Before deciding on a strategy for marketing your medical practice, first determine your target market. There are several factors you must consider when selecting your target market. In health care marketing, it is not unusual to have several different target markets for each of the different medical products and services you provide.

If you have a family practice or if you’re a general dentist for example, your target market will be significantly different than that of a specialized practice such as a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist. While there may be some common factors within the two markets, the differences will be your defining factors.

Consider the follow three critical factors defining your medical practice’s market:

Location: Most prospective patients will want relatively quick and easy access to healthcare. It is unlikely that they will drive an hour or more for an earache or a toothache. Therefore, a family doctor’s target market is going to include prospective patients within a 7-10 mile radius. For a specialist, a prospective patient may be willing to drive further for care, if that specialist has effectively demonstrated how she can meet that prospective patients needs using effective health care marketing strategies. As such, a specialist like a cosmetic surgeon or aesthetics doctor would have a broader market in terms of location.

Demographics: This would include the age, gender, income and possibly occupation of a prospective patient. A family doctor may want to target younger families in hopes of building a long-term relationship with them. Target age groups that will give you the greatest opportunity to handle the types of cases you desire to treat, and will help grow your practice long-term. A surgeon with a focus on cosmetic surgery may find the best age demographic for them is women 30 – 50 with a higher income level in professional occupations. Remember, the markets you select are going to depend on the types of products and services you offer.

Needs: You must also consider your local community’s needs when developing your target market. Let’s take a family practitioner for example. A family may want a provider that offers comprehensive care for the entire family so that all family members can be treated by the same physician. If you are capable of treating an entire family from childhood on, you should consider targeting families with children of a certain age and above. If there is a void for physicians specializing in special needs patients, and you treat special needs patients, include these patients in your target market. Similarly, if you are located near a large population of seniors and have products and services that can meet their medical needs, consider including them.

When brainstorming potential markets for your medical practice, look closely at your current patient panel. Your existing patients are a good source for determining which of the areas listed above will be most important when defining your target market. Look at the location, demographics and needs of your best current patients and then seek to target prospective patients who are similar to them. You can do this by learning more about your current patients using surveys to obtain more specific data on your “ideal” patient’s behaviors and needs.

Your strategic medical marketing plan can only be successful if you accurately determine your target market. Once you have identified your market, all of your efforts must be focused on bringing those prospective patients through your practice doors.

With a clearly identified target market your health care marketing plan should focus on appropriate media within that area. Community or neighborhood newspapers are good places to consider if your target market consists of many seniors. If your market has a much younger base, then you may consider advertising online.

For services like cosmetic surgery, your market may be reached through certain magazines or websites. Knowing where potential patients are likely to be or read or surf will help you maximize your exposure to the kind of people you are targeting with your health care marketing plan.

Spending money to advertise in places your target market is not likely to see or read is just wasting valuable resources. You get more bang for your buck by carefully considering each and every possibility for exposure and its potential to bring you patients.

A physician’s marketing plan fails or succeeds depending on the accuracy of what you consider when determining your target market. Take the time necessary to have a firm understanding of who it is you want to walk through the doors of your practice and then use that understanding to move forward confidently toward your goals.