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Episode 002 – Understanding Your Target Patients

On this episode of The Practice Marketing Podcast, hosts Garrett Smith and Don Lee discuss the importance of targeting the right patients with your internet marketing campaigns. Garrett and Don deliver a high-level overview of patient personas, what they are, why they are important, and how you can create them yourself before you begin your next campaign. For more information about this episode, and the complete show notes, please continue reading below.

Show Notes

“What You Will Learn”

On this episode of the practice marketing podcast you will learn:

  1. What is a patient persona
  2. Why patient personas are important to your practice marketing
  3. How you can get started creating your own patient personas

Segment #1 – What Are Patient Personas?

  • Fictitious representation of the patients that come into your practice – both positive and negative
  • Include demographic info and details on concerns, motivators, validators (for making decisions)
  • Visual artifact

Pro-Tip #1

You should use patient persona’s as an easy way to get started with thinking how to grow market your practice.

Segment #2 – Why Patient Personas Are Important to Your Practice

  • Used across practice to ensure consistency of brand, messagings
  • Helps keep focus of your marketing efforts around desired patients, cases
  • Ensures you don’t waste money or time going in the wrong direction

Pro-Tip #2

Your practice should use patient personas in order to ensure your efforts are focused, and targeted towards the patients you want.

Segment #3 – How to Get Started Creating Patient Personas

  • Use intake data or surveys to capture data about your existing patient population
  • Divide your patients into four to six different archetypes, including targeted (desired), and negative
  • Meet with your team to document the demographics and other persona details

Pro-Tip #3

You should never start a marketing campaign until you’ve documented your patient personas, and agreed as to which one(s) you are targeting.

Full Episode Transcript

Garrett Smith:                     00:00                       Hey, everyone, Garrett here. For more information about understanding your target patients, check out chapter two in Book Now! Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices, available at

Don Lee:                                  00:12                       Hey, Garrett, so the Internet’s not new, right? There’s got to be some practices listening in right now that have been through this. They’ve tried it and they just haven’t gotten what they wanted out of Internet marketing. Why is that?

Garrett Smith:                     00:24                       On this episode of The Practice Marketing Podcast, you will learn what is a patient persona, why patient personas are important to your practice marketing, and how you can get started creating your own patient personas.

Speaker 3:                              00:38                       Are you looking to take your practice to the next level? Well, you’re in the right place. Welcome to The Practice Marketing Podcast with your hosts, Garrett Smith and Don Lee.

Garrett Smith:                     00:51                       Hello and welcome to The Practice Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Garrett Smith, here with my co-host, Don Lee. We’d like to welcome you back, episode number two, Understanding Your Target Patients, and so, today, Don led in with a little bit of a question in regards to the Internet not being new and, uh, practices obviously are already participating in Internet marketing campaigns, some of them successful, some of them not.

Garrett Smith:                     01:15                       And, uh, he asked me a little bit why I think practice marketing campaigns fail, specifically Internet marketing campaigns fail, and, uh, you know, the number one reason is that they’re un-targeted, and so, with that backdrop today, we’re going to talk a little bit about what are patient personas, why patient personas are important to your practice and, uh, how you can get started creating your own patient personas so you’re not making the same mistakes that a lot of, uh, practices out there have made in the past and, probably, continue to do so.

Don Lee:                                  01:44                       Yeah, I think it’s a great question to lead into this topic because I know and I’ve heard it from people, uh, and they say, “You know, I run some Facebook ads. I did this, maybe some Google AdWords, things like that. Nothing came of it. I dropped a few hundred bucks on it, and I stopped thinking about it.” So, in your opinion, in your experience, and I know you and I have talked about this persona thing, you told me that’s the way to avoid that kind of waste to spending and, and, and wasted effort, so tell me about that.

Garrett Smith:                     02:10                       Yeah. There’s an old business saying that goes, uh, “With no plan is a plan to fail,” and I say, without patient personas, it’s a plan for failed marketing. And the reason for that is, uh, a lot of people are very quick to jump into the strategies and tactics without taking the time to really think about who they want their patients to be and what patient populations they want to serve and which patients they do not want to have and they do not want to target with their marketing, and so that’s really where patient personas come in.

