Effective Marketing: Are You Tracking Your Results?
by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff
Whether you are trying to make new contacts, generate more referrals, increase your visibility in the community or reach a particular target audience, it is important to track the results of your marketing activities. This article reviews common marketing goals and key outcomes to consider, as well as suggestions for how to collect the data necessary to help you strengthen your marketing efforts and get results.
Your marketing activities should flow logically from your overall business plan, including your mission statement and be informed by a comprehensive strategy for promoting your practice and communicating with potential clients who could benefit from your services. Marketing can serve a variety of purposes; therefore, it is important to understand your objectives before deciding how to measure progress toward those goals. Marketing objectives may include:
Reaching a new market. You may be thinking about launching a new venture, beginning to offer an additional service or trying to expand your client-base to a new segment. In these situations, it is crucial to first identify and understand your target audience. Note: The PracticeUpdate article "Tools for identifying and understanding your target clientele" and its accompanying worksheet can facilitate this process. Once you have defined the characteristics of your market segments, you can begin to explore how well you are reaching those individuals.
Building upon an existing market. If you already offer a particular service or work with a certain clientele, you may be interested in building that client-base or gaining additional market share. In these cases, revisiting your understanding of your target audience could be a good starting point. The characteristics of your clientele may have gradually shifted over time, or you may have new thoughts about segmentation or emerging needs that could improve the results of your marketing efforts. When working to enhance your presence in an existing market, your understanding of your competitors, as well as your ability to define and communicate your competitive advantage (i.e., what sets you apart and makes you the provider of choice) is especially important
Establishing or improving your professional image. Your marketing efforts may focus on conveying a particular professional image and shaping the way people think and feel about your practice. It is important to understand the way you are seen by clients, colleagues, payers and members of the community and to strategically define your own image in a way that is best suited to your practice and your clientele.
Improving customer service and satisfaction. One frequently overlooked aspect of marketing focuses on systematically focusing on client satisfaction. Paying attention to this aspect of your practice and letting clients know you are listening demonstrates your commitment to providing quality services.
Enhancing your visibility and making new contacts. Specific marketing tools, such as a new practice brochure or an advertisement in the local newspaper, may be more effective when following or combined with an effort to increase general awareness of your practice in the community. As a result, you may choose to focus your marketing efforts on raising the visibility of your practice. Activities such as participating in local health fairs, giving free informational presentations to community groups, sending letters of introduction to potential referral sources, writing letters to the editor for the local newspaper and sponsoring a local youth sports team can help make you a familiar presence in the community. Additionally, networking activities and general community involvement can enhance your visibility and result in new clients and referral sources.
For marketing to be effective, you need to get the right message to the right audience using the most effective channel of communication. The following questions may help you evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing activities:
Is your marketing message communicated consistently in all of your promotional materials? Do all of your materials reflect the professional image you want to convey?
Do your promotional materials reflect your competitive advantage? Is this advantage perceived as valuable to potential clients and referral sources? Does it differentiate you from other providers in the area?
Are your marketing materials tailored to potential clients with the demographic, socioeconomic, geographic and psychographic characteristics you identified for your market segments?
Are your marketing efforts (including advertising, public relations materials and community involvement activities) visible in the media and other communication channels your target audience is most frequently exposed to?
Are your marketing efforts visible to the typical referral sources and other individuals and entities that shape your target audience’s decision to access services and their choice of provider?
Are people in the community aware of you and your practice? Does your marketing message actually reach those who could benefit from your services?
How do potential clients and referral sources perceive you? How would they describe you to others?
How many referrals are you getting for clients in the segments you identified? Use a time frame (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually) that makes sense for your practice and monitor the trend over time.
Are your marketing efforts resulting in additional revenues, greater profitability or an improvement in your practice’s financial performance?
Are your clients satisfied with your practice and the services you provide? Are your office hours and location convenient? What is their experience of interacting with your staff?
In order to strengthen your marketing activities, it is important to collect and analyze the market data resulting from your efforts. These data are available from a variety of sources and can be gathered using both formal and informal mechanisms. Below are some methods of accessing this type of information:
Review all of your marketing materials. Are they consistent with your business and advertising plans? Do they communicate the professional image you have defined? Do all of them include the same message and graphic elements? Are they tailored to the audience they are intended for?
Seek feedback on your marketing materials from trusted colleagues, friends and family members. Note: Be aware of inherent bias. Choose individuals who will be honest with you, provide them with a description of the market segment you are trying to reach and explain the purpose and nature of the feedback desired. Be sure not to be defensive when faced with criticism. Remember, constructive feedback will help you improve your marketing materials and get better results.
Utilize focus groups or surveys to solicit feedback from individuals who are similar to the target audience you are trying to reach. You may want to consider using a consultant or local firm with expertise in designing and conducting this type of market research.
Monitor the media and other communication channels your target audience is most frequently exposed to. Measure your visibility in these forums by keeping track of results such as the number of ads placed, press releases sent out and picked up by media sources, and community activities and events where you have been present and visible. In addition to the total activity, break down your results by particular media source or forum and look at how many people each effort reached.
Monitor your practice operations, including client and service mix, to help you better understand your financial performance and make any necessary adjustments.
Periodically administer a client satisfaction survey. Use the resulting data to identify areas in need of development and let clients know you are listening by addressing concerns, implementing realistic suggestions and communicating those changes in vehicles such as your practice newsletter, memos posted in your waiting room or a brief letter to your clients.
Keep track of how many networking contacts you make at each event you attend or participate in. Be sure to note which of these have the potential to generate referrals or other business opportunities. It may also be helpful to track the contacts you make on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, so you can track your efforts over time.
Monitor the number of practice brochures, business cards or other promotional materials you distribute at each event you participate in, as well as in any other forums or locations where you promote your practice. Be sure to track this data over time.