Planning is key to a great strategic marketing plan for your infusion center. Develop a plan from the tips below, commit to it, and watch your infusion center grow. You’ll need to define who you are, create your identity, develop a physician outreach strategy, and build an excellent patient experience.
What is your identity?
Figure out who you are before you start marketing your services. Who are you, who do you serve, why do you serve, what is your mission, and what does your brand represent? An internal strategic planning session is a great way to figure these items out.
Your brand identity includes your name, logo, colors, and brand traits. This identity should be strongly represented in your marketing materials (website, business cards, referral forms) and in your physical space (signage, artwork, feel of the infusion center).
And, possibly even more important, your identity includes your value proposition. Why should patients and referring physicians pick your infusion center? What do you do better than competition? How do you help patients get better faster, cheaper, more efficiently, or with greater care? What are your strengths?
Speaking of competition, shop them. Research them. Know what they are good at and what they aren’t. Never disparage them, but speak to their weaknesses when you talk about your strengths. Is there a long wait time to get an infusion? Then, make yours short. If they don’t offer pre-authorizations, talk about how your offer it to prospective referrers. Are they are expensive? Do it for less. If their medical director is unengaged, talk up how involved your medical director is in day to day patient care.
What do you need to market your infusion center?
Now that we know who you are, let’s figure out what is needed to tell your story and market your infusion center. You’ll need to build out your online identity with a website, social media, and other profiles. Plus, you’ll likely need some collateral materials.
Focus your website on usability with a simple and clean design. Include easy-to-download forms for referrers. Create a patient section with What to Expect, FAQs, and information that will help them be successful.
Build out content around both conditions and drugs for search engine optimization (SEO). Create a blog with content that you educate patients on every day. Write about the things that patients repeatedly ask about…because that is what they search Google for as well. If you offer wellness infusions, build content around these too as they are self-referable. Good organic content about what you do and what your patients need creates an excellent foundation for search engine optimization and future pay per click advertising.
Create social profiles across different platforms. It’s a vital strategy in today’s market, especially if you offer consumer-facing services. Build social media content around what your patients are looking for when they search online, call the infusion center, and generally have questions on. Build a presence that is heavy on education and light on selling your infusion center. Include pictures of the facility and staff so that people start to build a familiarity with the infusion center.
Even if your main strategy is physician referrals, prospective patients will still check you out on social media. So, at a minimum, have a Facebook presence. Consider both a company LinkedIn page and a personal LinkedIn profile for professional networking and setting yourself up as a content expert. If you offer wellness infusions, Instagram is a great place to market those. All platforms (Twitter, TikTok, etc) offer value if they are curated properly. Decide how much time you have to invest and focus only on what you can do well.
Aim to post once a week and at least once a month so your brand appears active. Show the “insiders” view of your company. Customize content to the different platforms and don’t push the same content to multiple platforms on the same day. There is good educational content on many professional sites like National Infusion Center Association, American College of Rheumatology, and Institute of Functional Medicine that can inspire content and may even be linked.
You can also have fun with it! Do an Ask the Pharmacist, Ask the Doctor, or Ask the Nurse series answering common infusion questions or medication questions that come up often. Consider doing this as a video; they perform better on social.
In addition to social media profiles, you’ll want to manage all of the online profiles that get created whether you want them or not. We recommend a proactive approach to managing your online identity on platforms like Google My Business and Yelp. Go ahead and set up profiles so that you don’t have to claim them later. Some platforms (like Google My Business) will allow you to post regular content. Target posts based on what people would be searching online. For instance, for an infusion center, think about what people type in. Maybe, “comfortable in-network infusion center” or “Orencia infusion Austin.”
Build out all of the potentials profiles with maps like Google My Business, Yelp, Waze, MapQuest, and Apple Maps so patients can find your location easily. Include pictures where possible to make it easy to recognize.
Hours, addresses, and services should always be kept up to date. Set Google and Yelp alerts for your practice so you can keep up with additions to your online identity. Have someone in your practice responsible for keeping it all up to date. They should proactively check your identity every three months, plus claim and edit any profiles that pop up.
Reviews should be thoughtfully listened to and each should be responded to in an authentic manner. Unfavorable reviews are an opportunity for service recovery. Track reviews to watch for trends and address them.
Prepare any collateral materials that you’ll need to function and promote your center. These include referral forms, new patient forms, and any kind of patient handouts. You’ll also need materials for your sales team like business cards and a brochure.
What is Your Physician Sales Strategy?
Physician outreach will be one of your most important business building activities. Physicians should “hear” from you in multiple different ways. This includes phone, mail, fax, email, and the gold standard – visits to their office. We tend to call the office manager first to set up a meeting, send a letter or email reminding them we are coming, and then send a hand-written thank you note after the visit. The office staff is key to reach as well. You want them to know who you are and what you can do so that they will think of you when a patient needs an infusion.
