We are going to start by breaking down the reasons why you need to have a marketing strategy. As we do, you’ll develop a better understanding of marketing strategy than you probably ever expected to have—and this newfound knowledge will be instrumental in helping you make your practice everything you want it to be.
Jumping right into it, you need a marketing strategy to accomplish the following:
- Establish your practice’s business goals
- Create a guide/roadmap to your successful outcome
- Establish responsibilities—who does what and what they’re doing that with
- Plan milestones—know what’s happening when
- Reinforce your professional brand
- Reaffirm your perfect patient
- Outperform your competition
Okay, now let’s take a closer look at each of these and break this down further.
Establish Your Practice’s Business Goals
This first point strikes at the heart of what you are trying to do with your marketing strategy:
Our agency defines a marketing strategy as a “focus on what you want to achieve for your practice and marketing efforts.”
A marketing strategy is important because it forces you to take a good, hard look at exactly what you want to accomplish, set the goal, establish the milestones, and deliver the outcome you are looking for.
That probably makes a fair amount of sense. After all, strategies are used by people to achieve all sorts of different objectives, right?
Along with establishing your goals, an effective marketing strategy will keep you focused on them. And how exactly does it do that? By forcing you to be intentional in a variety of contexts related to your marketing—which leads us perfectly to our next reason why these strategies are so important.
Create a Guide/Roadmap to Your Successful Outcome
If you want your marketing to be effective—and given how important this is to the success of your practice, it is something you absolutely should want—then you need to establish how your marketing goals are going to be achieved.
We all know the wise saying: Failing to plan is planning to fail.
But you’re not planning to fail when you strategically outline the steps you need to achieve your goals!
As you’ll quickly see, the next two reasons for needing a marketing strategy take this basic premise to the next level.
Establish Responsibilities—Who Does What (and What They Need to Do It)
A major reason for having a strategy of any kind is so that you can best plan on how to use your resources. Well, marketing strategies are no exception to that rule!
Actually, a solid marketing strategy exemplifies that rule perfectly.
Digital marketing consists of a variety of moving parts and needs to be highly integrated. (At least, it does if you want it to actually work.)
At the risk of oversimplifying, you can look at it this way:
Your overall campaign needs to have a landing page to promote an enticing offer. To bring attention—and page visitors—you should utilize both email and social media campaigns. For additional traction, it would be wise to have a couple of blog posts related to the theme of your campaign. On top of that, you should consider that the verbiage, graphics, and videos for all elements need to maintain consistent branding.
Even with that snapshot glimpse, you can likely see why it’s so important to know:
- Who is designing your landing page and setting up your ads?
- Who is writing content for that landing page and all related blog posts?
- Who is posting all content and formatting the content to your website the right way?
- Who is writing and scheduling social media posts? Who is developing the rest of the social media campaign; because we all know that social media isn’t just “posting things,” right? And, by the way, who is running the social media ads?
- Who is writing, designing, and scheduling emails—along with managing your CRM database (so emails only go out to the right people!), etc.
But, wait. There’s more!
You also need to make sure that all responsible individuals have everything they need to do the jobs they are supposed to.
Yes, that obviously includes tools and programs, but, less obviously, it also entails having the skills, talent, and knowledge in the best current practices for each respective creative and technical realm. See, that’s a key reason we have a team of diverse talent here at VMD Services. To perform the best possible work for doctors like you, we need to have all aspects of your marketing strategy covered like an NFL cornerback over his assigned wide receiver!
Plan Milestones—Know What’s Happening When
Tying in with that previous reason, knowing the timing of everything is equally as important as knowing who is doing what (and how they’re doing it).
Going back to that (admittedly) vague campaign, you don’t want to have an email sent out promoting your latest service, product, offer, etc. if you don’t have a landing page in place—or, worse, before the offer has even been created!
(Trust us, it happens when amateurs attempt to handle all of this instead of leaving it to the pros.)
Actually, you can probably relate—think about a person attempting to handle his or her own foot care with a little “bathroom surgery.” Not good, you know?
Because of that, the best marketing strategies take timing into account and identify when key milestones are supposed to happen.
