If the goal is to maximize long-term Return on Investment (ROI) within a set marketing budget, how can medical practices move there faster with optimal results? Here’s an important clue.
The point is that almost all other peripheral marketing initiatives (Social Media, Newsletters, Blogs etc.) when done properly, will drive patients through a practice’s website. So, for practices seeking to lay a foundation in digital marketing and then successively and successfully build upon that foundation for ever increasing financial reward, they must ensure their website is optimized for search ranking, load-time, conversion and usability amongst other performance characteristics first.
Beyond that, every practice’s circumstances are unique. Their website has evolved on its own unique path for a certain set of pages, feature capabilities and unique content. Their local market geography affects search ranking in a unique way and enjoys certain patient demographics. The practice’s service mix is their own as is their library of digital resources and internal marketing skills (graphics, copywriting, videography etc.). The practice principals will have a unique blend of more or less aggressive interests with their personalities and financial aspirations. With the exception of optimizing the website first, there is no standard priority order of marketing initiatives to maximize financial performance for every single practice.
While there may be no set sequence in peripheral marketing initiatives, there is common criteria that will help in prioritizing and executing marketing efforts. Successful practices will always vet and prioritize marketing activities with consideration for these concerns:
- Level of return (proven?)
- Cost, capacity & ease of execution
Protection of tangible and intangible assets is of highest priority. If a marketing tactic is going to put a physician’s credentials, the practice’s reputation or digital assets in jeopardy, it’s a bad investment at any price and no matter the return. Examples of risky initiatives would be falsely advertising or embellishing potential treatment results, using “black hat” SEO tactics to gain an immediate bump in search rankings at the risk of a website’s longer term authority with search engines, or representing practice personality as too informal or contemporary in an appeal to a younger audience thereby jeopardizing the practice brand impression of professionalism and expertise that has been built over its lifetime.
Is the tactic proven through past performance to deliver a positive return; and if so, what’s the multiplier over the cost (ROI)? Realistically a practice or Web provider may not have historical data on past ROI performance, but it’s no excuse not to use conservative assumptions to gauge how effectively a candidate tactic may perform up against other tactics. With newsletters as an example, audience size is a known quantity. Conservative open rates in beauty and personal care would be 10%. Conservative click rates is 1.5%. This along with the proven conversion performance of your website is sufficient information to come to a reasonable assumption of the potential ROI.
When comparing potential ROIs of various tactics, don’t neglect to consider the value of intangible benefits like brand impression and physician credentialing by providing valuable patient education. If all other things are equal (not likely), give added priority to the initiative that is more easily and more accurately measurable.
One can’t consider the value (ROI) of an initiative without considering cost; but in considering the cost, practice’s must take into consideration their capacity and capability for performing some particular effort. An example would be blog writing. Is there a strong copywriter in house with sufficient additional capacity to regularly produce quality content? If not, practices can easily contract it out to more capable providers; but in either case, there is a cost associated and the cost involves several factors. Another example is video production. Does the practice have amateur videographers on staff, or have they been turned on to local videographers who understand their brand? In either case, video production can be surprisingly affordable.
A common mistake with social media is when practices assume that the campaign is free if completed in house. The mistake is more involved than is obvious. Sure, there is an actual cost of an internal contributor’s time. However, there are also risks/costs if that contributor is not trained in patient privacy standards and particular social channel nuances,or if they’re not sufficiently aware of brand impression. There’s also lost opportunity cost when social media contributions are not unique, of sufficient quality or when they are delivered to an insignificant sized audience.
With cost, consider also that an initiative may be safe, measurable for performance and might have a proven large ROI, but if the cost is wildly beyond budget, the marketing initiative might be better suited for a later date after the practice has earned sufficient return from other more modestly priced efforts. Having said that, too often practices arbitrarily set marketing budgets without researching the comparative budgets of local competitors and considering the overwhelming ROI when marketing is executed successfully.
Timing is important. Successful practices don’t try to do everything at once. They take on one to maximum three major initiatives (the right initiatives based on criteria above) at a time and execute them effectively to completion before starting the next initiative. An intangible benefit from the completion of any one particular effort is that your staff feels a sense of contribution and fulfillment and renewal to embark on bigger and bolder initiatives for ever increasing ROI.
Brent Cavender is a co-founder of MetaMed Marketing. He heads up business development and marketing for MetaMed where he is the organization's chief practice educator and primary point of contact.