by Randall P. Whatley
The days when a professional could just hang up a shingle and develop a successful practice are long gone. Professionals now must also be marketers to succeed, no matter how good they are in the technical aspects of their profession. The following is a 10-step marketing plan to promote your professional practice using advertising, public relations, and the Internet.
Professionals must work daily with a marketing mindset to create new business opportunities. There are many things that we can help you uncover from a practice management viewpoint that will lead to greater new business development success. Most are small changes you can make on how you do business. Cumulatively, all of these small changes can lead to noticeable improvements in your new business development efforts, and many can effect immediate results. What are some examples of these types of changes? Here are a few:
You must examine paid advertising options to generate leads because your competitors are probably already advertising and capturing market share at your expense. If you think you don't need to advertise because none of your competitors have done it yet, you have just found a reason to advertise! Beat them to the punch and capture market share first. Your advertising can take many forms, with advantages and disadvantages to each medium. At least consider this option. Don't dismiss advertising because it costs money. It can also make you money.
In today's business environment, a Web site for a professional firm is almost as important as a telephone. In most cases, professional firm Web sites are simply electronic brochures. However, unlike printed brochures, more of your prospects and customers will view your Web site and react to the information presented. Simply put, a Web site is now a necessity for professional firms. If your firm does not have one, you are creating unnecessary marketing obstacles for your practice. The following is a general outline of the requirements of a professional firm's Web site:
This can also be the Home page. It should be the first thing a person sees when the site comes on the screen. This page provides information about the types of cases/projects that your firm handles.
This page contains a narrative bio that describes your experience, lists your practice areas, education, including honors and awards, memberships, speeches given or seminars taught, articles published, accolades/awards won, and professional photos.
On this page you should create links to each area of specialty and provide a narrative that describes each area and answers commonly asked questions about each area of practice.
This page lists the name, address, telephone, fax number, and e-mail address to charities and organizations that the firm wants to promote along with a link to their Web sites.
You can add this later if you wish but use your Web site to enroll members. All professional practices should produce a quarterly or semi-annual newsletter and discuss the kinds of cases/projects on which the firm is working. It can also list questions and answers about different areas of the practice, provide tips, and discuss your recent awards/honors/accomplishments.
You should regularly issue press releases about your practice. Your Web site is the place to post them to receive even more publicity for your firm.
This page should list your firm's name, address, telephone, fax number, and office hours and contain a link straight to sender's default e-mail program so that they can e-mail you for more information.
Provide a link to an Internet map program that displays a street map for your office location and a driving directions link so that prospects can print a map to get to your office from their location.
Each page should also include a standard legal disclaimer at the bottom of the page if your profession requires such.
This would then be posted on your Web site for easy retrieval by visitors. It could also be printed and distributed by mail or fax or sent to the media via e-mail file attachment.
This contact would also direct them to your Web site for more information about your practice. I recently did this for a client in Atlanta who has a promotion obstacle: he is a specialty practitioner in a crowded field. The client, JHD Construction, is a contractor who builds laboratories, churches, and banks. I was able to implement the type of program I just mentioned for him. He received prominent coverage in a full-page story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the local weekly business newspaper.
This is a highly effective strategy that accomplishes several important tasks simultaneously: it positions you as an expert on a subject, it publicizes your availability for work to informed prospects, and it increases traffic to your Web site. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on proposal writing that was published on a Web site that receives about 250,000 hits a month. One of the visitors was an editor for a Web site for scientists. He visited my site, saw my range of service offerings, contacted me by e-mail and commissioned me to write a five article series for his site. The day this article appeared, my Web site traffic doubled for over a week.
The purposes for these submissions are the same as for #6 and should produce similar results.
TV and radio appearances position you as an expert and provide your Web address to drive traffic to your Web site.
Your goal should be to provide as much information about your practice and areas of specialty as possible on your Web site. Increased content will improve your search engine and directory listings, provide information about your specific practice areas to clients and other professional firms who are looking for specialists, and serve as a reference point for the news media on your practice.
Our firm redesigned and developed a Web site for a medical practice, Byrd Medical & Anti-Aging, so they could fully promote their diversified services to both current patients and Web searchers.
Offline promotion is marketing, advertising, or public relations exposure that does not occur on the Internet. This includes traditional advertising like TV, radio, newspaper, direct mail, and billboards, but it can also include non-traditional advertising methods and public relations. As Internet household penetration continues to rise and the Internet becomes more integrated into daily work and home life, your Web site can provide information, reinforce traditional advertising messages, and increase contributions of time and talent to your organization. The following are 10 simple ways to inexpensively promote your Web site offline:
Randall P. Whatley is president of Cypress Media Group, an advertising, public relations, and training firm. Cypress Media Group provides training primarily related to business and technical writing, presentation skills, and media relations. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.