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Is Your Healthcare Online Marketing Strategy Up to Par?

“Am I spending enough on marketing my practice?”

“Am I spending too much on marketing my practice?”

Whether you own a fledgling dental practice or have an established patient base at your family care practice, it’s likely that you have asked yourself one, or both, of these questions — and probably in the last six months!

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how much a healthcare professional should be spending on marketing their practice, but if you pay attention to certain things, it is not too difficult to determine if and how you need to change up your marketing budget. Read on to learn some key things that will alter the way you approach the marketing budget for your practice.

Two big marketing budget myths

First, let’s go ahead and dispel a couple common myths on how you should determine your marketing budget.

Myth #1: You should base your marketing budget on how much you’re “willing to spend.”

WRONG. This is not a good way to approach your marketing, at least not if you want it to be effective. While you certainly need to keep costs in mind, you can’t just pick a random number out of a hat and decide that amount will work for you. Get an independent consultation to determine the areas where you need to spend on marketing and go from there.

Myth #2: Your marketing budget should be a percentage of your revenues.

NOPE. Again, while you certainly don’t want to be spending a huge portion of your revenues on marketing, your total revenues are simply not a good metric on which to base your marketing budget. This is because there is no one percentage that works for all practices.

Look at it this way: Over here, there’s a brand new practice in an over-saturated market. This practice wants to double their current revenues in two years. Over there, there’s an established practice with very few competitors. Their goal is to achieve slow and steady growth over the next five years. Obviously, the first practice will spend a larger percentage of their revenues on marketing in the next year. It all depends on your goals and your unique position in the market.

The right way to establish your marketing budget is to create a plan, and accompanying budget, that is based on your specific objectives for your specific local market. (This is probably a good time to mention that any marketing agency that recommends the same standard “package” to every business is not an agency you want in charge of your marketing.)

Signs that you’re spending enough (or even too much) on marketing

Now, let’s try to rule out the possibility that you’re spending too much money on marketing. Though the more common scenario is spending too much money on the wrong things, there are a couple signs that you’ve already spent enough money on marketing and need to focus on other elements of your practice instead.

Sign #1: Your schedule is full for several weeks out.

Though it may seem obvious, having a full calendar of patients for the next month is a clear indicator that you don’t need to spend any more on advertising efforts for the time being. If you’re unable to book a new patient within the next week, you will be wasting money by trying to attract new patients.

Of course, this doesn’t mean your marketing budget should drop to zero — if you want to maintain your current patient base, you will still have to keep your website fresh, stay active on social media, update your blog, etc. However, any targeted advertising efforts such as direct mail or pay-per-click will be a waste of money.

Sign #2: All of your new business is from your marketing efforts.

While the goal of marketing is, of course, to bring in new patients, it’s actually not a terrific sign if all of your patients come from your marketing campaigns — especially if you’re not seeing any repeat business. This would indicate that you’re not getting any word-of-mouth advertising, i.e., your patients are not recommending you to their friends and family.

If your practice is getting little or no word-of-mouth business, your resources would be better spent on improving your services and/or personnel to increase patient satisfaction, rather than on beefing up your marketing. Make sure you keep track of where your new business comes from by simply asking new patients how they heard about you, and also by using web analytics tools to keep track of online visitors.

Two things that will increase the cost of your marketing

In some scenarios, your marketing efforts might not be having the desired effects because you’re doing something that’s negating them to some extent. In such cases, you’ll need to spend more money on marketing in order to achieve your desired results. Some factors that might increase your cost of marketing are as follows:

1. Your practice has limited hours of operation.

Healthcare practices and physicians who are less available to patients are less desirable to patients overall. If you have limited operating hours or don’t provide emergency services, you will likely have to spend more on marketing to compensate for this deficiency.

2. Your practice lack storefront visibility.

Storefront visibility isn’t just important in retail; it also affects your marketing advantage as a healthcare provider. People who can find you and recognize your business on the street are more likely to become patients. Having a new logo designed is one simple thing you can do to increase your visibility in the community.

The 6 key parts of your healthcare marketing budget

As follows are the main components your marketing budget should consist of.

1. Your website

A dynamic, search-engine optimized website is the most crucial part of your marketing campaign, around which all other aspects of your marketing should revolve. It needs to look good and function well, providing the right information to the right audience. It needs to be dynamic with regular updates. Your budget should include both the design or redesign of your healthcare website, as well as the costs of its hosting and maintenance.

2. Content marketing

In addition to having a good website for SEO, you also need to be publishing content that search engines love on a regular basis. Blog posts, articles, white papers, and even photos and videos all fall into this category. Whether you’re paying someone to do your content marketing in-house or paying an outside agency to do it for you, content is a vital component of your marketing.

3. Social media

Social media is more than just having a Facebook page. It requires time and effort to create regular, targeted posts, and your competitors have recognized social media’s significance, increasing their spending on social media marketing accordingly. A 2014 survey of healthcare marketers showed 63.4 percent of those surveyed increased social media spending in 2014.

Social media is more than just having a Facebook page.

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4. Review management

Online reviews are also increasingly relevant to your marketing efforts, so you

also need someone to monitor reviews and try to get garner a larger numbers of reviews for your practice with a review program. If your practice already has some reviews, but they’re not positive, you may require more robust reputation management services to undo this damage.

If you’re interested in learning more about review management, you might want to check out our downloadable guide on how you can get more positive reviews and use those reviews to gain new patients.

5. “Old school” advertisements – Paper, TV, radio ads

Digital or online, marketing will comprise the greatest portion of your marketing budget, but healthcare practices of all types will also want to spend some of their ad budgets on non-digital advertisements, potentially including TV, radio and local periodical ads. As I discussed in another blog post, direct mail can also help medical professionals reach their target audience.

6. Discounts

An easy one to forget, promotional discounts to attract new customers also need to be factored into your overall marketing budget.

Although these are the main areas of marketing spending, depending on your objectives, you may also consider logo design and Paid Facebook Advertising.

A couple more things to keep in mind

1. You might already be spending enough, but in the wrong places.

Creating a targeted campaign that will actually bring in new patients requires not only that you spend money, but that you also educate yourself to find out how you should be spending your money. For starters, free online tools such as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SizeUp program allow you to determine the best geographic regions to advertise.

To get a look at how your competition in the healthcare industry is spending their advertising dollars, the MM&M/Ogilvy CommonHealth Healthcare Marketers Trend Report for 2014 is a good place to start.

2. You’re going to need some help.

Unless you’re a professional marketer, it will be difficult for you to do all the research, analysis and writing required to perfect your practice’s marketing scheme. After all, you have a medical practice to run. Therefore, you will definitely need to shell out some money for marketing services; it’s just a matter of whether you hire people to perform these jobs in-house, or whether you hire a healthcare online marketing company to complete these tasks for you. (Most healthcare professionals end up going with the latter option.)


So what do you think? Have you fallen prey to some of these marketing myths? What are you doing to ensure that you are getting the most out of your marketing budget?

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