Garrett Smith:                     02:42                       So we’re going to start the first segment here, segment one, with just a little bit of an overview of what exactly the, the idea of a patient persona entails, and, and so, you know, first and foremost, what you should know about a patient persona is that it’s a fictitious representation of the patients that you want to come in to your practice, and that is both in a positive light, so the types of patients you want to see more of or the type of services you maybe want to increase the volume of, and also negative type of patient personas, which includes patient populations that perhaps you do not want to see more of in your office and, therefore, you do not want to spend more time and money marketing to them.

Garrett Smith:                     03:24                       Now, when you think of a patient persona, it’s best to think of a patient persona as a bit of an archetype for your marketing. It is not necessarily something to be taken literally all the time, but it’s a really good general overview of that patient population. For example, patient personas include demographic information, details on the patients’ concerns, their motivators and even validators for marking decisions. Later on in your marketing practice, you can actually use patient personas to map different services and offers to in order to make sure that all of your marketing messaging and your targeting lines up.

Garrett Smith:                     04:00                       Of course, the final thing to know about patient personas is this is an actual visual artifact. You should include a picture or a photo of what this person looks like, and you should really try to take a deep dive into, you know, what it would be like to live a day in the life of Jane Doe the patient.

Don Lee:                                  04:16                       And I think this exercise is interesting in a lot of different ways and, having been through it a few times for a couple of different product lines that I worked on, I can tell you like my first impression of it was like … and it felt kind of hokey, it felt kind of weird, and what I found was … and, and I trust most people would the first time they do this … is it’s a really interesting exercise because it puts you in the mindset that you probably haven’t been in before, and it like really forces you to think about who are the people that I’m trying to serve and who are the people that I’m trying … you know, that I’m not necessarily trying to serve? And, and a lot of times, it was the first … When we went through this exercise, it was like the first time the teams I was working with really had that conversations, so it was incredibly powerful.

Garrett Smith:                     04:57                       Yeah. I’ve had, uh, hundreds of conversations with practices and gone through this exercise, uh, more times than I care to, to mention, and the one thing that I’m always struck by is the fact that, uh, this is not done enough. Uh, practices do not slow down. They do not get together and they do not really think about the patient populations that they want to serve, and the ones that they’re currently serving who perhaps, for lack of a better term, are not the best fit for the practice.

Garrett Smith:                     05:27                       Pro tip number one, you should use patient personas as an easy way to get started with thinking how to grow and market your practice.

Don Lee:                                  05:40                       All right, Garrett, so the concept at least makes sense. It’s pretty clear, right? We’re going to pick a … You know, if we’re going to describe this fictitious person and we’re going to use it to describe the patients that we’re serving, that we want to serve, maybe that we, we perhaps, uh, aren’t as good of a fit for the practice, so why is this important? How does this actually help me move forward with my marketing?

Garrett Smith:                     06:01                       First and foremost, it allows you to focus your thoughts, your goals, and, therefore, strategies and tactics. Second of all, patient personas really allow you to ensure that you have consistency across all of your branding and all of your messaging throughout your, your marketing campaigns. If you start to think about the idea of a positive patient persona and a negative patient persona, you very quickly come to the realization that, if this truly is the type of patient that you want, there are certain set of strategies and tactics that will work to acquire them. Also, if this is a patient, you know, demographic that you do not wish to serve, it’s very easy to understand how to avoid marketing and messaging that may attract those type of patients.

Garrett Smith:                     06:53                       Further, over time, you’re probably going to invite multiple individuals to contribute to the execution of your marketing campaigns and programs and initiatives, and having some central documentation that focuses and centers everyone around the same, uh, types of patient populations will ensure that they’re able to work and move in the right direction without you having to constantly stop, re-adjust or re-edit lots of your marketing materials.

Don Lee:                                  07:22                       Yeah, that’s great Garrett, and the concept that really jumps out to me that I find really fascinating and powerful in a sense, too, is this idea of the negative persona, and it’s that, you know, the demographic that you maybe don’t want to serve for one reason or another … and I say and I think “don’t want to serve” maybe is a, a harsh way to put it or a harsh-sounding way to put it, and I love the way that you addressed it in the book, um, and that really brought it home for me and made it make sense, and it was not necessarily like a, a persona that I didn’t want to serve per se, but it was a persona that I didn’t want to actively pursue. So I have a limited budget, right, to put towards my marketing. I have limited time, limited resources. This is a group that I don’t want to spend those resources trying to acquire, right?

Garrett Smith:                     08:06                       Absolutely, and, if you remember, we started with how patient personas can really help ensure that your campaigns are successful, and really you’re … That’s what you’re alluding to is, if you start off with the wrong patient persona in mind or the wrong targeted patient, everything else that you do from there is going to be a waste, so, taking the time to really understand who you’re trying to acquire, who you’re targeting with your, with your ads and your messaging is very important to ensuring that you’re not going to waste your time and your money.

