Medical and Legal Advertising:
How To Market And Advertise A Medical,
Dental Or Legal Practice


by Tom Egelhoff

Try and resist skipping the basic marketing ideas I'm going to start with and going directly to your specific service.

There are some basic ( I hate to use the word.. rules) concepts that are common to these three industries and some other concepts that make each operate very differently.

Let me begin this preface by explaining the biggest mistake that people make in marketing or advertising any product or service.

If you don't learn anything else from this article, learn this: "Advertising must be an investment, not an expense."

Advertising must produce more than it costs or it will drive you out of business very quickly. The secret is to do advertising and marketing the correct way and that is the focus of this article.

So let's start with the basics and then move to the specifics of each service.


Successful Marketing Basics For Your Practice (Don't Skip Over)

1.) Marketing is not a one shot concept.

Successful marketing is an ongoing process. You can't just sit down one day a say, " I think I'll try a newspaper ad for a week and see what happens."

This makes advertising an expense. Marketing and advertising must be directed at a goal or series of goals.

"I want to increase my client base by 10% this year." "I want to increase my gross income by xx% in the next 12 months."

Your advertising campaign is geared to achieving these goals by sending the right message to the right people in the right media.

2.) Define your target market.

No one can be all things to all people. If you are a specialist in your field then you only have a certain clientele that you can work with.

But, even the general practitioner can't help everyone. So, before you advertise to anyone you must identify who are the people most likely to want your product or service and have the ability to pay for it.

See: Target Marketing: Who They Are, How To Find Them

3.) What's your message?

I realize that in many cases the medical and legal communities are limited in what claims they can make in advertising.

Legal and medical advertising has only been around for a few years. In fact the very first internet advertising was by two attorneys.

They were soundly chastised by the internet community who wanted to keep the net an information and non-commercial media.

Take a look at your local yellow pages or online. In Bozeman, MT ( my hometown) we have over 300 attorneys for a population of about 35,000 people (80,000 in the county).

The common mistake I see in almost all ads is that features are advertised but no benefits.

For example, Wills & Revocable Trusts - there are three or four attorneys that offer this same service.

What do those three words me to me? Where is, "Can I trust this person?" Where is,"Are they qualified?" Compare that with this ad in the next segment from an auto body shop in the same yellow pages.


Now We Can Make Your Body Beautiful

"At (Company Name) we've added a state-of-the-art body shop featuring the DeVilbiss spray booth and paint mixing system. Consistent, top quality refinishing is achieved with the latest pressurized downdraft and heat exchange components."

I know what you're thinking. Doctors and attorneys have to maintain a professional image. We can't have a "Pull one tooth and get the second extraction free." sale.

That's true but if that's what you're thinking you're missing the point.

Your clients are out of their element when they call you. In most cases they are frightened. Tooth loss, terminal disease, or loss of property or financial security.

Your advertising doesn't have to sound like a used car dealer but it must let the client know that you are a person who is concerned about their situation and you are going to earn every dime you charge in helping them solve their problem.

Maybe that means advertising; "Affordable Wills & Revocable Trusts" or "Clear Explanations of Wills and & Revocable Trusts" or "Family Protection With Wills & Revocable Trusts."

At the turn of the century many dentists used to advertise themselves as the "Painless Dentist."

Your client wants, more than anything else, a person they can feel confident and comfortable with.

Be that person in your advertising. See: "How To Develop Product Benefits That Sell."

4.) Myth: Money in advertising equals success.

"It takes money to make money." Not if you blow it all on bad advertising. It's not the amount it's the way you spend it.

In many cases less money is actually an advantage. With a small budget you will have to cut the frills out of your advertising. No glitzy brochures or extras that don't produce any more sales.

That doesn't mean sending out hand printed flyers, but it does mean make the best you can for the least you can and still present the image you want.

Instead of foil embossed stationary consider gold metallic ink. Much cheaper.

5.) We want them to remember the message not the messenger.

How often have we seen an entertaining commercial that we talk about next day but we can't remember the product name? We remember the commercial but not the product.

Marketing and advertising agencies are always anxious to show me their awards. I'm more interested in the sales figures.. before and after the ad.

Did the ad sell? If not, why not? See: "What Makes A Great Ad?" Great ads are hard to find, Here's what I look for:

6.) Call to action.

Your ads or marketing materials should have a "call to action." They should make the clients do something.

Call your office, make an appointment, pick up a free brochure on their area of interest.

I usually suggest that businesses have two brochures. One that has impact. It hits the high points of the practice. The things you are good at.

It's short, sweet and easy to read. Lots of bullet points and heavy on benefits.

The second brochure is what I call an informational brochure. It has a lot of detail for the person who really wants a lot of information.

It's usually used after the first brochure has brought the client in and after the initial consultation you present the second one to re-enforce your meeting.

