Coping with Media Sales & Sponsorship Requests
By: Tina Bell Director of Marketing, HealthCARE Express When I first started working in the healthcare field as a marketer, I was impressed by the number of people who wanted to visit me to get my advertising dollars. Then quickly, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of advertising opportunities, sales calls, and sponsorship requests I received. I quickly learned a valuable lesson – I could spend my time marketing, or I could spend my time being marketed to. I picked option number one. After attending several Medical Practice conferences, and also serving as a marketing consultant for Medical Practices around the world, I have learned this is not something unique. I have also learned many Medical Practice owners or office managers have no real experience in media buying, and they’re quickly overwhelmed, too. With so many choices, what should you do? Step 1: Create a Marketing Plan and Budget Reread step one, and you’ll notice a specific order to the words “plan” and “budget”. If you create a budget first, you will quickly find ways to spend every dollar and then call it a plan. This is a BIG mistake. Throwing dollars away and calling it marketing is a sure fire way to disaster. And if you do not have plan, you are throwing your dollars away. I recently consulted with a doctor who told me he fired his marketer and scaled back his budget. He had attended a two hour seminar, lunch included, put on by the local radio station selling a year long package at a “great rate”. Not only would they create his jingle for him and write his commercials, but he would also be on four of the areas biggest stations and get prime spots for 12 months. Additionally, they would give him his own “expert page” on their website, and they would show him just how many visitors went to that website every month. He was sure that was the best plan. So he put all his eggs in the radio basket. Really??? Would you be surprised if I told you his patient volume had not increased like he had hoped? He was, after all, spending $2500 a month on radio advertising. Shouldn’t his numbers have grown? He also couldn’t answer questions like how his patients had found him over the past six months or the past year. He had no clue who is target demographic was, and more importantly, he could not tell me how his clinic was any different than the other clinics in his town. He has a lot of work to do, but he is also stuck in a year contract. Why? He had no plan, only a budget. Step 2: Evaluate What is and isn’t Working? Each year in December I sit down and plan out the following year. While I evaluate monthly what is and is not working over the previous months, I take at least two days each year in December to truly evaluate the success of the previous year. I reevaluate our marketing plan, our strategies, our target demographic and messages, our strengths and weaknesses in each community, and the events we attended the previous year. Then I set goals for the next year and make a plan. From that plan I decide where I am going to spend the advertising dollars for each Medical Practice we run, what events our Medical Practice will sponsor or attend, and what promotions we will run. Step 3: Guard Your Time Wisely Once you have step one and two down, you will be able to guard your time and not let media sales people steal it from you. Instead of letting them contact you, contact them at the beginning of each year and ask for their rate sheets. Remember rate sheets typically increase each year, so you’ll need to get new prices each January. Let your sales person know what your plans are to utilize them throughout the next year, and ask them to put a package together for you around your plans. Never allow them to sucker you in on the next “good deal” they have, unless you really think it is a good deal that meets your needs. As a marketer, your number one goal should be to be outside marketing your clinic to the community and building relationships that equate to patients coming in the door. If you have the right marketing plan in place, the amount of time you spend with media sales people in the office should be minimal, and your return on investment should be good.