Grow Your Practice

How to market your practice

Once you have set up a general strategy for the practice, as the practice manager, the next step is to decide how to promote the practice to attract the patient base you want in line with the core and value-added services you offer.

Consider the five Ps - people, product, price, place and promotion.

Markets and Patients

Keep in mind that marketing for your practice is not a 'hard sell', but a way of letting potential patients know that you are established, and to inform them of the services you provide. Once they have this information, they can decide whether or not to use your services.

Awareness of your practice will grow over time, and as the practice develops a reputation, some marketing will occur by word of mouth.

As this can be a highly specialized area, you may wish to consider engaging the services of a marketing professional for advice or assistance.

Practice promotion

Some typical ways to market your new practice are through:

  • website or other presence on the internet.
  • listings in online and hard copy directories (including telephone books).
  • letters of introduction to potential referring doctors.
  • listings of professional practices in your town or suburb.
  • press releases in local papers
  • involvement in community activities
  • involvement in professional associations and activities
  • involvement in leisure and semi-professional activities
  • sponsorships
  • radio
  • brochures
  • business cards
  • newsletters
  • advertisements in trade magazines and journals.
  • advertisements in other relevant magazines and journals.

The latter three points must comply with the Medical Board Act, AHPRA and advertising regulations applicable to your state of practice.

Medical boards and AHPRA in each state provide information regarding appropriate and ethical advertising. Please contact your state medical board. The Australian Medical Council (AMC) website has addresses for all state medical boards.

Important tip: word of mouth can be one of the most successful ways to increase your patient base. Try to do the following on a regular basis:

  • Find out how patients found out about you.
  • Find out why they chose to come to you.
  • Encourage them to tell their friends, family, acquaintances and work colleagues about those aspects of your service they most enjoy.
  • Make sure your staff know the strengths of your practice and are able to highlight these in appropriate situations.

Knowing your patients/clients is essential for successful business. How can we get to know the qualities and characteristics of our patients?

  • Patient surveys: Periodically survey patients about different aspects of the practice. Be careful to only ask questions that are useful and that you can actively do something about.
  • Focus groups: Meet with small groups of representative patients to discuss how services can be improved and presented to patients.
  • e.g. If your patient base regularly travels, it may be that some form of travel health and vaccination service is provided.

Promotion of your services

In the materials and other media you make available to existing and potential patients, refer to the services you offer, particularly those that may be different from other practices in your area. Though you know your services intimately, you cannot assume the same will apply to your patients. It is important that you clearly state your areas of greatest skill and expertise, and to inform them of any particular areas of interest you pursue.

Consider how and where you will promote your service. The type of practice that you have will determine a large proportion of the marketing. General practices market directly to the public, specialists market predominately to potential referrers, as well as to the public.

Your main market will determine the how and where of your marketing program.

  • If direct to the public, online marketing is now crucial and should include, as a minimum, publicity in Yellow Pages online and a practice website.
  • Conventional means such as Yellow Pages and White Pages are a basic starting point, although diminishing in effectiveness.
  • A profile can be set up on main social media sites – in particular Facebook, using safe social media principles. Letterbox drops can be surprisingly effective, as can traditional marketing material such as a practice information sheet/booklet, business cards, signage, magnets and newsletter.
  • Emailed newsletters are very useful, although you must obtain patient consent first to use their email address in this manner, and ensure that an ‘unsubscribe’ option is available.

If marketing directly to referrers, printed material, emails, phone calls, letters of introduction, and introduction-type lunches can be very effective. It may also involve establishing if the referrer has a practice manager and making contact with that manager. The most effective technique is to make initial introduction, and to ensure that the first few contacts/services are efficient, friendly and leave a positive impression. This is likely to lead to repeat referrals via the referrer and word of mouth from the patient.

Another aspect of marketing that must be considered is any public image of the practice. This is most relevant externally from the building, sponsorship of community events/groups, and when advertising a position/room vacancy for administrative or clinical staff. As many of the public will view these forms of advertising, it is crucial that it provides a good representation of the practice.

You should also be aware that you are also constantly marketing the practice to prospective practitioners; a professional and consistent image will always leave a positive impression of the practice.

Creating your practice image

Consider carefully the kind of reputation you wish to build. Make sure that all your marketing ‘collateral’ or branding matches (it can be useful to sample it with people who know you both professionally and personally). This also applies to the message delivered by your staff and they should be aware of the critical importance of providing “consistency of message”. Remember, once you establish a visual image which attaches to your practice, it is difficult to change.

Consider how your office stationery (e.g. invoices, business cards, brochures and letterhead) can help strengthen your market presence. Consider how you want patients to think of you. You may wish to portray a small family-oriented general practice or an in-demand city specialist practice or anything in between. The colours, logo, font and even the type of paper (glossy or matt) can have an impact on how you are perceived.

The presentation of your staff and practice will directly influence impressions of your professionalism and indirectly, your credibility and competence. Try to view the practice objectively and look at it as if you are a patient visiting for the first time. What would you notice?

Implemented wisely, your marketing plan can, to some extent, influence the type of patients your surgery will attract.

Defining your market

Define clearly what services you are offering and what services you may wish to offer. Distinguish between core services and additional or value-added services. Core services include those your practitioners (and nurses) are best equipped to supply and which are financially viable. Value-added services are those you would like to be made available, or which you know are not in high demand but you know by offering them it will assist in differentiating your own practice from others. They may or may not be financially advantageous. An example may be evening or Saturday morning Pap smear sessions to allow those female patients who work Monday to Friday an opportunity to attend at a more convenient time.

Establish a demographic or target group of potential patients for each individual service, location, occupation and socio-economic status. For specialists, marketing focused on potential patients’ needs to target both direct and indirect referral sources such as general practitioners, other specialists and allied health professionals.

Improve your practice

Any practice receives great benefit from a business plan with a strong marketing strategy embracing the five Ps (people, product, price, place, promotion). Apart from letting prospective patients know you exist, your marketing strategy can help to develop and strengthen lasting professional relationships between your practice, your patients and your key stakeholders.

If your marketing profile represents your practice and services well and accurately, and you deliver on the promises you make, the marketing will reinforce your professionalism so that patients will:

  • Be loyal
  • Become your strongest point of referral.
  • Pay their accounts on time.
  • Be less likely to complain.

Next page

Advertising: online, offline, social media
  • Advertising regulations for medical practices
  • Responsibilities in the practice
  • Photographs
  • Warning statements
  • Advertising of price information
  • Social media marketing

This publication is proudly brought to you by Avant Mutual Group. The content was authored by Brett McPherson, reviewed by Colleen Sullivan and Avant Mutual Group.

This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2014.

IMPORTANT: Professional indemnity insurance products and Avant’s Practice Medical Indemnity Policy are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. The information provided here is general advice only. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us. For full details including the terms, conditions, and exclusions that apply, please read and consider the policy wording and PDS, which is available at or by contacting us on 1800 128 268. Practices need to consider other forms of insurance including directors’ and officers’ liability, public and products liability, property and business interruption insurance, and workers compensation and you should contact your insurance broker for more information. Cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. Any advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the product is appropriate for you before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us.