Garrett Smith:                     08:40                       In fact, going through this exercise, you may realize that your targeted patients, the one you really desire cannot be acquired via the Internet, and that’s okay. Again, there are certain patient populations that may not be using the Internet, uh, as heavily as other mediums to discover their health information and other providers, so just know that a lot of this is we want to go slow at the beginning. We want to think a lot about who we’re going to be targeting and who we want to target in order to save time and save money throughout the life of the campaign and the life of your practice’s marketing.

Garrett Smith:                     09:18                       Pro tip number two, your practice should use patient personas in order to ensure your efforts are focused and targeted towards the patients you want and not the ones you do not.

Don Lee:                                  09:32                       All right, so we know what these personas are and we have a better sense now for how they can be utilized to help us focus our marketing and make the most of it. So I buy in. How do I get started?

Garrett Smith:                     09:44                       Yeah, first and foremost, the easiest way to get started with patient personas is to take a look at your existing patient populations and begin, uh, to divide them into a number of archetypes. If you do not have a robust set of information about your existing patients, the best thing to do is to design an intake survey or send out a separate survey that allows you to capture a lot of the demographic information about your existing patients.

Garrett Smith:                     10:11                       Once you have that information in front of you, you probably want to look to divide them into four to six different archetypes. Again, these do not have to be literal or exact, but they just have to be something that, again, elicits a good, strong image in the mind of someone so that they can put themselves inside of that patient’s shoes. Inside of these different archetypes, again, you want to include the targeted or desired patients and then also the negative or the undesired patient personas.

Garrett Smith:                     10:41                       Once you’ve gotten into this position, it’s probably best to meet with your team, whether that’s just in-house staff or your in-house staff in addition to, you know, an agency or a consultancy or solution provider, and really go through the process of filling out some of the patient persona templates that are available online. These templates and guides make it extremely easy for you to in a step-by-step process essentially fill in the blanks and, when you’re done with the exercise, have a complete visual artifact that, uh, you can use, uh, throughout the life of your marketing campaigns.

Garrett Smith:                     11:13                       Now, if you don’t feel like searching and you do not have one of these handy, you can go to and download the ones that we use with our clients absolutely for free.

Don Lee:                                  11:31                       Awesome. It’s great to have that resource available, and we’ll, uh, we’ll make sure that’s linked up in the show notes down below so you don’t have to worry about writing all that down. Just click the link and you’ll get there and be able to utilize that tool set.

Don Lee:                                  11:42                       So, you were mentioning these archetypes and talking about including these desired traits or describing your ideal patient, if you will, right? So how exactly do I describe them? Can you give an example of what I might be looking at if I have made a good persona here?

Garrett Smith:                     11:57                       Typically, a patient persona is going to include the following, first and foremost, a name, also a age range, they can be … keep it within five to 10 years, ethnicity, sex. We often include actual pictures. Uh, sometimes, they are of actual patients. Other times, they’re just faces that we found on the Internet. We also tend to talk a little bit about, uh, their background, maybe their responsibilities, their job or if they’re a mom or they’re not a mom, things of that nature are also important, overriding concerns that they may have coming into the practice, concepts or ideas around what would maybe motivate them to find care at a certain … your practice or at practices like yours, and then also information about how they would go about validating or making the decision to choose you for care, so what’s important to them in a provider of care.

Garrett Smith:                     12:54                       And, you know, there are other things that you could get into. You could get into income ranges. You could get into, you know, location, i.e., you know, where do they live, whether it’s a city or certain neighborhoods. I usually say, you know, more information the better, but, at a minimum, it’s great to have an idea of the age range, the ethnicity, the sex, their concerns, their motivators and their validator for making decisions. The rest of it is great, but if you could really get those core, you know, four or five things right there, then you’re well on your way to having a great patient persona built.

Don Lee:                                  13:26                       Awesome. And just for the benefit of the audience here, I’m going to read one that you actually put right in your book just to give them an example of what one of these sounds like, so here’s an example of a patient persona from Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices, and we’re talking about Sarah.

