The strength of a business can be measured by its capacity to adapt and rapidly respond to the shifting needs of its market. We see this across every sector, in every era of marketplace history. And it’s no surprise—people choose what they like, and their likes change. These days, in the Digital Age, it seems like consumer preferences change more rapidly than ever.
Fortunately, as a hearing healthcare practice, your services will never be unnecessary. With a record number of people with unmet hearing care needs, you certainly don’t need to worry about your “target market” disappearing anytime soon. But you do need to consider if this large population of potential patients is discovering what you offer—and if they’re being enticed to inquire further. Your practice thrives on a specific threshold of new patients each month, so your main task is to ensure you’re getting in front of fresh eyes on a regular basis.
Yes, this is Marketing 101, and surely comes as no surprise. What is surprising, though, is how few practice owners take the time to thoroughly review their marketing strategies. In fact, many have yet to put a thorough marketing plan together at all. If you fall into either of these camps, but only because your practice is too busy with new patients to afford you the time for such luxuries—well then, you’re doing just fine. For now, that is… as the vast majority of hearing healthcare professionals will attest to the famed “patient plateau” that occurs eventually in most hearing practices. Having a successful marketing strategy in place before that plateau hits means you likely won’t ever see it in your practice.
So what does an effective review of your marketing plan even look like? Perhaps you have already set up specific metrics for tracking the success of various marketing campaigns or tactics you’ve used this past year. If not, there are several simple ways to analyze whether your current strategy is working for you or not. At the end of the day (and certainly by the end of the year) any time, effort, and money you put into spreading the word about your services should be getting paid back to you—in surplus—by the new patients you’re acquiring as a result.
The Past 12 Months
To begin this review, you need to select the time period you want to analyze the strategies you’ve used so far. As the end of the year (and the financial quarter) approaches, this is an excellent time to review the past 12 months. Didn’t have any marketing strategies or plans in place this year? Or maybe you only had them active for part of the year? Lucky for you this 12-month review is useful in either case.
If you haven’t implemented any targeted or intentional marketing tactics (i.e. postcards, special offerings, digital ads, online review management, search engine optimization/SEO for your website, etc), then you will make this review your baseline to compare all future years against. It will provide you with valuable data about what was happening organically in your practice—that is, without any concentrated marketing efforts on your part—to what happens when you do concentrate your attention on marketing your services.
If you’ve only applied marketing strategies for part of the last year, this review is useful because it has you review your patient data month by month. It gives you a chance to begin the comparison process by looking at your data from months without marketing efforts in place and watching for any changes in that data as you applied different strategies or campaigns.
Key Patient Data
While you can get as granular and detailed as you want with analyzing new patient data (depending on how much information you collect from each patient), the most important details you want to gather for each of the past 12 months are:
- The number of patient inquiries (by phone, email, or in person) you received
- The number of new patients you began seeing
Another very helpful piece of information is how patients (inquiring or new) found your practice in the first place, but not every practice asks this on their intake forms or in their communications. If you have this data, definitely track it. If you don’t, consider making it a standard question for all new patient forms, or emails and calls responding to inquiries. This single metric is the best way for you to track the effectiveness of your outreach efforts.
Lay it All Out
Your approach to laying out your month by month comparison will be largely determined by your own preferences. You can get as fancy and graph or chart oriented as you’d like, but the basic approach is to create a grid (or a spreadsheet). Title each column as a month from the previous year and label the rows below that header with the data categories your practice has been tracking (i.e. New Patients, Patient Inquiries, How They Found Us). Next, simply add the numbers you’ve collected. If you want to look at your conversion trends (the percentage of inquiries converted into new patients), simply divide the number of new patients by the number of inquiries. When finished, your grid will look something like this:
Compare Marketing Streams
Once you have this base data in your grid, you can add information to each month for any marketing efforts you had actively in place. If you sent mailers out in February, you’d mention that in the February column. If you invested in proper SEO for your website in March, you’d place that effort in March and every month thereafter (since it will only continue to increase traffic to your website). Word of mouth (WOM) should always be an organic source of new patients, but if your practice created a referral incentive at some point, you’d definitely want to note that in the month it began, and all months thereafter.
By having your marketing efforts listed alongside your new patient and inquiry data, you’ll get a quick and clear picture of the overall effectiveness of your strategies. You would need information from new and inquiring patients about how they learned about your practice to be able to compare the effectiveness of each marketing avenue independently, so it’s worth collecting that information sooner than later.
Taking the time to clearly lay out your practice’s history of attracting new patients offers a clear picture of the direction your business is heading in. Perhaps your numbers show that a more comprehensive marketing plan would be beneficial. Or maybe this process will encourage you to collect more data for the year ahead. No matter where you’re at right now, having this information gives your practice a launchpad to leap from. The Internet has made reaching a large audience easier (and more cost-effective) than ever. Never before has marketing been so accessible. Why not take advantage of all it has to offer?