Should Urgent Care Centers Employ a Marketer?

Written by on October 1, 2014 in Features - No comments

MarketingDrawingWEBI remember it like it was yesterday. After giving a presentation at a conference in Chicago on branding your urgent care, one of the audience members and I ended up in the same van back to the airport. For almost 30 minutes I had to defend my presentation to him. Usually I like debates, but this one just went on-and-on. The thing he was arguing over was my statement of something similar to the effect of, “If you want your urgent care center to grow, I would encourage you to hire a full-time marketer whose sole purpose is to focus his or her time on growing your business.”

His argument, “Of course you’d say those things. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have a job.”

Snapshot: Marketers in Urgent Care

Over the course of the last six years, I’ve realized my position as a full-time urgent care marketer puts me in an elite minority. Most practices do not employ someone to handle all of the things I do for our urgent care centers. For the most part, depending on the size of the urgent care centers, my position is split among several staff members, or it is done, when time allows, by the clinic manager or the physician’s spouse. In the larger urgent care centers, one person handles all of the marketing for multiple locations.

Then there is me. When I started as the marketing director for HealthCARE Express in 2008, I was hired to replace the physician’s wife’s role as marketer. We had two urgent cares at that time in two different states. My job was to market them. There wasn’t a true marketing plan in place. There was no training. There was just me, the skills I’d developed in my two prior roles (a managing editor at a newspaper and a marketing coordinator for an industrial pipe supply company), and my phenomenal co-worker Kim, who had built our occupational medicine program at what is now our headquarters in Texarkana, Texas. Together, it was our job to grow the occupational medicine business at our clinic in Arkansas that had been open only three months, and my job solely to increase awareness of that clinic in the community. Where to start?

I Don’t Need a Full Time Marketer

Lucky for you, today there are sites like UrgentCareSuccess.com, where marketers in our industry can go and get ideas on what to do. Even better, there are conferences like the Medical Marketing Conferece where marketers and urgent care owners can go to get the latest and greatest industry specific ideas on how to grow your business. Those weren’t around when I started. But trust me, I kept busy.

Since I first started, we have opened eight additional clinics, and with vast expansion plans to open plenty more over the next five years, I know I’ll be busy. Many urgent care owners think marketing is a one time deal. Shoot a commercial, design an ad, put up a website, dabble in social media, send out a post card, create a brochure, and attend a few health fairs. For the most part, do it once and the people will come. In some locations, that model may work great. For us, our clinics are not the only urgent care center in town. But many people will tell you otherwise. Why? Because we’re everywhere.

What Does a Full Time Marketer Do?

You can outsource a lot of things. In fact, everything I listed above except the health fair can be outsourced to someone. And if that is your only plan, your clinic manager can probably coordinate all of that. There are pros and cons of outsourcing your marketing, but I’ll tackle that in another article at a later date.

What if you want your urgent care center to really grow? Our busiest urgent care center sees between 125-150 patients a day during the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, that number can grow to over 200 per day. Our newer clinics see between 40-60 a day depending on the time of year, and that number continues to grow each month. Why? Because the management team recognized the need to have someone who worked full-time developing and implementing strategies to grow our business.

When I first started my position six years ago, our website averaged between 8-15 visits a day. We now have between 800-1200 visits a day. That is in large part due to a lot of internal legwork developing our website and managing our PPC campaigns in-house. Let’s face it, in 2014, if you’re not being found on-line, your competitor is getting your business.

Another thing your full-time marketer should be responsible for is growing your occupational medicine business. If this is a service you offer, this role has a potential to be a full-time job. Our marketers, however, are only required to spend at least two days a week working solely on this. The remainder of their time is spent on grassroots marketing. From daycare presentations, school athletic events, and community volunteerism, to civic club presentations, Chamber of Commerce events, and B2C marketing, our community educators easily put in 40+ hours a week.

Can I Really Justify Another Salary?

I think the question you need to ask yourself isn’t, “Should I hire a full-time marketer?” The question you really need to ask is, “Can my business grow the way I want it to if I don’t?” For $30,000 to $60,000 per year (depending on cost of living in your market), you can hire someone to fill this role.  Do the math. If your average reimbursement per urgent care patient is $100-$150, and your marketer helps bring in an additional 40 new patients per month, that means you’re making an extra $4,000-$6,000 per month or $48,000 to $72,000 per year. Now multiply that by the lifetime value of that patient. And you haven’t even added in yet the money you can make by growing your occupational medicine program. After six years of being open, our oldest clinic still sees over 494 new patients every single month. Is my salary as a full-time marketer worth it? You decide.

About the Author:
Tina Bell is the co-founder of UrgentCareSuccess (www.UrgentCareSuccess.com), an urgent care consulting firm and online educational resource provider for urgent care owners. She has served as the chief brand officer for HealthCARE Express since 2008, where she oversees marketing strategy and development for the company’s growing urgent care and occupational medicine business. She regularly presents at industry conferences like the Urgent Care Success Summit, the Medical Marketing Conference, and the Urgent Care Association of America’s conference.  She can be reached at info@urgentcaresuccess.com.

Leave a Comment

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box