Is Medical Marketing Free?

Answer: It should be.

What you might ask, how can this be?

There were always three things that stopped me from thinking about marketing or at least prevented me from taking the next step.

  1. Money or cost.
  2. Not knowing how to figure what I got for my money.
  3. Not knowing where to start.

In this communication, I want to talk about the monetary cost of some marketing strategies and the logic behind each strategy. The point I want to make is that when marketing is done well, it doesn?t cost anything.

In many ways, marketing these days is easier than its ever been. So let?s take a look at one way it was done in previous eras.

An example is the Yellow Pages. In times past, before the Internet, one had to make a decision about putting a large (or small) print ad in the Yellow Pages. You had to make a financial commitment for a year without really knowing what the financial benefit might be, if any.

At the end of the year, there was still no way to really know how much difference a large ad made over a small ad or no ad at all. This was because the Yellow Pages were all the same. What you paid for appeared in all the phone books. Since the Yellow Pages phone books were all the same, there was just no way to compare. In modern day parlance, there was no way to ?split test?. In other words, there weren?t a few different versions of the phone books being mailed out to the same socioeconomic cross-section.

But let?s say we did mail out a few different versions of the Yellow Pages.

  • How could we evaluate the difference in response rate to each ad?
  • How could we see if the size or message in ad space made any difference?

The answer to these questions is critical!!

First, you want to find the answer to this question without having to rely on any human error either.
How is this accomplished?

One simple way is to have a different phone number connected to each type of Yellow Page ad. Then just count the number of calls coming into each phone number. This number divided into the cost will give you your cost per call. A call in modern day parlance is called a ?lead?.

If your subscription to the Yellow Pages only lasted a few months, you would have a very good idea of the value of each ad pretty quickly. Then you could adjust the size and message of the ad for the best return on your money. Unfortunately, you had to pay for a year, so that would be the cost to figure it out.

The second step is to connect the phone numbers that were called in your office to the people calling and see what happened. Remember that each ad used a different phone number in your office.

  • How many of those calling actually came to your office?
  • Once they came to your office, what happened?

It is possible that there was some significant difference in behavior between the different ad groups. You need to see if there were any differences in the behavior of each ad group!

At this point, you can start to evaluate the ?value? to your office from each person from each ad. (Although you should already know this figure)

I know that you are still wondering how this is free.

  1. You count the number of calls coming in as a result of your (free/basic cost) name-only ad in the Yellow Pages.
  2. You count the number of calls coming in from your paid, display ads and tally up the difference. The difference should be significant if the wording (not logo or picture) was well done.
  3. Simply look at the response rate of the above ads. If there were enough extra calls and patient visits from #2 above to generate enough extra business to pay for the ad, then it was free. If it generated more than enough to cover the ad cost, then it was better than free. In other words, when you spent a dollar, you got more than a dollar back.

The critical part here is the wording (copy). Was it good enough to make a significant difference. This significant difference should have more than made up for the cost of the display ad in the Yellow Pages. In fact, you should be paid back more than you are spending. This is how marketing and advertising is free, it more than pays for itself.

Well so much about the Yellow Pages in the past. Let?s see how it?s done today. I will stay with ?paid? ads for this discussion and save non-paid advertising for another discussion.

It?s easy to see how placing two similar ads in a newspaper simultaneously would help determine which ad was better. A major benefit of the newspaper would be the speed to get your answer about which copy is better to attract new clients. Often the newspapers will help you to run two different ads and be sure they are both going to similar socioeconomic households.

All you have to do is to run the ad for whatever time you planned on and check the number of calls coming in on each number. One of the most surprising factors is that just changing a word or two can make a huge difference in how well the ad will pull.

Running an ad campaign on the Internet is even easier, cheaper, larger and faster to determine results. A typical ad campaign would be run on Google with as many ad variations as you want to. It can take days to a week to show dramatic differences. This is best conducted with a budget, especially with expensive keywords. You can go through a lot of money quickly, especially when running multiple campaigns at the same time, so someone has to be watching or setting the budget. A skilled SEO person can be invaluable here.

You can split test as many ads as you want at any given time and just start selecting the ad that does better and then compare it to another. You will end up with the best of the best with this strategy, and quickly.

Once you have discovered the most successful ad, you just pay to run it for a certain number of clicks. The next step is to count the number of new people coming into your practice and you can see how much extra business it generated. Business must be evaluated in the overall dollar average that a new patient will bring to your office.

Obviously this will vary a lot from specialty to specialty.

You count the new patients entering your practice and multiply the assessed dollar value. This amount should exceed the amount spent for the Google campaign, which means that you got the patients in your office for ?free?. Your marketing isn?t costing anything.

And there is an additional financial benefit not usually discussed because it?s hard to measure. This benefit is the ?word-of-mouth? from the new client to his friends and family.

This is leverage and really important to get.

This is why you MUST nurture new patients once they get into your practice. When they rave about you and your practice, you will get much more for your advertising dollar that you could imagine.

Nurturing is keeping in touch. There are many ways to do this including email, newsletters, community boards on your website, new services offered, just about anything. Especially if it?s new!

In any event, marketing done properly is free.

Feel free to ask questions and give me any feedback.

Dr. Tony Mork, MD