Skip to Main Content

Successful advertising must reach the right potential patients with a sufficient frequency to remember the message. This best occurs through a multi-channel approach–traditional media, digital, and grassroots tactics.

Good afternoon! This is Alan Ayers and I am Just Checking In from Boston Common here in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts on this wonderful summer day. So, today I’m going to be speaking to you about advertising for urgent care centers. The goal of advertising in urgent care is to make the urgent care center the provider of first choice. So, because urgent care is an unplanned purchase, it’s an unanticipated purchase, somewhat like being sent to the penalty box – nobody expects to be sick, nobody wants to pay for a doctor’s visit, but when an illness or injury occurs, patients need somewhere to go. And urgent care certainly provides an extended hours, walk-in facility, no appointments necessary, at a lower cost than the hospital ED.

So, in order for patients to know to go to urgent care when that unexpected illness or injury arises, the urgent care needs to be top-of-mind. And in fact, we are looking for urgent care to be the patient’s provider of first choice so that whenever there is an injury or illness, the patient will remember to go to the specific urgent care center. Well, becoming top-of-mind, becoming the provider of first choice – all of that goes to a concept called brand awareness.

So, brand awareness is achieved in advertising through two concepts: reach and repetition. Reach means that when you’re advertising, that you’re advertising to people that have a need and who have the ability to pay for your urgent care services. So as an example, if you ran one single center in a city the size of Boston, radio would not be effective in reaching consumers because you would be advertising to probably a couple million consumers who would never use their center because the metro area is so spread out. You’ve got water, and bridges, and all sorts of political barriers that you would be spending money to reach potential patients who would never use your center because you’re not in the right location. So, reach really goes to the efficiency of advertising. When you buy advertising, it is far more efficient to reach those consumers who have a need, and who have the ability to use your service. And by ability, generally we’re talking about ability to pay. So again, if you have a center that maybe doesn’t accept Medicaid, you probably don’t want to be advertising to Medicaid populations. If you’re targeting a specific demographic or a specific niche like pediatrics, you want to reach the mother of children who are the prime decision-makers in the household. So, the concept of reach is very important to assure your message is getting to the right consumers – those consumers who have urgent care needs, and will use your center when those needs occur.

Now, reach is not enough. You really need repetition in addition to reach. So, advertising success is based on these two concepts: reach and repetition. Repetition is necessary to achieve that top-of-mind awareness. So, as an example, driving around Boston – and I’m a Midwesterner – so, in the Midwest, driving is somewhat easy because cities are built on a grid; very easy to find your way around the city, and you can kind of navigate through a grid to get to where you’re going. Well, if you look at a map of Boston and the city streets, it makes absolutely no sense to me; but I guess with Boston being a very old city, the layout of the city streets goes back to the original cow paths. So, what are now city streets in Boston originally were paths that livestock or cows kind of created as they migrated to various feeding venues. And then over time those paths that were trampled through the soil by the livestock became the trails for wagons. And then they were paved, and they were the streets for cars. And now we have a city that has an extraordinarily complex system of streets that, again, for a Midwesterner who’s used to seeing cities built on a grid, doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But there’s a significant point when looking at the city streets in Boston; it’s how networking occurs.

So, networking is not clean. It doesn’t occur on a grid. It’s actually, if you think of how the brain works, this forming connections from point to point like the cows and the wagon trains and the city streets in Boston – that’s how our brain works. So, the neurons in our brain – as we use our brain – we create connections between various points in the brain, and that strengthens our brain, or our recall, or our memory. And that strengthened recall which comes through the repetition of neurons passing through our brain – that’s what leads to memory. And memory is caused by repetition. So everybody knows, when learning something, how do you master something? You repeat it over and over again until you have it down. Well, in advertising, we are assisting or spurring the public’s brains to recall our center, to learn our message, and to really engrain our brand in their brain so when these urgent care needs arise, we will be top-of-mind, they will be aware, and our center will be the very first one that they think of.

Now, repetition isn’t achieved by just one channel. I often get asked, “What’s the most effective advertising channel in urgent care? Is it radio? Is it television? Is it newspaper?” And I would say, “Yes. It’s all of the above dependent on your community, dependent on the audience you’re looking to reach, dependent on media costs, and a ton of other variables.” But repetition is best achieved by using a multi-channel marketing approach. So, you want traditional advertising media – radio and television if you’re in a market where that’s feasible – newspaper, billboards, bus advertising, or transit advertising – all traditional forms of advertising.

Then you want to augment that with digital. So, if somebody is looking for an urgent care – maybe they remember seeing a center, but they can’t remember the name. They go on Google and they look for the urgent care in their neighborhood or on a specific street, you need to turn up in that digital advertising. On Google that’s called search engine optimization. There’s search engine marketing. We also have the whole realm of social media marketing as well.

And then the last channel for marketing is grassroots. So, this is the concept that you are going to have a brand presence in the venues where the audience you want to reach is present. And so, a great example of grassroots marketing is involvement in schools and churches. So, schools – obviously you have children. Children have medical needs. They arise episodically. The parents need somewhere to take these kids when these needs occur. Well, if you want to reach these parents, through repetition, that’s where you have a grassroots marketing person go out to the school, execute a sports physical program, or maybe a concussion prevention management program, educational opportunities around concussions, or health and wellness type issues. And then even advertising through the boosters, in the stadium, in the program, sponsoring equipment out on the field with your brand name on it. Commonly we hear about the tunnels. At Practice Velocity we actually purchased a tunnel. Our mascot for our company is a squirrel, and when we have our town hall meetings our team members, or our owners – everybody at PV is an owner – runs through this tunnel. Well it’s the same thing at high school football games. Well just imagine every football game the reach and repetition of that tunnel; the team is running out on the field, and they see your brand name on the side of that. So that’s just an example, but the point is in urgent care advertising to achieve top-of-mind awareness you need reach, you need to get to the right people, you need repetition, you need to get to those people a sufficient number of times so they remember your message. And you do that through multi-channel marketing which includes traditional advertising media, digital, and grassroots tactics.

If you have any questions about urgent care marketing, you want an evaluation or assistance with your marketing programs, we at Practice Velocity and Urgent Care Consultants would be more than happy to assist you. You can reach us using the contact information on your screen. Thanks again, and this is Alan Ayers Just Checking In from Boston.

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

Sign Up for the Urgent Care Minute

Join over 20,000 healthcare professionals who receive our monthly newsletter.