Marketing plans, strategies and tactics are all important. Doctors often "market" their practice via social media, advertisements, open houses, health fairs and their website. Multiple marketing tactics comprise a marketing strategy and multiple marketing strategies, when grouped together, comprise a marketing plan.
There are a few key steps along the journey to creating a marketing plan that will elevate your practice to the next level.The points below primarily focus on the revenue side of the equation. Equal care and analysis are needed to manage expenses. Action steps are highlighted to help guide you through the process.
Find Your Vision
Start with your vision for the practice. The vision should be the "why" you are in practice that demonstrates your passion in order to relate and connect with your patients. Compare and contrast your vision with what your employees describe. Identify and explore mismatches, overlaps and gaps.
The outcome needs to be a vision everyone shares and agrees is correct for moving the practice forward. Action Steps: Post the vision in the employee break room, treatment rooms and the waiting area to remind staff and inform patients what your office vision is.
Do a SWOT Analysis
Owner(s) and staff must assess the practice's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) that need to be dealt with to achieve the vision.
Action Steps: Aside from enumerating and measuring many factors, your team should create an action plan list by responding to these two queries: 1) To shore up major weaknesses and avoid major threats, we will take the following actions; and 2) To build on our strengths and opportunities, we will take the following actions.
Create Value Propositions
Informed by your vision, the SWOT helps identify today's patients as well as tomorrow's patients. These two groups are not always the same, especially when you are seeking to transition your practice to a new model or focus.
A value proposition needs to be created for each type of target patient. Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) can then be created for each group to guide the marketing effort.
Action Steps: Use the fortune cookie test: How many pieces of fortune cookie paper does it take to type out your USP? If the number is high, then you are too wordy and need to be more specific. Make the message shorter and more actionable.
Make Your Marketing Plan
The vision, SWOT action steps and value propositions, including USPs, all feed into your marketing plan. The plan encapsulates the best thinking about where the practice is today and where it is going over the next 1-3 years.
Action Steps: Articulate your practice SMART goals (see below) to help you establish the actual tactics and marketing strategies you will use to acquire and retain patients.
The Power of SMART Goals
Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals gives you the best chance of achieving those goals.
Specific: If we are not very clear about what we are seeking to achieve, how can we achieve it? Be explicit when it comes to what success looks like so you and your team know when you achieve it.
Action Steps: Share the goals with your team and trusted advisors. Have them challenge you on the specificity of the goals.
Measurable: The old saying that you can't manage what you can't measure is true. A reliable set of metrics allows us to see progress and measure how we are progressing along the way. Electronic health record systems have many reports and functionalities to review various aspects of your practice. Even if you do not have an EHR, you do have practice records going back multiple years.
Action Steps: Capture your key metrics and score them as red (warning), yellow (caution) or green (good). Initiate immediate action on any red conditions.
Attainable: Lofty goals are aspirational. Most of us do better with more concrete, tangible goals. Give your employees a chance to actually achieve the goals you set for them.
Action Steps: Discuss the goals with employees before declaring them fait accompli. Make adjustments that are reasonable from the employee's perspective.
Realistic: Set reasonable, realistic goals along the path you want to travel. If your employees feel your practice is on a journey versus a mad, desperate dash, they will be more invested in the results.
Action Steps: Again, confer with your trusted staff to validate that the goals are realistic.
Timely: Of course, objective results should have time frames associated with them. Make those mileposts as soon as realistic, but not so early that you stretch the practice to the breaking point. Missing opportunities need to be balanced against the opportunity cost.
Action Steps: Chart out each of the objectives and their due dates in a timeline; then explore where multiple objectives draw too much staff or doctor time to achieve in a given period of time.
Implementation and Management
Practice owner(s) and employees must agree on what the tactics are, who owns them, what is to be delivered and by when. You or your key employee must manage the process and the deliverables. The oversight ensures timely completion of the necessary work to implement the entire marketing plan.
Action Steps: You have validated with staff and trusted advisors your vision, SWOT, value propositions, marketing plan and SMART goals. Now perform that last gut check with your team. Ensure your implementation and tracking are both realistic and achievable.
- A thorough planning process will result in actionable ideas to keep your practice moving profitably toward its goals. Plan the plan and then work the plan.
- You are never done. Once you reach the end of your marketing plan, it is time to start the entire process again.
- Alter your marketing plan when internal practice conditions change (for example, the addition or elimination of an associate or new products or services).
- Changes in the external environment, such as insurance reimbursement amounts or percentages, more or less providers in your service area, etc., warrant a mid-term plan update.
- Measure the results as you implement the plan. Stop or change tactics or strategies that aren't yielding the results you expected.
Wrapping It All Up
Periodic change is necessary if you want to continue to build your practice and keep up with the changing times. Welcome that opportunity for change. Just as the body replenishes itself, so should your marketing tactics, marketing strategies and marketing plan.
Rob Berman is a partner at Berman Partners, LLC, a medical device sales, service and marketing company. He has held a variety of marketing roles during his career. Rob can be contacted by phone at 860-707-4220 or by email at
. His company website for new lasers is www.bermanpartners.com and for used lasers www.usedlasercenter.com.