Build Your Behavioral Health Practice, One Unique Patient at a Time

Posted on April 25, 2017


Finding a healthy balance between the art and science of marketing

By: Mike Milligan, President

As a behavioral health clinician or leader, you've learned that no patient's situation is the same. Every patient or client has a unique situation. Some of the circumstances may be similar (depression, addiction, or other behavioral health issues), but as Julian Seifter, MD, author of After the Diagnosis says, "You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle."

Behavioral Health Marketing Requires Creativity & Knowledge, Balanced with Strategies

So profoundly true.  And ironically, you should keep these same tenets in mind when marketing your behavioral health practice.  Just as in treatment, effective behavioral health marketing requires creativity and knowledge, balanced with strategies that produce outcomes. Or as Dr. Siefter says, "Sometimes doctor and patient have to throw out the rule book and construct highly, personal, creative solutions."

Your Behavioral Health Practice Has an Unique Story

Keep these tenets in mind when marketing your behavioral health practice. Just as true for effective treatment, effective behavioral health marketing requires creativity and knowledge, balanced with strategies that produce outcomes. Or, as Dr. Siefter says, "Sometimes doctor and patient have to throw out the rule book and construct highly personal, creative solutions."

Now don't get me wrong: I still like to follow the rules. And in the world of marketing, this means creating a strategic marketing plan that forms your goals and your roadmap to achieving your desired business outcomes. But, this also is where science meets art. Just as every patient has a unique story to tell, so does your behavioral health practice.

Recently, during an initial branding discussion with one of our clients (Edgewater Behavioral Health Systems in Gary, Indiana), I asked its president and CEO, Dr. Danita Johnson Hughes, to share what she considered her current brand, and what her aspirations were for it.

Dr. Hughes, also an author and nationally renowned mental health advocate, reminded me that many people still perceive behavioral organizations to be sterile, institutional facilities. And sadly, the stigma related to reaching out for help continues to discourage many people from seeking care. So what's a behavioral healthcare clinic or organization to do? Start with smart marketing.

How to Market Your Behavioral Health Clinic or Organization

For starters, personalize your brand. Sound a bit nebulous? Let me pin down this concept with a few critical marketing must-dos.

  • Be "real" with your messaging. Yes, your staff is your biggest asset. Yes, your facilities are important. Yes, you need to let people know about them. But if you really want to connect with patients and prospective patients, you need to speak to them in the right way. That starts with:
    • Simplicity. Keep your message concise and simple. Don't overwhelm people with too many facts or terms they may not understand. They are already on "overload." Stay focused for them.

Bad Headline: Our Providers are Specially Trained, with the Technical and Scientific Knowledge to Give You Comprehensive Treatment
Good Headline: Specialists who Make You the Priority

  • Empowerment. Help people feel that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek help.

Bad Headline: When You've Hit Rock Bottom . . . We're Here
Good Headline: Take the First Step in Taking Back Your Life

  • Empathy. Speak to people in a way that lets them know you understand the challenges in their life. Let them know you truly care - and how you can help.

Bad Headline:
Is Your Alcohol Handling You?
Good Headline: We've Been There, and Now We're Here to Help

  • Include stories your audience can relate to. Testimonials are one of the best ways you can "sell" your services. These emotional stories of hope and recovery from the patient themselves or from the patient's family helps put the audience "in their shoes." The best ones are sad but ultimately triumphant. There are many "dos" and "don't's" when it comes to testimonials. Here are just a few:
    • DO use the actual patient or family whenever possible. When it comes from the heart, it's authentic and relatable. If you must use actors to portray a testimonial, be sure to note it.
    • DO NOT forget to coach your people! Make them feel at ease so they are camera (or radio) ready. The effectiveness of a testimonial can be lost in a stiff delivery.
    • DO include relevant details, but DO NOT alienate your audience by using so many specifics that they can no longer relate to their story.
    • DO focus on feelings and emotions.
    • DO NOT forget to end on a positive note with a strong call to action.

What's Your Story?

Your organization has a story to tell, and that story defines your brand. Sometimes that story is told through your employees, referral sources, or through clients or family members. And "how" you tell that story is critical too. There are traditional ways, such as advertising and direct mail, but there are also newer, more personal approaches, such as video and digital communications. Just as no patient is the same, no marketing strategy is either. Attracting clients to your brand is about making a connection. A connection that is real and personal and that tells your unique story.

