouth marketing, branding and local SEO can help your GP clinic find and connect with more of the right patients. But first, let’s take a look at those regulations.
Can I market my GP clinic?
While there are rules, and consequences for breaking them, marketing can and should be a central part of the business plan for your medical practice. After all, without patients you don’t have a business.
The Medical Board of Australia has published guidelines for medical practices on the advertising and marketing of their services. These guidelines prevent medical practices from fully leveraging a number of useful marketing tactics. This is what section 133 of the National Law on advertising regulated health services says:
A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that
- is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be misleading or deceptive, or
- offers a gift, discount or other inducement to attract a person to use the service or the business, unless the advertisement also states the terms and conditions of the offer, or
- uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business; or
- creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, or
- directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.
Individuals can be fined up to $5000 for breaching these rules. That penalty increases to $10,000 for businesses.
If those rules make you nervous about marketing your GP clinic, let’s have a look at some tactics that you can use without worrying about upsetting the regulators.
Word-of-mouth advertising for medical practices
This can be one of the most effective ways to market your business. Figures from research firm Nielsen reveal that 83% of consumers trust the opinions and recommendations of friends and family when making purchase decisions.
A separate study published in the European Journal of Marketing found that one of the factors likely to make word of mouth more impactful was the presence of a knowledge gap.
With medical practices, that knowledge gap is a significant one.
Practitioners have years of medical training and practical experience, whereas their patients – in almost all cases – do not. The same is true in other industries, such as law or consulting. The service provider is an expert and the customer is paying for access to that expertise.
It is difficult for a patient to judge the quality of the treatment they receive because the doctor knows so much more than they do about the condition they have and what to do about it. If they get better, chances are they will think their doctor did a good job.
And while making sick people better is pretty important for a GP clinic, it is hardly the compelling narrative for successful word-of-mouth marketing.
Aside from the clinical outcome, a patient will rely on aspects of their experience that they can recognise and understand. This could be how easy it was to make an appointment, whether they were seen on time or even the design and layout of the waiting room.
It is these tangible aspects that patients will remember and tell their friends about.
So, to really benefit from word-of-mouth marketing, medical practices should think very carefully about the non-clinical aspects of the patient experience.
They should ask themselves: What do our patients really care about? By focusing on these areas, they can improve their chances of getting positive reviews and recommendations.
Branding for GP clinics
Branding – like any form of marketing – will not make up for poor service. As Milton Hershey, the chocolate magnate, famously said: “Give them quality. That is the best kind of advertising.”
But assuming your practice already has well-trained, competent professionals; modern and properly-maintained equipment; and an efficient operational set-up, good branding can really improve the experience of your patients.
To achieve that, your branding should be consistent everywhere that patients come into contact with your medical practice, from the website to the waiting room. It should help tell your story and speak to the demographics you want to target.
Most importantly, it should differentiate your medical practice from the competition.
If your branding can help to provide a more notable, impactful experience, your patients will remember it and talk about it at work, on social media, on message boards and offline.
Local search marketing for GP clinics
Word-of-mouth recommendations are extremely powerful, but people still expect to be able to find your clinic online.
A professional, user-friendly website will help patients access practical information, such as your phone number, your opening hours and the services your offer. It will also be important for building trust and credibility as they decide which GP clinic to use.
Because location is often such a significant factor, medical practices will often benefit from investing time and money in their local search presence. This can dramatically increase the chances of people being able to find you when they need you.
Here are 5 things you can do to improve the visibility of your practice in local search results:
Contact info: make sure you have a prominent, easy-to-find page on your website with your full contact information. Use the same format anywhere that this contact information is used.
Directory listings: ensure your medical practice in listed in trusted, local, online directories.
Google My Business: create or claim your Google My Business page and ensure the information on it is complete and consistent with what you have on your website and in your directory listings.
Create local content: write some pages for your website about the geographical areas your medical practice serves and look for ways to localise your content about the different services you offer.
Local links: referral link building is still a very effective tactic for SEO. Links from sites that already have a strong presence in local search will help your GP clinic climb the local rankings.
If you want to know more about local SEO, take a look at the Local SEO Checklist from Moz, a provider of inbound marketing software. It is comprehensive, free to access and written in plain English.
For a broader look at the process for setting up a successful medical practice, download our ebook, which covers marketing, as well as key financial, legal and regulatory considerations.
Aaron joined DPM in 2001 and was appointed tax partner in 2013. He was admitted to the Institute of Chartered Accountants as a full member in 2005. Aaron advises clients ranging from individuals to large complex structures and businesses, and specialises in tax structures, compliance and wealth creation.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this piece is general and is not intended to serve as advice as your personal circumstances have not been considered. DPM Financial Services Group recommends you obtain personal advice concerning specific matters before making a decision.