7.) Several brochures are more effective than just one.

It's better to create several brochures to cover your various services than just one on all your services. Don't mix preparation of wills with property damage.

Or, tooth extraction with tooth loss prevention.

Your clients want information they can study. Remember fear is usually lack of knowledge.

When they have the knowledge the fear goes away. See: "How To Make A Super Brochure Or Mailing Piece" and "How To Design And Write A Basic Brochure."

8.) Make sure you know the laws regarding the advertising of your particular practice.

Legal and medical advertising has a ton of regulations and restrictions. It isn't so much what you say but what you have to say in your ad.

Disclaimers and the like. Usually you're not restricted from telling the truth.

So, remember that you are speaking to another human being with the same hopes and fears that you do. If you can transmit that feeling in your ad you will have more business than you can handle.

9.) Referrals

Medical, Dental and Legal professions could not exist without referrals from other clients. This is the most powerful business building tool of them all.

It simply means that you encourage your current clients and patients to refer people to you.

But even more important, ask people you know who may not be patients or clients to refer people to you.

For example: you're a good customer of a local golf shop.

The owner is not a client but may refer people to you because you are a good customer. See: "How To Make Friends And Turn Them Into Customers."

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Types Of Promotions For Professional Practices

1.) Comparison - Make Yourself MORE professional

Fifty percent of all doctors, dentists and attorneys finished in the bottom half of their class. Some are just better than others.

Make sure your clients know that you are in the upper part to this group. Find ways to separate your self from your competitors.

Don't be deceptive or derogatory towards others that brings the whole industry down. But let people know of any special training and skills you possess.

2. Demonstration - Don't be afraid to blow your own horn

Personal injury attorneys have used testimonials for years. "Joe Smith got me $4 million."

Keep a book of testimonials in your waiting room. In a small town people know each other.

3.) Advantages - Show Clients How They Benefit Working With You

Businesses talk about the advantages of doing business with them. Free pick up and delivery. Fast turn around.

What are the advantages of your service? Make sure you include them in all your advertising.

4.) Fear - Creating a need

I spoke about fear earlier in this article but it should have its own section.

Michelin® Tires shows a picture of a small baby inside a tire in their ads. What they are basically saying is, "Buy Michelin Tires or your children could die."

I was a Prudential Insurance agent in my younger years. What is the reason for insurance? Fear.. that your family won't be able to survive without your income. Insurance replaces that income.

Fear is usually used in cases where the product or service is uncomfortable to talk about. Fear of a lawsuit is more powerful than the cost of the attorney to defend it.

Fear of tooth loss send people to the dentist twice a year. Fear of an early death like my father gets me a complete physical every year.

Fear is not an unethical or unscrupulous tactic. The only reason you are feeling uncomfortable about it right now is that fear is an emotion where the other three promotions are not. Remember the "Painless Dentist" above?

If you feel that clients are going to sit down and make a logical decision between two doctors or lawyers remember this, "When logic and emotion come into conflict.. emotion always wins."

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Marketing A Dental Practice

I included dental in this article for a couple of reasons.

One, it falls outside the realm of common medical practice.

And two, it requires specific maintenance that the patient must perform over a lifetime under the supervision of the doctor.

As a small child I was taught that no matter what the cost all of us kids got to see the dentist twice a year. It was usually not a very pleasant experience but the consequences later in life could be very serious.

Marketing of a dental practice requires not only building the trust of the patient but a lifetime relationship. When someone select's a dentist it's not usually a one time visit.

As a result dental marketing requires a commitment of the dentist. A commitment like that requires a certain amount of respect and mutual admiration.

All marketing materials should pay particular emphasis that the patient will not have a painful scary experience. That you as the dentist are prepared to make the long term commitment of help.

My dentist takes pictures of each patient to give the patient a human quality and it also helps my dentist to get to know me much faster.

Referrals are critical to this practice too. Not only up the line to specialists but down the line to general practitioners.

For example: After a periodontist has gotten the teeth under control, routine maintenance may be too expensive there and also not a profitable use of the room.

The doctor may refer his patient to a family dentist for routine cleaning and evaluation and only see the patient once or twice a year for a quick evaluation.

For more on advertising your dental practice See: "25 Low Cost Advertising Tips" and "101 Ways to Boost Your Business Anywhere."

Last but not least because of the repeat nature of the dental business, direct mail is a must. Don't do a mailing each day or each week but you should mail reminder cards on some kind of regular basis.

Why? You need the numbers for the lowest postage rates.

I know you want to tell me about the expense of doing that. Well it's miniscule.

If you have your own copy machine or printer you may be able to create the cards in house. If not you can get four cards to a standard 8.5 x 11 piece of paper.

Print it on one side and get a rubber stamp for the return address.

