Monday, July 27, 2009

Advertising and Marketing Budget

Financial benchmark data suggests your advertising and marketing expenditure should be 1-5% of your collected revenue. There are circumstances where you might spend more or less. Examples might include a well established practice not interested in attracting new patients, or, the brand new doctor looking to build a practice. In any case, you should spend your money wisely and be able to track your return on investment (ROI).

Over the years, physicians have dedicated resources to attracting new patients to their practices. This is considered "external" marketing. But your best ROI for you marketing dollar comes from "internal" marketing. That is, advertising and marketing to your existing patients about new services, technologies, or products you offer.

If you have followed these blogs, you'll quickly recognize my bias towards internal marketing and, my interest in social networking. During a visit last week, a client asked me to review a print ad she was considering. This was an 1/8 page ad in one of those community advertising magazines. The ad looked good. When I asked about the cost, the doctor said, "About $299/month, and I'm not really sure if we get much from it." Well, you can probably guess my response. As we know, very few of these advertising magazines, or, advertising mailers ever get read, and more importantly, ever get acted upon. Most of these types of advertising vehicles end up in the landfill.

Blogs and social networking are just the opposite. Your message is enduring, distribution is free, and is always available to your audience. And, unlike the advertising magazines, your social networking efforts can be tracked and your return on investment measured. The internet provides some really interesting analytical tools to help you see which message is most popular with your audience, and, the key words your audience used to find you. How powerful is that?

At the end of the day, you have many choices to advertise and market your practice. You should approach your advertising and marketing efforts with a variety of channels. Please do consider social networking as an extension of your website marketing.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Atlanta IS # 1

Well, Atlanta is #1 again. Yes, we have a great climate, the restaurants are fantastic, Atlantans are some of the friendliest people in the country, and, of course, we have the Braves. AND, we are #1 in Facebook use.

In fact, data shows that the demographics of new Facebook users is the 35-49 age range. Just the age range cosmetic physicians are trying to attract. So, are you embracing social networking as part of your marketing and advertising effort? If not, you should be.

When you combine the power of internet distribution with a blog site, you maximize your message penetration. And it is nearly free. I have long been a supporter of internet marketing, particularly in aiding practices internal marketing efforts. Connecting with existing patients in a consistent and frequent basis simply makes good sense for you and your patient.

Primoro, Inc. introduced its new offering CONNECT several weeks ago and response to this product has been inspiring. Many practices want to use social networking tools, but are simply not knowledgeable about it. In simple terms, using social networking is merely a distribution method for your patient communication. This communication arrives to the patient in the form they prefer, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social network site they use.

For those of you who have established a Facebook or Twitter site, congratulations. It is now time to maximize your current efforts with CONNECT. Call Primoro, Inc., to learn more.


* Data from Neilson Online, Global Index

Monday, July 13, 2009

It Happened This Weekend

Well, it happened. Once again, our household received another hardcopy medical newsletter. Normally, these items would make it to the trashcan, but my wife saved it to show what a waste of money this newsletter represented. And I agree.

Paper newsletters are expensive to produce and mail. It is difficult to measure any return of investment as most medical practices have bought some mailing list from an expert marketing firm. Most of these efforts are termed "external marketing." While not a bad idea, it's not great either. Most marketing efforts are geared towards finding new users for products or services. It is far more practical to fully mine your patient database in search of patients that might benefit from other services you offer. It's also cheaper too.

There is a lot of data out there that suggests that most medical practices should budget 1-5% of their net collected revenue for advertising and marketing. As such, it makes sense to use those dollars as efficiently as possible. External marketing is expensive, newsletters are expensive, using the internet is NOT.

Social Networking Tools are a wonderful new addition to the marketing world. Here, you can choose your message and distribute to your patients in the format they choose. I am a big fan of blogging. It is quick, easy and provides for more frequent patient connection. If you are wondering what you might blog about, well, I suspect there is not a day where you don't see some condition, make some diagnoses, or recommend some treatment, more of your patients might have interest.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Concerned About Price?

Many times over the years, physicians have asked me whether or not their fees might be too high, especially for cosmetic services. My answer has nearly always been the same, "It depends." Certainly, patients seeking cosmetic services are concerned about price, but what I've found is that patients are much more interest in finding "value" for their dollar.

Value is one of those attributes that can be confounding because so much in the purchasing process is emotional. The three attributes that describe a good value are, price, access and quality. The combination of these attributes is interpreted by your patients as value.

Price represents the cost to deliver a service, plus a reasonable profit. Clearly, if you are charging 50% more than the community norm, then your fee may be too high. There are always exceptions to price, and those exceptions are due in part to the access and quality the patient receives. For example, I know of two medical providers that charge vastly different from each other for BOTOX Cosmetic. One practice charges $8/unit, while the other charges $18/unit. Believe it or not, both practices conduct very healthy BOTOX Cosmetic businesses. The patient that visits the $8/unit practice receives their injections and good care. The patient that visits the $18/unit practice receives their injections and good care, AND, a perceived better patient experience. It's the same mentality for the consumer who shops at Nordstrom. The level of customer service at Nordstrom typically ranks much higher than other clothing retailers.

Access to care is the second attribute that defines value. If you find your practice cannot accommodate a new patient for 4 or more weeks, then your patient's perception of high value is diminished. The classic benchmark ratio for new patients is about one-third of your overall schedule. In other words, every provider in your practice should reserve 33% or so of all appointment slots for new patients. If you can achieve this goal, your access is further aiding the patient's perception of value.

Lastly, deliver high quality. For most practices, high quality medical care is a given. Quality for the overall patient experience may vary widely. It is important that the physician-owner be responsive to the need of their patients in term of quality medical care and patient/customer service. Schooling your team in terms of high quality patient/customer service is your responsibility, and, your responsibility to inspect. Practice Performance Surveys that measure your staff's responsiveness to patient expectations, can aid you in determining your practice's strengths and weaknesses as it relates to quality.

So, you can see, price is not everything. It is one component of the attributes that patients use to arrive at their perception of value. If we are all providing value to our patients/customers and clients, we can effectively minimize patient "shopping" and develop loyal patient advocates.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th of July

I've had a good week. I hope you had one too! It is a somewhat shortened week with many of us taking Friday off. It is well deserved.

For me, the 4th of July causes reflection for all the sacrifices our founders and women and men in uniform created and preserved for the rest of us. To all of those who serve our country, I tip my hat and say thank you.

I hope each of you will take a moment during all the festivities to take a moment and reflect.

Have a Wonderful and Safe 4th of July!