In this episode, Barbara and Kevin discuss:

*What Is The Importance Of Understanding Patient Needs And Providing Personalized Care
*Marketing Services And Managing Their Online Reputation
*Key Factors Contributing To Building A Successful Medical Practice, Including Clarity, Consistency, And Creating A Positive Patient Experience

Key Takeaways:
“I think pulling in a coach to do an assessment from outside that’s not tied down with your paradigms, your rules, your way of thinking, is the best thing.” – Kevin D. St.Clergy

Connect with Kevin D. St.Clergy:



Connect with Barbara Hales:

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Power to the Patient: The Medical Strategist


Dr. Barbara Hales: Welcome to another episode of marketing tips for doctors.

I’m your host, Dr. Barbara Hales. Today it’s an honor to introduce Kevin St. Clergy, a luminary in the field of medical marketing, whose contributions over the past two decades have reshaped the landscape of medical practices nationwide.

Kevin’s dedication transcends the accolades. His true fulfillment lies in enhancing  the professional and personal lives of his physicians. And to them, 1005 Kevin founded a pioneering online marketing consultancy that now boasts a clientele of over 2000 locations across various medical specialties. Despite the successes and the scale of his impact, Kevin finds the greatest joy in witnessing the transformative power of simple, yet profound changes and how medical practices operate, ensuring they serve not just as a livelihood, but as a gateway to a fulfilling life.

Join us as we delve into Kevin’s insights and experiences charting the path to a thriving medical practice. Welcome to the show, Kevin.

Kevin St.Clergy: Thanks, Barbara. I appreciate you having me.

Dr. Barbara Hales: What is your actual agency called for our listeners?


Kevin’s Online Marketing Agency

Kevin St.Clergy: We have two names depending on the river multi-specialty group, which is for small and medium-sized physician offices called Practis. Spelled a little differently. We’re also an audiology hearing aids and ear, nose and throat doctors’ offices through a name called MedPB which stands for Medical Practice Builders, and MedPB for short And then for our 50-60 physician groups and larger or major and minor or smaller hospital systems. We own a company called Dobies Marketing. So, we acquired digital marketing agencies to bring them all together. So now we can service a small practice with just one physician, one front desk, or a very large hospital system with their strategies and what they’re trying to do to get more new patients through the door.

Dr. Barbara Hales: How many people work for your agency?

Kevin St.Clergy: We have I think right now we’re at what 107. We’re about to bring on another company which will bring us to 129, I believe.

Dr. Barbara Hales: What inspired you to pursue a career in medical marketing?

Kevin St.Clergy: Well, I started as an audiologist.  Believe it or not, I come from a family of audiologists and audiology is this hearing and balance. My aunt was an audiologist, my cousin was an audiologist, my brother wore hearing aids. I’m 51. Chris is 49 for 48 years, and I got in and I ran a clinic successfully and took it from a struggling clinic to being very successful, I think we were doing about $5,000 a month when I took over the clinic. And we grew it to over $650,000 within the first year. Then I had another clinic and then I started working with ear nose and throat surgeons for a referral basis. We ended up getting some contracts there so made a pretty good name for myself and the ability to grow a practice in a private practice setting. And then they said, you know, you’re good at this business stuff, we’d love for you to go out and just consult the physician offices that we work with and go in and help them grow their businesses.

We did a good job with the territory we had, we took it from about half a million dollars in business to 5.5 million in four years, me and another assistant that I had, and it was mainly just going into physician offices and saying, look, let’s go through this assessment, find out where there’s some holes in the bucket, let me see if I can plug the holes. At the time, it was everything from soup to nuts and recruiting training. And then I just got to where I love the marketing aspect of it no five, I started a marketing agency.

Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, that’s very impressive. How would you say you got past the gatekeeper to let physicians know you were available?

Kevin St.Clergy: Relationships. I was big on that. So, once I had a core group of customers, at first, it was cold calling and just trying to get on the phone with them to let them know what we could do, but already had some relationships in the profession. So, manufacturers that were looking to help with medical device sales for themselves, but also for the physicians, especially private pay money that a lot of physicians were after at that time and still are. Many of them. We’re looking to grow and I had some success stories early on. And the manufacturers would refer me to certain clinics and then once I had a certain base of clinics I got a lot of referrals from physicians and then I learned a valuable lesson because I wrote a book on digital marketing.

