PR and communications consultant Julia Kendrick shares her top 5 tips to keep your clinic ahead of the curve with a robust marketing approach
Whether you employ a PR and marketing supplier or are juggling everything by yourself, keeping on top of clinic marketing can be a daunting prospect that can often be overwhelming.
Best intentions of regular planning sessions and reviews can easily fall by the wayside under the burden of clinical work or broader business management. In this hyper-competitive industry, your clinic cannot afford to fall behind with efforts on marketing, promotion and positioning. Customers can be all too fickle if they don’t receive regular nurturing from clinic communications – drifting away to the lure of competitors with a more robust marketing strategy that entices them in through successful campaigns. In this article, I will outline key strategies to help you keep your clinic marketing plan up and running with minimal stress.
1. Consider and review your business objectives
Marketing done in isolation will never truly deliver the results you want for your business. To maximise your valuable time, energy and money, activities must be tied to the broader business strategy and objectives. At the start of your marketing planning process and on a quarterly basis throughout the year, make sure you are sitting down and considering your overarching business objectives, such as:
Are you looking to grow, or maintain your current income? If so, by how much, and by when? Set realistic targets and deadlines.
Are you working towards new developments in your clinic, such as more treatments, more staff or additional premises? Consider when these will be phased into your business and plan backwards for any launch campaigns.
Are you looking to enter any strategic partnerships to diversify and support your business? Examples could include working with a manufacturer as a KOL spokesperson, or creating a brand partnership with a complimentary product to boost your clinic sales. Evaluate when and how to announce these, and maintain visibility.
Are you looking to establish more of a leadership position, or tackle any key competitors? Are there any competitor milestones you need to defend against, such as a new clinic launch, business anniversary or award? Are there opportunities for you to lead the way in the industry (and be seen to do so by consumers) – such as piloting or launching a new brand, product, technique or service?
Map these business objectives out at a ‘macro’ level – sketching out when you aim to achieve them across the year. You can then layer in your planned marketing and promotional activities in line with the business objectives and key timings, ensuring you never feel ‘caught out’ with nothing scheduled in your plan. Don’t forget to consider your budget allocations – map out the main peaks and troughs to align with your targets and marketing activities. I recommend always ensuring you have some ongoing maintenance marketing budget so you do not stop activities for an extended length of time throughout the year.
2. Start big and drill down
Now that you have the ‘big picture’ of what’s needed within the business across the year, you can focus on a monthly basis of what your marketing needs to be doing. Use a big visual aid, like a calendar wall planner with different coloured post-its or pens to map out the information you’ve collated on business objectives and the big ‘trends’ for your clinic over the year – including any specific campaigns or topics you plan to run in order to meet your objectives. These could include a new treatment launch, an industry congress activity or a special promotion to welcome a new staff member. Brainstorm with your suppliers or clinic team what could be happening each month in terms of:
Environmental milestones or trends – New Year, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, spring skin, bridal season, summer skin, back to school, winter skin, weight loss
Treatment/product focus – what core products or treatments do you want to profile each month that align with the environmental milestones and your business or sales objectives? Don’t forget any new launches or your signature treatment, or any special offers for treatments you want to re-invigorate
Clinic Milestones – your clinic birthday, awards season, new premise’s launch, new staff, staff birthdays, events, charitable activities, congresses
3. Organising your content
Just imagine – how good would it feel never having to worry about what you’re going to write in your clinic blog or newsletter each month? Or what social media campaigns you need to be running? This is the ‘nitty gritty’ stage – map out in detail what the monthly marketing content looks like across your key channels: events, website, social media, blogs and newsletters. Whilst this can feel time-consuming at the start, in the long run I guarantee it will save you so much time, energy and stress. In addition, detailed planning at this stage will increase the chances of you eventually being able to delegate this work within your team or to an external supplier, if you haven’t done so already. For each month, brainstorm and plan the content topics for at least:
1x patient newsletter – try to keep a consistent structure so it is easier to plan the content in advance and be sure to include links to your website in your newsletter. If you can send it at around the same time each month, this can help with client expectations and time management
2-3x clinic blogs – try to come up with the titles and angles of these straightaway to keep you focused. For optimum SEO, you should aim for 500 words minimum and post to your website
1x email campaign or social media advertising campaign – what do you want to promote that month and drive action for? Examples could include a new treatment, or for lapsed patients to come in for a free skin review, or maybe to promote an event
If you don’t have an external social media management provider, you should also map out a monthly framework for posts on each of your channels to include approximately two to three posts per day with:
A generic ‘library’ of information, tips, advice, inspirational images
Promotional posts – tied to specific events or promotions that month
Treatment information and before/afters
Personal touches; for example flowers from a patient or good patient feedback
Uploading two to three posts per day will ensure that you start to build more of a following and are seen as an active contributor. If it’s too overwhelming to try to do this for a 12-month cycle, break it up into quarters and ensure that you plan your next quarter at least a few weeks in advance.
Now you should have a comprehensive overview of what your clinic marketing looks like over the course of the year. If you have a team or clinic manager, consider delegating some of the responsibilities to them as part of their role – perhaps to compile the newsletter, or write one blog per month based on your plan. Having clear actions and deadlines will help ensure that the marketing becomes an integral part of everyone’s function in the clinic – not an add-on or a burden which keeps getting forgotten.
5. Keep track of success
Marketing is an investment and needs to demonstrate value. Ultimately, if your blogs aren’t driving traffic, or customers aren’t opening your newsletter, or nobody is clicking on your social media posts – you need to know. Undertake regular reviews of the analytics (monthly if possible) – on your website, through your customer relationship management (CRM) system and via your social channels to identify engagement, interaction and ultimately what is being delivered in terms of revenue. If something is not working effectively, it’s best to find out early on and adjust your strategy accordingly until you get it right!
With everything on your plate, it can be difficult to find the time for marketing – but with a bit of advanced preparation you can cut the time and effort in half. Remember, new patients won’t come through the door if they don’t know about you, and existing patients can drift away if you don’t nurture the relationship. So, if you truly want to grow your business and bring in more revenue, you have got to make marketing an integral part of your business.
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