Again, we know that can be a tricky proposition if it isn’t something you do on a regular basis, but here’s the good news:
You don’t have to do it yourself or leave it in the hands of a staff member who’s better at office management duties (instead of marketing). You can do what other doctors from across the nation do—let our team create and implement your marketing strategy. It’s so easy that you’ll probably wonder why you hadn’t gone this route earlier!
Reinforce Your Professional Brand
We run into this all the time:
Doctors don’t realize they have a brand.
Think of your favorite soft drink or clothesline and you can quickly come up with the brand.
The truth of the matter is that your practice has one too. And if you don’t know what it is, that’s a problem. You need to be able to understand what people are saying about you and control your brand, which means you need to be aware of it.
Fortunately, if this is something that hasn’t even been on your radar, you can take charge with your marketing strategy. Taking the time to plan everything out strategically will enable you to maintain consistency with your voice and messaging.
Once your brand has been established, keep it consistent. Doing so enables potential patients to understand what you’re about and why you are the right choice to provide the foot care they need!
Reaffirm Your Perfect Patient
Without having a strategy in place, your marketing efforts might be sporadic or schizophrenic in nature as you just put stuff out there to see what sticks.
(Hey, that sounds a lot like “spray and pray”, which we are going to talk about in one second!)
With that kind of approach, how on earth are you supposed to measure success and know what is actually working—and what’s a straight-up waste of your time and energy?
The fact of the matter is that you don’t.
When you have a strategy, though, you can monitor results. As you do, you might realize one of two things:
- You are not actually reaching the target market you want.
- The market you’re targeting isn’t actually the one you want.
In the first case, you clearly need to adjust your tactics, but let’s focus a bit more on that second one.
Going back to establishing your goals, your marketing strategy forces you to think about who your perfect patient is—failure to do so means you don’t have any idea how to reach them and are basically throwing darts blindfolded at an undefined target.
In the industry, we say that’s “not good.”
If your strategy is solid and results are being monitored, you can better adjust your targeting. Perhaps your marketing started to bring in more patients suffering from bunions … but you’re not seeing the profit margins you had hoped to reach.
Okay. So now you know that you need to adjust your plan and maybe start focusing on bringing in more patients for heel pain or orthotics. Again – identifying what your practice goal is will lead you to establishing your perfect patient.
And you can do that because your strategy includes careful monitoring and periodic evaluation.
Outperform Your Competition
Here’s a simple fact for you:
The landscape for all businesses—including medical practices—has NEVER been as competitive as it is right now.
And why’s that the case?
Simple—because the internet has leveled the playing field.
Whereas marketing was once a matter of advertising on TV, the radio, and in newspapers and magazines, the times have changed. So too have best marketing practices.
The best way to reach your target market is through digital marketing practices—which is actually great news for you and your practice. And the reason that’s such a good thing is because digital marketing allows you to target and connect with specific markets in a way you never could before.
In the past, you’d have to figure out if someone who has heel pain is more likely to be watching their favorite shows in the morning, afternoon, or at night. Then, you would need to run commercials during that respective time slot. And figuring that out, took a ton of time and money.
But what if a potential patient wasn’t home when your commercial ran? Well, you just missed out on possible revenue for your practice. Even worse, perhaps they got back in just in time to see a competitor’s ad!
Wow, that was an expensive proposition—and all for no gain. Of course, we have metrics on digital ads now, we have the internet now, we have social media now, we have a LOT of data that tells us who is doing what when. Used strategically, these marketing tools can provide incredible ROI and put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors!
Digging Deeper: Understanding the “Whats” of Medical Marketing Strategy
To this point in the post, we’ve talked about why marketing strategies are so important, and in the final chapter we’ll start giving you some practical advice on how to start putting them together.
So what goes in the middle? The meat in our strategy sandwich, so to speak.
That would be the “what.”
Specifically, you want to be asking questions like these:
- What do I need to focus on?
- What should my goals be?
- What—specifically—do I want to get out of this marketing strategy?
These are crucial questions! After all, you might understand why strategies are so important, and you might even have the technical skills to implement effective ones. But if your strategy isn’t targeted toward the things that really matter, even a nominally “effective” campaign isn’t going to do you much good.
This is the critical first step to your marketing strategy. The “how” (which we’ll cover later in this post) won’t matter if you’re pointed in the wrong direction from the very beginning.
So, what does that look like?
