Should You Be Marketing Your Practice During The Holidays?
With Christmas just around the corner and Thanksgiving already in the rearview mirror, should you be marketing your medical practice during the holidays? It’s a widely accepted myth that the holidays (Thanksgiving to New Year's Day) is a bad time to do any marketing. All types of businesses typically find that their marketing doesn’t work. People are too busy to take notice and because of that, December is the slowest month of the year.
In working with our private clients, we have found the opposite to be true. Just launching something as simple as a multi-step postcard campaign can make all the difference. We launched a holiday postcard promotion for one of our clients - a dermatologist in Minnesota. The practice was fully booked during the week of Thanksgiving, thanks to the Christmas postcard pulling in patients. We also sent a promotion to their current patients for the chance to buy "skin enhancement certificates" for their friends and family, which also pulled well.
You see, the holidays are not a bad time to market. But they are a bad time to market badly. Here are some simple rules to help make your holiday marketing a success:
1. Don't forget about your existing patients. Your patient base is loyal, they know and like you, and they already have a relationship with you. Think about what you can offer them that will make their lives less stressful during the craziness of the holiday season (for example, “Easy Christmas Gifts for Friends”).
2. Don’t try to compete with “big business”. Forget running your newspaper ad or insert during the holiday season. Its a sure recipe for a marketing disaster unless it's enormous, brightly colored and offers the most incredible deal. The big players like Target, Best Buy, Walmart - are all chasing shoppers' dollars, and their marketing budget is far greater than yours. I'm sure your newspaper advertising rep will tell you that the paper has the highest readership over the holidays. That's great, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they're buyers of your services. Many of them are simply scouring the paper for holiday deals to lighten the cost of their holiday shopping.
3. Keep your office open. Many offices do some kind of direct mail, but then shoot themselves in the foot by reducing their office hours. If you want a full practice, this isn't the time to be cutting back on your hours. If anything, consider staying open later some evenings, to accommodate those patients who need more flexibility and otherwise wouldn't be able to make it in. If you do send out a campaign over the holidays and your office is closed - please make sure you hire someone to answer your phones and at least take a message that could be forwarded to one of your staff to follow up on. Otherwise you're just throwing your money away.
4. Allow extra time for the mail to be delivered. The poor postal workers are overworked at this time of the year. Campaigns that would typically be delivered the next day might only make it out in 2 or 3 days. Be sure to factor this into the timing.
Now here's what TO do to market your practice during the holidays: Make your own opportunities. Support a charity, sponsor a family (or families) and give your patients the opportunity to help. Promote what you're doing, not just to your patients, but to all your local media as well. (If you need help with how to do this, call us.) Then, when the New Year rings in, hit the ground running. Have your campaigns lined up and ready to launch - there's no time like the new year to capitalize on everyone's New Year's resolutions to take better care of themselves!