We recommend starting with a great list, a solid value proposition, and then we nurture the relationships while analyzing the referrals.
Building a List
Investing the time to build a great list of prospects with accurate names, addresses, specialties, and insight saves a ton of time later. We typically find that building our own is the most effective. We’ve yet to buy a list that was very good. Gastroenterology, Neurology, Functional Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Rheumatology, Allergy, Endocrinology, Oncology, Podiatry, and Wound Care are all good specialties to contact initially. Start pretty close to your infusion centers (maybe 3 miles for urban and 25 miles for rural) and work your way out depending on the consumer flow through the community and proximity to competitors. Aim to have at least 50 physicians on your initial target list. Expand specialties or geography, if needed. If a physician has an infusion chair in their office, probably not worth going to visit. If you do, be prepared to talk about non-competing services that you offer.
Be clear when scheduling the visit that it is to talk about the practice’s infusion needs. It’s fine to provide lunch or breakfast, but just be sure it is understood why you are there so that you’ll have an effective visit. When possible, bring your medical director or another clinician from your infusion center. It’s easier to get a meeting for a clinician and the conversations are elevated.
Figure out what referring physicians need from you by doing your homework ahead of time and asking great questions when you are in front of them. They may need convenience, competitive pricing, ease for patients, better communication, closer oversight of the process, better access, better quality, faster turnaround time, or less risk. Ask questions, then tailor your pitch to meeting those needs. You’ll need to be able to tell the story of your center and what makes you better than the competition.
And, do at least 10 visits before visiting your most cherished potential referrers. This gives your team a chance to tweak their approach so that it is spot on for your most important visits.
After the Visit
The job isn’t done once you’ve visited or even gotten a referral. Nurture the relationship and meticulously track referrals.
Nurture the relationship by staying in touch with the office in a meaningful way. Thank them for referrals and ask if there is anything your center can do better for patients. Keep them in the loop about what is going on in the medical community – marketing events, new doctors in town that they could work with, updates in the infusion space, and anything else that could be helpful to them. Become a trusted resource for them.
Tracking referrals will let you know which strategies are working, which strategies aren’t working, specialties to target, geographic areas to target, and will give you a baseline so that you will know if a referrer drops off.
About a month after the visit, take a look at your referrals. Has there been a bump? Review your referral data again at the three-month mark and six-month mark. Most often we have seen the impact on referrals at 3-6 months post-visit. And, then look at them at one year. Eventually, we suggest reviewing quarterly. It is a fantastic way to see if the providers you are visiting are maintaining in referrals.
And, keep an eye out for negative changes too. Occasionally, we’ve been able to use this system as an early alert that there was an issue. For instance, the belief that a provider had gone out of network for a specific insurance. Upon further investigation, a single provider in a very large practice was out of network. We got it fixed and got the relationship back in place. But, we would have never known if we weren’t tracking referrals.
We saved it for last because it is our favorite topic. Here’s the short version: It’s easier to give your patients a great experience (because they will tell their friends and referring physicians) than it is to constantly be recruiting new patients. Happy patients equal happy referring physicians. Happy patients tell their friends and leave reviews. Unhappy patients do too! It takes roughly the same amount of time to give patients a great experience. So, set your center up for success by creating an amazing patient experience. If you do that, you eventually will not need to market your center because the referrals will naturally come to you.
When setting up your center, do everything through the lens of the patient. What feeling do you want your patients to have in your center? What is it like to call your center? Do you ask patients to fill out 8 pages of forms with repetitive information? Can patients wait in their car if there is a wait? How does it feel to walk into your center? Is the signage welcoming? Is the infusion center immaculately clean? How smooth is the billing process? Can patients pay online? Would you want to have an infusion there? No one wants to come to an infusion center. So, to borrow the words of a very smart pharmacist, we must create a frictionless patient experience.
Once your center is running, listen to your reviews and secret shop it to see what your patients experience in your center. What do your reviews say? Call as a patient and see how long does takes to get an appointment? Be needy. Ask questions and see if your staff is friendly and patient. Leave a message (under another name) and see how long it takes to get a call back. Sit in your lobby for a few hours and observe. When a patient walks in, does someone look up and smile at them? Does your front office make them feel welcome? It should feel more like a spa and less like a medical facility. If it doesn’t, start training your team to create that patient experience that everyone deserves.
Last thing on patient experience. One vital part of happy patients is happy employees. Build processes and a culture that keep your team loving providing infusions to your patients. Select softwares and design your systems to keep them thriving so they can put their energy into caring for your patients.