What’s the difference between a recession and a depression for physicians?
A recession is when a competitor’s practice closes its doors, and a depression is when you close yours.
In this article, the expertise of Peter J. Polack, MD, a practicing ophthalmologist, provides valuable practice marketing insights to fellow physicians. Dr. Polack is highly specialized in laser refractive and cataract surgery and is also the founder of Emedikon, a venture marketing firm that utilizes his proprietary Practice Domination Protocol to assist medical practices to enhance their marketing programs. As the son of an ophthalmologist, he has a first-hand understanding of the changes that have impacted practices and patient experience. Dr. Polack’s interests in marketing process documentation and in using technology for growth marketing spans decades.
Dr. Polack’s blogs on marketing featured on Healio Ophthalmology and Eyes on Eyecare provide valuable insights for eye care medical professionals. Additionally, he is a prominent contributor on Quora.com, where his posts have amassed over 4 million views, solidifying his deep understanding of what patients want.
That said, the topics in this article apply universally to any practice that invests in marketing to grow their practice. According to Polack, “In this uncertain economy, it is important for medical practices to understand the potential downsides and prepare accordingly. Depending on whom you listen to, a recession may have already begun. We could even be in the early stages of a ‘depression countdown.’ The important thing is to be ready, regardless of what ultimately happens.”
One way to prepare your practice for uncertain times is to develop marketing processes that help you weather any revenue storm. A well-planned and well-executed marketing system must be an integral part of your survival strategy.
The key to survival is Marketing Resilience. Basically, this means that if your response plans fail, you must know beforehand what marketing processes can “never go dark.” These are the core processes that bring in the money that allows you to out-spend your competition on traffic and advertising plus money that assists you in “turning the key in the door.”
But… before you can enjoy Marketing Resilience you must build Marketing Resistance. Marketing Resistance means you have a response plan in mind when revenue growth begins to stall or decline. For most practices, their go-to response is to severely cut back on marketing.
This is the exact wrong thing to do. You need to dominate your local market during economic decline and as your competitors cut back on their market spend this gives you the chance to become the “go-to guys and gals” and gain top-of-mind status in your local area.
First, build up your Marketing Resistance – this refers to the ability of a practice to withstand a slight disturbance in premium services and general ophthalmology revenue and return to normal operations.
Then, develop your Marketing Resilience – this refers to the ability of a practice to recover after suffering great harm from a serious revenue disturbance and continue to operate in a devolving situation.
Regardless of the catalyst for a downturn, a resilient marketing program can help protect your practice from a catastrophic financial event like a recession (or a disruptive-to-your-revenue event of any kind… think hurricane, pandemic, etc.).
To develop marketing resilience, consider the following three steps:
Step 1: Perform Marketing Triage on Every Lead Source
Marketing Triage? Yes. Triage your inbound lead loss. Leads that are not followed up with long enough, for example. Many practices that try to call 2-3 times and, maybe, send 1-5 emails and then never touch base again are effectively throwing leads in the trash. Make a concerted effort to not only put them in a marketing database but also have a specific, automated (technology assisted) follow-up message sequence that keeps your practice top-of-mind until the prospect is finally ready to take action.
In times of uncertainty, it is important to track and analyze every opportunity that comes in. Phone leads, website visits, and social media interactions should all be tracked and analyzed. Some things to consider include:
- What is the visitor’s page experience?
- Do you have ‘lead magnets’ for lead capture on every service line?
- Are chatbots with calls-to-action being utilized?
- Are lead capture forms (that offer multiple opportunities for opt-in) with calls-to-action being utilized?
- Do you have click-to-call and click-to-text options?
- Is every social property you own being used as a funnel?
By analyzing even just these 7 types of marketing assets, you can better understand where your leads are coming from and adjust your marketing outreach accordingly.
Step 2: Build Marketing Resistance – Run Simulations to Optimize Your Inbound Lead Engines
Once you have a better understanding of your lead sources, it’s time to optimize your inbound opportunity engine. This involves tuning up funnels, campaigns and traffic, and then running simulations to test each conversion point along every marketing funnel.
For example, use software to simulate the performance of every single conversion point throughout all your funnels. Then use A/B testing and multivariate testing to see what kind of changes, if any, are necessary for better conversion performance.
This data helps to make informed decisions about how to get the most out of your marketing budget, while at the same time optimizing all the prospective patient touch points and buyer journey steps in each funnel. With this information, you will next determine which parts of each funnel are working well and which ones need improvement.
Additionally, you should take data from these simulations and correlate it to other metrics, such as which channels are converting best for each funnel stage. This allows you to hone in on specific areas of improvement for each stage and ultimately maximize your ROI for each funnel.
By understanding what prospective patients are doing as they progress through the funnels, you can allocate your resources more efficiently and ensure that they’re being used in the most effective ways possible. This data helps to make better decisions about budgeting and service line offers, while keeping buyer journey ‘optimization’ and patient experience (often before they’re established as a patient) top of mind. You can also use this data to build out tests and further refine your strategies to ensure maximum conversions.
By using data from customer simulation, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are as efficient and effective as possible. This helps drive more conversions for each funnel stage and increase overall ROI for all marketing activities. With this information, you will be able to make smarter decisions about budgeting, product offers and customer journey optimization. With these insights, you then create more targeted campaigns that speak to the needs of your customers and provide them with a better overall experience. Simulation data also helps identify weaknesses in your strategies and refine them over time.
Step 3: Achieve Local Practice Domination through Resilience
This involves setting up performance dashboards, tracking leading and lagging indicators, and implementing core survival processes based on a term used in the first responder community called “sense and respond.”
By tracking lead sources, traffic, hyper-local marketing, Google Business Profile (used to be GMB Google My Business), social ads, reviews and reputation, geo-traffic, site targeting, and funnels, you can better prepare your practice for a devolving revenue situation. Information from these assets and processes forms your marketing sense and respond inputs. Your response depends on which of your core marketing processes (the ones that can never go dark, like answering the phone and capturing caller info for instant follow up) is at risk and what level of risk is it at every time the information is updated.
In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to become complacent and think that everything will be okay. In times of stress, it’s easy to do what practices have always done and cut back on your marketing, or even cease marketing altogether. However, developing Marketing Resilience can help you weather a recession better than your competitors. While they cut back on traffic and advertising, you dominate locally because you will likely be memorable while they are quietly forgotten. Continually reaching out to the audiences that matter to you means your brand remains relevant for the shrinking pool of potential patients or prospects seeking cash pay procedures. By following these three steps toward resilience, you can better prepare your practice for the future, regardless of what that future holds.