And once you write a book and I usually encourage whether you’re a physician or an agency owner Two things these days one does a TED talk, I don’t think it hurts even a physician who’s trying to brand themselves in a local market. A TED talk will give you instant credibility and lead to other opportunities for growth. And also writing a book because it’s an instant expert on whatever it is that you do. And well I’ve written six. So, the first one that I was in the audiology space was called The Death of Audiology. At the time, there were a lot of changes going through the industry and the profession at the time. So, it got people’s attention.

It was my first experience with sometimes bad press is good press. Because people didn’t like the title. But a lot of people once they read the book, and they read the messaging, and we’re working on other things to have my next book is coming out is called Blind Blaming. And that is going to be my TED talk that’s coming up here very shortly. We’re sometimes we don’t always see the problem. But we start blaming other things that aren’t the actual problem and focusing too many, too much energy on places that aren’t going to fix the problem you have.

Cold Calling Marketing Strategy

Dr. Barbara Hales: So, when you’re doing cold calling, did you find a lot of physicians just didn’t get it in terms of the need for marketing?

Kevin St.Clergy: I did? Well, first, it was hard to get through the gatekeepers. I found that very difficult. But once I had found a way to get through, and it was for my book, writing the book and getting the books, I would send the book and then follow up with a phone call. And the book was a motivator to get the physicians to call and say, Listen, I don’t want to be the doctor in that story, because it was a business fable. I don’t know if anybody’s ever read a book by Patrick Lencioni. It’s called Death by Meeting one of my favorites. But he writes his he writes his books and a fable format. Mine was a story of a private practice Doctor who was struggling with her business for practice, and she met somebody to help her turn it around.

So that’s how I got around the cold calling. But I think the biggest challenge was a lot of doctors didn’t feel they needed to market or the fascinating thing is nobody felt like their patients were online in their market. Because audiologists deal with older people, nobody thought old people would ever use the internet, obviously wrong. But now everybody uses the internet, and it’s getting more and more prevalent.

Challenges In Growing A Medical Practice

Dr. Barbara Hales: Yes, this is true. What were your biggest challenges as your agency grew?

Kevin St.Clergy: That’s a good one, I’d say people, I learned very quickly to hire slow and fire fast. I learned that it’s very important to align the people that you’re trying to bring onto your team. And we teach this to physician groups as well. It’s really important to find people with similar core values. But finding the best people was probably the most difficult challenge that I had. But once we figured out how to attract and retain the best employees with similar core values, a different interviewing process, we would do several things with them, we know they can answer the traditional interview. And if they did well on that, we’d simply take them to lunch, and see how they did in a social environment if they were fun to hang out with. And they did a good job. And they seem interested in other people. And they were nice to the waitress and had to seem to have good core values. We’ve had much more success doing things like that.

Dr. Barbara Hales: You still take them out to lunch?

Kevin St.Clergy: Still outside my company anymore. I did sell. So, I worked for the folks I do. I’m part of the company now. But I do work for the folks that I sold to. But yeah, if it’s somebody that I’m interviewing for other projects that I’m involved in, absolutely, always do. Because I’m a big believer that whether you’re a physician in private practice, or whether you’re an agency doing medical marketing, the biggest competitive advantage that you have is the quality and quantity of the personal relationships you build. And if you’ve got somebody on your team that doesn’t fall in those lines, it’s not going to build relationships and get people to the point where they know you love you and trust you. I think you’re doing yourself and your customers a disservice.

Dr. Barbara Hales: No, I agree with you completely. What do you think is the hardest part about growing a practice in 2024?

Kevin St.Clergy: Oh, well, the new axis of evil are now insurance companies. So, I think that’s the biggest challenge that we have. Figuring out some ways to get private pay cash through the door. I’ve always admired my primary care physician; she is doing a great job with say buying IoT with some cash-based stuff that I’m a patient of that because I’m getting older and things happen. But you know, talking to her and her staff, she’s like, you know, we really liked the cash side of the business. It’s a lot easier when we get our money up front, things like that. I’ve seen a lot of physicians who have told me that they’re struggling because of insurance companies reducing their fees and they’re now having to see two to three times as many people to make the same amount of money that they were before not that money is their primary driver. 99% of the time, but I think with what they went through and the education they have, they deserve to make a decent living. So that’s what I’m seeing.

Dr. Barbara Hales: I don’t think it’s a question of feeling that they deserve it or that they  want to get rich, I think it’s a question of wanting to pay the bills.

