Direct Primary Care Practices Must Constantly Communicate to Grow and Survive
Direct Primary Care is both a business model and a movement. The good news is that the movement is growing, but that alone does not guarantee the individual success of a DPC practice.
More than primary care practices that rely on insurance contracts for patients, DPC practices must consistently attract and retain members in order to grow, thrive and, frankly, survive. Member growth and retention isn’t an “if” question – it’s a “how” question.
Educating Consumers about the Benefits of Direct Primary Care
Even with the encouraging increase in the adoption of the Direct Primary Care model by physicians, most people have not heard of Direct Primary Care. They don’t know the term or what it means, and, more importantly, they don’t know how enrolling with a DPC practice can benefit them and their family.
Most healthcare marketing includes some level of consumer education, but DPC requires more consumer education than most. However, educating is just the first step. In effective marketing communications, it’s important to tie education to motivation so that people do more than learn. The goal is to inspire them to take action. That requires them to understand and appreciate the value and benefits of joining your DPC practice.
Building Credibility and Value in Your Marketing Communications
Never waste an opportunity to create value and credibility in your marketing. Here are a few tips to follow:
- Avoid hype.
We can all smell it because we are exposed to it so often. We have become programmed to distrust and resist it. That doesn’t stop marketers from doing it. But avoiding hype is a good way to separate yourself from the over-promisers and build credibility.
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
It’s fine to aspire to greatness. Just don’t promise more than you can deliver. Nothing kills trust and credibility faster than overpromising and underdelivering. Of course, you don’t want to promise (or settle for) mediocre, so marketing kind of forces you to constantly work on and improve the customer experience.
- Use “you” and not “we” in your messaging whenever you can.
It’s natural to want to tell your story and educate people by using “we” language. But all of us are tuned in to WII-FM all day long. (“What’s In It For Me?”). The more you use “you” language to communicate your value in the context of the benefit to your member/patients, the more likely they are to pay attention and respond.
- Develop an honest, authentic and trustworthy “voice.”
Creating the right tone in your messaging is difficult, but it’s also key to developing credibility and trust. Whether your message is delivered by text, video, over the phone or in person, it’s important to communicate in a genuine, authentic and honest manner. This is much easier said than done. That’s why high-quality, professional content creation is such a valuable skill.
- Listen to (and survey) your patients.
Listening is another learned and highly valuable skill. We can tell when someone is listening – really listening – to us, and when they’re not. That’s even true in our non-visual communications in a phone conversation. It’s doubly true in face-to-face communications. If you want to build and maintain trust in a relationship, focus and listen before and more than you talk.
If you survey your patients and listen to their responses, they will also tell you what they think and what’s most important to them. Ask your patients what matters to them and listen to what they tell you.
Earning and Re-Earning Trust in Direct Primary Care
Most of us are rightly skeptical regarding claims that sound too good to be true. This is particularly true when we are exposed to new information about products and services that are unfamiliar to us. Healthcare topics add confusion to skepticism, an unhealthy combination when it comes to developing credibility and trust.
The ultimate opportunity to build trust comes when you get to provide care and a positive experience to a new patient. But you have to create enough credibility and perceived value in your marketing communications to get someone to take a chance and find out if their actual experience will be as good as you make it seem.
It’s vital that the doctors and staff in DPC practices understand that every experience with patients – not just the initial one – is an opportunity to build on and retain that initial trust you created with them in their first interaction with you. You never completely own the trust and loyalty of your patients. Consider their trust to be on loan to you so you don’t take it for granted and risk losing it.
Successful Marketing Creates and Delivers on Positive Expectations
Many people think of marketing as the messaging you share with prospective and current customers through advertising, social media and other channels of communication. Yes, the story you tell and the way you tell it is certainly a critical part of effective marketing, but you need to be able to walk your talk in the actual patient experience if you expect success from your marketing.
Every marketing message is creating some sort of expectation. Marketing doesn’t end with creating expectations. You have to deliver on the expectations you create or you will disappoint people and risk creating a negative reputation that sabotages all of your expectation-setting marketing messages.
Communicate with Your Member/Patients Regularly
Top of mind = word of mouth. Member retention as well as referral of new members by current members happens when you consistently deliver great patient experiences and when you consistently communicate to your patients – even, and especially, between visits.
But communicating just for the purpose of staying in touch isn’t enough. Every communication is an opportunity to add value. With a primary care practice, there is no shortage of important health topics to keep patients informed, educated and motivated. Make sure that each topic of a social media post, email, eNewsletter, blog post or video is relevant and valuable to the recipients of your communications. If there is no “WII-FM” in your message, your audience is unlikely to tune in.
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