No matter what’s happening during these somewhat difficult economic times, unless we all plan on digging a hole large enough to bury our heads in it, we still need to integrate marketing and advertising into out businesses to stay profitable or in some cases, just stay afloat.
The decisions you make today regarding marketing will have an affect on your practice, either positively or negatively in the months to come. The natural response is to lean towards spending less when it comes to advertising or marketing. But in reality, cutting back may not be the answer. The wiser decision would be to spend more time investigating your options before making marketing choices.
In the past you may have been quick to “try something new” without giving it much thought or doing much research. Maybe you had the “what have I got to lose” attitude? Well today, you may have more to lose than you did a year ago, so doing your homework before beginning anything new or even renewing current strategies should be first and foremost on your mind.
Here are some things to consider before making any decisions.
- What is the length of the “commitment” or contact? If your trying something new and the response rate is questionable, don’t enter into any long-term contact. Naturally, you need to give the venue a “fighting chance”, but if you’re required to commit to more than 3 or 4 months, renegotiate or pass on the option. A reputable company WILL negotiate terms of contracts. If a company tells you they can’t, look elsewhere.
- Speak with at least 2 or3 references before signing on the dotted line if at all possible. Although you can’t base your success or failure on the success or failure of another doctor, you can get a feel for what to really expect by getting feedback from others who have done the same thing. Network with colleagues as opposed to asking the company directly for a reference. It stands to reason that a sales person is not going to give you the name and phone number of a customer who had poor results…”Word of mouth” is your best option. Don’t look for or expect “pie in the sky”. Be realistic with your expectations.
- Ask yourself “How much money can I really afford to lose”? Now, that may sound like a trick question, and it certainly is not meant to discourage you from advertising because you MUST market the practice, however, unless you’re being guaranteed IN WRITING that you see a return on your investment dollars, there is always a potential for a loss. If what you’re investing is more than you can possibly afford to lose, keep looking.
- Don’t keep all of your eggs on one basket. The key to effective marketing and advertising is to have at least 3 or 4 types of external sources that work for the practice. It’s important to diversify. Keep accurate records when it comes to marketing. You want to consider: cost, time of year, effectiveness, expected return on investment. Try to incorporate internal with external throughout the entire year. If your sending out a direct mail piece and planning a health fair, make sure you’re promoting the upcoming health fair somewhere on the mail piece. Let one advertising source promote another source, and so on.
- All marketing will generate referrals. Make sure that you and your staff are multiplying your marketing efforts through referrals. No matter where a patient comes from, they know other potential patients. You will not get a referral unless you ask for one. Don’t wait for a patient to come into the office 3 or 4 times before asking for a referral. The time to ask is the first visit. This is when they are the most excited about you and the potential care. Of course you’ll ask your patient more than once for a recommendation, but you’re missing the boat if you’re not asking right away. When figuring ROI, be sure to factor in referrals received from each specific form of marketing you are utilizing. Believe it or not, different types of advertising will generate a different number of referrals. Keep track of where ALL of your new patients are coming from.
Remember, NOW is the best time to be a health care provider! Now more than ever, people need your services. Stress levels are higher. Emotional and physical symptoms are more prevalent and people are searching for relief. You are the answer they are looking for; so don’t let fear keep you from moving forward!!
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