Technology makes so many things easier. Cell phones keep us in touch with family, friends, and important business contacts. Microwaves give us a hot meal in minutes instead of hours. Laptops and tablets let us work from anywhere. But one area where technology has actually complicated things a bit is marketing. According to an article in Forbes.com, back when life was simpler, so was marketing. The last 20 years have seen unprecedented growing in the number of marketing outlets aimed at consumers. Where once we had three or four television channels, now we have hundreds. Where we used to have a few AM and FM radio stations, now there is satellite radio and internet radio giving us access to more Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and Brad Paisley than we can handle. Newspapers and magazines have given way to millions of websites and apps.
So how does a practice like yours navigate this brave new world of marketing? By taking a step back and looking at four basic principles of business marketing and applying them to your unique set of circumstances. When you apply these fundamentals, you can simplify your plan and create a successful strategy that will guide you through the morass of media available.
1 - Create Clear Business Objectives. Before you can determine where and how to market your practice, you first need to identify what your intent is. Who are you looking to serve? What do you have to offer them? What makes you different from the competition? To help in identifying these objectives, consider using the following three metrics to focus your ideas: awareness, sales, and advocacy (customer referral). If your practice is not widely known, you may have trouble moving potential patients from awareness to sales (coming into your practice for care). Or you may struggle with building the patient loyalty into advocacy where patients refer friends and family to your office. When you’ve identified your objectives and taken a look at these three metrics, you’ll have a better understanding of the message you need to send.
2 - Be Open to New Opportunities. Not every new technology is going to be the right place for you to promote your practice, but sometimes being open to new opportunities can result in excellent rewards. With technology expanding every day, it isn’t feasible to try everything new the moment it becomes available. You and your staff should work together to evaluate new opportunities and determine if they will mesh with your objectives to bring you the results you’re looking for. It’s good to takes risks as long as they are well calculated. As long as the new effort meets either your awareness, sales, or advocacy objective and is within your marketing budget, it might be worth trying.
3 - Disconnect Strategy from Innovation. It’s a common misconception that strategy and innovation should go hand-in-glove. However, these two concepts are very different from each other. Put simply, a good strategy achieves specific objectives, whereas innovation focuses on creating something new which doesn’t necessarily meet a standard. Innovation is messy stuff. Much like the chicken and the egg, it’s tough to figure out which should come first. In truth - as long as you allow for both in your planning, it won’t matter which is first. For example, if you choose to develop your strategy first, it’s possible to leave room for innovation in your development of your plans. Likewise, it’s important to see how innovation fits into your strategy. If it isn’t helping you with awareness, sales, or advocacy, then it probably isn’t helpful.
4 - Don’t Amputate a Leg of Your Tripod. Here’s an explanation: your three principles of marketing (awareness, sales, advocacy) are a continuing cycle. Someone becomes aware of your practice and becomes a patient (the sale), and then recommends you to a family member (advocacy) who contacts your office for more information (awareness), and then becomes a patient. This is the perfect example of how your marketing should drive patients. If you focus all your marketing on awareness and sales without including the advocacy leg, you’ll be missing out on a significant number of potential patients. Make certain than your strategy is incorporating all three metrics to get the maximum benefits.
By keeping your marketing strategy simple and focusing on the basic principles, you can avoid the trap of buying into every new gizmo, gadget, or goo-gah that comes along. With emphasis on your three basic metrics, using equal parts of strategy and innovation, you can develop a successful marketing campaign that will have current patients and new patients alike scheduling appointments and developing a loyalty to your practice. And nothing beats old-fashioned brand loyalty for success.