Marketing a Billing Business Through Live Seminars
by Patrick Phillips
Originally published in Billing Coding Magazine
If you own a medical billing service and have tried just “cold-calling” on physician’s offices, you know that this is not very productive and it can really wear you down. Even mailing out letters and making phone calls can be expensive and exhausting.
The reason these marketing methods don’t work is that office managers and doctors have all sorts of people wanting a few minutes of their time to sell them everything from drugs to cotton balls. Some offices have six or more of these representatives in one day. You can imagine how jaded they are and how they can begin to view these sales calls as nothing more than interruptions to their day … no matter how much they may need the products or services being offered.
A Roomful of Prospective Clients
How would you like to have a roomful of office managers and/or physicians come to you and sit and listen to your spiel for 30 minutes or so? That’s right, a captive audience. Well, I have been teaching people how to do this for the last 20 years, and I have dozens of people who will tell you that Marketing a Billing Business Through Live Seminars will help build your billing service and add clients easier and faster than anything you could do.
You do this by holding “seminars” and “Lunch & Learns” (I’ll just call them “events” going forward). Now don’t worry, this is much easier than it sounds, once you know the secrets I am going to share. Even if you have tried this in the past and it didn’t work, I guarantee that if you do these right, following my tips in this article, you can’t help but get new clients on a regular basis. As many as you want, as often as you want.
First, you need to understand the principle of Trust. You may have heard that people like to do business with people they “know, like and trust.” This is true. The problem with most marketing methods, including cold-calling, is that they don’t know you. By default, they don’t like you and certainly don’t trust you. This is just human nature and there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, this is how we have survived as a species for thousands of years.
But, since you have not built this Trust with the people you are marketing to they are not going to even give you a chance to get to tell your story of how your services can save them time and money. This is where “events” can make you trustworthy.
The only difference between the two, by the way, is the number of people who are in attendance and how the event is promoted. We will get into the details of both in a moment, but let me start by telling you why this works so well.
How to Become “The Expert”
It is a fact that everyone wants to do business with “The Expert” in any field. If I am making a financial investment, I want to deal with the person who I perceive as having the most knowledge and understanding of that particular investment. I don’t want to buy stocks from someone who is an amateur or beginner, even if that person is my brother-in-law. If I am needing an operation, I don’t want the cheapest surgeon I can find. I want the best, right?
Well, the same is true when people are looking for an appliance or a computer. You want to deal with someone who seems to know more than other salespeople about that particular washing machine or laptop. The Expert.
Now, how does this apply to doing seminars? Well, when you get up in front of a crowd of people (or even a handful) and, using slides or handouts, go over material that is new to them, you are The Expert. In fact, if you know just a little bit more than the average person about a particular subject, in their eyes, you become The Expert in that subject.
I used to teach computer classes, and I sometimes had to learn the software I was teaching the weekend before the class began. I would go to a book store and buy a couple of books on how to use that software, and, on Monday I would teach the class. That evening in my hotel room, I would read the next few chapters in the books and teach that on Tuesday. I was literally just one chapter ahead of the class. But, in their eyes, I was all-knowing and The Expert in that software application.
Knowing More Than Your Audience
Now, I have just given you the secret to success in doing seminars and L&Ls. Except, today there isn’t even a need to buy books on some subjects. The Internet opens up a world of knowledge on any given subject, and, with just a few hours of research and reading on the subject, you can know more than 99% of your audience about that subject.
So, let’s say you are going to do an event on “How to Prepare for a HIPAA Audit”. There is more than enough material on the new HIPAA laws on cms.gov and other websites. And, there are articles in Billing & Coding Magazine, and others, as well as email newsletters from various organizations to make you an “expert” in this subject.
Remember, you only have to know a little bit more than your audience and you become The Expert. Even if you don’t know the answers to all questions on the topic, you can always tell them you can send them a detailed answer via email. Then, just do some Googling and find what you need to share with them.
Topics for Your Events
Here are some topic ideas for your events: Learning ICD–10, HIPAA Compliance, Patient Collections, Cleaning Up Aged Accounts, Using Modifiers, Medicare Audits, What to Look for in Practice Management Software, Electronic Medical Records, The Affordable Care Act.
Ok, you’ve done your research and have come up with some PowerPoint slides outlining your topic. Here’s the million dollar question: how do you get people to come to you, and where do you hold your event?
Finding A Sponsor
If you are doing a “seminar”, you will need to find a Sponsor for your event. This could be a hospital, an assisted living facility, a hospice, a local chamber, a bank or any facility that has a conference room large enough for your event. I have held seminars in bank conference rooms that hold only a dozen or so, and I have held seminars at hospitals with rooms large enough for 50. I held one event in a doctor’s waiting room that we crammed 40 people into. The main thing you are looking for is not just the room to hold the event but someone who is willing to Sponsor the event. This can make all the difference in the world as to how many people show up at the event.
First, by offering to do a seminar, you are helping the facility. Most assisted living homes, for example, love to have medical personnel show up at their facility, as it is a chance for them to show off their facility and, hopefully, get physicians to refer their patients to them. The same is true of the other groups I mentioned earlier. They all want traffic. And you can provide that traffic by holding an event at their facility. Give them a reason to want to sponsor you. What will it do for their facility? How will it benefit them?
Promoting Your Event
Ask the sponsor to do a mailing or to hand out or post flyers in various places to help promote the event. Most of the time they will even provide food for the event if you simply ask them.
By the way, this is another secret of getting medical providers and staff to attend an event. Food. Free food. And if you schedule your event around lunch time it makes it easy for them to justify taking time to come to your event. They have to eat lunch, so why not get educated on the topic you are promoting as they eat?
Even if you have to provide the food, it’s a very small investment in marketing to build your business. As you know one good billing account can earn you thousands of dollars per year in ongoing revenue. Even if you held three events and only signed up one new client, wouldn’t it be worth the time and money spent? Consider the lifetime value of a client … and the answer is always yes!
Getting Everything Just Right
Most facilities have a projector and will allow you to use it. If not you can rent one from an audiovisual company. Always look at the actual room you will be using and make sure you can set up your laptop and projector to show your slides on a wall (or screen if they have one).
Make sure to plan your event several weeks ahead of the actual date as you want time to do a mailing to local providers yourself. The day before your event, have someone make phone calls to everyone you mailed a flyer to and remind them of the event. Have people RSVP to an e-mail address so you know how many to expect. Plan on only 50 to 60% actually showing up. At least this has been my experience and that of others that I’ve taught this to.
You will want to prepare handouts of your slides or other marketing pieces to give to everyone attending. And of course be sure to have plenty of brochures and business cards on hand as well.
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas on how Marketing a Billing Business can help your new billing business. Here are a couple of books that will give you some further ideas:
- How to Develop and Promote Successful Seminars and Workshops by Howard Shenson
- Marketing with Speeches and Seminars by Miriam Otte.
You can find these on Amazon.com or in any major bookstore.