Timing of Marketing – Podcast
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- Timing of Marketing
Hello. This is Scott McDonald and Welcome to the Perfect Place to Put a Practice Podcast. You probably know that I am a market researcher. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communications and have worked in site analysis for more than 30 years. But I also want to remind you that a significant portion of my career has been in the creation and implementation of marketing for professional practices. In this session, I want to discuss with you the issue of timing of marketing.
So often, those who provide marketing services become fixated upon the issues of ROI and what we can generally call “efficiencies.” And I do not wish to take away from this in any way. But there is an issue that practice owners and operators would be wise to keep in mind that will influence these efficiencies that seems to be entirely ignored: timing.
Let’s assume for moment that you are trying to make the best decisions with a fixed budget that you have dedicated to practice promotion efforts. Should you spend the same amount every month regardless of your cash flow and production needs or should you dedicate your efforts to those times when things seem most desperate?
I have already provided a podcast session on seasonality and I want to go a step or two beyond that with this topic of timing. To answer my question I just posed, putting aside the same amount of money every month toward practice promotion is a brilliant idea. But spending the same amount of money every month is not so brilliant. That is because production is usually gained more consistently month-by-month than your need to influence the potential patient base will be. Specifically, the amount that your practice produces in February will not be THAT different from the production in September. But the change in the behavior of the population in terms of having them start with the practice and to purchase goods and services will vary much more month-to-month. That is the logic in expending more money some months to influence purchase behavior than in other months. In other words, there are reasons why you will want to expend 60% of your marketing budget over three months than to even distribute your budget over the entire year. Your marketing efforts are intended to get people to do what you want them to do at the time that it will help the practice most.
I hope that is clear. As I discussed in the session on seasonality, the specific times in the year that you want to influence people will actually vary from practice-to-practice. But what does NOT vary is the timing relative to the time of “action for result.” In the military, they call this “fire for effect.” Fire for effect is a military term. According to NATO doctrine:
- Fire which is delivered after the mean point of impact or burst is within the desired distance of the target or adjusting/ranging point.
- Term in a call for fire to indicate the adjustment/ranging is satisfactory and fire for effect is desired.
As you probably know, marketing has adopted many terms that were initiated as part of war-theory. Thus a “campaign,” “strategy,” and “tactics” are considered common terms when addressing how advertising and public relations are implemented. The fire-for-effect is a tactical issue rather than strategic as it deals with the implantation of a strategy.
But this does not merely mean that one must lob a shell at the right location. It also suggests that it must be delivered at the right time. Now, as to determining when the best time to “kick in” with marketing efforts, let me get a little more specific. Let us assume that you were to look at your monthly records for production and new patient counts over the last three years. By comparing the numbers for a given month in the year (comparing January to January, February to February, etc.) the pattern becomes much clearer when the “time of need” is going to be. Given that you can find the “worst three months,” it makes sense to go back two months (or 60 days) from the start of the down-time. That is when materials must be created and edited down to at least 30 days before distribution. As an example, if August is a poor time for your practice, we would look back to the beginning of June to create the collaterals, write the copy, get the artist to finish the visuals. I am sure you get the idea. More specifically, they would be FINISHED by the beginning of June.
The reason for a 60-day-at-least policy is that things take time to create and to get ready. If you are going to do a mailer, a Facebook ad, a flyer, or anything else, they take time to produce and to purchase. Then, at very least one month before the dip in new patient counts, production, or starts, you begin the campaign. Why a month? Well, the look-outs on the Titanic actually saw the ice-berg long before they hit. But the darned boat couldn’t turn on a dime. The same is true of public opinion and patient attitudes. That is why you need a lead time as well as a sustained effort. According to Communications Theory (including the theory on reasoned action) attitudes and actions have certain predicates you must achieve to be successful. If you don’t know about it, look it upon the Internet and it will be a brief but important education for you. I have done some extensive reading on the topic and cannot imagine trying to influence behavior without a quick review of it.
So, you need a life-vest (continuing with the Titanic metaphor) before you leap into the freezing water. What is tough about this is that it is simply human nature to put off those activities that will help us during our thin-times when everything seems to be going along well. Ironically, it is when things are not going well for our Clients that we all at once get calls for desperate help. And you should know that this is at very least two months late.
Be the smart one. Plan on desperate times when things are NOT desperate and you have time to change you fate along with patient attitudes and actions.
This is Scott McDonald. You have been listening to the Perfect Place to Put a Practice Podcast. Look us up at DoctorDemographics.com or by calling (800) 424-6222.