By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
MARCH 1, 2016 – Your first 100 days in Concierge Medicine are really important. If you’re planning to open a new Concierge Medicine Office of some form of membership program inside your medical practice to patients, throwing a grand opening event is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to your local community and welcome former patients from months gone by and current patients who will hopefully become regular subscribers to your new way of delivering high quality medical care.
Well, a successful grand opening can be a real barometer of how well your Concierge Medicine will fare in the months ahead. It is not the indicator, but if you’ve planned ahead, you’ll already know how the public will react and it won’t surprise you.
10 Tips To Make Your Concierge Medicine Office (or Program) Grand Opening Event A Success
Plan Your Work. Then, Work Your Plan. (Do Not SKIP This Step)
The old adage, “plan your work, then work your plan.”
Make sure to start planning your grand opening at least two to three months (if not longer) and set a date. It’s best if once you set the date, you also don’t move it, at all! You will need to account for teacher holidays, national holidays or local upcoming events. You should also schedule your grand opening accordingly with your colleagues and support staff to ensure they’ll be there to help you create a great turnout. After all, your new patients and any former patients will want to meet your new staff or perhaps rekindle a friendship with your staff after months or years of not visiting your practice.
Consider a Soft Opening First
Consider planning your Concierge Medicine grand opening event for a couple of weeks after your program or practice actually opens its membership — so as to give you and your staff time to work out any billing kinks, FAQs you need to research, calls you need to make, paperwork that needs to be distributed to new patients or those “thinking about it” patients. You’ll want to be sure to establish a solid process for handling new members, how to handle those that don’t want to continue under your care, and even account for any positive and yes, (it happens), negative feedback you may get from your first subscribers. Remember, plan your work. Then, work your plan. There is a reason why this old adage is as supportive to leaders in business as it is true.
A Grand Opening Can Be Longer Than One Day, Maybe a Week or a Month
Rather than a one-day event, a grand opening week or month might be more appropriate. There’s nothing worse than the decline of enthusiasm from your staff, your patients and your spouse a day or two after your big event and thinking there is nothing else exciting around the corner. So, extend the time to enable you to target different potential audiences on different days (I.e. media, your online followers, your colleagues at the hospital, your specialist referral network, visit your home bound patients, local business and restaurants, etc.). The opportunities to reach different audiences during a longer Grand Opening period will help with TOMA (top of mind awareness) and extend the amount of interest in your program/office.
Do Your Homework. Research, Search and Keep Your Ear To The Ground
Review any newspaper coverage, social media channels, or Yelp reviews of yourself (i.e. your physician name) so you can share and respond to comments in a timely fashion. Yes, believe it or not, people DO review their doctor on Yelp, Yahoo and Google. They may also be leaving you comments on your Facebook page. Unless your audience is primarily composed of people under the age of 30, Twitter may also be something you want to monitor also.
The more positive feedback spreads through word of mouth, the better. If there are any negative comments, you need to be able to address them promptly. This will show immediately that you care about your patients. Get your staff, spouse and business support team to assist you if it becomes to much to monitor.
Your local media (regardless of where your are located across the U.S.A.) is always looking for a special feature healthcare story. Whether its the latest testing device or a hospital armband system, local reporters write about healthcare in your area. Be there go-to expert physician or healthcare insight person. Be sure to send out invitations at LEAST two weeks in advance to them. Also, be sure to include traditional and online Mommy Blogging media and local community influencers in radio who have large “local” audiences. If you’re noticing a theme, I’m trying to make sure you know that this is a marathon … not a sprint and the key to your success is to “Keep It Local.” You don’t need the largest newspapers and television stations near you talking about you right away. It is the smaller, localized country newspapers and reporters that are the publications most of your patients read. Not everyone subscribes to the major circulars anymore.
Get Into Rotary and Get Into Your Community
Don’t underestimate the power of networking, getting involved in your local Rotary and Chamber of Commerce or offering a free breakfast or lunch to your city or town council members. This can be a great way to introduce your practice to some of the people who hold the political future of your practice.
Promoting Your Grand Opening
It may a bit too early to start with paid advertising, but if your marketing budget is large enough, a mix of paid and social media advertising work best. Sometimes, local county blog sites, small county media newspapers and even Mommy Blogs are an effective and thrifty way to promote your practice. You may even want to consider setting up a booth at a local community festival or farmers market where you can greet members of the community, hand out stress balls or lollipops and your business cards (we recommend Moo.com by the way!) and spread the word about your new practice or programs.
Partner With A Local Charity And Ask Others To Bring In Items
Everyone loves a cheerful giver!
Good will and charity goes a long way with everyone. Consider donating a portion of your profits to a local charity for additional positive press and asking in your promotional materials and/or emails for your guests to bring in canned food items to donate, new blankets, toothpaste and other essential items most charities need. People love to help out and this is a great way to get MORE involved in your local community.
Get A Lot Of Photos
Hiring a student photographer, having your staff equipped with a selfie-stick can provide you with a lot of fun photos. You can then use them on your social media channels and on your website, with each persons permission, of course. This will free you (specifically) from playing photographer (as you’ll be busy shaking hands and having great conversation with current and former patients!).
Follow Up, Within 4-Days!
If you have planned accordingly and you are collecting interested individuals email addresses and/or contact information to follow up with them, do so in an immediate, personal way. Most people don’t receive handwritten cards with personal notes anymore through the mail. This is an incredibly effective way to spread your positive message. It’s best to be sure your first email goes out shortly after the event; ideally within a few days.
Do you have any additional local marketing tips for new Concierge Doctors? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share your ideas in the comment section below or on social media.