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The First 7 Marketing Audit Questions to Get You to the Next Level

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

leaping doctorHealthcare in general—and medical practice marketing in particular—has as an over-abundance of challenges these days.

How do you move forward in spite of the competitive headwinds? How do you maximize your advertising Return-on-Investment? How do you shift from “get along” to “get ahead?” Where’s the path to increasing personal and professional satisfaction? How can we grow revenue to expand services, locations or associates?

For doctors who are not yet willing to hang up the white coat…the answer (which we saw again today) is worth sharing for everyone’s benefit.

Providers, practices and medical programs that achieve the greatest success are the ones that planned it that way.

The constant change in healthcare delivery makes that seem easier said than done. But nationwide, it’s the same story. The winners all have a comprehensive marketing plan which they use daily.

It’s rarely simple or easy. Plans are often sophisticated, with many moving parts. Reaching, convincing and attracting an audience requires cost-effective strategies and tactics that increase revenue and profitability.

Where to begin: The first seven marketing audit questions to get to the next level.

Regardless of how well you think you're doing, a marketing reality check is a useful starting point.

If you don't know, if you're a student of continuous improvement, or if you're serious about breakthrough growth, here's how to start a penetrating conversation with your marketing plan.

There are a couple hundred probing questions to ask yourself and others, but here are the first seven:

1. Are you using an evidence-based marketing approach? Does your marketing system include Proven Strategies, a well-designed Marketing Plan, Effective Implementation and a means to Evaluate Results? All four of these components drive the process. If you're missing one or more you are not operating at full strength.

2. What's the date on your marketing plan? 
Even well-considered plans become dated if they are not challenged at least quarterly. If it's been six months or more since you took a fresh look at your roadmap, carve out some quiet time to evaluate. Do you need "refreshment" or a completely new course of action?

3. Do you have clear and specific goals? 
Not everyone is clear about this marching order: goals are at the top; strategies support goals; and tactics implement the strategies. How have your goals changed? What are the new goals and how did you set the goals? What strategies and tactics are needed to achieve the goals, new or otherwise? Did you realign your budget for what's changed?

4. Is your marketing budget right for the job? There are at least six different methods for setting a marketing budget. How did you set your budget and does it support the goals? Do you have enough resources in the right places to make it a winning plan? Above all, marketing is a revenue center, not a cost center. You should expect performance to be 3 or 4:1 overall. (See #7.)

5. Does your branding message clearly differentiate your practice? 
As long as you are the "only game in town," branding and positioning for your practice might go unchallenged. But increased competition means there's no sliding-by-patients and community need to clearly hear and understand how you are different and better.

6. Are your internal, external and referral programs working together or independently? Some parts of a well-tuned plan run all the time, while others may be seasonal, and still others are keyed to a target audience segment. Does your plan carefully coordinate these elements, providing desired overlap or avoiding conflicts?

7. How do you measure response and Return-on-Investment? Sadly, many practices don't have a reliable tracking system to identify the source of new patients and to measure the effectiveness of their marketing, advertising, promotion or referral efforts. Regardless of the size of the practice, the program or any of the strategic or tactical parts-if you don't track you just don't know what's working. Do you have a tracking system? Is it working? Is it reliable and accurate? It's impossible to manage the plan or calculate your ROI without this part of the equation.

Just one more thing…

Don't allow the Treatment Plan get ahead of the Diagnosis. At least weekly someone will call and announce that they "need a brochure" (or something) for their practice. Imagine if a patient presented with a request for a specific medication before you did any exam, tests or procedures.

The same principle applies to creating successful marketing programs. Don't jump ahead. Invest the time to probe into these questions and answers. Get a clear and unbiased perspective on where you are and what you need to do to achieve your practice development goals.

Related reading: See our previous post, Lewis Carroll, Yogi Berra and the “Any Road” Healthcare Marketing Fantasy.

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