Trying to decide which marketing expenditures are most effective, where to spend money and finding the resources to devote to marketing can be a daunting challenge. Since effective marketing can affect practice profitability it is wise to identify which marketing initiatives are most beneficial.
Strategic and Marketing Planning
Strategic planning includes a situational analysis and the formulation of strategies to achieve practice goals. The situational analysis or SWOT analysis refers to strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the business. Strengths and weaknesses involve an internal assessment of the business while opportunities and threats involve an external focus on the competitive environment. A thorough SWOT analysis can help practices focus on developing appropriate and effective marketing objectives. For example, if the practice determines that client service is a weakness due to some communication problems, then marketing efforts should center on improving service to pet owners. Likewise, if a potential threat to the business includes dwindling new client numbers due to increased competition, then marketing efforts should center on how to minimize or overcome this threat.
Proper planning includes making assessments about the current status of the practice and analyzing hospital data in order to develop marketing goals that are tied to improving the financial health of the practice. Analyzing financial data and hospital data as well as trends in the data helps to guide marketing decisions. For example, are revenues increasing, decreasing or stagnant? Which profit centers are stagnant or decreasing? Are new client numbers per month stagnant or declining? How does the practice measure up based on industry benchmarks? Answering these questions and many more will help you know which marketing goals make the most sense for your practice.
Focus Marketing Efforts on Both New and Existing Clients
Effective marketing plans include both internal and external marketing initiatives. The amount of resources devoted to specific marketing efforts depends on the need to attract new clients, the competitive environment, the growth phase of the practice and the greatest areas of opportunities.
Internal marketing refers to efforts to increase utilization of services by existing clients. Internal marketing also refers to efforts by the practice to train and motivate staff to work together as a team to better meet client needs. Examples of internal marketing include client service initiatives, staff training, addition of new services, targeted mailings or newsletters to existing clients and other efforts to increase client compliance and increase service utilization.
External marketing refers to written or verbal communications aimed at attracting clients. It also involves efforts to promote and increase awareness of the practice. Examples of external marketing include advertising, radio spots, newspaper or magazine articles, hospital image and signage, website, speaking engagements to pet owner groups and participation in community events.
Establish Specific Marketing Objectives
Marketing objectives need to be specific and measurable goals to ensure that efforts will be focused and have a greater likelihood for success. This also enables the practice to assess the success of marketing plan initiatives. Examples of specific, measurable marketing objectives include:
- To increase dentistry revenues by 20% each month
- To increase senior diagnostic testing by 20% for the second half of the year
- To increase our new clients/month by 10%
- To increase compliance with our recommendations for heartworm testing by 40%
Each marketing objective must have associated tactics which detail how the objective will be achieved. Tactics are specific actions that must occur to ensure the successful execution of marketing objectives.
Measure the success of marketing objectives to determine whether to continue the initiative and to fully evaluate the return on investment. Track whether marketing objectives resulted in an increase in service utilization or resulted in an increase in new client numbers.
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