Is a Full Time Marketer Really Worth the Investment?
By: Tina Bell Director of Marketing, HealthCARE Express I remember it like it was yesterday. After giving a presentation two years ago at a conference in Chicago on branding your Medical Practice, one of the audience members and I ended up in the same van back to the airport. For almost 30 minutes I had to defend my presentation to him. Usually I like debates, but this one just went on-and-on. The thing he was arguing over was my statement of something similar to the effect of, “If you want your Medical Practice to grow, I would encourage you to hire a full-time marketer whose sole purpose is to focus his or her time on growing your business.” His argument, “Of course you’d say those things. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have a job.” Snapshot: Marketers in Medical Practice Over the course of the last four years, I’ve realized my position as a full-time Medical Practice marketer puts me in an elite minority. Most practices do not employ someone to handle all of the things I do for our Medical Practices. For the most part, depending on the size of the Medical Practices, my position is split among several staff members, or it is done, when time allows, by the clinic manager or the physician’s spouse. In the larger Medical Practices, one person handles all of the marketing for multiple locations. Then there is me. When I started as the marketing director for HealthCARE Express in 2008, I was hired to replace the physician’s wife’s role as marketer. We had two Medical Practices at that time in two different states. My job was to market them. There wasn’t a true marketing plan in place. There was no training. There was just me, the skills I’d developed in my two prior roles (a managing editor at a newspaper and a marketing coordinator for an industrial pipe supply company), and my phenomenal co-worker Kim, who had built our occupational medicine program at what is now our headquarters in Texarkana, Texas. Together, it was our job to grow the occupational medicine business at our clinic in Arkansas that had been open only three months, and my job solely to increase awareness of that clinic in the community. Where to start? I Don’t Need a Full Time Marketer Lucky for you, today there are sites like Medical Practice Success, where marketers in our industry can go and get ideas on what to do. Even better, there are conferences like the Medical Practice Success Summit, where marketers and Medical Practice owners can go to get the latest and greatest industry specific ideas on how to grow your business. Those weren’t around when I started. But trust me, I kept busy. Since I first started, we have opened two additional clinics, and with vast expansion plans to open plenty more over the next five years, I know I’ll be busy. Many Medical Practice owners think marketing is a one time deal. Shoot a commercial, design an ad, put up a website, dabble in social media, send out a post card, create a brochure, and attend a few health fairs. For the most part, do it once and the people will come. In some locations, that model may work great. For us, our clinics are not the only Medical Practice in town. But many people will tell you otherwise. Why? Because we’re everywhere. What Does a Full Time Marketer Do? You can outsource a lot of things. In fact, everything I listed above except the health fair can be outsourced to someone. And if that is your only plan, your clinic manager can probably coordinate all of that. There are pros and cons of outsourcing your marketing, but I’ll tackle that in another article at a later date. What if you want your Medical Practice to really grow? Our busiest Medical Practice sees between 125-150 patients a day during the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, that number can grow to over 200 per day. Our newer clinics see between 40-60 a day depending on the time of year, and that number continues to grow each month. Why? Because our owners recognized the need to have someone who worked full-time developing and implementing strategies to grow their business. When I first started my position four years ago, our website averaged between 8-15 visits a day. We now have between 200-250 visits a day. That is in large part due to a lot of internal legwork developing our website and managing our PPC campaigns in-house. Not sure where to begin there? I go into this in-depth at the Medical Practice Success Summit. I take you step-by-step through things you can do to increase the number of people finding you on the internet. Let’s face it, in 2012, if you’re not being found on-line, your competitor is getting your business. Another thing your full-time marketer should be responsible for is growing your occupational medicine business. If this is a service you offer, this role has a potential to be a full-time job. Our marketers, however, are only required to spend at least two days a week working solely on this. The remainder of their time is spent on grassroots marketing. From daycare presentations, school athletic events, and community volunteerism, to civic club presentations, Chamber of Commerce events, and B2C marketing, our community educators easily put in 40+ hours a week. Can I Really Justify Another Salary? I think the question you need to ask yourself isn’t, “Should I hire a full-time marketer?” The question you really need to ask is, “Can my business grow the way I want it to if I don’t?” For $30,000 to $60,000 per year (depending on cost of living in your market), you can hire someone to fill this role. Great news. If you do, you can send them to the Medical Practice Success Summit in September, and I can train them for you. Do the math. If your average reimbursement per Medical Practice patient is $100-$150, and your marketer helps bring in an additional 40 new patients per month, that means you’re making an extra $4,000-$6,000 per month or $48,000 to $72,000 per year. Now multiply that by the lifetime value of that patient. And you haven’t even added in yet the money you can make by growing your occupational medicine program. After six years of being open, our oldest clinic still sees over 494 new patients every single month. Is my salary as a full-time marketer worth it? You decide. [Editor's Note: Tina Bell is the director of marketing for HealthCARE Express and the director of business development for Medical Practice Success. She will be speaking on this and other topics at the upcoming Medical Practice Success Summit. Click here to learn more about the Success Summit.]