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How Your Practice Can Better Target Potential Patients

We understand that for many plastic surgeons, doctors and those new to the sales and marketing landscape, the terminology and marketing jargon can be a bit confusing and overwhelming at first. Today we’re going to discuss a point of confusion for many – Prospect vs. Lead. Many people use terms like marketing, prospecting and lead generation interchangeably, which is fine most of the time, when they’re discussing the big picture. However, as we move further along in the sales cycle and begin the process of refining a large volume of leads to identify those most likely to convert to a paying patient, differentiating between the two becomes much more crucial. At this point, uncertainty about the distinction between these two terms can have a dramatic impact on your ability to connect with new patients and subsequent capacity to generate the revenue necessary to facilitate continuous, steady growth of your business.

Practices that have mastered the fine art of lead generation and prospect nurturing continue to thrive and prosper, even during challenging economic times. Even if you’re still a novice to the whole sales and marketing game, you’ve likely heard of the sales cycle. The sales cycle refers to the flow a potential prospect (or in this case patient) takes from first contact to the moment when that prospect finally converts to an actual paying patient. There is much debate over how long the sales cycle should be, but the truth is, there is no one size fits all answer to this question. There are a number of different variables that can shape the sales cycle for an individual practice. Depending on your personal medical field, market and patient base, your sales cycle can last a day, months or even years in some cases. As a general rule of thumb however, most practices should aim to create a sales cycle that is as efficient as possible. Moving prospects through the sales cycle quickly and effectively means more patients are being delivered to you and thus more revenue. Basically, terms like lead and prospect help you to identify how far along consumers or patients are in this progression, and in turn what specific action you should take to move that individual closer to a paying patient.

So let’s start off by answering the question, what is a lead exactly? You’ve likely heard a myriad of meanings tacked onto this single term, and over the years the exact meaning has become so convoluted that even sales professionals themselves have trouble defining it. However, in its most intrinsic form, leads can be defined as follows.

A lead is typically an individual who has not yet given you permission to engage with them yet.

A prospect on the other hand, is a lead whose potential has been evaluated or “qualified” and deemed to be worth pursuing. Prospects are often referred to as ‘qualified’ or ‘interested leads’ as well.

The purpose of these two separate terms is to help you more effectively cultivate your leads in a targeted manner, as opposed to just blindly throwing money at marketing to see what sticks. Practices that do not bother to take the time to qualify their leads inevitably waste valuable time and money. Your medical practice may be generating tons of leads, but if your conversion rate is still low, then it is highly likely that your business is wasting too much time chasing unqualified leads. Many times, leads are nothing more than a name, email or address from someone who may have visited your site and filled out your online form. With these individuals, you often don’t have any indication as to their level of interest in your medical services. You don’t even know if the lead is actually a real person or simply bogus information given by an unqualified lead to keep from being put on your mailing list.

Prospects on the other hand are people who have shown genuine and tangible interest in your services. For a plastic surgeon, this could entail an individual who heard one of your radio ads and called your office to request more information about liposuction. Or someone who visited your website, filled out your form and requested specific information about breast augmentation. In this case, leads can then be more easily broken down into targeted audiences. With these segmented lists, your practice can now more carefully target these prospects with advertising tailored specifically to their wants and needs. Possessing a simple understanding of who you are targeting gives your practice a competitive advantage. With this unique information, you can create advertising messages that both educate the patient further on the procedure but also appeal and speak to the emotional motives of that person at the same time.

This process of engaging and interacting with a potential patient once you have identified their needs is referred to as a Nurturing Campaign or Drip campaign. This usually consists of a series of emails sent out to prospects over time, designed to educate, engage and offer incentive for the prospect to convert to a paying patient. These email campaigns also function to keep your practice’s name in front of the prospect as they continue through their research period. Be sure and check back later this week for our next blog post where we will be discussing best practices for nurturing leads and connecting with potential patients.