Every practice is going to be a little bit different, of course. Your individual business goals may vary depending on your market, the services you provide, what your competition is doing, and a million other factors.
That all being said, in order to help you work through your “what” questions, we’ll work through three examples of strong business goals common among many practices:
- Building brand awareness
- Growing specific revenue streams
- Nurturing existing patients
Let’s break these down a little bit.
Building Brand Awareness
“Brand awareness” is more than just a buzzword, and it isn’t something that only matters to mega-corporations like Apple, Coca-Cola, or Cadillac.
As you might remember from earlier in this post, everyone has a brand, and you’re making a huge mistake if you aren’t paying attention to how people perceive you—and attempting to influence that conversation. Speaking of “how people perceive you,” are you minding your online reputation? (You should!)
In fact, brand awareness matters even more for local businesses and private medical practices, because they aren’t ubiquitous. You’ve got to fight to get your name and brand out there.
A marketing strategy focused on increasing brand awareness might be a good choice if you find yourself in any of the following situations:
- You’ve just opened your practice and are looking to gain a foothold in the market
- You’ve opened a new satellite office or changed your primary office location
- You’ve hired a new doctor
- You’re offering a new service or specialty
- You’re hosting an event
Remember that building a brand is also more than just increasing the total number of people who know your name and what you do, or just getting the word out about something new that you’re promoting—although that’s obviously a big part of it.
You don’t just want your brand to be known. It has to mean something.
A good brand awareness strategy should effectively:
- Explain why people should pay attention to your brand. What is it that your practice does differently, or uncommonly well, that sets you apart from your competitors? What products and services do you offer that provide exceptional value?
- Honor your patients and make them feel recognized, valued, and special. This not only builds trust and loyalty, but even inspires a little jealousy (the kids call it FOMO) in others. The way you treat the people who are already your patients should inspire others to join their ranks.
- Establish a consistent tone and message. A great brand communicates a lot with a little, and develops strong associations. To borrow an example from the tech world, Apple might be more associated with creativity, while the Microsoft more associated with efficiency—even though both are selling devices that mostly do the same things. What is the “gut reaction” you most want your patients to have regarding your brand?
There are many techniques you can use to build brand awareness. We happen to know a thing or two about those techniques!
This includes the “basic building blocks” of digital marketing (SEO, graphic design, web content, etc.) as well as targeted campaigns (email, ads, social media contests, referral programs, partnerships with local businesses … the list goes on and on).
The specific tactics you choose will depend on many factors, not the least of which includes understanding the preferences and habits of the kinds of patients you’re most interested in pursuing. Which is a nifty segue into …
Growing Specific Revenue Streams
So the first question you might be inclined to ask is, “Why not just make revenue growth, full stop, the goal?”
Well, in the big picture that is the goal, after all. Just about everybody wants to make more money. But it’s a little too broad to be useful as a standalone target.
Narrowing your focus will make it much easier to implement an effective strategy—which in turn provides exactly what you were looking for in the first place: revenue growth.
Let’s take heel pain as an example.
If your practice is like many others around the country, you probably see a broad spectrum of patients with different kinds of foot problems. Some people come to you with foot pain. Others have ingrown toenails. A few sports injuries. Probably a lot of diabetic foot concerns.
But maybe you’d really like to be spending a greater percentage of your time treating heel pain. In short, this is the specific revenue stream you’d like to focus on growing. These are your “perfect patients”—the ones you really want to fight for.
There could be several excellent reasons why you might choose to focus on heel pain, but they should include at least these three:
- Heel pain patients and treatments return a higher-than-average profit compared to other services at your practice.
- Patient outcomes after heel pain treatments at your practice have been exceptional. In short: you are good at treating heel pain, with very high patient satisfaction rates.
- The doctors at your practice simply enjoy treating heel pain more than most other services.
Once you’ve determined that heel pain (or any other service) is the revenue stream you want to focus on, you’ll need to do some deep digging to figure out what questions you need to answer, and what materials you need to have, in order to effectively target this segment of potential patients.
Some things to consider:
- Take a look at the heel pain patients you already have. Why are they coming to your door? What is motivating them? What are their top concerns? How did they find out about you in the first place? The more in touch you are with where these patients are coming from, the better able you’ll be to target others like them with your marketing strategy.
- Do you have testimonials from these patients? If not, get some!
