Target: Growth


By Cheryl Whitman

You can’t achieve a goal until you set one. It may sound obvious, yet all too often, practice owners implement marketing ventures on a whim without a clear picture of a desired return. With a few months to spare before the start of 2012, this is the perfect time to develop an annual marketing strategy and budget for the coming year that spells out your practice-building goals, what you’re willing to spend to achieve them and how you’ll track the results.

In this column, we’ll look at the various components of an effective practice-marketing program, offer advice on how to budget your resources and show you how to track your investments so you can make sure your getting the best bang for your marketing buck.

A well-rounded marketing plan encompasses a wide variety of marketing, PR and paid advertising ventures, including:

A Practice Website. Your website is a virtual brochure for your practice that also functions as a virtual yellow pages advertisement. It is the key element in a consumer’s decision to try your practice. Therefore, you want your listing to be easy to find and you want your site to be a dynamic, evolving representation of the best your practice has to offer. To make the most of this practice-building tool, aim to update and refresh your site’s content on a monthly basis.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If your practice website doesn’t appear within the first five to 10 search engine listings, it likely won’t be found. Consumers generally accept first-page listings as sufficient to their needs. You cannot effectively grow your practice without an effective SEO program.

Keyword Advertising, also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Keyword advertising, including Google Ad Words and Facebook advertising, is the most common and effective form of SEM, because it is so easy to track. It is the single most measurable marketing tool available. You will know at a glance if your keyword investment is generating a positive ROI.

Here’s how it works: You purchase a specific search term for a specific geographic area. Then, when someone in your market area uses that term for a search, your link will appear. If the user clicks though to your site, you are charged a fixed and specified fee. If you have chosen your key words well, your click-through users will be well-qualified prospects, leading to new patients and new business.

Online Social Networking. Social networking sites—such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube—require two elements in shared priority: content (reasons for people to come to your social media page) and conversation (reasons for people to become and stay connected). These take time and effort to hone, but social networking will not succeed without a generous measure of both content and conversation. One of the best things about social networking is that, unlike advertising or other types of print marketing, it does not require a significant monetary investment. However, it does require a time commitment.

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