With an unprecedented one out of every four medical practices struggling, it is painfully obvious that times have changed. The business of practice marketing is booming, but for many practices, business is not. There are best practices to marketing your practice, but often, success is more about knowing what not to do. Here are the five most common pitfalls in practice marketing and how to avoid them:
1. Treating marketing as an expense.
Marketing should be viewed as an investment in your practice. When executed properly, marketing can reliably produce returns that far outperform other investments and pay monthly dividends. Like financial advisors, professional marketers will craft a suite of strategies to best achieve your goals and track your returns. Unlike financial advisors, marketing professionals influence and enhance the outcomes by creating a unique, unified brand through proper messaging, medium, and mechanics.
Like investments, results from marketing build over time using multiple strategies and can be adjusted and fine-tuned to achieve optimal effectiveness. Unlike multiple investments, marketing strategies do not spread the risk; they compound their success.
2. Promoting specialties and services without relating them to solutions.
“It is the message, not the medium,” is a common phrase. Marketing mediums are only the vehicle; it is the message carried by the medium that makes the difference. Many physicians are not conveying the most valuable message to patients — We are problem solvers.
Eight of 10 people seek information and solutions, not providers, on the Internet. Over 90 percent of them look for information on a disease or condition. Only about 4 percent search for a doctor that specializes in them. That comes later except when the information provider is a local physician, and then they look no further.
3. Confusing activity with results.
Most vendors, especially advertisers, website developers, and search engine optimizers, tout their ability to drive traffic — the easiest metric to achieve. This reflects quantity when quality is the goal.
Many tactics can fill up phone lines and drive traffic. Those are not results. Results are the right people seeking your services for the right reasons. The harder part, and most important, is to capture and convert them into patients, retain them as patients and earn their referrals. That is also what marketing does in cooperation with management.
The cash generated specifically by that activity divided by its cost over a period of time represents results by quantifying its return on investment.
4. Doing the same thing and expect different results.
It happens time and time again; practices bring in professionals and expect the same things to be done the same way, but generate different results. Worse yet, they accept excuses or activity increases without seeing if they produce revenue.
Equally important to generating phone calls, e-mails, and Internet inquiries is making sure your staff is prepared to receive the enhanced volume. Without training your staff to respond promptly and implementing systems to capture inquirers as patients renders everything else useless. Often, this requires fundamental cultural changes such as shifting from a provider-centered practice to a patient-centered practice. How can you tell whether or not you have a provider-centered culture? Provider centered practices accept new patients; patient-centered practices welcome them.
An experienced and qualified marketer will be equally as interested in what happens to the leads they generate, as how they will generate them.
5. Going with your gut.
Ready, aim, fire, in that order, takes more time and effort, but it delivers reliable results. Instinct with information, training and experience can provide a powerful advantage and maximize results.
The road to ruin is paved with good intentions…and assumptions.
Research, goals, strategies, tactics, execution, adaptation, and optimization make investments in marketing pay. They bring big returns with the right partner, and cost dearly with the wrong one.
Investing in a comprehensive marketing program is not making a bet; it is stacking the deck, playing a full hand, and counting the cards. A comprehensive, expertly managed marketing program can deliver, maintain dominance and secure your future.