I have devised and executed countless marketing activities throughout the years and have spent more money than I care to remember. I am always shocked, however, when a new patient tells me that despite living in the community for many years, he has never heard of my practice. Did he have his head in the sand for the past 29 years? How could he not have noticed the hundreds of ads, direct mail pieces, radio spots, TV campaigns, educational seminars, Internet marketing, and community-sponsored events that we have done?
Today more than ever, consumers are bombarded with marketing messages, so having a marketing piece go unnoticed should not be surprising. You need to plan a campaign carefully to reach your target audience if your budget is limited and you want to use your marketing dollars in the most effective way. This will not be an easy task. It is a painstaking process that requires time, energy, and constant re-evaluation, but the general rule is that you have to market if you want to grow. While there are no simple answers to the questions of who, what, when, and where, marketing continues to be an effective way to bring in new patients.
Many hearing healthcare providers only rely on marketing when business is slow and they need an instant surge of patients. Marketing, however, should not be a one-time shot. It involves more than placing an occasional ad or sending an annual direct mail campaign. Marketing should be planned monthly, and include messages to current and prospective patients. Newspapers, the Internet, TV, and magazines have hundreds of ads. You can be sure that your competition is telling your patients about the benefits of new technology, so you need to send regular mailings if you want them to hear it from you.
I suggest marketing to current patients through news-letters or emails at least once per quarter. Great resources such as Hearing HealthCare News are available to help you develop an appealing newsletter. (See FastLinks.) Icontact. com is one of many email resources, or you can contact one of your manufacturing partners for help. (See FastLinks.)
The first step in achieving a consistent result with marketing is to develop a written plan that will guide all of your activities. (See FastLinks.) You are probably wondering when you will have time to do that when you are busy seeing patients, managing employees, and running a business, but the strategy does not have to be complicated. Consider planning by the quarter and include specific activities, how often they will be executed, and the number of new patients you hope to reach.
You need to establish a budget once you have developed a strategy. Most marketing experts recommend allocating five to seven percent of gross revenue for marketing. You may think you cannot afford such a budget, but the more you spend, the more you have to gain. This is only true, however, if the marketing efforts are yielding positive results. It is successful if the effort generates more revenue than you spent.
Once you have developed a strategy and a plan, it is time to determine the focus of your message, which needs to be consistent. Jumping from product to product is not the best way to project consistency. What do established and potential patients really want? You may be promoting hearing assessments and many types of amplification, but your patients are pursuing better relationships with family and friends, improved communication, and a less stressful life through better hearing. Your marketing efforts should promote these benefits. It is not about who you are but rather who the patient wants to become when he is able to hear well.
It is crucial that you measure and monitor every marketing effort so you know what works in your particular setting. Review your plan and change the message if it is not reaching your target market. Most practices cannot afford to invest hard-earned dollars in a campaign that is not increasing revenue. Monitoring does not have to be complicated. Most operating software tracks revenue sources. It can be as simple as dollars generated by the activity, minus the cost of goods, minus marketing activity costs.
Ask yourself if you have outlined a clear, consistent message before you develop a brochure, run an ad, implement a direct mail campaign, or present an educational seminar. It is easy to get lost in the endless sea of marketing messages in today's world. Remember you do not have to be everything to everyone; you just have to be something to a small percentage of your target audience.
Think about your ideal patients and specifically market to them. Do not advertise price if you want to attract an affluent clientele. Create a bold statement about who you are and what makes you the best person to care for their hearing needs.
* Click and Connect! Access the links in The Hearing Journal by reading this issue on our website or in our new iPad app, both available at thehearingjournal.com.
* Comments about this article? Write to HJ at HJ@wolterskluwer.com.
* Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/hearingjournal and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HearingJournal.