Is a phone book ad still worthwhile, or would money be better spent on Internet yellow pages or a website?

The simple way to determine the usefulness of a phone book ad is to run a report in your practice management software system and see how many people over the last year found your practice through an ad in the telephone book. Probably few, if any. If you simply feel you must have a presence, then choose a basic listing with your name, address, and telephone number. Redirect any money you were spending on phone book advertising to the area that ranked highest on your report of sources of new clients. Invest in what is working, not in what used to work. (See also Question 75.)

If you are not accustomed to running reports with your practice management software, call your vendor for assistance. Many programs have built-in reporting mechanisms, or you can easily customize certain reports. Some programs even allow you to schedule reports to be run automatically on specified dates, providing a simple way to compare trends over a consistent time period. If you are planning to integrate a new software program in the near future, consider its reporting functions as one of the key criteria for determining usefulness. If information is going in, there should be a way to organize how it comes out, giving you the necessary tools to measure many different aspects of your business.

How long should I stay with a program (six weeks, six months, or one year) before I determine its effectiveness?

Measuring the effectiveness of a marketing effort is essential for determining future allocation of resources. Each type of program should be evaluated based on what is most appropriate for the desired goal. For instance, if you put out an advertisement that has a time-sensitive call to action (e.g., "Schedule an appointment by January 31 to receive a free bath"), and if you don't get good results during January, then you must modify the offer or divert resources elsewhere.

Advertising on a onetime basis does not typically generate good results unless there is a significant offering that creates a sense of urgency. Usually an ongoing effort is more effective and can succeed in both increased branding and generating new business.

Publicity and branding efforts are more difficult to measure and need to be considered as part of an overall long-term strategy to build awareness, develop a reputation, and become a positive and desired part of the community. These types of campaigns, in some form, should run for the life of your business.

The most important aspect of any campaign is to determine before the launch what your goals are and what time intervals you want to track. Then evaluate trends over these designated time frames to determine effectiveness.

What is the most effective marketing technique for current clients: postcard reminders, emails, phone calls?

The answer to this question depends how well you know your clientele. Take their pulse frequently. What will be most effective is whatever method each client prefers. It is therefore an excellent idea to have multiple methods and to ask each of your clients how he or she want to be notified. This doesn't mean you shouldn't reach out to them by other methods too, but that some form of customization is available to meet each client's preference.

You must also consider the cost of your team's time. Using an outsourced postcard and/or email reminder service takes little staff time. Telephone calls, however, take a lot of time. By tracking trends, which your vendor should be able to do, you may find that a certain percentage of clients respond after receiving a postcard reminder. If this is followed by an email reminder with a link for scheduling an appointment, another percentage may be captured. And finally, if you have enough personnel, try to reach out by telephone to those clients who have not responded to previous reminders to schedule an appointment.

Serving clients individually yet prudently not only will be appreciated, but will turn into loyalty. You should expect, however, that as technology evolves, so will your clients' communication preferences.

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