Kevin St.Clergy: And true and pay their staff who needs to feed their families as well. So yeah, I don’t think keep doing that. But that’s where I think our national organizations need to get a little bit more involved and, and helping us negotiate and do things like that, which we’re not there yet. Interestingly enough, though, when I was in Canada, because we do have some customers in Canada, they are doing a pretty good job of protecting some of their private pay fees, and stopping some internet, you know, people that are doing some things, they shouldn’t be doing that or they’re allowed to do in the United States.

They’re not necessarily what they do in Canada and different professions. So, I thought that was interesting. But they when I asked him about it, they’re like, Yeah, that’s one thing. I’ll give credit to our national organization. They lobbied and fought really hard to make sure these companies can’t do business up here like they do in the States. I thought that was an interesting comment.

Growing A Medical Practice Through Clear Values, Coaching, And Excellent Patient Care

Dr. Barbara Hales: But on the other hand, if there is elective surgery that needs to be done, like a hip replacement, for instance, patients have the choice of waiting a few years or coming down to the States.

Kevin St.Clergy: Oh, yes, no, it can be argued both ways. This was just one situation where there are organizations that protected them from an insurance company that was doing something in the states from doing the same thing in Canada, that’s all I met. So not saying I agree with their healthcare model at all. I like ours. That’s why I live here. But that’s what I think the biggest challenge is.

I’m hearing that over and over again. And that’s where I encourage physicians as we get into some of their digital marketing, and we’re helping them get more new patients to the door, improving their web presence, helping them get more reviews, we always ask, you know, how’s everything else going, because for some value, add services that are to make our company more attractive, we’ll help them with all aspects of their practice, we’ve got a lot of what we call success tools and things like that, and just teaching them how to create an environment that people actually want to come work in and being honest and upfront with them, helping them get the right people on board. That’s the second biggest challenge that I see that I hear often from physicians, so we try to help them with their recruiting, with how they’re writing job descriptions, all of that goes into a play or goes into the big equation. But the biggest thing is, do people align with your core values? Have you sat down and outlined your core values in writing so that you can share them with other people and find the best folks?

Dr. Barbara Hales: In your experience? What key factors contribute to building a successful practice?

Kevin St.Clergy: Well, I think getting very clear, I’d say clarity, making sure that you’re very clear on what you want the type of practice that you want to build. I do think it’s critical to have a coach what I always tell physicians is, or ask physicians is how many Olympic athletes won a gold medal Do you know of one that didn’t have a coach? And a lot of times we get on this island and use your background a little bit we get on this tropical island, and we don’t want to ask for help. And I don’t know many very ultra-successful people that don’t have a coach. I’ve had a coach for many years at least 20. Some of the most successful people that I work with have coaches, my coaches have coaches.

Next, I would say consistency with actions, meaning if I don’t think a lot of physicians are paying much attention these days, to the patient experience, or the patient pathway, as I like to call it that’s where you look at every aspect of a patient’s experience with your office and you need to make sure that it’s consistent. Are they getting the best care? Are we building relationships?

Are we showing them that we do care about them and their health and who they are. And so, marketing’s job is to make the phone ring.  It’s the physician’s job to convert that patient into an appointment for revenue-generating appointment. After that our staff needs to give them a great experience so that they leave a positive review. And that positive review can lead to more referrals from family members and friends and people who don’t even know us because people trust reviews a great deal.

And then finally getting a community together that’s looking at other successful physicians that you can be around and share ideas and bounce ideas off. We have a mastermind group that we’ve created for physicians and we have one coming up here. Oddly enough in May in my house, we have about 55 physicians coming down. We have them get up in front of the room and they share their biggest give which is their best idea that they’ve done to grow their practice. They also asked the group one question to them to help them have something they were struggling with. And when you get several million dollars plus practices in a room and you start sharing ideas, it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been part of so community is the next one or not all that leads to confidence in what you’re doing. So that’s my five-step process for growing a practice and it works well.

Dr. Barbara Hales: Yes, sounds good. How do you approach patient care and customer service when coaching practice to build strong, long-lasting relationships with patients?

Kevin St.Clergy: It goes back to what I call creating a great experience. And this goes back to what I said just a few minutes ago that I think we forget, sometimes we get so bogged down with insurance and we’re having to see 50-60 people a day, sometimes in certain practices, the sitting down and saying, Okay, guys, what are we doing to give them a great experience, for example, when a lot of our clients we work with, we have some marketing automation in place when a patient schedules an appointment, and they show up, they get a personalized handwritten thank you note from the physician in their handwriting. The physician never touched it.

