Lessons Learned: Falling into marketing is fine-just don't fall off a one-trick pony.
Sometimes clients seem to back into marketing, nearly by accident or perhaps good fortune. And that's OK... we don't care how you get there...just get there.
To see what we mean, here are a couple snapshot case histories about professional practitioners who discovered the need for good plans and active practice development. Fortunately, both tales have a happy ending, unlike many stories we hear. There's a chance that you can relate and pickup on the valuable lessons learned. (We disguised the names, but these are recent, real-life stories.)
For Doctor IM, marketing for the practice didn't get a lot of attention. He was busy, and there seemed to be a steady stream of new patients, mainly through professional referrals. Hey, isn't a "referral-based" practice the ideal that everyone dreams about?
Reaching outside his comfort level, IM wanted to grow and was preparing for one of our two-day marketing planning meetings. His homework revealed that only five doctors were responsible for over 80 percent of his referrals. What's wrong with this picture? It was quickly apparent to IM that this was actually risky business.
With most of his professional referrals coming from a handful of referrers, there were too many eggs in a small container. And with one of those five docs about to retire, 20 percent of his "comfy" referral stream could evaporate.
Of course he had insurance for the practice, but this was a risk that needed a business protection strategy for IM. We helped him fire-up his near non-existent professional referral program. He began doing a regular series of lunches right away, and reached out to all current and prospective referral practices with a series of proven techniques.
Result: He has more than doubled his base of regular referral practices, and increased the total number of referrals to his practice. We were glad to teach him how, and grateful that he prepared carefully for the marketing planning session.
The story of FT has a similar ring to it. Here's a client who had done fairly well with his local ADVO, the shared direct mail company that sponsors the Missing Child postcard. These company hallmark coupons worked great for the practice, until recently, when FT discovered two really big surprises.
First, the familiar "Have You Seen Me" program was changing format, forcing FT to start from scratch. And second, FT has nothing else to build new patients. There was no plan, no alternative, no pro-active preparation to protect and grow the practice. (We're helping him fix both issues with as little lost ground as possible.)
First, having all your marketing eggs invested in a single tactic is a risk, even when it seems to be working. When you're sitting on a chair with one leg, it's not a plan...it's living on borrowed time.
Do most of your patients come from a handful of doctors? When was the last time you checked that? If that's you, you'll need a plan that expands your referral base and gives you more than one resource.
Does your external plan rely on the ADVO Missing Child program? If that's you, you should call your ADVO rep and ask about your alternatives...but be sure you are targeting your audience.
And second, having no marketing plan is as sound as not having business insurance for the practice. Having a bad plan, or no plan, for continuing or growing the new patient flow is downright risky business.
The Good News
Fortunately, both IM and FT were able to pull themselves back from the edge in time to avoid big problems...set-backs that could have put IM out of business and destroy years of grown for FT.
And if your story is like this, we can help you with an approach that has more than one leg. A smart marketing plan is something like business insurance...you can proactively reduce risk, plus it helps you sleep better at night.