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5 Stages of the Sales Funnel Approach to Patient Acquisition


patient acquisition, marketing, healthcare marketing strategies

The most important aspect of growing your medical practice is new patient acquisition. Few medical practitioners typically relate this to the sales funnel concept, but in reality the process of finding new patients is essentially the process of making sales. Whether you prefer to call it marketing, business development or patient acquisition, there are fundamental principles to follow that affect the success of your efforts. Let’s look at how the sales funnel or cycle applies to your practice, and how the marketing of health care services works to bring in new patients.

Some prospects start at the top and move down through the funnel, while others have already begun their research and may be at the 2nd, 3rd or 4th stage. The key to successful patient acquisition is to equip your website with the appropriate content so that you are found, regardless of which stage of the process your prospect is at.

Stage #1: Awareness

The “sales funnel” approach begins with the awareness stage, in which multiple people who may never become your patients begin to be aware of the services you offer. In marketing terms these are unqualified prospects, and the broader this base is to begin with, the higher the number of prospects will be who move down through the funnel to the next stage of patient acquisition.

Create awareness among this base of prospects by means of:

  • A strong online presence, including a website, blog, social media profiles, search engine marketing and online advertising
  • A database of interested prospects who subscribe to healthcare communications sent by email
  • Frequent speaking engagements at community events
  • Participating in talk shows on the local radio station
  • Producing a regular print publication that is distributed in your area free of charge

All these methods will help to make people who live within a 25-mile radius of your practice aware of you, and will build up your reputation as a medical professional and expert in your field.

Stage #2: Interest

From your broad base of unqualified prospects, a percentage of people will take notice of your various activities. Some will sign up for your email newsletters and others will follow you on social media. If you target your output closely to the audience you want to attract by focusing on your medical specialty area, you are more likely to foster interest in the right people. Usually, those prospects that develop this kind of interest are looking for specific answers; for example, information such as causes and symptoms will appeal to people at this stage.

Stage #3: Learning

Once your prospective patient realizes that you offer what he or she is looking for, he begins to follow your material avidly. A small percentage will develop an interest in your material and actively seek out information, such as subscribing to your blog posts because they believe the content has value to them, or tuning in to your radio shows. For prospects in this stage, offer detailed information to educate them about medical conditions in which you specialize, such as living with the condition and potential treatments.

At this point, patient acquisition becomes a reality, and you can start grooming prospects to make you their first choice the next time they need medical care. Use educational materials to showcase your expertise in specific fields of medicine, such as information brochures, white papers, eBooks, podcasts and videos, and monitor your online reputation regularly to ensure it remains impeccable. Your information needs to highlight the benefits of the services you offer in order to draw them in.

Stage #4: Shopping

By the time a prospect reaches the shopping stage, he has begun to actively consider using your practice for his medical needs.  At this point he may spend some time comparing the services available. In the healthcare services environment this typically means evaluating not only price but convenience of location, practice hours and peripheral offerings. These could include:

  • The option to purchase prescribed medication onsite
  • Additional services such as physiotherapy, radiography and a pathology lab for blood tests
  • Family vaccination services
  • Available parking
  • Proximity to public transport
  • Types of payment accepted

At this stage of the funnel, you have the opportunity to capture a prospect looking for treatment, so offer details of the specific care available, with suggestions and advice on how to proceed.

Stage #5: Buying

This is the stage where the prospect calls or comes in to make the first appointment. Many medical practices offer a free initial visit for private patients. This enables them to meet with the physician and get a sense of the facilities before committing to a medical consultation that costs money. This is a critical opportunity for patient acquisition, because at this point you haven’t yet built any loyalty and could still lose the patient to another practice. It is, however, the final stage of the sales funnel before the patient becomes a regular “customer”. It’s also the stage that you’ve been driving him towards from the beginning.

With the exception of a very few cases, patient acquisition doesn’t occur without effort. You might prefer not to think of it as marketing, but the principles of the sales funnel apply equally regardless of the type of service you offer. Download our free white paper below, or schedule an appointment to see how we can help you implement the sales funnel approach in your practice.