Don Lee:                                  13:40                       So Sarah has a BA in English. She’s been married for six years and has two children. Sarah works at a call center part time and is raising two children, a boy of two and a six-month-old girl. She’s in charge of setting medical appointments for the family and brings her children to the doctor for routine visits. One of her children has recurring chest infections and requires frequent medical care. Sarah is a nonsmoker and runs a few times a week to stay in shape for the 5K’s which she regularly participates. Sarah also cares for her aging parents who need some degree of assistance to ensure their health needs are met.

Don Lee:                                  14:11                       So, now, Sarah is a real person to me and, now, I’m in a mind state where I can, I can talk to her and I can think about where to find her and everything else. Right?

Garrett Smith:                     14:19                       That’s 100% correct. The example that I usually use is people, uh, will say something that to me is, you know, way too broad as, “Oh, we, we serve moms.” Well, you know, my mom is vastly different than the moms than they s- that they serve, right? My, my mom is no longer taking me to a pediatrician. And so, in reality, if you just told me, Garrett the marketer, to think of your mom when you’re doing your branding and your messaging, I might be completely off, and so, instead, you know, we need to look to the specific archetype of what a mom is at your practice or what a mom really means to your practice or in the context of the services you’re providing and, and, and the care, uh, and so forth.

Garrett Smith:                     15:04                       So, you know, without getting too into the weeds, uh, and, you know, trying to keep this actionable and not philosophical, that’s really what, what you’re looking to do is, is provide some, some clarity and a little bit of vision to all of those who are trying to help you execute on your marketing so that they don’t go off on the right direction … or the wrong direction, I’m sorry, and so that they really can spend some time before they start getting to work understanding how they need to position things or say things or write things in order to capture that specific patient’s attention.

Don Lee:                                  15:41                       Got it. So it’s a fair amount of detail, a fair amount of work going into those, right? And you did say it’s going to take some time. And I keep reminding you that I’m a very busy doctor and I have a lot going on in my practice, so how much time am I looking at here?

Garrett Smith:                     15:53                       I think that you could get this done if you sat down with an entire team and go through the exercise anywhere from two to four hours. If you’ve done something like this before and you’re very efficient and you’ve always got patients on your mind, again, you know, you can do it, uh, you can do four of these in, in about two hours. If you’ve never done it before, if you’ve never really slowed down and thought about who you want to serve or, or who you don’t want to serve, I’d plan to carve out a half day or more to get into these.

Garrett Smith:                     16:21                       That being said, once you do these, unless something drastically changes about, uh, your motivations or the direction of the practice itself, these last for a very long time, and so, sure, we, we advise people that they update them, say, you know, every couple of years, but unless something really changes about your practice, the services you’re providing to patient or the actual locale that you’re in, the initial investment you make in creating these will last for a very long time.

Garrett Smith:                     16:53                       Pro tip number three, you should never start a marketing campaign until you’ve documented your patient personas and agreed as to which ones you are targeting.

Don Lee:                                  17:06                       All right, folks, so you heard it here. If you’re going to go down this path and if you’re following along with us, I suspect you are, then patient personas, uh, it could take you a little bit of time, it’s going to take you a little bit of effort, but it is, uh, an investment worth making. It’s going to help you understand who you’re trying to serve a little bit better perhaps, at least in my experience for the very first time, which is extremely powerful in and of itself, but, more importantly, to the point of this podcast and the message that we’re trying to bring to you with it is it’s going to help you focus your efforts. It’s going to make sure that you’re not, uh, advertising on Facebook for people that aren’t showing up there, if that’s what you’re after, and it’s going to help make sure that you are just using your time and your resources wisely, so half day seems like a pretty reasonable investment to make in my business.

Don Lee:                                  17:55                       All right, Garrett, so we’re running out of time for this episode. Why don’t you tell everybody where we’re heading next?

Garrett Smith:                     18:00                       On the next episode of The Practice Marketing Podcast, we will discuss the anatomy of a great practice website. See you next time.

Speaker 3:                              18:10                       Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Practice Marketing Podcast with Garrett Smith and Don Lee. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please leave a review and subscribe and, for more great content and to stay up to date, visit We’ll catch you next time.

Garrett Smith:                     18:27                       Hey, everyone, Garrett here. For more information about understanding your target patients, check out chapter two in Book Now! Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices, available at

Garrett Smith

Garrett is the Founder, and Chief Marketer at InboundMD. Garrett has been successfully leading internet marketing campaigns for health care practices across the US for almost a decade. He's a frequent speaker at events, and author of "Book Now! Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices", and the host of The Practice Marketing Podcast that details how successful practices are winning online.

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