- List out the services you offer that bring in the best heel pain patients. Orthotics? Laser treatment? Physical therapy? These need to be focus areas for your strategy.
- Do you have systems and processes in place for treating these ideal patients? Does your entire staff have a plan to increase your PVV when working with these types of services? Do they know which ancillary services or products to recommend that produce the best results? Is everyone on the same page?
One very important final point here: You might have glossed over that bullet point about enjoying heel pain patients, but it’s arguably the most important one.
Regardless of what makes you the most money, you really have to want to see the patients you’re targeting. If you aren’t enjoying it, your patients will notice. It will be obvious. You can’t hide it—at least not forever. And sooner or later it will start to have a negative impact on your brand and your patient loyalty.
Which leads us to …
Nurturing Your Existing Patients
Making your patients happy—and keeping them that way—is probably the single most powerful marketing tool at your disposal.
Just about everyone knows that it’s much easier and cheaper to keep an existing patient than to attract a new one. That’s 100 percent true—even the best marketing campaigns only close a fraction of the qualified leads they generate, while keeping someone happy and in the fold requires a much lower investment of time and resources.
But even more importantly, a delighted patient is someone who is much more inclined to sing your praises and refer family and friends to your practice. Or in other words, they will do your marketing FOR you, for FREE.
What could be better?
The thing is, though, that driving patient satisfaction isn’t just a simple matter of providing effective treatment. That really is the bare minimum—and to be consistently delighted, to the point that they’ll recommend others, patients require a lot more.
Fortunately for you, there are strategic ways to maximize patient happiness and make sure they “feel the love.” Often, it’s a simple matter of mindset.
Consider some of the following strategies:
- Send personalized cards and notes to your patients. (Much of this can be automated using database and email marketing software!)
- Keep the office clean and smelling nice, and the coffee and snacks in the waiting room stocked. First impressions are so important, and a well-maintained, comfortable environment makes a huge impression—even if subconsciously.
- Make sure you and your staff work hard to recognize and remember returning patients and make your interactions personal. Ask them about their family. Follow up on conversations from last time. Patients need to know that you care about them personally and don’t just see them as a chance to make more money.
- Keep your conversations about them, not you. It’s okay if they ask you questions about your own life—and you can answer humbly and honestly (while avoiding controversial topics, of course). But always try to steer the conversation back toward the patient—after all, understanding who they are and where they’re coming from will help you provide better care.
- Don’t interrupt your patients, ever, unless you really have no other choice. But be ready to follow up immediately to educate them about their concerns. And unless the patient has demonstrated a higher level of interest in the technical details (for example, they’re also a doctor), always keep it in laymen’s terms. Never try to impress them with fancy language or jargon—they’ll only find it frustrating, and it will get in the way of them understanding their problem and the next steps they need to take.
- Always do what you say you’re going to do. If you tell a patient you’ll be calling them tomorrow, you’d better call them tomorrow. Anything less will be fatal to your brand, reputation, and loyalty. Here are some more tips on crafting a positive patient experience!
Tying Everything Together
We’ve covered a ton of ground and are at point now where it’s time to put it all together!
Having an in-depth understanding as to why you’re doing this and where you’re focusing is truly important when marketing a medical practice. But that doesn’t dive deep enough.
You also need to know how to manage it all!
Medical Marketing That Produces Results Is Strategic
At this point, hopefully you’ve started to realize that it’s incredibly important to have a marketing plan that is comprehensive—one that includes elements like email and social media marketing, proper SEO practices, online ads, and a website that converts visitors to patients.
That all entails a lot of moving parts and, in turn, requires a strategic approach so you can get the results you want to see—more of your “perfect patient.”
(You do know who your perfect patient is, right? If not, that’s a part of the strategy you cannot afford to miss!)
Now, because so much goes into marketing that actually produces results, you need to know that part-time marketing doesn’t work. (Keep this thought in mind!)
You have to be “all in,” otherwise you might as well be all out. This goes right back to the point we just made about how medical marketing needs to be comprehensive. See, because there are so many variables and moving parts, you can’t just dabble in this arena and expect to have a full waiting room.
On the contrary, you need to make sure you’re both doing everything outlined in your strategy and monitoring the results.
But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s step back a second and look at what it takes to even create a proper strategy in the first place.
