Planning for the New Year often gets lost somewhere in the fourth quarter when the holiday season takes over, and once the year has begun, it is easy to get distracted and forget all about it. The best way to get the year off to a great start is to define your marketing plan early, and outline where you want to go and how you plan to get there. A fresh approach to your marketing plan will help you stay on track, ensure that you are spending marketing dollars effectively, and identify the strategy needed to be successful.
Start by performing an objective review of what worked and what did not work last year so you can refocus your marketing spend in the most cost-effective manner. You should continually seek out creative ways to expand your outreach while staying within a set budget. As you see revenue increase, you can increase your budget and expand the plan you have put in place to incorporate new tactics and/or beef up what you are already invested in.
DEFINE YOUR PRIMARY GOALS
In order to ensure you pick the best tactics and strategies to meet your marketing goals, you need to be clear about your goals. Think about what you want your marketing program to do for you. For example, are you looking to expand your market presence, attract more patients, generate more revenue from your existing patients, or target a new segment of patients? For many practices, the answer may be all of the above. If that is the case, prioritizing your goals in an appropriate order will help you focus on primary goals versus secondary goals.
Start by having regularly scheduled brainstorming sessions with your staff and marketing team to review your key messages for the year. These can be done in the form of a 1-hour conference call every month or a 2-hour face-to-face meeting, as time permits. Monday-morning breakfast meetings often work well since everyone is fresh. Thursday late afternoons are another option. Evaluate the methods you are using to plan your marketing tactics, including some or all of these: news release schedule, blog posts, monthly offers, seasonal events, and Facebook initiatives. Plan your key messages based on the services you offer, and then look for ways to differentiate your practice from your competitors.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM LAST YEAR
Review your marketing plans for the previous year and compare them to actual results achieved. Determine where your marketing dollars were most effective and what programs were not successful in achieving the results you were expecting. Key lessons to be learned from last year include calculating the return on your marketing investments, and expanding your budget for the components of your plan that were most effective.
We all know that for 2012, Web-based marketing will continue to expand and social media platforms have come into their own as powerful communication tools. Incentives, competitions, loyalty programs, and limited-time offers have taken center stage in most markets. Consider whether print and radio advertising generates enough return on your investment to justify the cost. You may decide to add more open houses or patient seminars, and restructure the way you hold events for patients to increase attendance and potential revenue.
IF IT DOESN’T WORK, FIX IT
For some practices, it may be hard to part with tradition. For example, if you have been advertising in your local paper or regional magazine for years, you may be concerned that switching gears may detract from the presence you have built up in the community. However, changing your marketing tactics every year is a normal course of business and should be encouraged. In fact, in some cases, advertising in the same publications year after year may lose its effectiveness. Freeing up the extra marketing dollars may inspire you to opt into a new campaign that targets your ideal customers in a more innovative way.
In 2012, be careful not to pay for marketing programs that do not directly increase your profile among your target audience and drive revenue. If your budget is going toward pay-per-click ads that are not working, or for space in a publication that does not produce results, you are squandering your time and money.
“ME TOO” MARKETING
One of the biggest mistakes that practices make is to follow what everyone else is doing without giving much thought to their unique positioning. Just because some of your competitors are on Groupon or Living Social offering cut-rate injectables and laser hair removal does not make it the right marketing strategy for your practice. Cable television or radio spots may work for some practices in specific markets, but they can backfire for more exclusive practices targeting an elite clientele. In some markets, public relations and social media may be highly acceptable forms of practice marketing, whereas print ads in local papers or in the classified section of a glossy magazine can present the opposite image of what you are trying to create.
What has remained constant is that continually updating your Web site is a critical component of any marketing plan because keyword trends change frequently. Increasing your blog postings to an average of five per week, and maintaining daily postings on your Facebook page and a minimum of three tweets per day will help maintain momentum and increase your true reach. Link exchanging and article placements are still tried-and-true tactics that deliver results if done strategically and consistently. Additionally, editorial content will always carry more weight among consumers than advertorial content and advertisements because it is perceived as an independent endorsement rather than a paid placement. These are important factors to consider when developing a 12-month marketing plan and budget for your practice.
Wendy Lewis is president of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy, author of 11 books, and founder/editor in chief of www.beautyinthebag.com. She can be reached at .