… I could wave a magic wand, and any potential private, independent patient advocate who reached out to me for support in getting his or her practice up, running and successful would be just that – an overnight success!
Well, OK. Maybe not.
In the past few weeks, in my usual email or phone exchanges with dozens of patient advocates, there have been recurring themes. See if any of these sound familiar:
- Business is picking up, but I really could use more.
- Business is slower than I would like. I’m not sure how long I can stay afloat.
- I can’t quit my job until I know I’ll have enough business to support myself.
- I tried, but I don’t get enough phone calls so now I have to go find a job.
Then there are those who say nothing at all – who just, one day, decide they aren’t going to try any more because they believe success has eluded them; their expected flock of needy patients didn’t dial their phone numbers or sign contracts.
If one of these thoughts feels familiar, then this post is for you.
I’ll start with the truism that is well established for any start-up business, no matter whether we are talking about a private advocacy practice, or Walmart. That is – there is no such thing as an overnight success.
The US Government’s Small Business Association tells us that it takes 3 to 5 years for a business to know whether it can become successful and maintain that success. Uncle Sam even hints at that fact by giving us three years to show break even or profitability on our income taxes.
But for some reason, many of the people who decide to become advocates think that they will be overnight successes. They think that, contrary to all the evidence, they will buck the averages — and voila! Their businesses will thrive just because they hoped they would.
If you think about it, we wouldn’t really want it to be too easy to be successful. If it were so easy as to hang out a shingle one day, and the next day patients galore would find improved navigation through the system, or your bank account would be overflowing – then everyone would do it! And that would mean that beginning the next day (the next overnight) you would have way too much competition and would no longer be in business at all!
The only reason I can think of that would make newly-launched advocates believe success will come immediately would be the one fact we know is true about the current healthcare system. That is, that it is set up for patients to fail. Therefore, there are few patients who DON’T need an advocate.
Knowing that fact, many new advocates believe that their services will be immediately recognized by patients as being needed and as such, they will be as busy as they want to be rescuing those needy patients, right out of the gate.
But it doesn’t work that way. And for now, the biggest reason it doesn’t is because most patients don’t even know advocates exist to help them, or if they do know, they believe (for a variety of reasons) that advocates can’t help them.
So what’s the answer? Marketing. Word of mouth, public speaking, public relations, web marketing, social media, advertising, brochures, flyers, business cards, customer service, direct mail, email newsletters – whatever it takes.
But even just “marketing” won’t be enough. It has to be done right. Using the right messages for the right people at the right time, framed in terms and benefits they understand. It’s really that (ahem..) “simple.”
If you don’t tell people you’re available to help them, if you don’t explain to them how their lives will improve because of what you can provide to them, if they don’t understand that they are risking life, limb and wallet every time they interface with the healthcare system unless you are by their sides – then they just aren’t going to hire you.
And here’s a real truism: The very best advocate in the world will never be a success unless he or she markets their services correctly. And the very worst advocates in the world will be highly successful if they market their services effectively.
Sad but true.
Returning to those exchanges listed above: I can almost guarantee you that those folks I hear those comments from aren’t marketing effectively. On the other hand, for every successful advocate you know, the main reason they have been successful is because they committed themselves to effective marketing from the get-go, including good customer service.
The real truth is, that behind every “overnight success” may be years’ worth of hard, hard work, and sacrifice. What may appear to be quick and easy was, instead, diligence and dedication – and yes, some risk taking thrown in, too. Those overnight successes have been marketing their little hearts out to promote their own success.
If you are fearful, or floundering… if you aren’t working with as many clients as you would like… then step up your marketing outreach efforts – today.
You may be surprised at how quickly your roster fills up, and how successful you can be – practically overnight.
• APHA Members – learn more in the Marketing Center linked from your membership dashboard (not a member of APHA? Link here.)
• Purchase The Health Advocate’s Marketing Handbook (APHA members, find discounts from your dashboard, lower part of the page)