Marketing and development go hand in hand

Our troubleshooters Sue O’Gorman and Hannah Browning reply to private doctors’ questions.

QI set up in private practice a few years ago and I am looking to develop the services at my practice but unsure as to what support I need to do this.  

I have heard colleagues refer to marketing their practice and others who talk about business development. What are the differences between the two and how could they help my practice flourish?

AAs a private practitioner in the current competitive environment, it is vital to understand how investing in marketing and business development can support your practice and what each of the disciplines offers.

So let’s break this down by demystifying their benefits and key differences.


By definition, marketing largely focuses on promotion and advertising your services to attract new patients, build brand awareness and build a positive reputation in the community. 

It should help you understand patient needs and how to best communicate the value of the service you offer to meet those needs.

Key activities

Social media. Managing social media profiles to engage with your audience and share relevant content.

Content marketing. Creating blogs, videos and electronic newsletters to provide valuable information and attract potential patients.

Search engine optimisation (SEO). Enhancing your practice’s website to rank higher in search engine results.

Branding. Developing a strong brand identity through logos, tone of language, values, service and visual design.

The level of marketing support you invest will, of course, depend upon your budget and all of the private hospitals will have in-house teams who can guide you so long as you are prepared to do some ground work yourself and support them with delivering content ideas.

Provide any copy required in a timely manner and set aside time to update them of any new services you offer. The marketing teams will have hundreds of consultants to support and those who make the greatest effort will reap the rewards.

Process of evolution

But marketing is not a ‘one hit wonder’ and should be a continuous process of evolution whose benefits, when done well, include:

Increased visibility. By raising awareness of your practice with key customer groups and making you more accessible to potential patients.

Patient engagement. Helps to foster stronger relationships and can encourage loyalty.

Patient acquisition. By highlighting your services and expertise, you will attract new patients.

Reputation-building. Trust and credibility is of utmost importance to patients, and consistent and positive marketing efforts will help to build this.

Marketing and business development work best hand in hand. They need each other to succeed and a question we often get asked is: ‘What exactly do business development people do?’ 

Business development focuses on identifying, creating and pursuing new and strategic opportunities for growth, cultivating commercial partnerships and identifying new markets for products and services.  

It generally involves a broader scope of activities aimed at achieving long-term sustainability and profitability.

Key activities will include:

Market research. Looking at market trends, patient needs and the competitive landscape will inform your strategic decision-making.

Service expansion. Identify and develop new services, territories or specialties that the practice can offer.

Partnerships. Cultivate alliances with other entities to expand referral networks and service offerings. This could be hospitals, other independent practitioners or groups that add value to your existing service.

Networking. Build solid and trusted relationships with other providers to attract referrals.

To re-iterate, when combined with robust marketing efforts, here are some of the key benefits a business development strategy will bring to your practice:

Revenue growth. The Holy Grail! Business development activities can lead to increased patient volume and higher revenues through new partnerships and services. 

It is important to note that this can take time and unlike the transactional process of sales, business development is a strategic process, identifying the most effective ways to grow your business and build partnerships for sustainable growth. 

There is no magic wand, one-size-fits-all approach and should be viewed as a longer-term commitment.

Diversification. Expanding your range of services can attract a new and wider range of patients and thereby reduce any dependency upon a single revenue stream.

Market positioning. Effective business development strategies will help to position the practice favourably within the industry and will enhance your competitive advantage.

Long-term sustainability. By identifying growth opportunities and adapting to market changes, your business will remain viable and profitable.

So, to summarise:

The focus

Marketing is patient-centric and aims to attract and retain patients through a range of promotional activities.

Business development focuses on opportunities for growth and expansion.

The activities

Marketing includes advertising, content creation and online visibility.

Business development includes service diversification, market research, commercialisation, networking and partnerships. It may also explore operational and financial elements of the business.

The time-frame

Marketing usually yields more immediate results in terms of patient engagement and acquisition.

Business development typically involves longer-term strategies that gradually but solidly build the practice’s reach and capabilities.

What will combining a marketing plan with a business development strategy offer your practice?

Initial growth: Marketing may quickly bring in new patients and increase your visibility and provide a steady stream of patient volume.

Strategic expansion: Business development activities will then build upon these foundations to explore new services and partner- ships, ensuing sustained growth and diversification.

Patient retention: Ongoing marketing efforts will help to maintain communication and relationships with your patients, while business development opportunities will keep your practice relevant and competitive. 

So, in summary, while both marketing and business development present distinct benefits and advantages for practice growth, by leveraging the two simultaneously, you will create a sustainable and effective road-map for continued success.

Sue O’Gorman (left) is director of Medici Healthcare Consultancy. Email: 

Hannah Browning (right) is director of Beyond Excellence Healthcare Consultancy. Email: