Every savvy marketing executive knows the John Wanamaker (1838-1922) quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” Somewhere in his distinguished career, John must have found the answer. More than 150 years later, it turns out he was exceptionally successful in retail merchandising, and to this day, considered a genuine "pioneer in marketing.”
The lesson for those of us in hospital and healthcare marketing is that it’s vitally important to avoid wasting any part of your budget. Here are some of the most important ways to stop wasting money on marketing—and what to do instead:
Don’t go to market without a clear strategy. Some practitioners only give lip service to a marketing plan. Perhaps they believe that “doing something” is a practical step. But without a clear and well-considered strategy, money is wasted from the start. DO NOT buy into refrigerator magnets, pens with your name on them, sponsor “ads” in civic event programs…or any of a dozen money-wasting-no-return ideas. Instead, commit to an advertising plan with proven strategies and tactics.
Demand a Return-on-Investment. Understand that advertising is an investment and not a cost center. The first order of business is to create a tracking system that compares dollars in versus dollars out. (ROI). In specific and measurable terms, understand what works and what doesn’t work. You can control what you can measure. Fix or eliminate the poor performers, and leverage the positive ROI for greater returns.
Don’t wimp-out on the budget. A serious waste of time, effort and budget dollars is in doing too little to be effective. Plan to invest sufficient resources in strategies and tactics that can realize a genuine return. And remember that insufficient resources (too little money, not enough time) can doom efforts from the start. Do it big enough to win or don’t begin. Instead, apply those resources to another strategy.
Avoid ego-driven or internal politics marketing. Some hospital marketing professionals claim that “half their budget” goes to advertising strategies that answer to personal or internal pressure. It may or may not actually be half of the budget, but often there are organizational voices and demands that seem to satisfy egos without measurable results or ROI. These challenges may be difficult to avoid or manage, but it can be an unwelcome hole in the budget bucket.
Know your audience and know your competition. To avoid wasting money in marketing, it’s vital to be intimately aware of your hospital’s audience. And, at the same time, it’s equally vital to know your competition. Any resources that are not directed accurately toward a specific audience are part of the big waste of a limited budget. And to be competitive, understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. And understanding of audience and competition allows you to devote resources toward a narrow, and specifically defined application.
Don’t expect “overnight miracle results.” Actually, overnight results in a hospital or healthcare campaign would probably be a genuine miracle. Contemporary plans for online and digital advertising efforts will likely produce results more quickly than traditional efforts of the past. That said, every situation and the individual elements of a plan will be different, so it’s important to set realistic expectations. Experience can provide a reasonable guide, but resources are often wasted when there’s a premature shutdown of a campaign that needs time to gain traction.
Step away from your comfort zone. We know professionals who have been in healthcare one year, ten times over. In other words, they don’t risk making changes, evolving or trying new strategies. As a result, they have not kept pace with marketing, technology or opportunity. In fact, doing the same thing over and over likely wastes resources and produces poorer results.
Success and business growth follow the efficient and effective use of precious resources. So plan (carefully) to do all the right things. And, in addition, you’ll be well ahead in performance when you can also identify and eliminate the “wasted half.”