By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
The month of December often triggers a bit of personal and professional reflection and self-evaluation for most of us. And generally, that’s a good thing. Perhaps we appreciate the achievements and milestones of the year ending. And we look ahead at the New Year with visions of opportunity and progress.
From a medical marketing perspective, it’s also a time to consider the gains (or lack thereof) in hospital, physician marketing and doctor advertising, and to take a fresh look at near-term and long-term business development goals. Has the practice grown? Did we slip sideways or down? Did we plan to be where we are at this point in the year, or did we just turn so many pages on the calendar without much change?
December is also the month when we hear from prospective clients who are frustrated by their lack of growth or, maybe worse, those who are extremely tired of “treading water.” They feel their new business development activities have largely been an exercise in moving as fast as they can just to keep their head above water.
It was in December that an insightful physician called us and announced, “It was an eye-opener. I haven’t been in practice for 15 years…I’ve been in practice one year, 15 times.” This doctor—who subsequently became a client—realized that success was not going to happen spontaneously.
How to Avoid the #1 Medical Marketing Mistake
The decision to take action is a vital turning point. But there’s an immediate problem if pent-up frustration triggers a headlong rush to action…and you begin an advertising program without a defined plan.
In a perfect world, the plan for the New Year would have begun taking shape three to six months ago. But beginning now is better than not beginning at all.
The advice we offer doctors is to approach your advertising like you treat a patient. (Call for a copy our free White Paper titled How to Avoid 19 Critical Medical Advertising Mistakes Doctors and Hospitals Make Every Day.)
You would never treat a patient without first examining them, making a diagnosis and then creating a treatment plan. It’s clearly the best way to ensure that you achieve a good outcome for your patient.
Now think of your practice or hospital as a patient, one that you want to see do better. It just makes sense you would take the time to create a plan to make that happen. You need a treatment plan-in this case, a defined marketing plan.
With a marketing plan you’ve taken the time to clearly think through what you are going to do and why. So when you actually start your advertising campaign it has a real chance of working for you.
Four Helpful Tips for Getting Started on a Serious Marketing Plan
The Healthcare Success Library includes many how-to articles about healthcare marketing and planning, including several titles (listed below) that will help you avoid painful mistakes at the start. And to point you in the right direction, here are four helpful tips about physician marketing and good planning.
- Ready. Fire. Aim. Understand the difference between GOALS, STRATEGIES and TACTICS and don’t be attracted to “doing something” immediately at the expense of doing the right thing. A marketing tactic—let’s say a newspaper ad—may or may not support the strategy that you should be using to achieve a specific goal. Begin with the GOAL, not the TACTIC.
- Numbers are your friend. A well-considered medical marketing plan has a foundation of important numbers. They guide audience demographics, media planning, return on investment and many other dynamic parts of a plan. Doctor marketing is not a perfect science, but relying on solid research and other metrics leads to informed decisions and significantly reduces risk.
- Don’t go it alone. If you’re serious about achieving success, consider professional help. In most situations, a Do-It-Yourself approach to healthcare marketing just doesn’t do it. We are a medical advertising agency, of course, but there are other service providers too. By the way, truly experienced professional help probably doesn’t include your J-school-grad sister-in-law.
- Play to win. If your medical practice marketing is non-existent or unproductive, a token effort will, most likely, not change a thing. Worse, you will have sunk additional time, effort and money into producing the same lack-luster results. You don’t necessarily need a massive budget, but you do need a rock-solid commitment and drive to produce meaningful results.
There’s a Japanese proverb that goes, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” Connect your vision to an action plan. And for readers who want the New Year to be better that the past, there are additional resources on this topic in our marketing library. For starters, see What Is A Health Care Marketing Plan? (And Why Do I Need One?). 16 Reasons: The Short List of Why Healthcare Providers Market, and Make Every Marketing Dollar Count With a Custom Healthcare Marketing Plan.