Marketing Your Practice
Direct Mail Program Provides Incentives for Mammography Patients

Marketing Your Practice

As outpatient imaging centers face increasing competition, marketing plans need to communicate their unique stories

By Renee DiIulio

Marketing is a core strategy for growth and success, said Curtis Kauffman-Pickelle, CEO of the Imaging Center Institute, Orange, Calif, at the OIC [Outpatient Imaging Center] Blueprint for Success Conference, held July 19–21 in Annapolis, Md. Speaking on business management strategies for the OIC, Kauffman-Pickelle suggested that marketing can strengthen an anti-DRA effort, referring to section 5102 of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. If allowed to take effect as planned, the new regulation could result in significantly reduced reimbursements.

As a result, competition among OICs can be expected to increase. Centers need to tell their own story before their competitors do, and that story should be written by professionals, Kauffman-Pickelle advised. “Marketing is a profession. Hire the best—don’t try to do it yourself,” he said.

Marketing professionals know that marketing is a process, one that mirrors communication. Marketing actually means being a better communicator, Kauffman-Pickelle said. He divides the process of communication into four stages: research, planning, implementation, and evaluation and adjustment.

1) Research

An OIC will want to develop message points for each customer segment, asking who, what, and how. For instance, a demand of referring physicians may be the prompt return of phone calls. The OIC may decide to implement a policy that all phone calls must be returned within 15 minutes or another specified amount of time. Customer segments include not just referring physicians, but also office staff, payors, patients, employees, and partners.

Research should include market assessment studies, feasibility studies, and competitive analyses. Numbers can be produced through demographic analyses, volume projections, saturation analyses, modality growth, and market share.

2) Plan

Once you have defined the who, what, and how, a plan needs to be developed to deliver the targeted messages to these groups. The marketing mix can include any combination of the following:

  • direct mail, including newsletters and payor communication;
  • collateral material, such as brochures;
  • journal articles on relevant issues—modalities and disease management, for example; Kauffman-Pickelle suggests that the OIC itself become a resource for the referring physician;
  • advertising;
  • e-marketing, with the Web site as the primary tool;
  • direct physician contacts through CME credits, dinners, and lunches, and an ambassador effort can reach out to the referral base;
  • event marketing, including meetings and charitable events, and open houses to expose new equipment, physicians, or other improvements;
  • promotions, or trinkets;
  • publicity;
  • community involvement; and
  • a positive service orientation that impresses clients.

3) Implementation

Whatever mix is chosen must appeal to the desired audience’s point of view and not the marketer’s, Kauffman-Pickelle suggested. This means focusing on benefits, making each piece customer-centric, reflecting the practice culture and leading by example. Kauffman-Pickelle named the seven Ps of marketing, relating them to the OIC:

  • product, the center and its report;
  • price, which is important in the patient choice model;
  • promotion;
  • positioning, with scales including convenience, cost, technology, subspecialty, and service;
  • packaging or presentation;
  • people, where both attitudes and appearance play a role; and
  • place, by which patients attempt to judge quality.

A significant portion of this implementation will be a branding effort. Kauffman-Pickelle shared a quote, which suggests that verbal and visual elements should symbolize how the organization delivers a sustainable competitive advantage. Referring to The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al and Laura Ries, Kauffman-Pickelle noted that branding “starts with your name and your tag line.”

He suggested that OICs ask themselves the following questions: Why you? What is your image? Do you have an image? Are you letting your competition brand you? Are you letting your competition tell your story? Do your patients and referrers care enough to think about you? What is your unique value proposition? Can you penetrate the “noise level”?

4) Evaluation and Adjustment

It is not enough to answer all the questions, develop the plan, and have faith that the noise level can be penetrated, however. OICs also should have measurable objectives that are evaluated and adjusted accordingly. “Marketing is an economic investment, not a frivolous expense. Marketing outcomes can be measured against the investment,” Kauffman-Pickelle said.

Sample objectives include increasing the weekly MRI/CT scan volume by 10% or increasing market share by 5%. OICs can aim to protect referral sources by segmentation or penetrate solid competitive relationships.

A good marketing plan will be key for OICs that wish to remain competitive in a tighter marketplace. Kauffman-Pickelle suggested that market leaders will respond to the DRA legislation with a renewed emphasis on service, protection of referral bases, exploitation of opportunities that increase market share, and growth strategy—all of which can be furthered through marketing efforts. Proactive organizations will emerge stronger than their reactive counterparts. And so, OICs should sharpen their pens; Kauffman-Pickelle closed his presentation with the following thought: “Competition is only going to increase, so be prepared for a battle.”

Renee DiIulio is a contributing writer for Axis Imaging News.

Direct Mail Program Provides Incentives for Mammography Patients

At its Annual Meeting held June 4–7 in Miami Beach, Fla, the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA), Irvine, Calif, announced the winners of the 2006 Quest Awards, which recognize excellence in marketing programs for radiology practices. These awards are intended to help practices nationwide improve the quality and effectiveness of their own marketing endeavors.

Shown here are samples of Advanced Medical Imaging’s direct mail campaign, which reminds women of mammography’s importance and alerts patients to AMI’s newest technology offerings in the modality.

One of the eight categories was the patient marketing award, which, according to the RBMA, “focused on brand development, communications, collateral, and techniques to build public awareness of a practice.” Taking home the platinum prize in this category was Advanced Medical Imaging (AMI), Lincoln, Neb. A full-service outpatient imaging center, AMI won the award for its mammography direct mail program, which advertises the center’s newest technology and capabilities while reminding women of the importance of regular breast screenings.

AMI has been open for 5 years, during which time a number of changes have taken place at the facility. “When we opened, we didn’t have most of the services in our women’s centers that we do now,” says Alison Jensen, director of marketing and business development at AMI. “We wanted to showcase some of the things we now do for women when they come in for a mammogram. For instance, we now have one radiologist who is designated to read only mammograms each day.”

Staff at AMI sent brochures to patients whom the center had not seen since 2001 or 2002; the mailings depict women smiling, holding children, having fun with men, and playing beach volleyball. Each picture is marked with such words as health, family, or life. “We wanted it to be eye-catching and to appeal to women,” Jensen explains. Noting that the brochure does not emphasize mammography, she adds, “We wanted something that would portray happiness and life.” Included in each mailing was a coupon for a free gift: a pack filled with hand lotion, hand sanitizer, lip balm, and suntan lotion, all wrapped with a seasonally themed ribbon and given to the patient when she came in for her examination.

Jensen says the direct mail program has been very successful, so much so that AMI has adapted it for other marketing purposes. “We’ve started using it for different things,” Jensen says. “Recently, we started an incentive program for our employees. They send these mailers to their friends, family, and people they know, and they put their initials on the coupons they send out. When a patient brings that coupon in, we offer the employee a $5 gift card of their choice.”

Tower St John’s Imaging, Santa Monica, Calif, won the gold award for patient marketing; the silver prize went to Radiology Associates Imaging Center, Daytona Beach, Fla. This is the second year that the RBMA has offered the Quest Awards; all winning entries will be presented at the RBMA 2006 Fall Educational Conference in Phoenix, October 22–24. For more information, visit

—C. Vasko