question marks for trackingFrequently we discover a medical practice that is attempting to run a marketing program without tracking the source of new patients. They might as well be burning their hard-earned currency in a wastebasket.

Without a tracking system in play there’s no definitive measure of results or any clear understanding for a medical or dental practice of what’s working and what’s not working in their marketing program. Big time waste promptly ensues.

Although the marketing fundamentals in this post may seem elementary, we encounter burning wastebaskets frequently enough to warrant this brief visit to the basics. (And if this doesn’t apply to you, please pass along these tips if you catch a whiff of smoke elsewhere in the organization.)

Primary sources of prospects or new patients

Depending on the nature of the practice, the ratio of sources will vary, but there are only three primary categories.

  • External Advertising: From print or broadcast advertising or other outreach to prospects.
  • Internal or Patient Referral: From a patient to a friend, relative, acquaintance or colleague.
  • Professional Referral: Such as from a generalist to a specialist.

Subcategories are needed under each main heading, such as the types of external media, or the name of the referring professional colleague.

Success in healthcare marketing and advertising is about producing measurable results. Here are some of the cornerstone reminders to help do it right and increase practice revenue in the process.

Have and use a reliable tracking system. Almost everyone says they know this, and quite a few practices tell us they have a means to track. But then they get busy. Whoever is supposed to be keeping score gets distracted. The routine is neglected or overlooked. And the bottom line is…there is no system. Use our mantra: “You’ve got to track.” Consistently. Every day. Every time. Without exception, you’ve got to track.

Paper tracking is a system for losing money. We have nothing against pencils, papers, spreadsheets, notepads, inbound call tally sheets except that, for tracking purposes, they are notoriously (and fatally) prone to errors and neglect. (A corollary to the item above; see “busy” and “distracted.”) Nothing’s perfect, but systems that are integrated with inbound phone lines or are tied to electronic record-keeping reduce the margin of error and often operate in near real-time.

Know the dollar value of a prospect or new patient. Often there can be two answers to this. First, what is the value of Patient/Case “A” for the initial or immediate services? And second, what is the value of that new patient, including repeat visits or subsequent services, over a 12-month period? Understanding the “case value” and the “first year value” dramatically quantifies how important it is to consistently use a tracking system.

Don’t guess. Practitioners who tell us that they know the numbers “off the top of their head” are almost always wrong. It doesn’t matter if they are too high or too low, “guesstimate” numbers will never produce accurate or reliable answers.

Increasing practice revenue

Without a tracking system you are almost certainly leaking resources. A reliable tracking system produces the necessary data to calculate Return-on-Investment (ROI). Take external radio advertising for example. How many new patient appointments resulted from last week’s radio commercials? Was one version of the commercial stronger or did one day of the week outperform others? Is one radio station a better buy than another? Did one combination of day/station/ad produce more valuable cases or prospects?

A closer evaluation can reveal which, and how many, prospects made appointments, and then converted to new patients, and–in an actual dollar amount–produced revenue. In short, tracking provides the insight to do more of what works, and to change or eliminate what performs poorly.

For more on this topic, read: Tracking the Source of New Patients to Maximize Your Advertising ROI.

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Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success Strategies
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.
Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf


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