By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
How to protect your turf and keep from losing ground to the competition.
We’ll get right to the point..
If you’re not geared up with a new or refreshed marketing plan in the starting blocks NOW for the first week in January, you’ve just given your competition a giant head start. And that’s a fast-blast getaway that could leave your practice in the dust for months.
We don’t mean to be alarming here… no, actually we do mean that.
Count the business days between today and the first Monday in January. Now subtract the days that are given over to the World Series, weeks shortened by interruptions (holiday observances, and the day after, parties, vacations, etc.), Super Bowl or whatever. See what we mean? The staff, patients and prospective patients of an otherwise productive office are easily distracted or absent in November and December.
In our experience—working with hundreds of healthcare professionals around the country over many years—the most successful hospitals, healthcare organizations and practices all are committed to a well-considered and carefully-tuned marketing plan for the New Year long before the confetti flies in Times Square.
Can you afford to be “invisible” for 3 months?
We all know that this past year has produced serious economic and business challenges to both practitioners and patients. There’s simply no benefit to being the “invisible practice” for weeks (or longer) after Jan One. But there are many good reasons to plan and act now. For example:
- Consider accounting or tax advantages in taking expenses in the current year;
- It takes time to plan, prepare and distribute marketing materials; 3 months is typical;
- Plan to be ahead of the competition. Done right, you can be the leader in the market (not trying to come from behind), with your practice capturing market share in January.
Where and how to begin before it’s too late.
All too often practices that truly want to put their marketing house in order don’t know where or how to begin. Here are 6 practical suggestions to help you get started right.
Carve out some quiet time today. Starting right now, you are already behind schedule. So—busy or not—make the time to do this properly. If you try to scratch some quick ideas on the back of a napkin your plan will only produce indigestion.
Create a Marketing Plan. A good marketing plan is a 12-month road map that dramatically improves your chances for marketing success. (We simply don’t know a highly successful practice that operates on marketing guesswork or trial-and-error.) If you already have a plan, be sure it’s up-to-date; test and adjust its effectiveness and Return-on-Investment productivity.
If you don’t have a current or effective marketing plan, we can help you align budget, goals, strategies and tactics. There’s a comprehensive article here about How We Develop Healthcare Organization and Practice Marketing Plans for Our Clients.
Realistic goals and realistic budget. Be specific here; use actual numbers. Your practice growth goals and marketing budget are 2 connected parts in an equation. Of course there’s much more to the algorithm, but you cannot create a plan without these 2 essential numbers. So begin here and be realistic about both.
Think inside-out. A well-rounded plan will include strategies and tactics for Internal, External, Referral, Internet/Online and other faces of the practice. But the INTERNAL marketing—communicating with existing and previous patients—is often faster and lower cost to implement. Without neglecting the other aspects of your plan, Internal strategies are usually the best starting point.
Track religiously. Marketing is an investment, and if your office has not been diligently tracking results (source and number of new patients for example), it’s a double handicap. A practice without tracking has no idea what’s working and what’s not, and it’s impossible for them to calculate their Return-on-Investment. Create and obsessively use a good new patient tracking system.
The bottom line here is that a cold-start marketing effort takes several months to get up to full speed…and doing nothing means your practice is nearly non-existent to the public and giving up territory to the competition.