April 2001 Bulletin

Practice brochure a beacon for new patients

Having professionals assist you is helpful, but it can be a do-it-yourself project

By Sandra Lee Breisch

So you’re not a marketing whiz, but need a savvy brochure to attract patients. "A good brochure can help you attract patients because it defines your specialization and what services your practice provides," says Cary C. Cox, a marketing and public relations professional who heads Cox Marketing Group in Charlotte, N.C.

But before hiring a marketing professional to create your brochure, you need to do your homework. Cox says this involves defining your strengths, competition and target market. "That’s the most important thing because it’ll define what you specialize in, what type of patients you want and what your marketing tactics are going to be," stresses Cox.

Once you are clear about how you want to promote yourself, figure out how much money you want to spend on production costs. Keep in mind, skimping on costs or creating a do-it-yourself brochure isn’t always a good idea, notes Cox.

"If physicians take themselves and their practice seriously, having a professional create their brochure expresses that seriousness and mirrors their image," says Cox. "By having valuable information and a well thought-out brochure, it also shows you’re approachable to your patients. And they’ll feel comfortable seeing you after they’ve read the brochure that has information answering many of their questions pertaining to your skills, experience and practice’s services."

If you don’t know a professional writer or graphic designer to produce your brochure, you have many options.

There are marketing professionals who work at your local hospitals, advertise in the newspapers or on the Internet who are skilled at writing copy, creating graphics, photographs, and can give you marketing advice.

For instance, the hospital’s marketing staff can either help physicians create the brochure or recommend such groups as the Public Relations Society of America that has chapters in major cities, notes Cox. "You can also network with your colleagues and see if you like their brochure and find out who did it," she says. If you like the writing style of a local magazine writer, you can find out if he or she freelances, Cox says, "or, if you want to put some money into your brochure, you can always call an advertising firm in your area who’ll create the whole brochure through their copywriter and designer and also take your photograph."

If you do have a writer create copy for you, you can take that copy to a quick-print operation that’ll assist you with production of the entire brochure—at a reasonable cost.

If you already have an existing web site, Cox says your brochure should be similar in copy, content and design.

Be sure the practice’s name and address are printed in a clear, readable typeface. "It should be placed on the front of the brochure—where it can be seen," says Cox. "The copy should be patient-friendly by using laymen’s terms instead of medical jargon. The copy should describe who the doctor is and what services are offered. Copy can be nicely broken up with subheadings or bullets. You can also include pictures and bios of doctors and other important staff members in the brochure."

The brochure can also include: office and surgery schedules; various numbers to call for an appointment or emergency; hospital or clinical affiliations; insurance information, including pre-certification rules; fees; and a map that includes parking and mass transit information so patients can find your office.

"Have your brochure professionally printed on heavier paper because it subconsciously denotes a professional image," says Cox. "Use at least a two-color process for the brochure and pictures should be in black ink or four-color ink."

Because a picture says a thousand words, Cox says the physician should have a friendly expression on his or her face. "Most people start forming an opinion of the physician or begin building a relationship from the first glance at the photograph," she says.

After your brochure is designed, remember that the proofreading stage is critical. "The material on the brochures should also be laid out well," says Cox.

Once the brochure is done, show the proof copy to your colleagues, family members and friends before it’s reproduced. Listen to their suggestions and, if necessary, make changes, suggests Cox.

How many brochures should you reproduce? "That really depends on our budget and how widely you want to market your practice," says Cox.

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