How to Start Creating Your Marketing Strategy
There are two overall actions you must take—each containing a variety of subfunctions:
- Perform research
- Conduct marketing audits
With regard to the research you should conduct, we’re talking about things like compiling a list of competitor keywords, performing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, and filling out your competitor index and keyword analysis worksheets.
Your competitor keywords are important if you want to rank as highly as possible in search engine results pages (and you should if you also want to have that full waiting room). You can use this tool for optimal SEO.
While those competitor keywords help with search engines, your SWOT analysis has further-reaching implications. This analysis helps you to identify those areas in which:
- You have an advantage over your competition (your strengths)
- You need to devote effort to improving (your weaknesses)
- You can potentially capitalize upon, but aren’t yet (your opportunities)
- You should be watching out for competitors or external situations that are unfavorable to you and your practice (your threats)
A competitor index is a tool you use to gain better understanding of your local market and other doctors in practice who are close by. You will use this worksheet to get a better grasp on your unique situation—and this is extremely valuable information when used in conjunction with these other tools.
Okay, so what do we mean by marketing audits?
Well, we’re talking about audits you perform on existing marketing areas and efforts.
From a general, overview perspective, this includes:
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Online ads
- Marketing content
- Graphics and visual branding
Let’s get a little more specific and look at your website audit.
When auditing your medical practice’s website, you need to start by recording your various pages, blog posts, and other content in a worksheet. From there, you will be looking at an array of elements related to what the pages (etc.) contain and how well they are performing.
Regarding those elements, we’re talking about things like your meta tags, headlines, sub-headlines, alt text for images, and in-text links (both internal and external).
For site performance, you need to pull up analytics that cover—amongst other things—bounce rate, time spent on page, and site visitors. Then you should record this data in conjunction with the respective pages and blog posts.
All this information shows you what is working (and what you should be doing more of…) as well as what isn’t (and, obviously, needs to be improved).
The audits for those other marketing elements will be similar in nature. Sure, they’ll be more specifically geared for things like open and click-through rates (email marketing), likes and follows (social media), and views (video)—but the simple fact is this:
You are identifying strengths and weaknesses in your existing marketing plan.
And that information gives you the best possible picture of your current situation—something that is absolutely essential to know when determining how to move forward.
Do You Have the Marketing Expertise You Need?
Here’s an extremely important question you need to ask yourself:
Do you know how to do all these things?
You obviously learned how to diagnose the source of a medical issue and then create a treatment plan to resolve it in med school, but did they cover practice marketing?
(From our experience—and we’re highly experienced—the answer is no.)
Alright, you can’t do it by yourself—which is understandable since, at the risk of understating, it’s a lot—so do you have someone who can?
Now, if your answer is something along the lines of “well, I have a part-time marketer,” we need to remind you about a point we made a little earlier:
Part-time marketing doesn’t work anymore.
Sure, perhaps it was fine once upon a time, but “once upon a time” the internet didn’t exist. And that’s an important distinction because the most revolutionary technological advancement of our time has made marketing super competitive—even in the medical field.
It’s more important than ever to stay on top of your marketing. If you don’t, you slide down in Google rankings and that’s a problem because people aren’t going to the second or third (etc.) pages to find new businesses and doctors.
You don’t want that to happen, right?
Of course you don’t! We’re talking about your livelihood here—the very way you provide for your family and secure their future.
You want your practice to thrive. And that requires proper marketing.
More Than Expertise: Do You Have the Right Tools?
As with successfully practicing medicine, marketing your practice requires a specific toolset. With that being the case, do you have all the tools necessary?
It’s possible that you do, but having helped hundreds of doctors throughout the years, we can say it is much more likely that you don’t.
Fortunately, whereas you might not have the right tools, we do.
See, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Actually, it’s often the smart move to make. (Like when your patients come to see you for help with their foot problems!)
VMD Services Has the Expertise AND Tools (To Put Your Practice on the Road to Success)
We are marketing experts who excel in helping our clients get found online—and then turning those site visitors into actual patients. We’ve done this for many other doctors, and we’re happy to do it for you too.
If you’d like more information about our agency and how we can help you achieve your practice dreams, give us a call today at (833) 823-3335. Together, we can start building your marketing strategy and making sure your practice is on the right track for success!