Professional Practice Marketing:A 10-Step Marketing Plan

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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. 

  1. Manage your practice with a marketing mindset

    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 could examine the language that you use to communicate with prospects to make sure that it is clear, positive, and persuasive.
    • You could make sure that you streamline all of your customer interaction systems to make it easy to do business with you.
    • You can establish and maintain lead tracking systems so that you know where your new business is coming from and that your expenditures for those systems are profitable.
  2. Explore paid advertising options

    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.

  3. Develop a Web site for your firm

    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:

    • Firm Profile

      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.

    • Professional Profile(s)

      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. 

    • Specialty Areas

      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.

    • Public Service Links

      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.

    • Newsletter

      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. 

    • Press Releases

      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.

    • Contact Information

      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.

    • Directions

      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.

  4. Create a media kit containing the pertinent information that reporters and editors will need for publicity opportunities

    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. 

  5. Contact key media points in your market to make them aware of your availability for press interviews

    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.

  6. Submit articles with your byline for publication by newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and Web sites that contain your Web and e-mail address in the bio

    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.

  7. Submit letters to the editor and opinion-editorial articles to newspapers, magazines, and trade publications that contain your URL in the letters/articles and your bio

    The purposes for these submissions are the same as for #6 and should produce similar results.

  8. Schedule guest appearances on TV and radio talk shows

    TV and radio appearances position you as an expert and provide your Web address to drive traffic to your Web site.

  9. Expand your Web site content

    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.

  10. Drive traffic to your Web site with offline promotion

    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:

    1. Put your Web site address (URL) on all of your printed material. Your Web site address is now as important as your phone number or street address. Make sure to add your URL on all of the following: Business cards, letterhead, envelopes, mailing labels, signage, vehicles, product packaging, brochures, invoices, statements, advertising, press releases, shopping bags, t-shirts, caps, bumper stickers, and pens. If your organization's name is printed on it, make sure the Web site address is, too.
    2. Drive traffic to your Web site by including your Web address prominently in every piece of broadcast advertising. Even a radio ad has room for a line that says, "Visit our Web site at www dot blah blah blah." 
    3. Publicize the existence of your Web site and its content to the media. A well written "press announcement" could generate a mention of your organization in the media or could build support for ideas #4, #7 and #8.
    4. Submit articles for publication in newspapers, magazines, and newsletters. You are an expert in your field. Share your knowledge; just be sure to include your e-mail and Web site addresses in your bio. Consider starting a newsletter to publicize your organization's viewpoints. 
    5. Think of each e-mail sent from your organization as an advertising postcard. It's one more reminder of your Web address. Create a "signature" line to include your name, title, organization name, phone number and Web address in all e-mails that your personnel sends.
    6. Write letters to the editor of newspapers, magazines, and especially trade publications. Comment on "news of the day" or suggest ideas for future articles. Include your Web address and e-mail address in every letter and in your bio. 
    7. Write your own news/feature stories for the same industry/trade publications mentioned above. It's not as hard as it sounds. Contact editors individually and tell them your story idea. Highlight your e-mail and Web site in the author credits.
    8. Promote yourself or your organization as a media resource. Start locally and contact the producers of every radio and TV talk/news show in the area. They will welcome you as a guest expert when your expertise is the subject of the day's show. Make sure they know how to find you. As a talk show guest, you can mention your organization's Web address clearly and prominently in the interview.
    9. Announce your new or updated Web site to your past and present clients. A Web site debut or revision is a perfect excuse to contact people with whom you do business.
    10. Don't forget to also announce the debut of your Web site to family, friends, vendors, and suppliers. They know of your organization already, but this is a perfect opportunity to ask them to forward your e-mail to their contacts so that they can learn more about your organization. 
    11. Publicize the existence of your Web site and its content to the media This is an often overlooked public relations task, but an important one, because the media needs a constant reminder of your key PR messages and background that make you a quotable news source. 
    12. Publicize your notable cases/projects This tactic increases awareness of your practice and creates positive "buzz" about your firm. A couple of years ago, one of our attorney clients, Lee, Eadon, Isgett, Popwell, and Reardon issued a press release on a Friday after 4 p.m. to attract media attention to the verdict on one of their cases. We distributed this news release by broadcast fax to all TV stations, radio stations with news departments, and daily newspapers in South Carolina within 2 hours of the jury's verdict. This one release was instrumental in helping our client to attract similar cases. If you would like to implement this plan for your firm but lack the in-house resources to do so, call 770-640-9918 or e-mail randy@cypressmedia.net to discuss how we can assist you.

About the Author

Randall P. Whatley

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 randy@cypressmedia.net.