There’s an interesting trend happening in the healthcare field today. While an aging population has increased the demand for physicians, there is a growing shortage of medical professionals, particularly in rural areas. Changing payer models and skyrocketing malpractice insurance are discouraging potential physicians from entering the field.

But here’s the paradox: new treatments and innovative insurance solutions, the competition among hospitals, urgent care networks, private practices and others is heating up. New technologies have given consumers new ways to find out about and select a doctor. More than ever, doctors will need to differentiate themselves if they want to stay competitive in 2016, according to a recent article in Forbes.

When patients have options, smart practice marketing can determine where they choose to receive care. While many healthcare practices have realized the power of marketing to recruit new patients, boost referrals, and expand their practice, others find it difficult to embrace it, often due to misconceptions about the legitimacy or ROI of medical marketing. Keep reading as we bust the four biggest myths about marketing your practice.

Myth #1: “Selling” your services is unprofessional

Reality: We’re not talking about going door-to-door peddling your practice. Even lawyers, whose code of ethics once forbade them from doing any kind of external marketing, have realized the power of marketing. They have moved from the back cover of the local phone directory to highway billboards. It that technique is too crass for your taste, swap out the word “selling” for “promoting” or “educating” and you open up a world of low-key but phenomenally successful marketing techniques, from educational seminars (which have been extremely effective for financial and retirement planners) to networking. There are many social opportunities to network with individuals who can promote your practice and make referrals. There is nothing unprofessional about increasing awareness of your practice publicly and privately.

Myth #2: You don’t need social media or an online presence

Reality:  Practices that use web site solely to present their academic and specialty practice credentials and to provide a portal for new patients to download forms and for existing patients to access their medical records are shortsighted. According to one source, more than 70% of patients find a specialist online, including through social media and review sites such as Yelp.

What’s more, the online reputation of your practice is critical to your success. The first thing a potential patient will do is look for online reviews. According to Modern Aesthetics, more than 90% of people use online reviews when making a decision; nearly that many trust online reviews, even if they are inaccurate.

Myth #3: You can market to everyone the same way

Reality: Thanks to fundamental shifts in technology and demographics, you can no longer market your practice to everyone in the same way. For example, Millennial women prefer to learn about new products they would potentially like to buy from social media accounts of their friends and customer reviews on company websites, according to Marketing Sherpa. Millennial men, on the other hand, favor online advertising. Baby Boomer women and men prefer to find products and services more directly.

A number of medical practitioners are moving toward inbound marketing and thought leadership, according to Forbes. Through educational websites, newsletters, webinars, seminars and e-books, these medical practices are communicating not only their standard of care but the fact that they can deliver this standard. Old-school techniques may not work anymore, even for older patients. Which leads to the last myth…

Myth #4: You don’t need a marketing plan

Reality: Given what you’ve read up to this point, hopefully you’re getting the idea that being a good provider will NOT automatically generate new patients or patient referrals. To ensure your practice’s growth and profitability, you need a marketing plan that clearly defines your business/practice goals, your audiences, and your services, and develops strategies and tactics to accomplish your goals.

A good marketing plan allows you to anticipate, assess, prepare, build a road map to follow, cover-your-bases, construct necessary support systems, protect yourself and dramatically improve your chances for marketing success.

Medical practice marketing is here to stay. Don’t let misconceptions and myths become obstacles to your practice’s success.