“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I would spend the first four hours sharpening my ax.” – Abraham Lincoln
Whether you are chopping down a tree or creating a marketing plan, a carefully thought out plan is vital to the success of your marketing efforts. If you plan to embark on a marketing strategy to promote your practice, we strongly suggest that you begin with a marketing plan.
A marketing plan is a roadmap to take you from where you are to where you want to go. If you were going to set out on a road trip, one of the first things you would probably do is plug the destination address into your mobile phone on Waze or Google Maps, just like the Uber and Lyft drivers do. This creates a map of your route and how to get there in the fastest time and how to avoid traffic congestion or accidents.
Your marketing plan works the same way as Google Maps. You can’t have a successful marketing strategy if you don’t have your goals and objectives clearly in mind, your action plan on how to reach your goals and objectives, and have given some thought to what objections or roadblocks you may encounter along the way.
In this blog I’ll show you how you can create a plan for your practice that will take you down the “yellow brick road” (remember, I’m a urologist by training!).
Let’s assume you are going to make use of a marketing expert, especially an expert with skills and experience in medical marketing. After all, if your TV didn’t work, you wouldn’t ask for the advice from a plumber! Therefore, when seeking marketing advice, make use of consultants who know the territory and the current healthcare environment.
Base your marketing plan on SWOT
In order to maximize your consultant’s time, we suggest creating a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Performing this analysis enables you to formulate focused marketing objectives and goals. Below is a sample SWOT analysis.
By systematically listing all SWOT factors, you will have constructed the foundation of your marketing plan. You are basing your plans on research and analysis, not on speculation and gut feelings. Shooting from the hip will not work in these times of internet, Google search, social media and branding. You have to obtain the data and devise a systematic, informed and researched plan.
Following is a hypothetical SWOT workup for a practice.
- A strong skill set necessary for the procedures.
- Well trained support staff.
- A sophisticated training program that breeds the patient-centric model into the practice culture.
- Our satisfaction scores in excess of 98 percent of all patients interacting with our practice.
- We have only three providers and waiting lists of patients, making it difficult to see a new patient in less than 2-3 weeks.
- There are several large group practices moving into our area that may be attracting some of our existing patients and also attracting new or potential patients because they are heavily committed to advertising and marketing.
- We have not built a brand for our practice.
- We have not focused on our areas of interest and expertise, and many patients in the community are not aware that we offer a weight reduction program, an onsite nutritionist, and technology for measuring bone mineral density.
- We need to recruit additional physicians or physician assistants to manage the growing patient load.
- Open an additional office in an adjacent zip code where many of our existing patients reside.
- Expand our social media presence.
- Enhance our website.
- Contribute content to our website on a regular basis.
- Improve our SEO (search engine optimization) to appear on the first page of Google search results.
- Consider giving community programs on women’s health.
- Enhance the efficiency of the office: use videos and YouTube to educate patients before coming to the office; encourage patients to complete their health questionnaire and demographic information from the website before they come to the office.
- Develop more referrals from existing patients, and send thank you notes when a patient refers a family member or friend to our practice.
- Develop more referrals from our medical colleagues.
- Develop referrals from nonmedical referral sources such as podiatrists, chiropractors, attorneys and mental health providers (social workers, psychiatrists, life coaches).
- Possibility of increase for malpractice insurance.
- Rising overhead costs.
- Decreasing reimbursements.
- Fail to repeal and replace Obamacare.
- Increased competition, as procedures that we offer become more popular and other practices will embrace the new technologies.
What will the SWOT analysis accomplish?
The SWOT analysis will also enable you to understand what differentiates you from your competition and how you should position yourself in the market. It will also help in identifying your unique selling proposition (USP).
Once you complete a SWOT analysis for your plan, you can make the same SWOT analysis for the different segments of that overall plan. Content marketing, social media and SEO are important parts of your marketing plan and would benefit from SWOTs of their own.
By showing your consultant your SWOT analysis, you will demonstrate that you have done your homework and will make it easier for the consultant to assist you in the most effective ways. Your SWOT will also demonstrate that you are not naïve about marketing and that you have a certain element of marketing savvy.
Bottom line: A marketing plan is a working document; it is not carved in stone. The plan must be tweaked, adjusted and fine-tuned on a regular basis. Think of your marketing plan as a roadmap that may have detours, roadblocks and foul weather that precludes your using the initial plan. Think of your marketing plan as a guide that can be changed and modified as the conditions change. By creating a marketing plan you will have a clear vision of the direction you want to take your practice and a working visual document to instruct you how to arrive at your destination.