But then there are troublesome parts of the plan where you’re faced with a painful dissection of incorrect assumptions, increased competition, erratic consumer needs and wants, and the relentless rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “If you only knew then, what you know now,” this process would be a bit less painful.
Sorry, but we have no magic formula for the instant creation of a “perfect” marketing plan. Reality will always intrude, and you never know exactly where, when or how.
But the good news is you can simplify the process, reduce risk and enhance the likelihood for success by approaching the task in manageable slices.
An intelligent approach to creating a durable marketing plan involves a few basic steps. And in these turbulent healthcare times—where the only constant is change—we recommend (a) constant testing and tracking, and (b) monthly reviews and adjustments. Stay flexible.
The first four things you need to know…
Only a few essential considerations apply to solving a marketing problem or creating a new approach. Break it down to the most basic level. If your response is complex, restate the issue in simpler terms and begin again. For the greatest awareness of the situation and your path from problem to solution, put it in writing in clear and concise words and numbers.
- Clearly define the business problem. Be specific and realistic about what’s going on, including the root causes. Above all, void the temptation to quickly characterize the problem as a solution: “what we need here is __”. Take it again from the top.
- Envision the ideal solution. What is it that uniquely makes you better and more attractive than the competition? Confirm that the solution truly answers the defined problem.
- Identify and eliminate the barriers. Every solution includes obstacles to getting started. Determine what, if any, roadblocks stand between the problem and the solution, such as the need to acquiring equipment, scheduling staff or align resources.
- Proven experience lowers risk. Consult with marketing professionals for a reality check. Determine what has worked previously and how your solution has played out for others.
…and the four phases healthcare marketing.
An effective marketing plan needs to be only as long as necessary to clearly define your unique selling proposition, objectives, strategies, resources/budget, schedule and means of tracking.
EXAMINATION: Write out your measurable goals, specific objectives, target audience(s) needs, service areas and opportunities, and available resources.
DIAGNOSIS: Strategize around matching the needs and interests of the marketplace with your strengths and unique competitive advantages. Identify the most efficient methods of communicating this message (or messages) to the target audience.
TREATMENT: Execute your defined strategies in a manageable plan with realistic timeline. Fortunately, there are six—and only six—ways to market any medical practice, hospital or healthcare organization.
FOLLOW-UP: Monitor the individual plan components on a monthly basis. Establish reliable tracking systems, calculate Return-on-Investment, and make course corrections to push the winners and fix or eliminate underperformers.
You’ll find an in-depth article about developing a hospital or medical marketing plan in our reference library, as well as this additional reading about How to Avoid the #1 Mistake in Your Medical Practice Marketing Plan.