Want To Learn More?

Register for our upcoming webinar, May 16 at 12:00 CDT "Attracting New Behavioral Health Clients - One Unique Patient at a Time". Presented by MIke Milligan, president of Legato Healthcare Marketing and Cory Valentine, Vice President of Sales of Sigmund Software

Register Now

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Webinar: Nurture, Empower, and Engage Your Community to Grow Patient Volumes

Posted on April 18, 2017


How Rural Hospitals Can Increase Service Lines, Patient Volume, & Revenue

Register for Upcoming NRHA Webinar

By: Mike Milligan, President

As I visit with rural hospitals across the country, I hear many of the same challenges.  It's no secret that rural hospitals are struggling to compete against larger systems. But amid the gloom that sometimes overshadows our industry, there are many stories of triumph.  Of success.  Of overcoming the odds and showing us all that it can be done.

The fact is, you can not only survive, but you can actually thrive, in this competitive environment.  But it takes a healthy balance of making courageous operational decisions, balanced with implementing sound marketing strategies.

One of our clients, Howard Memorial Hospital in Nashville, Arkansas, through the leadership and vision of its CEO Debra Wright, demonstrated first hand that bigger isn't always better.  She and her leadership team focused on profitable service lines and make some tough choices.  And she engaged her community in innovative ways that will impact her hospital for generations to come.

I'll provide more details on the "how" in our upcoming NRHA webinar on April 26, and through our joint presentation on May 10, at this year's NRHA Rural Healthcare Innovation Summit in San Diego.   Howard Memorial dramatically increased primary care volumes and grew outpatient procedures by 48% in a 3-year time period.  You read that right, 48%.

It's been a journey, and it certainly isn't over.  A large part of our strategy centered around engaging with the community.  For starters, this requires:

  • Understanding your community and its needs
  • Attracting the right type of providers for your community
  • Collaboration between your hospital/providers and patients to design, manage and achieve positive health outcomes
  • Taking steps to improve employee satisfaction

It all comes down to this: When you invest in your rural hospital, you invest in your community. The right messaging, service line prioritization and strategic operational decisions can help you build volumes.


Want To Learn More?

Register for our upcoming webinar, April 26: "Nurture, Empower, and Engage Your Community to Grow Patient Volume."

Find out how to nurture, empower and engage both your community and organization while meeting your organization's objective of increasing patient volume and revenue. Hear how Howard Memorial Hospital used new tactics to execute campaigns and how service line developments led to higher revenue.

Register Now


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Are Your Patients Telling Your Story?

Posted on April 7, 2017


How to Build a Patient Testimonial Program that Builds your Brand.

By: Mike Milligan, President

Healthcare is emotional.  As a father, husband and son, I know this firsthand as I've paced the hospital hallways waiting for a family member to recover from surgery, and I've fretted and worried about what the lab results might show. And, as a healthcare marketer, I've also learned how impactful these emotions are in the stories your patients share about their experiences at your healthcare organization.

Patient testimonials:

  • Creates a human link between you and your audience, lending credence and emotional connection to your messaging;
  • Help potential patients see themselves (or their family members) in the story;
  • Can be used across a variety of formats from traditional to digital media.

As important as testimonials are, they're sometimes hard to find.  Not because you don't have many great stories, but because healthcare providers - often the ones who witness the stories firsthand -- are humble people.  They may view a patient story as ordinary or routine, but in actuality, there's nothing routine about improving, or even saving, one's life.  Every patient has a unique story.

Here are a few tips for finding stories within your organization:

  • Select a point person who will be the keeper of the testimonials at your facility.  Maybe a marketing person, nurse, or even surgery manager.  The key though is that this person needs to build relationships throughout the organization to seek out stories.
  • Meet with nurses in various departments to encourage them to share potential patient stories.
  • Make reporting easy. Provide online or paper nomination forms to make the process easy.
  • Incentivize employees. Encourage your staff to be on the hunt for compelling success stories by offering rewards for nominations.
  • Routinely present at employee and medical staff meetings and encourage participation.
  • Incorporate a marketing and brand session in new employee orientation, including outlining the process for uncovering great stories.

Click here to view an example of a video patient testimonial we did for a client.

If you have any questions regarding building a patient testimonial program please reach out by calling 920-544-8102 or emailing us.


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