BLOG: Marketing your practice in the time of a pandemic: Survive and thrive by shifting your focus
This might seem to you like an odd time to be talking about marketing, and you’re right.
What started as a blog with an emphasis on getting your marketing “house” in order because of what I saw several months back as an approaching slowdown in the economy — hence, the working title for the first post being “winter is coming,” (with apologies to all the Game of Thrones followers) — has now morphed into something even more critical.
As the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic gathered steam several weeks ago, it became apparent that “winter is here.” Change was coming. Period. And now this recession (depression?) has hit, a lot faster and a lot harder than anticipated, and no one was really prepared for it. But with it comes an opportunity to reassess what is working and what is not.
Look upon this blog as a kind of marketing manifesto: critical things to do to get a handle on your marketing efforts now and to help your practice emerge from the crisis as healthy as possible.
But first, some propositions before we continue our discussion:
Marketing is not just advertising. It is communication. How are you communicating with your patients right now? (More about that later.)
With uncertainty and reduction in practice cash flow, every dollar we have is precious.
Even with telemedicine grants and SBA loans trickling in, most ophthalmology practices will see a decline in revenue for the rest of the year and possibly until next spring if and when a vaccine becomes available.
Now is the time to put together a response plan for this decline in discretionary spending, which will extend beyond this immediate downturn and will probably stay in place once things start returning to (the new) normal.
A big part of that plan will (in fact, should) include a revised marketing strategy.
Your marketing strategy should strive to make your marketing measurable; as best as possible, every marketing activity should be able to prove its value.
My mission with this blog is to help you survive and thrive by expanding your marketing capability and adopting new processes without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The way you have done marketing needs to be reevaluated, and it needs to transform from a (possibly) internally contentious, delegated expense to a valuable investment.
By making a minimal change in the way you run some of your marketing, you could make a significant impact later — sort of how a small change in an airplane’s vector can lead to a huge change in its course. Did you know that when flying from LA to Hawaii, an airplane is off course about 95% of the time? The pilot’s job is to neither overcorrect nor undercorrect. The same is true for marketing. These days, your marketing destination must be trackable.
My mission, which I will present throughout the course of this blog, is to help you test and (hopefully adopt) new approaches to ophthalmic practice marketing. Marketing that relies on scientific methods and direct response offers. To accomplish this, I will begin by explaining what I consider as the “Core 4” marketing processes every practice should have in place. My goal is to help you implement while keeping you from chasing quick tactical fixes and shiny marketing objects.
What are these “Core 4” processes? You’ll be pleased to find you’re probably doing some of them now. If so, small changes might move the needle to your advantage. If not, adding them is simple, direct and understandable.
The COVID-19 pandemic is fundamentally changing the practice of medicine. Social distancing measures may need to be in place (cyclically) for years. We might not be able to see the same volume of patients we are used to seeing. We will need to be smarter about how we spend money. How you communicate with patients and promote your services will continue to be critical, but now more than ever your marketing program will have to prove itself every month. My aim with this blog is to expand upon the ways you are doing marketing so that your marketing expenses are transparent, your marketing performance is optimized and your marketing campaigns are confirmed fit for purpose before they are built (more later on this one).
One last (uplifting) thought: To claw back from the pandemic, we need to make resilience our No. 1 marketing priority. Resilient marketing looks like a portfolio of evergreen marketing processes that continue to produce desired results (conversions, visits, leads, referrals, etc) to some degree, no matter how harsh the economic environment. The “Core 4” I introduced in this post, when done correctly, are examples of resilient marketing processes. The sequence of tasks in these processes can be executed with minimum technical and marketing know-how. They are inexpensive to implement and optimize. Every practice owner and partner can shift into more resilient marketing with little disruption. You can start by taking inventory of your portfolio, then rating them for ease of execution, degree of automation and whether your staff could take over if cash flow requires you to bring more marketing in-house.
What to expect in future posts? Strategies and tactics you can implement right now without spending extra, access to free resources and marketing hacks, and tips for helping your marketing department (or agency) make you more money.
Next post: A marketing quick-start plan: Some issues you are probably facing and what you can do right now.
Disclosure: Polack reports he is the founder of Emedikon Marketing Systems.