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Health care is an ongoing need for every community, so is it really necessary to invest in advertising for your startup urgent care center? Won’t people start filtering through your doors once they see you’re open for business?

The reality is the adage “if you build it, they will come” simply does not work. Word-of-mouth promotion takes far too long to have a positive impact on new urgent care centers, so startups need to help it along by investing in advertising to get the initial word out. After all, urgent care profitability depends on patient volume, so investing in advertising will help drive the initial volume needed for a new urgent care practice to succeed.

And advertising your urgent care center is an investment, not an expense to be controlled. When done strategically, your return is increased patient volume. The challenge is that the return on your advertising investment – or ROI – can be difficult to quantify because urgent care is not a planned purchase or daily consumable. You won’t see direct responses to your urgent care ads like Macy’s does for its coupons in the Sunday newspaper because the need for your services probably aren’t there the moment a consumer sees your ad.

That’s why your advertising strategy should focus on educating consumers and building top-of-mind awareness of your services. Unlike that Macy’s coupon that might convince a consumer to go out and buy that pair of shoes this weekend, your ads will linger in consumers’ minds, springing to the surface when an urgent medical need arises.

Just make sure you’re targeting the right consumers. Taking a shotgun approach to advertising through radio and TV ads might seem like the best bang for your buck, but you’ll end up reaching a lot of people who will never use your urgent care center because of its location, insurance limitations, lack of physician referrals and other factors. Make sure you target your ads to people who are the most likely to use your urgent care center, such as:

  • Families with children
  • Above-average household incomes
  • People with employer-provided health insurance
  • Owner-occupied residences

What kind of ads let you achieve this level of targeting? Look into direct mailers, online ads, Google AdWords, social media, print ads in niche publications, and even grassroots tactics, such as working with Chambers of Commerce, community organizations, hotels/motels, college campuses and local schools.

Remember, tomorrow’s visits are driven by today’s foot traffic, so drawing in these target segments early on starts that word-of-mouth cycle that will keep traffic coming through your doors. Make sure you plan a grand opening for your new urgent care center to introduce the community to your staff and services, and keep those touch-points going with seasonal campaigns, such as sports physicals and flu clinics. The number one predictor of patient volume during off-peak seasons is foot traffic during peak seasons, so time your ads wisely. Planning your advertising expenditures during your high utilization periods will maximize your advertising budget.

Your community may be in need of your health care services, but that need doesn’t guarantee they’ll choose your urgent care center over a competitor. Investing in a strategic advertising program before your urgent care center even opens will help ensure you see the patient volume you need to succeed.

This resource was first published prior to the 2019 merger between DocuTAP and Practice Velocity. The content reflects our legacy brands.

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