Biography: Peter J. Polack, MD, FACS, is a cornea, refractive surgery and external diseases specialist at Ocala Eye, a large multi-subspecialty practice in north central Florida and founder of Emedikon Marketing Systems. He has written and podcasted on EMR and technology in healthcare and is also co-author of The Ultimate Ophthalmic Marketing Guide.
Disclosures: Polack reports he is the founder of Emedikon Marketing Systems.
June 17, 2021
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BLOG: A counterintuitive approach to mapping marketing funnels, part 1

Biography: Peter J. Polack, MD, FACS, is a cornea, refractive surgery and external diseases specialist at Ocala Eye, a large multi-subspecialty practice in north central Florida and founder of Emedikon Marketing Systems. He has written and podcasted on EMR and technology in healthcare and is also co-author of The Ultimate Ophthalmic Marketing Guide.
Disclosures: Polack reports he is the founder of Emedikon Marketing Systems.
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In previous posts, I described the use of marketing funnels to define what is known as the customer’s buying journey.

Here, I will explain how visually mapping your practice marketing funnels can help identify constraints, dependencies and black holes while potentially increasing conversions.

Our first funnel was developed to stop LASIK lead leakage. We had never thought about how to improve the number of “opportunities” in our pipeline. We were using a manual process with paper messages and voicemail that, maybe, went to our refractive coordinator. The problems were 1) we had no idea how many LASIK calls were coming in or 2) how many calls were dropping out along the path to scheduling a prospect’s evaluation.

Peter J. Polack

When we mapped our first LASIK phone inquiry process, we started at the most obvious place: at the very beginning with the initial inbound phone call. But we ended up doing numerous iterations because we discovered — after the fact — that there were several constraints or hiccups along the way. (By the way, this exercise works for any procedure or service.) Later, you will see how doing this backward, starting at the end instead, can be more effective.

In your mind, you can picture a prospective patient calling to inquire about LASIK, scheduling an appointment for an evaluation and then having surgery. It is a straight-through process, right? But your mind cannot foresee all of the permutations that may take that prospect off the optimal path toward the goal of a scheduled surgery.

What if they are just price shopping?

What if they just want some information but don’t want to schedule an evaluation yet?

What if they are pregnant or still nursing?

What if they are not sure they can afford it?

What if, on initial exam, they have significant disc cupping or dry eye or an asymptomatic retinal hole?

These constraints could have been identified at the outset by visualizing the buying journey process with a funnel map. This not only works for existing procedures or services but especially if you are considering adding new ones, as this process can save you a lot of work and headaches (not to mention lost revenue). So, before you ever design, much less build, a web page for a new service, you should first map out its marketing funnel and sales pipeline.

Why map the funnel out instead of just spitballing it and tweaking it on the fly?

Mapping out your marketing funnel provides you with four capabilities that you would not have without a visual representation of your patient’s buying journey.

1. Alignment. Planning and mapping your strategy create a single version of the truth. Presented internally, this aligns your team around a process so everyone knows the end-to-end journey the prospect takes as well as their role (as process participants) along the way. You will discover tasks or functions that were neglected due to a previous lack of clarity.

2. Simulation. Use it to set goals or targets along the way, such as conversion rates or other metrics that keep track of how well the process is working. This allows you to simulate multiple scenarios before you build to see if the marketing and sales numbers show it will break even. Running projections lets decision makers “see” alternatives for the investment they’re funding.

3. Performance. A funnel done right can track performance and present data in a meaningful way: How far did they scroll on your squeeze page? Did they watch all of the video? At what step are they most likely to abandon the sales journey?

4. Optimization. You can optimize your funnel by making the changes that your simulations reveal. Initially, all you have to do is compare your “planned vs. actual” and identify the constraints, gaps or inefficient subprocesses that are affecting conversion and costing you money.

Eli Goldratt’s theory of constraints says that merely addressing one bottleneck does not necessarily improve the system as a whole. It may seem obvious to respond to a decrease in a particular service such as LASIK by opening up the prospecting spigot: not enough cases equals not enough traffic, not enough traffic equals not enough leads (which is typically what a marketing agency will pitch you because “it’s a numbers game”).

Perhaps what you have is a marketing sieve, not a marketing funnel. Opportunities are leaking because prospects are not getting the information they want when they seek it, perhaps the coordinator is too busy to call them back the same day they call, or maybe, there aren’t enough evaluation slots or, inversely, it’s too easy for a patient to make an appointment online and the schedule is full of tire kickers and noncandidates.

In the next blog post, I’ll show you why working backward from the goal (surgery) instead of at the beginning (initial phone call) can provide you with a better insight into what is happening in your LASIK (or other procedure or service) marketing funnel.