As a concept, creating a marketing action plan for your practice is pretty big. In reality, though, it’s a combination of steps that are relatively easy to execute as long as you’re willing to apply some dollars and sense.
If you haven’t created a formal marketing action plan before, you may be wondering where to begin. My recommendation: the beginning.
What’s your vision?
Or, to quote The Dave Matthews Band, “Where are you going?” Successful marketing begins with having a vision of the type of practice you would like to have. From there marketing action plans are created on measurable objectives to support this vision. An objective could be to increase revenue by 15% or to acquire a minimum of 10 new clients per month. Of course, why limit yourself to one when you can pursue both or still other business goals! It really doesn’t matter how many goals you set or how aggressive they are. Simply set them and march forward with a winning game plan to begin realizing the success that you desire.
The almighty dollar
Budgeting is one of the more difficult and underestimated tasks in managing any small business. While most health care practices acknowledge the need to invest in staff, computer equipment and diagnostic technology, many fail to set aside dollars for marketing, and this oversight costs them.
Like any wisely allocated investment, strategic marketing can reap immediate and long-term benefits. Consider this: an investment of $2,500 can buy you a professional mailer-campaign targeting 5,000 homes. That mail-drop could potentially deliver 20 new clients who could remain with you for years, refer you to friends and family, and bring you thousands of dollars in revenue over time.
How much should you set aside for marketing? There’s no golden rule, but 2 to 4% of gross revenue is the magic number I tend to recommend to my clients. Ultimately, anything is better than nothing so determine your budget and keep on moving.
Let’s talk sense
Now that we’ve talked dollars, let’s talk sense – common sense. That’s right. Marketing isn’t rocket science. Let’s begin with your brand identity. Is your business name and logo professional, modern and inviting? Is your signage in good shape? Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Make it great.
How’s your online presence? Let’s face it. People aren’t flipping through the yellow pages anymore. They’re using the Internet to shop for products and services as well as research their options by way of health care providers.
Your website is the first and most important extension of your brand. It’s a window into your practice and it’s open 24/7. You need a website that’s professional, informative and concise, and you need to promote your website on every piece of marketing that’s associated with your practice.
Now, step away from the computer and let’s take a look outside. Your local community is your best opportunity to attract new clients. Is your local community aware of your practice and the services you provide? I will say with great confidence: if you haven’t introduced yourself yet, your competitor probably has. And when new to the neighborhood, residents are likely looking for new and convenient healthcare providers for themselves and their children. Don’t miss this golden opportunity.
Finally, let’s talk about your existing clients – the lifeblood of your practice. As much as these individuals represent the financial stability of your operation, they represent a great opportunity to grow your business to another level. They believe in you and, when encouraged to do so, they’ll refer you to friends and family. They’re also your best prospects when it comes to selling new services. You invest in training and technology. Maximize your return by effectively communicating all of the great things about your practice.
What’s the plan?
Once you’ve assessed your current marketing situation in the manner described above, you should have a better sense of where to focus your efforts. You’re now ready to create your own six-month marketing action plan.
Creating a plan involves allocating your marketing budget. Based on what we’ve covered so far, here are some tactical considerations:
Brand assurance: Take an honest look at your brand identity. As well as making the right first impression among new prospects, you want your existing clients to feel they’re in the capable hands of a professional who provides modern and progressive eye care. If you’re not confident that your business name and logo project a progressive and professional image, invest in a new image or at the very least a brand refresh.
Internet marketing: Earlier, we talked about the value of having a website you can be proud to promote. It’s a must for any business these days. As you embark on development, focus on creating a site that’s visually appealing with crisp, persuasive copy. This is a sales tool, after all.
Local community marketing: There are many ways to promote your practice throughout your community. Mailer campaigns, including oversized postcards and magnets are effective ways to get noticed. A word about expectations: be realistic, especially when it comes to projecting immediate results. Remember, you’re in this for the long-term. While there might not be a need for eye care services in a given household in the week or month your mailer hits, when the need does arise, you want to be top of mind.
Proactive customer communication: Your existing clients represent an audience that is loyal and open to hearing what you have to say – so speak up. Newsletters, print or electronic, are just one way you can keep in touch between appointments. Inside your clinic, you can implement a formal client referral program and some poster prints to make your clients aware that you are welcoming new clients.
Rules of engagement
If the above sounds like more than you’re able to bite off and chew, remember, marketing is a team sport. Whether you’re outsourcing tasks to professionals or handling it all in-house, hold regular staff meetings, delegate whatever you can, and inform team members about any programs that you’re running so that they can get involved and help maximize results.
Set your eyes on the prize
Good practice marketing is no small undertaking. It takes dollars, sense and time, but if you manage it well you can look forward to great returns.
In the short-term, the reward for your investment could be as simple as 12 new clients resulting from one community mailer you deployed last month. In the long-term, however, you’re looking at an increase in revenue, and subsequently an increase in the overall value of your practice by the time you decide to sell.
Chances are you’re not quite ready to hang up your hat, so for now I suggest you focus on the 12 months ahead. Set the right course and a year from now you’ll have plenty to smile about.
Bottom Line: This article suggests professional marketing strategies for an optometry practice that can produce results within a six month period.
Daniel Pisek is the president of Full Contact Marketing, which specializes in health practice marketing. He can be reached at 1-800-728-6651 ext.24 or firstname.lastname@example.org