How Much Is Your Clinical Marketing Costing You?

One of the most common questions physicians ask me is – how much should they be spending on their marketing? Unfortunately the answer isn’t as straightforward as you’re probably hoping.

The answer is – it depends.  There’s an old rule of thumb when it comes to clinical marketing, that says you should be investing at least 10% of your gross revenue on acquiring new patients.

In reality that figure can be a bit high, or very low, depending on a number of factors:

1)   How competitive is your marketplace? If your practice is jostling for attention against scores of other practices, then expect to be investing considerably more than 10% of gross revenue on marketing. 2)   What are your goals? Are you just trying to maintain revenue or grow it?  If growth is your goal then remember the old adage “it takes money to make money”, so expect your marketing investment to be considerably higher. 3)   How established is your practice? Are you new to private practice or have you been your own boss for a long time? It used to be that the more established your practice was, the less you needed to invest in marketing. Unfortunately that’s not true anymore. Especially with the explosion of new media channels.  If you’re a physician with an established practice – being “great at what you do” is no longer enough. Your marketing has to be just as exceptional as you are. It has to be memorable. And it has to be prolific – a powerful message across multiple channels. 4)   The next consideration in calculating your marketing budget is – how well-developed is your marketing system? What’s a marketing system, you ask? It’s the system your practice uses to consistently attract, convert and retain new patients.  Notice that I didn’t just say “attract new patients”, which is what most physicians think about when it comes to marketing. If you already have a well-established marketing system in place, then you can expect your average patient acquisition cost to decrease significantly.

Failed Marketing Messages

Here’s a really important point. If your marketing isn’t bringing you the results you need – it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend more money on your marketing.

It might mean that you do, but as a first step you might consider making some or all of these changes to your marketing to get better results:

1)   Change your marketing message (what makes you different from, and better than, your competition). 2)   Choose better-targeted media that focuses on a much larger number of your “best fit” patients. 3)   Use a distinguishing offer in your ads. Don’t offer the same things that your competitors do. For example, instead of just trotting out the regular discounted treatments, try offering movie tickets, “surprise” gifts, makeup bags, etc. Think outside the box.

The bottom line is this.

(a)  It’s not how much money you’re investing in your clinical marketing. It’s how effective that marketing is. (b)  The quickest way to improve the effectiveness of your marketing is to strengthen your marketing message. Are you being too complex? Do people really understand what makes you better than and different from your competition? The most powerful marketing message is the most simple one. Domino’s Pizza built a multi-billion dollar empire on 10 simple words: “Fresh hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free.”

Keep It (your marketing message) Simple and Straightforward. (The KISS Principle.) Throwing more money at ineffective marketing is likely to be nothing more than a giant waste. It’s better to go back to the drawing board and look at the power of the message you’re communicating. Strengthen this first, and then scale up your marketing budget. Your results will be much, much better.