Each day your receptionist fills out cards for the patients seen that day and files them in a six month suspense file. Each month you collect all the cards to be mailed that month and take them to a mailing service.

They can bar code the postcards for the lowest postage rates either by bulk mail or pre-sort first class. Add "Address Correction Requested" to first class presort and this will give you the new address of any patients that have moved.

This constant monthly update will also save on monthly billing postage costs. Your business card goes in every bill and letter you send out. See: "Direct Mail: Why It Works And How To Use It."

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Marketing A Medical Practice

Marketing a medical practice is a little tougher than the dental practice because there are so many variables in medicine.

Everything from general family practice to specific parts of the entire body. But there are two proven ways to market the medical practice.

One: Is referrals. This is the same as the dental above but there are not better patients than those who come to you with the blessings and confidence of their friends and neighbors.

If someone mentions a friend having a problem suggest that they mention you to the friend.

Two: Is getting yourself known in the community. Many professional companies don't see the need to join their local chamber of commerce.

They forget that the chamber receives hundreds if not thousands of relocation requests each year. If and when new people come to town the only contact they've had has been with the chamber.

They often call the chamber asking for a referral to a local doctor, lawyer or dentist.

Every town has service clubs. Lions, Elks, Kiwanis, Rotary and many more. Why should you take time you don't have to join and become active in one or more of these groups?

Because people prefer to do business with people they know. When I first moved to Bozeman, MT the first thing I did was join the local Kiwanis Club because I knew that I would meet a doctor, lawyer and dentist.

And, if I didn't these would be the folks who would refer a good one to me. In a small town I guarantee everyone knows the "town doctor."

It doesn't have to be any different in a city of any size. Get yourself known...it's the key to success. Your business card goes in every bill and letter you send out.

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Marketing A Legal Practice

This is one of the toughest businesses to market. No question about it. Lawyers take a lot of abuse from the general public.

Some of it deserved most of it is not. The truth is that most of us simply can't go through life without the need of a lawyer sooner or later. We need a will, a contract, or legal advice of some sort.

To compound the situation, there are almost as many areas of the law as there are areas of medicine.

And the law is even more confusing than medicine. I can go to a book store and buy a book on prescription drugs but there are not a lot of books that explain the complexities of the law in layman terms.

I teach a start your own business class here for adult education and always have an attorney to explain sole proprietorship, partnerships, corporations and so on.

A student asked if he could save money preparing his own corporation papers and bringing them to the lawyer for review?

The attorney said that it would take more time to review the document than to do his own because he has already prepared the proper structure of the papers.

It would actually be cheaper for the lawyer to do the whole process.

When it comes to marketing the legal profession to the general public there are two challenges that your marketing must overcome.

First, the fear that all lawyers are going to take advantage of your ignorance of the law. And secondly they are after profits more than working for the good of their client.

In marketing for the attorney, what the client is really looking for is trust. Does this attorney really want to help me?

Many times the type of person you are is demonstrated by how you conduct yourself outside your legal practice. In order to grow your business you need people with legal problems. People are attracted to leaders in their community.

If you've read other articles on this site I talk about my "50 Butt Rule." This simply means that if there are 50 butts in a room my butt's in there with them.

In other words get to know as many people as you can. Everyone you meet is a potential client and you can't meet them sitting in your office waiting for the phone to ring.

Be where people are and make as many contacts as possible. Your business card goes in every bill and letter you send. See: "How To Make Friends And Turn Them Into Customers."

I happen to believe that the lawyers I'm acquainted with are hard working dedicated people that are sincerely interested in my success.

But, they had to earn that trust. In most cases the attorneys I use were either recommended to me or I met and got to know them AS PEOPLE through a service club or community board such as Kiwanis or United Way.

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The Last Word On Marketing A Profession

The real key to marketing a profession is developing and building relationships with clients and patients.

It's impossible to cover all the marketing and advertising techniques for each profession in this short article.

What I've tried to do is give you some things to think about and adapt to your specific practice. I'm sure there are thousands of ideas out there that work just as well as these.

One of the best tips I can give you is to take a trip to the local library and look at phone books for other cities similar to yours or do a Google search online.

Find attorneys or physicians in those towns and call them up. Ask what they are doing? What is working or not working for them?

Also contact your associations. Many of them have contacts that are operating successful practices.

Contact these people and see what methods they use. Another excellent resource is trade magazines. These usually have stories of successful people in your profession.

Call them up and pick their brains.

Find someone who is doing what you want to do and is doing it well and do what they do.

Last but not least you must have a marketing plan for your practice. There is a very good one in my book, "How To Market, Advertise And Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town." It works very well with these professions in any size city.

Would you like Tom Egelhoff to give a seminar or workshop to your group or oganization on this subject? Click here for more info.


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