Now that I’ve captured your attention with that anchovy sundae, let’s focus on today’s concern which is knowing the true measure of success in online marketing.
A plethora of choices for a plethora of situations
First, let’s acknowledge that in marketing, and especially in online marketing; there are an infinite number of potentially profitable initiatives to pursue. Next, let’s recognize that every single medical practice’s challenges and opportunities are unique. You target a particular demographic within a particular geographical footprint. The personality of your practice and your service procedures are your own. Your financial aggressiveness or risk aversion is different from competitors. Your practice enjoys certain unique skills, available marketing assets and opportunities while you are challenged with your own operational and other liabilities. And after all other differences are tallied, the evolution of your online marketing is unique in the market and new to you from the past.
So if your marketing choices are infinite while the nature of your opportunity is unique, why would any savvy practice professional expect to successfully market their business using some “one size fits all” approach? Perhaps, packaged solutions give the appearance of convenience, but I would argue that appearance of convenience is quickly trumped by significantly higher financial reward and stability of pursuing the exact right approach for your practice over the long term.
With all this in mind, ironically the first step in a successful marketing approach is to stop! Stop pursuing dozens of campaigns poorly without a larger plan. Stop initiating and then interrupting individual campaigns with multiple vendors without fueling them sufficiently with the necessary investment, focus or attention to metrics. Stop and embrace the ever-changing nature and complexity of this marketing landscape, and recognize that your most profitable approach will begin with thoughtful planning and the collaboration of proven professionals. Then, take comfort in knowing that it’s equally complicated for your toughest competitors.
Follow the right path
By pursuing the right initiatives at the right rate of investment in the right sequence in online marketing, you have a powerful opportunity to leapfrog your competitors, who will be trying to take their own shortcuts in planning and execution. Effective online marketing is highly profitable. This has been consistently proven out because it’s most metric-able channel in marketing. And in the end, even our gut instinct will tell us that the Web is where potential patients are researching new procedures and local providers, so practices will want to do what’s necessary to get onto the right path in online marketing as soon as possible.
Long term ROI within budget and at least risk
So you’ve concluded that effective online marketing is worth your financial investment and focused attention, and you expect that your most profitable approach will be some unique mix of initiatives funded sufficiently. Now you’re wondering where to begin, but before you can determine the best path, let’s agree on where you’re going. What are you trying to achieve with your marketing plan?
For most savvy practice professionals, the obvious answer to this question will be Return on Investment (ROI). We agree that ROI is the measure of success, but pursuing ROI while disregarding other concerns like budgeting, or practice reputation or safety of online assets would be costly over the long haul. As an example, a practice could conceivably achieve short-term rankings and financial gain by gaming search engine results with “black hat” optimization tactics. These are tactics that give a short-term unfair advantage in rankings but are explicitly forbidden by search engines. By deploying these type tactics, ROI might be won temporarily, but the offending website risks losing favorable ranking entirely as their methods get discovered by search engines or by envious competitors. Similarly, no temporary financial gain would ever be worth a practice misrepresenting itself online, thereby risking their good standing within medical boards or associations. A practice’s budget is also of concern. Some one tactic may provide huge ROI, but if that tactic jeopardizes the practice’s healthy cash flow, this path is ill advised.
Ultimately, to maximize financial gain over the long term, practices must consider numerous factors and their impact on future potential ROI. And here’s where our reference to calculus comes in. We’ll all recall that amongst other things, calculus gives us the ability to measure the area under a changing curve. Similarly, success in online marketing is accumulating financial gain (ROI) under the changing conditions of a profitability curve. If we want to maximize long term ROI, achieving some short-term profit is essential but not at the expense of protecting reputation and assets which support long term profitability. Laying a strong foundation in your website, in your chosen tactics and with your reputation and accumulation of digital assets will all contribute to longer term profitability. The true measure of success in online marketing is in long term ROI which is dynamic and accumulative property.
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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.