But you can’t I can’t tell you how many doctors are calling me saying, well, I think I can learn a lot from you guys. I’m blown away by how many patients said thank you for the thank you notes, you’re the only one that I got this year. Or when we’re we have other things that we do like we have some marketing automation, where on their birthday, the office gets together and records a recording that we use for everyone. And they’re delivered a voicemail that skips the phone call and goes right to their voicemail of the physician’s office singing that patient Happy Birthday, on their cell phone.

So, there are little things you can do to make deposits into what I call an emotional bank account. So, when the topic of your practice or what you’re doing comes up, people immediately think of you because I don’t think our I know that patients don’t have the technical know-how to judge the success of their appointment. If they feel better, I get it. But a lot of times they’ll revert back to feeling instead of results. And if they don’t feel like the doctor talked to them or spent enough time with them, or they were mistreated by the front desk, or they didn’t get a handwritten thank you note or the personal phone call like my physician did after she heard something happened to me and I, unfortunately, go to the hospital. Those are the types of things that I think it takes to build really good quality relationships that are gonna get you the referrals that we all want and need.

Growing A Successful Medical Practice

Dr. Barbara Hales: Yeah, I think you’re right. Before you start marketing for a client, is there anything that makes you unique in this approach?

Kevin St.Clergy: I say results, we try to find out, we interview the client to make sure they’re going to be a good fit for our values, and that they actually want to grow. Are they going to make time to show up for the call? So here’s an interview that we take our physicians through to say, Okay, can you make this a priority, or at least have somebody on your team that can take charge of this, to make sure that you’re very clear on the results, you’re getting the return on investment that you’re getting, and we like to meet with our clients live on the telephone, once a month, preferably once a quarter at a minimum so that we can convey those results that they’re getting?

And there are also things that we find when we’re starting to work with a physician group, for example. I had somebody last week that said, you know, I’m not really impressed with your marketing. And I said, really? Well, let’s go look at the results. I’m showing 22 new patient calls from your tracking numbers online. Yeah, but we only scheduled two new patients. I’m like, well, wait a minute, let’s talk about responsibilities here. My responsibility is to make the phone ring and generate a text message; a form fills your team’s responsibility is to convert that lead into an appointment. So, we try to go through and make sure that we’re working with somebody with a growth mindset, meaning they’re not suffering from what my TED talk will be about. Paradigm paralysis or paradigm blindness, is where your way of doing something becomes the only way of doing something and you become uncoachable. And things are changing, and the patients are changing and their expectations are changing. If we don’t change with them, then the practice is going to go away.

Dr. Barbara Hales: Do you ever have an initial assessment in person or is there?

Kevin St.Clergy: Not in this day and age, if they’re on some of our advanced coaching programs, some people just pay us for digital marketing. Other physicians pay us to work with their entire practice. If they’re paying us and one of those higher-end coaching models, we do try to go out to their office at least once, preferably twice a year. In fact, I’ve got to go to a team retreat in Long Island. In June, for a very large client where we twice a year I fly in, we get their team off-site, and we close the office for a day, which freaks a lot of physicians out. But it’s so addictive. Once you start doing and you start developing your team, they actually start to look forward to it. And it’s not a bad thing we meet from 9 am until 2 pm. We do some team-building exercises, we look at some challenges, and we get some goals of what we need to do better or differently. We look at habits that we’ve got and each position in the practice to see if there are some things that we can do to develop the team as well. And we provide training. So yes, I absolutely try to get out there as much as I can. If they’re on that particular package with the digital marketing. Usually, a Zoom calls each month is plenty, or once a quarter if that’s what they prefer.

Dr. Barbara Hales: What advice would you give a physician who is struggling to grow their practice?

Kevin St.Clergy: I would advise them to get somebody who’s outside of their organization. Sometimes there’s a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolution. In that book, it talks about scientists and when they’re doing studies and the reason Also those studies fit into what they expected to happen, their paradigm, their way of thinking their set of rules, everything was fine. But when the results started looking differently than what they expected, it was almost like the data didn’t exist, they were incapable of seeing that this was real, and what the solution was or what the solution wasn’t to the run the test over and over again, definition of insanity. But I think the same thing holds true with physicians if you’re struggling with growing your practice. Sometimes, as that book proved, it’s physically impossible for us to see the solution without bringing an outside perspective.

