By Jeff Russell, Author of Secrets to a Successful Practice & Executive Director of the IAPAM
Planning is the first step to a successful marketing strategy. What results are you trying to achieve? Why should you be chosen over the competition? Is timing a factor? Who is your audience? Asking and answering these and other questions will help you plan your strategy, give you a way to measure your success and build a base for future promotions or campaigns.
There are two types of marketing strategies: Brand Marketing and Lead Generation Marketing. First, you need to completely understand what you want to accomplish. Are you seeking to create brand recognition and establish yourself in the marketplace? Are you looking for patients?
When you are starting a small business, you are always looking for new patients, so, for now, we will focus on lead generation marketing.
Keys to a Successful Marketing Strategy
- Know your target patient
- Get their attention quickly
- Have a clear offer
- Requires immediate action
- Have a follow-up system in place to track results
1. Know your Target Patient
When creating your marketing strategy you need to have a good idea of which patient groups or market segments you will specifically target. You can define your target markets both by type of patient and by geographic region.
You can often get key demographic data from your state, county, and city government websites. You can also use Google or Yahoo maps to create great-looking geographical highlights. Another great source for obtaining demographic information is www.Census.gov (or the equivalent in your country).
2. Get their Attention Quickly
Now for the bad news. According to a study by Microsoft, the average person has an attention span of only eight seconds! You need to have an attention-getting headline, along with a succinct copy to support it. “Mother’s Day Madness,” what does that actually mean? No one has a clue, “Lose 30 pounds in 40 days”—people know what that means! After you have your great copy, don’t lose your readers by giving a long-winded explanation of the promotion or offer.
People like to see pictures. Choose one image to support the title, so at a glance, your patient knows exactly what you are offering. According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development, “Words are processed by our short-term memory. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”
3. Have a Clear Offer
While you may be able to leverage your current patients, just offering your services is no guarantee of success. You have to make potential patients aware of your services and tell them how and where they can get the results they provide in a clear, succinct manner.
Once you have captured them with your attention-getting headline, now you need to give them an offer they feel they need or want.
4. Requires Immediate Action
Remember that earlier we talked about people’s attention span only being eight seconds? Well, it’s important that you have a clear call to action in every marketing piece you create. It could be as simple as “For a Free Consultation Call ###-###-#### Now!”
If a free consultation isn’t enough, it may be beneficial to bundle in a high-margin (low-cost) service with your main offer. For example, you may have “Call ###-###-#### Now and get a Free #### procedure (value $500).”Avoid low-margin services like injectables and products (which usually only have a 50% markup).
Make sure what you want them to do (call-to-action) is very clearly identified in the ad. It should be larger and a different color that the rest of the text.
5. Have a Follow-Up System in Place to Track Results
This is where many people fall down. They spend all this money creating a great ad, with a clear call to action, but then do nothing with it. Especially with print ads or outdoor ads, it’s important that you are asking every caller how they heard about you and that you record it in your EMR (electronic medical records) or CRM (customer relationship management) systems, or at the very least on a tracking sheet at the front desk.
With electronic ads, this becomes a little easier, since you should have an electronic trail of how often the ad was shown, how often it was clicked, and how many calls or downloads were done. You should be able to link these to consultations booked. The reason this is critical is that if you don’t know which ad campaigns are working, you don’t know where to spend your money.
Another reason for a follow-up system is that some patients may not be ready to commit now, so you want to keep in touch with them through a monthly e-newsletter list.
Not everything is a great idea in a marketing strategy. Here are some ideas that I, or practices that I know, have tried that resulted in a waste of money. Sure, you may get a patient or two, but at what cost? I have found most patients found us through our digital marketing initiatives (Google, Facebook, BING), so that is where I spend the bulk of my marketing money.
- Yellow pages – everyone uses Google now as their yellow pages.
- Groupon & Social Living – daily deal sites have never been good sources of long-term customers for most businesses.
- Radio – this is dependent in your area, but this is just too competitive and costly.
- Cable TV – too expensive for the business you will receive.
- Daily newspapers – too expensive for the business you will receive
- Glossy “lifestyle” magazines – they look like a good idea, but not good results.
- Have a mechanism to track the effectiveness of the initiative
If you are ready to grow your practice or are preparing to start your first practice, check out the IAPAM’s Practice Startup Workshop.