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Doing More with Less: Creating a Lean and Mean Healthcare Marketing Budget

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Animated sad man thinking about moneyCreating an effective healthcare marketing plan shouldn’t be a painful exercise. But to many, it seems like that.

The doctor who is already into marketing wants to grow his or her practice…but resources are more scarce than ever. The medical group practice may have a few resources, but the competition has grown from “tough” to “fierce.” And then there are hospital marketing and advertising budgets that need to serve many individuals, departments and (often competing) interests.

American marketing pioneer John Wanamaker crystallized the frustration of everyone with a sharp pencil in hand at budget time. About a hundred years ago he observed that: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

The annual budget challenge is to do more with less. Here are several proven concepts toward creating a lean and mean healthcare marketing budget.

  • Quantify your goals and objectives. Your marketing and advertising requires priorities that are current and directly impact the bottom line. Quantify them in specific, actionable and measurable numbers. It’s not about doing what “feels good” or the “same as last year.” It’s about dollars out that will produce dollars in, and positive Return-on-Investment.
  • Play to your strengths and know what counts the most. In our experience, many marketing efforts are underfunded and doomed before they begin. Eliminate the tactics that underperform or don’t work. Concentrate resources that can be quantified and measured, and where impact is highest. It’s better to put marketing muscle into 20 budget items and do them exceptionally well than attempt 50 items with too little.
  • Understand change and adjust. Healthcare reform, the tide of patient consumerism, hospitals acquiring practices, and many other change agents require a new and close examination of the marketplace, the competition and the target audience. Adjust to and leverage meaningful market trends. But recognize and avoid passing fads.
  • Identify outsource opportunities. It’s a classic business blunder to assume that “doing it ourselves” will always save money. In fact, retaining specialized, experienced and professional skills for a limited time or project is often the most cost effective and time efficient solution. For help, review the cost/benefit ratio and the checklist in this article: 20 Healthcare Marketing Moments: When & Why Outsourcing Saves Money.
  • Don’t drop the ball in the red zone. Invest in organization-wide training to improve converting prospects to appointments and winning new business. The objective of any healthcare marketing or advertising endeavor is not just to make the phone ring. Individuals at every station in the process need to understand and support the business objectives and be equipped to achieve them. A marketing budget is incomplete without training to convert opportunity to revenue. Improve this ratio and you improve your overall performance.
  • Stuff happens. Deal. Nobody’s plan and budget can perfectly anticipate everything. Opportunities suddenly present themselves, and disasters (large and small) can happen out of the blue. It’s prudent insurance to budget in a way that allows some flexibility in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
  • Budget annually, but review and adjust monthly. Fiscal years and calendar years are important for planning and budgeting, but regular reviews of what’s working (and what’s not working) are opportunities to make adjustments. Schedule a regular time—monthly at a minimum—to review your overall marketing effort and the effectiveness of individual parts of the budget. Push your successes areas, and rethink, repair, redesign or eliminate the under performers.

For more about creating a highly effective marketing budget, read these articles in our free reference library: Putting Pencil to Paper for a Realistic Healthcare Organization Marketing Budget and Scientifically Establish Healthcare Marketing Budget For Hospitals, Healthcare Organizations and Private Practices.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA


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