There is indeed a business case for marketing your medical practice.
This article demonstrates what that business case is, the amounts you should budget under particular scenarios and the returns you can expect to get.
These days, consumers have innumerable service provider options in the healthcare arena. Acquiring new patients, along with the ongoing effort to build trust and loyalty with existing patients, can be a daunting endeavor for healthcare professionals. The key way to achieve both (winning new patients while keeping existing ones delighted with your service) is to have a well thought-out medical practice marketing strategy in place.
Arrow Northwest is a marketing agency that has worked with an array of medical practices around the West Coast US. In our article, Your Simple Medical Practice Marketing Guide, we outlined a 5-point process that will help your medical practice outperform your industry peers, as well as add significantly to your bottom line. We've also written about how to develop your medical practice's brand identity and your patient personas, both of which are critical aspects of your overall marketing plan. We have even published an ultimate digital marketing guide, made specifically for medical practices like yours.
While these publications provide a clear idea for how you can create a powerful medical practice marketing strategy, this article provides insights into why it is important.
To keep this article concise, we are going to answer the three principal questions doctors or practice administrator ask us, as a marketing agency, where it concerns the topic of marketing for medical practices:
- Why should I invest in marketing services for my medical practice?
- How much should I invest in marketing services for my medical practice?
- What results can I expect from my investment?
Without further ado, here are the answers to the above questions.
1. Why Should I Invest in Marketing for My Medical Practice?
The Problem: Competition Exists
We of course understand that practicing medicine, and helping individuals lead their best lives possible through outstanding healthcare, is a noble cause. We respect and love this.
That said, there is definitely a profit motive involved here, so let’s embrace that. Since there is indeed a profit motive, there will be competitors in the marketplace who will offer similar medical services as your own. Unless you live in a utopia where patient supply is abundant, and their dollars grow on trees, you understand the concept of scarcity. This ultimately means that you have to be proactive in winning new patients, as well as keeping your existing patients so happy that they never want to leave you for a competing practice.
Because of the “problem” of competition, you need to ensure that your practice’s brand presence shines brighter than all the others. For this to happen, you need to have your medical practice marketing strategy well in place to achieve your short, medium and long-term goals.
In our experience, very few medical practices (possibly including your own) have a well thought-out and continuously executed medical practice marketing strategy. This means that you have the fantastic opportunity to claim all sorts of ground where you brand proposition and awareness are concerned!
In fact, many of our medical practice clients initially approached us because they had lost patients to other practices that did have, or had put in place, an effective medical practice marketing strategy.
Finally, here is a quick rhetorical question for you: Would you rather be proactive in claiming all sorts of new patients with a well-executed medical practice marketing strategy (and the enhanced revenue stream that goes along with it), than allow yourself to be outflanked by a savvier competing practice?
Oh, and remember, it's an investment, not a cost
One of the biggest mistakes medical practices make when considering marketing activities is to view them as costs. A properly formulated and executed marketing strategy will yield you enhanced financial performance, which means that your marketing should be viewed as an investment, not a cost. It's as simple as that. We'll get to what kinds of returns you can expect from your investment a little later on in this article.
2. How much should I invest in marketing services?
If you type in a Google search for how much you should invest in marketing for your medical practice, you will receive answers as broad as 1-10% of your gross annual revenues.
According to our research however, our answer is a little more nuanced, as the “how much should I invest?” question depends on your needs and goals.
To answer this question, let's ascertain in which scenario you find yourself:
- Scenario #1: You are happy with your current patient base and want to ensure that it remains steady.
- Scenario #2: Your practice has been around a while, but growth is at a standstill, and you want to start winning new patients.
- Scenario #3: You are a new market entrant, and/or you want to be far more aggressive in expanding your patient base and claiming new territory.
After you place your practice in one of the above three scenarios, there are three rules of thumb to stick by when creating a marketing budget:
- Scenario #1, 3% of gross projected revenues allocated to your annual marketing budget
- Scenario #2: 4-5% of gross projected revenues allocated to your annual marketing budget
- Scenario #3: 6-8% of gross projected revenues allocated to your annual marketing budget
To break this down into simple nuts and bolts, let’s say your practice projects itself to generate $2 million in gross annual revenues. The following is what your need to budget for your medical practice marketing activities under the above three scenarios:
- Scenario #1: $60,000 per annum
- Scenario #2: $80,000-$100,000 per annum
- Scenario #3: $120,000-$160,000 per annum
Of course, the above do not need to be an exact science for your consideration. But they are figures that are based on standard practice in the medical industry.
3. What results can I expect for my marketing investment?
So, what are the results that you can expect for your investment in marketing services?
To answer this question, it is imperative that we are clear on verbiage. The operative word is “investment”. As we have stated already, for, too many of our medical practice clients see the above dollar numbers and think of them as a sunk cost. Your marketing budget is not a sunk cost. It is an investment where you can expect to generate a positive ROI (return on investment). This simply means that your returns will outweigh your costs.
But by how much?
In forecasting what kind of ROI you can expect for your marketing activities, another rule of thumb to go by is “2-3”. This means that for every $1 you invest in your medical practice marketing activities, you can expect an ROI of between $2 to $3.
So, if you are in scenario #2 above:
- $80,000-$100,000 for marketing = $240,000-$400,000 additional annual revenues
If you are the owner or administrator of a medical practice, you need to have a marketing strategy in place. This is simply because we live in a competitive environment. You need to compete against your industry peers to not only win new patients, but to delight the patients you currently have.
Fortunately for you, the majority of medical practices either do not understand the value of having a viable medical practice marketing strategy, or have strategies that are uninspiring, or not well executed. This opens a significant strategic opportunity for your practice to win new ground and increase your practice’s revenues.
Depending on the scenario in which you find your practice, you can expect to create a marketing budget of anywhere between 3-8% of gross annual revenues (3% for keeping patient flow steady; 4-5% if growth is at a standstill and you want to reignite enthusiasm; 6-8% if you are a new practice or want to aggressively expand your business).
The amount you invest in your marketing activities is an investment and not a cost. As such, you can follow the “2-3” rule, which states that for every $1 you invest in your marketing activities, you can expect a $2-$3 ROI.
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