Formulating a Strategic Marketing Plan involves careful evaluation of both internal factors (within your spine practice) and external factors (such as your market and your competitors. The results of this analysis will provide guidance for the elements of the marketing plan.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself and discuss within your spine practice before you decide on how to market your practice.
First, make sure that you are prepared for an increase in patient volume:
- Do you have enough physicians and staff member to handle the increase in volume of patients?
- Is your office space big enough to handle the increase of patient volume?
- What kind of patients would you like to see more of? (Blue Cross, workers' compensation, etc.)
- Are you billing correctly?
Next, evaluate your spine practice from several different perspectives, including the following:
Define your competitive advantage(s)
What sets your spine practice apart from the competition in your area? Is it your level of service? Commitment to the community over the past 20 years? Better outcomes and shorter hospital stays? There are several factors that set you apart from your competition. Determine what they are and in order to best capitalize on them.
Evaluate your practice
This involves evaluating your spine practice in terms of what the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (S.W.O.T. Analysis) are within your practice.
Review your past marketing efforts
You will need to outline your marketing efforts for the past year, including the objectives, the costs, and the results. This is usually called an Internal Marketing Audit.
Know your current patient profile
You will need to know your current practice composition, including who your patients are and where they are coming from. The answer to this question is imperative for developing and implementing your strategic marketing plan.
After you have looked at your practice internally, it is time to look externally. Learning and understanding your market is vital to the success of your practice. An external analysis will allow you gain insight into the communities you service.
Demographic Analysis of the areas you serve
It is very important to know the demographic area that your practice services. You need to know what your community has to offer and where it is going within the next five to ten years. The only way to truly know your community is to gather, review and analyze data. You may be surprised as to what you discover. Here are a few examples of what you will need to evaluate.
- General Overview of area
- Population (Size and Trends) and Age Median
- Cost of Living and Income Data
- Employment and Unemployment Levels and Trends
Within the specialty analysis, you will begin to understand your local market. It is important to realize how your specialty of care fits into the communities you service. By defining and understanding your specialty of care "market", you will begin to know which direction to put forth your efforts. You must identify who else is practicing within your market and what their services and plan of action are for the present and future. If you don't, chances are that others will capitalize on your patients and you will see a decrease in your volume and not understand why or know what to do about it.
Understanding of your specialty of care:
- What is your specialty?
- Who else is treating the types of patients that you treat? (Chiropractors, orthopedics, internal medicine, etc.)?
- What are the national statistics of the injuries/disorders/diseases that your specialty treats?
- What are your state laws regarding workers' compensation?
- Where is your specialty of care being provided (office, hospital, etc)
- Who is paying for your service (i.e. Managed Care, Self-pay, workers' compensation, etc.)?
Understanding the promotional means:
Examples of promotional vehicles available in your market may include:
- Print (newspapers, magazines, hospital publications, etc.)
- Education (i.e. employer safety meetings, workers' compensation meetings, study groups, health fairs, etc.)
- Internet (i.e. websites, directories, etc)
- Public speaking (i.e. community awareness, health fairs, etc.)
It is vital that you know your competition. Remember that competition is good and people today want choices when deciding on a physician. The key to success is finding ways to set your practice above and apart from the competition. You will have to use your own strengths and opportunities and capitalize on your competition's weaknesses and threats. It is important that you do not get caught up in doing everything that your competition does. Carefully evaluate the marketing strategies of your competition but stick to your own strategic marketing plan. Be proactive, not reactive. Remember that your competition has vulnerabilities too! Find them and use them to your advantage.
- Who are your competitors?
- Where are they located?
- How many physicians do they have?
- What are their strengths?
- What are their weaknesses
Set practice objectives
At this point in the process it is time to reflect on the data that you have collected so far and implement them to fit the philosophy of your spine practice. By defining a mission, goals and objectives you will know that your practice is going in the direction in which you want it to grow. Set your standards high, stay focused and you will succeed.
Mission - A very specific statement regarding the core values of your practice (should only be one to three sentences).
Goals - This is a general statement about purpose. Goals point towards a level of productivity that the practice wishes to achieve without mentioning specific actions.
Objectives - Usually contains three standard "operating characteristics" criteria: patient load, earnings and profitability.