The Importance of Growth Post-Pandemic
What a strange time we’ve all had over the last couple of months. Some of us have been busier than ever while others have been forced to sit on our hands WISHING we could work. Regardless of which situation you’ve been in, the need to focus on the growth strategy that is right for you will be vitally important. Not just for your practice but the whole of New Zealand. The more money we keep moving through our economy, the better. The more patients we have who pay their bills allows us to pay our bills and our suppliers to pay theirs, etc, etc. Our money supply is in constant motion – it never stops circulating from one pocket to another. We just need to do our bit to not only keep it flowing but keep it flowing a bit faster so the next business can use it.
When it comes to practice growth, we must consider not only short-term strategies (plasters) but longer-term strategies as well (surgery to correct the root problem). There is a heap of easy to implement short-term strategies that we can employ to help drive more patients to the practice but they’ll only work while we’re actively engaging in them. At times, short-term strategies are sensible when we need to make the market aware of a new service we’re offering or a new provider who has joined the practice and is taking new patients. These can be things like:
- Facebook Ads
- Letterbox drop
- Promoting a ‘special package’ of services
Long-term strategies may include the acquisition. Unfortunately, some of your colleagues may not have come through the past few months intact and will have patients who need looking after. Is it possible to buy another practice in a desirable location with a loyal patient base? Or would it make sense to hire another practitioner to help you grow? Perhaps there are a few good ones who have been ‘orphaned’ and are seeking a new home. These decisions require considering a number of factors to ensure they are profitable long-term choices.
If you choose to grow via longer-term marketing strategies, then be prepared to be consistent and patient. They’re not designed to drive immediate traffic but they are designed to build your brand awareness in your market. They’re designed to be that ‘constant’ message across a few different channels that helps keep YOUR practice top of mind for all the right reasons.
Creating a long-term growth strategy takes planning and thought. Planning around what your message needs to be to really resonate with your target market. Planning around the timing of that message and which channels you’ll send it out through. And thought around which of your team members can help ensure it gets executed consistently or whether you need to outsource some activity.
Below is a quick overview of the different types of marketing channels you could use to get your message out to your market, the purpose of each pillar and a few examples:
The activities above that we would classify as sustainable long-term strategies are things like:
- Implementing (or reviving) a patient referral programme
- Building strategic partnerships with other health professionals with whom you can form either a marketing alliance or referral alliance
- Providing educational content to your target market in the form of videos, articles in magazines or live streaming (be seen as THE expert)
Considering that the country has just come through a pretty traumatic time and will continue to experience financial discomfort, your growth activities need to strike the right tone. A tone that acknowledges where your patients and prospects ARE at the moment but that encourages them to continue to take care of themselves and shows that you are coming to the table with some great information and great value! It’s always better to provide more value than to resort to discounting. We know that may seem difficult when the dentist or GP around the corner is ‘cheaper’ but the onus really is on you to sort out how you can compel those prospects to seek you out even though your pricing may be a bit higher. It’s largely about the value and the experience you provide.
Keeping profitability front of mind while pursuing growth through marketing is key. We think marketing activities should return 3 to 4 times the amount you invest in them at a minimum. The result of some activities is very difficult to assess, but coming up with some measurement of whether or not that activity is effective will help you gain traction. For example, when you design a patient referral programme, design it so that the cost of acquiring a new patient is tenable for the long term. This requires taking your patient’s ‘lifetime value’ into account. For example, if one new patient means $5,000 to your practice, then investing 2-3% of that value in an acquisition is reasonable. Measuring what you’re investing in to gain each new patient then becomes very easy. Work with your accountant or business consultant/coach to help you create effective measures.
Regardless of which type of activity you pursue to ensure you grow during the remainder of this year, ensure you invest time to carefully consider your options and what costs are involved. Keep in close touch with your banker, accountant, and business consultant/coach. They can all help you refine your thinking and make better decisions. Ensure your team is kept well-enough informed about your activities to help them ‘buy-in’ to your plans. Finally, ensure those who may be responsible for helping you execute your strategy have the capacity and skills to do so.