That’s why I’m number two in growing a successful practice, I use coaching. Because if you can bring in a professional coach who can pull you out of what you’re doing, make an accurate assessment of what’s going on be honest and upfront with you. Sometimes employees want to keep their jobs, they’re a little shaky to rock the boat, which is another discussion, another call someday, having feeling good enough to where you can be honest in your organization about what’s going wrong. But I think pulling in a coach to assess from outside that’s not tied down with your paradigms, your rules, your way of thinking, is the best thing. I can know how or join a mastermind group where other successful physicians can help you step out of the box and take a look at the way you’re running things too.

The Importance Of Online Reviews For Medical Practices

Dr. Barbara Hales: I think that’s good. Now what I’d like to ask you, which is what I ask everybody that I’m interviewing is, could you at this point, give us two tips for our listeners so they can then implement right away to help them be more successful?

Kevin St.Clergy: Oh, yes, I’d say the first tip, and this is something that a lot of physicians don’t pay attention to that I’m finding, and that gets online reviews. And I would automate the process, which is the second tip is to use marketing automation. A lot of people don’t know what that is. And I’ll go into it briefly. But if you look at one thing, a litmus test for your practice, I always ask physicians, I just did a talk at an academy meeting last week, and I just asked the entire group, you know, how many of you have looked at a review in the last 30 days and 100% of the room raise their hand. And then when I asked, well, how many of you have looked at your reviews, and about half the room, raise their hand.

And so, get as many reviews as you can, Google is looking for the quality and quantity of the reviews that you get, and also the percentage of reviews that you respond to. And depending on who you look at there are HIPAA compliance issues. A good way a bad way. Wouldn’t be careful with that. But I see it time and time again, when a physician contacts us and says yes, a little slower than it has been before. We just Google their practice and their town or what they do in their specialty. So, urology, St. Louis. And we can see that first of all, sometimes they’re nowhere to be found. That’s a whole other issue. But when we do find their reviews, and they’ve got a 4.5 rating, and there’s other with 20 Reviews, and they’ve got other physicians that have 200 reviews, with a 4.8 rating, which physician are you going to click on first, which one I would choose.

Dr. Barbara Hales: What I have always found surprising is that, you know, if I go for a manicure, and I leave the salon, within an hour of leaving the salon, I get a text message from a service asking me to rate how many stores and Anna review from a salon. And the same goes for when my dog goes for a spa treatment or any other like ancillary program, you would think that, if so many other avenues of our life are taken up with, you know, this automated review request that, you know, professionals would jump on board. And certainly time.

Kevin St.Clergy: Yeah, I’d save some time. And I’m telling you, this is one of the few services I’ve ever offered in 20 years I’ve been doing this where we guarantee results, we have a HIPAA-compliant solution that hooks it to EMRs. And it works 100% of the time if they don’t get more new reviews in 90 days with using the system. Because what we do is when we automate things, it eliminates the human element. When people are trying to do it manually. People forget we get busy. There are 15 People in the waiting room, and 510 calls are coming in every minute for busy practices, they don’t have time and when we automate it, but also write the emails in a way that sounds like they’re coming from a human being.

It’s pretty amazing what can happen. I mean, we have the graphs that can show the dinking along a few reviews here and there. But when they start to market automation, and they just ask it goes up. But what I’m finding is a lot of physicians are scared to ask Do you know why? They’re scared they’re gonna get a bad review. And I think what they need to understand is that it’s not a matter of if you’re going to get a bad review. It’s a matter of when and if you don’t have a process in place to get the patients who know you trust you love you. To leave you a good review you run the risk of only having the bad people tell their opinions of your practice.

Dr. Barbara Hales: That’s for sure. Now, do you recommend that patients go to Yelp? Or are there other sites that you would also recommend?

Kevin St.Clergy: Without getting in trouble? I don’t, I don’t like Yelp, because it’s a pay-to-play model. And they can argue with me all they want. But I don’t think Google is a big fan of Yelp, either, because they’re not showing them in the searches as much. I could be totally wrong. But I’d say Google is your best bet. They do a good job of monitoring the reviews, they’re starting to pull reviews that they feel are fake or not real. They’re catching people that are doing some shady things. So, I find that Google is the best place to focus on and I think for patients too. It’s a great place to go.

Dr. Barbara Hales: Okay, well, that’s great. This has been very interesting. Interview. I’ve really enjoyed it. And I’m sure our listeners have also, thank you very much for being with us today.

Kevin St.Clergy: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Barbara Hales: This has been another episode of Marketing Tips for Doctors with your hosts, Dr. Barbara Hales. Til next time!