After you open your doors and begin accepting patients, it is too late to start thinking about how you will market your practice the first year. You need to start working on that first year marketing plan many months before you open. Here’s why:
• A first-year marketing plan should be part of your business plan, so your lender can see that you have a detailed plan for bringing patients into the practice during the critical first months.
• Having a plan, even one that is changeable, will help keep you on track. You decide what you want to do and when, and you can begin working on the plan instead of wondering what you need to do next. A plan helps you get going before start-up and when you get busy after you open.
• A clear marketing plan helps you avoid other marketing pitches people will inevitably try to sell you. Most businesses get many salespeople who stop in and call with marketing ideas — this publication, that coupon book, another community event. You will get many such pitches in your first year.
But if you have a plan in place, you can say, “I already have my marketing budget set for this year.” If the idea is great, add it next year, after you have had time to see what works and what doesn’t.
Your first year marketing budget should include a balance of continuing advertising and special events over your first twelve months.
Consider this outline:
1. Set up two or three continuing advertising products, like phone book ads, newspaper ads, radio ads. Let them run for a while so you can see if they work.
2. Set up several special events, no more than two or three for the year. Your first event could be your grand opening. Another might be a patient appreciation celebration or an invitation to the community on a special occasion.
3. Include money for internal promotions, like the giveaways mentioned above, or new patient events.
4. Make plans to do public speaking in the community at special events or appropriate times during the year.
5. Get on the calendar for community events like health fairs, county fair, and other appropriate events.
Get a big calendar and put events on it so you can spread them out over this time. For example, if you are participating in a health fair in May, don’t schedule your grand opening for the same month. And don’t forget to plan your pre-opening activities at the same time.
It is fun to plan out a year and have a plan to work from. You will find it will help you get going faster and give you plenty of opportunities to interact with the community and bring in new patients.