Marketing in This Economy
by Ed Sharp
Everyone knows that things have gotten tighter financially in today’s economy.
What I have seen a lot of doctors doing right now is to cut back on expenses and the easiest area to cut back on is the marketing budget. This is not advised!
What happens when one sits back and waits for the economy to change and just “holds” on is that, after the storm has passed, they will find they have a smaller practice. Nothing stays the same and, if you are not expanding, then you are contracting. Expansion in these times is the only option.
Marketing is the key to expansion. But what is marketing? It is creating a desire, an interest, a want for what you do. It is getting the word out to others about what you do. There are many avenues to do this.
There are two areas to market. One is internal, and the other is external.
What I have found from many years of working with clinics is that, if they have a more active internal marketing program, the external marketing programs work better. This is just a hard fact.
Internal marketing is asking for referrals, referral games, newsletters, open houses, patient appreciation events, etc. These are activities that can be generated internally by the doctor and the staff. They usually don’t cost much and are the least expensive ways to get new patients.
There must also be external marketing. These are limitless in number but I have found the best ways have been the old AT&T method of “reach out and touch someone.” This means personal contact such as health talks, safety lectures, screenings, etc. They may take a bit more research and time to put together. Newspaper, radio and cable are much more expensive and, in some cases, warrant the cost, but not always.
What I instruct my clients to do first is a marketing analysis.
Go back over the past six months and see how your new patients came to you. List them out, and how they found out about you. Was it from a referral, a talk you did, a newsletter you sent out, a direct mailing? See if there is a better and more cost effective way to get them in. You will probably find your best, and least expensive avenue was from referrals.
Next, look to see how you can increase that area.
Just asking for more referrals will help. Get the word out on what you can do. How about creating a referral contest? Back up any areas you find that are working with more of the same type of activity, whether it was from internal or external areas.
How about putting out a better image?
Clean the place up. Put flowers out in the reception area. Have the staff dress more professionally. Give fast effective service. These are internal promotional actions.
Sometimes it does not matter what is put out there to get a better inflow. I have seen doctors advertise in newspapers and then say they did not get anything from it. However, the new patients magically increased. None of these new patients came directly from the ad, yet they came for no other reason found.
There is a basic concept in marketing that must be realized. It is yin and yang of the universe. It’s how it works. Have you ever heard of the saying, “reap what you sow”? This is what this concept is all about. You get back what you put out, whether this is good or bad. But you must have an outflow before you have an inflow. If you want more money you have to put out more production and help more people. You have to send out more billings for the money to come in from insurance companies. If you want more new patients to come in you must put something out there to get them to flow in to you—things like communication (asking for a referral), giving a patient a brochure to hand out to someone else, doing a talk to a group outside the office. You are getting something out there, putting a motion outward.
Watch your new patient statistics on a weekly basis.
Note what activities were done that week to get new patients. Track these two areas closely. Write it down. It is easy to forget and guess what you did. Sometimes it may take weeks before you see the results of the activity you did. Statistical management is far superior to guessing. Know what is working and do more of that. New ways that are untried can be costly and ineffective. Always keep doing what is working and do more of that before you add some other activity. When you do add other activities, make sure you track whether there is an increase in new patients. I advise not to get contracted for a long period of time for any marketing activity before you see what the results are. I had a client that I advised not to do long term cable ads before he tested it. He did not listen. He contracted for a year. He got less than one new patient per month from the ads. It cost him $1500 per month. What a waste of money! That money could have been spent on areas that did work.
So do what does work, do more of it and, if you do other activities, test them out before you commit long term (even if it is cheaper).
I hope this helps in looking at your marketing, but remember—do not stop marketing because your economy is tight. Keep expanding and you will pull through this economy with flying colors and you will be able to help more people.
Ed Sharp has been a business consultant for over twenty years, helping and giving advice to chiropractors from around the world. He is the president of Sharp Management & Consulting which manages clinics or delivers consulting. He can be contacted at [email protected] or via the company website, www.thesharpmanagement.com.