Insights From Our Editors

Survival Guide to Your 6 Biggest Marketing Challenges

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

Sept. 19, 2018

An independent practice is a health-care provider, but it’s also a small business. There are challenges that all small businesses have in common. One of those is marketing. Here’s how practice owners can surmount marketing challenges to attract patients to the practice and prosper.

Limited Marketing Budget
In our practices, there is not an unlimited amount of money available for marketing. According to the MBA data, in a well-established practice, the marketing budget is generally 1-2 percent of gross revenue collected. For a $1 million gross revenue practice, that means you have between $10,000 and $20,000 to spend on marketing. Every dollar needs to be spent wisely.

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have an effective marketing campaign. Much has been written on “budget” marketing. Budget marketing is the core principle of the Guerilla Marketing approach. You can download a free copy of “200 Marketing Weapons” HERE.

Ineffective Marketing Campaigns
A common axiom in marketing is that half of marketing dollars are well spent and effective, while half of marketing dollars are ineffectively spent. The problem is that you don’t know until after you’ve spent the money whether it was an effective spend or an ineffective spend.

One way to become more effective with your marketing dollars is to track the return on investment (ROI) of the marketing dollars that are spent. Every marketing campaign should be measured as to how many dollars were spent and how many dollars came into the practice as a result of that specific marketing campaign. Once you begin measuring the ROI for each marketing campaign, then the following year you can put more money into the campaign with the highest ROI, and take money away from the campaign with the lowest ROI.

Not Identifying Your USP
Look at your practice and ask the question, “Why would a person choose my practice over the practice down the street?” Your answer identifies your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Use your USP to drive your marketing messages. Use your USP to drive your branding on your web site, social media pages, ads … anything that has your business name attached. Give patients a reason to choose you over others.

Brand Inconsistency
“Brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touch points.” Step one is to identify your brand promise. Here are the brand promises from three highly successful, well-known brands:

• The NFL: “To be the premier sports and entertainment brand that brings people together, connecting them socially and emotionally like no other.”

• Coca-Cola: “To inspire moments of optimism and uplift.”

• Virgin: “To be genuine, fun, contemporary, and different in everything we do at a reasonable price.”

A good brand promise tells what the company promises to do for you. What is your brand promise?

Once you have a brand promise, then you can do branding consistency. Branding consistency is important. Branding consistency is taking your message and making it consistent in look and feel. Style, font, language, tone and colors should be consistent in all of your marketing across all media. You are projecting your practice in your marketing, so be consistent.

The article, “3 Reasons Brand Consistency Is So Important,” tells us brand consistency is marketing on a higher level, brand consistency makes our brand feel more dependable, and consumers trust brands they recognize.

Taking Established Patients for Granted
It is not enough to have satisfied patients. We need to create loyal patients. Loyal patients who return again and again to the practice are the lifeblood of the practice. Often in our marketing we offer rewards to new patients to come to our practice, but have we thought through how to create a loyalty program for our established patients? We should never take our established patients for granted. Take some time to think through how to treat established patients in special ways.

Lack of Time
Doing marketing right takes time. If you do not have an in-house marketing expert and you don’t have the time to be a doctor, run your business and learn everything you need to know about marketing, then consider outsourcing. You have options such as hiring a marketing agency on a per-project basis, or taking advantage of companies that offer marketing as a value-added part of doing business with them. There are marketing freelancers, and you might consider approaching a local college about using your practice as a marketing project in one of their classes.

As your practice grows, you can scale up your marketing efforts. The key is not to just do marketing, but to do it right.

These articles may also interest you:

How to Do a Practice Valuation

4 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Alliance

How to Educate Patients About Vision Benefits


References
i. https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2016/12/13/why-consistency-is-the-key-to-successful-branding/#3eb8e9d7bbd9
ii. http://www.billmarshjr.com/a-brand-is-a-promise-3-great-examples-of-strong-brands-that-make-strong-promises/
iv. https://www.venveo.com/blog/three-reasons-brand-consistency-is-so-important

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