What’s the Difference?
The terms ‘Marketing’ and ‘Business Development’ are often used interchangeably in healthcare. In reality, they are distinct and unique entities that are most effective when working synergistically with one another. Marketing focuses on the awareness, visibility and affinity for a practice’s logo and brand to grow patient volume in a medical practice. Business Development takes a more comprehensive approach and focuses on all aspects of a practice including marketing, consumer and employee engagement, medicine, operations, relationships and strategy. Business Development helps a practice achieve a level of evolution that goes well beyond volume growth. Combine the two, and optimal business performance can be achieved.
Without a doubt, marketing is an essential piece of growing patient volume in a new or established practice. Brand awareness, market visibility, crafting the right messaging, reaching the right audience, frequency and online presence are all essential tactics. But spending a lot of time and resource on common marketing tactics without a strategy to back it up can be a waste.
What can result is a general feeling of dissatisfaction. Often, there is a period of stagnation where marketing is waiting for the practice to provide content and the practice is waiting for marketing to provide creative. So nothing is happening. Marketing without strategy is a little like treatment without diagnosis. What results is spending a lot of time, energy and money on tactics that may not result in increased patient volume. This is where incorporating Business Development can take the marketing investment to the next level.
A good Business Development strategy will dig deeper to assess the current state and maturation of a practice, then create strategies to help it improve and advance in the market. It is important to look at what is happening now and what opportunities may exist in the future. The practice exists in a marketplace and is competing with others for position.
Where to Start?
Begin by asking these questions:
- · What differentiates the practice from the competition?
- · Who are the competitors and what are they doing that the practice is not?
- · What types of patients is the practice looking to attract?
- · What are the goals for the next one, three or five years?
- · How is the practice investing in the employees?
Once these questions have been answered, it’s time to start developing a strategic plan. It should include short- and long-term tactics to achieve the vision of the practice. It should also address all of the key stakeholders – provider, staff, patients, referring physicians and consumers. Identify key metrics that can be measured and monitored to quantify the success of these tactics. Create a clear outline and revisit monthly and quarterly and make course changes as needed.
Who has the Time?
The prospect of developing and executing a Business Development strategy can seem daunting for a busy practice, especially when everyone is already wearing multiple hats. This is an era of decreasing reimbursements and increasing costs. Many physicians have a small office team and daily demands are increasing. Adding Business Development as another expectation of staff can be unrealistic. Outsourcing the Business Development function can achieve a savings of time, money and resource and allow the physician to focus on what they do best – caring for patients.
That doesn’t mean there doesn’t need to be investment on the part of the practice. Without buy-in, even the most experienced Business Development resource will not be successful.
Next, ask these questions:
- · What are the goals?
- · What is the budget?
- · What is the timeframe?
- · Who is the lead?
Seek a professional that the practice connects with, that shares the same values and that understands the overall vision. And as with any strategy designed to create long-term change, the practice has to commit. Much like the tortoise and the hare, consistent activity over the long-term is going to yield the greatest results. Business Development is not something that comes in waves or that you can invest in short-term and expect long-term results. Lack of presence in the market is the quickest way to lose relevance.
What are the Common Mistakes?
Choosing the right Business Development strategy will help avoid common mistakes:
- · Not having a plan – no strategy, just marketing
- · Job sharing – wearing multiple hats
- · 1:1 expectation of activity to results – instant gratification
- · Making a big spend – expecting a high return
- · Making a short-term investment – expecting long-term results
- · Turning over the reins completely – no practice lead
It isn’t necessary to have aspirations of becoming a multi-million dollar practice in order to build a Business Development strategy. Consistently executing tactics at every level is what will grow and optimize a practice over time.
When to Start?
There is no better time than now to begin finding a Business Development resource that fits the needs of your practice. The world is rebuilding and most industries are starting with a sanitized, masked and vaccinated slate. Practices that slowed down or stopped their Business Development activity when the pandemic started are the ones that have fared the worst. Patient connections and referral relationships can be created virtually almost as effectively as in-person. It’s not ideal, but the ability to get creative could be what sets you apart from your competitors. Now is the time to create your strategy for 2021. Take it one quarter at a time, set realistic goals and identify the tactics to achieve those goals.
Michal Waechter, MHA, FACHE
Founder and CEO
Waechter Consulting Group