Happy New Year!
I wish you and your practice a happy and prosperous 2019!
However, my well wishes alone will have little impact on your results for the coming year, so we will continue to share marketing insights and provide hands-on recommendations to those that reach out.
2019 A Changing Consumer Market
Unlike planning in recent years, one important element that your 2019 marketing plans need to address is a volatile financial market. Many consumer-driven, professional service provider industries are impacted by major and longer lasting swings in the financial market and shifts in consumer confidence. 2018, particularly the last quarter, saw significant drops in both. This has created rising concerns about the economy as a whole.
Although this does not mean we are heading for another recession, practices would be wise to incorporate this into their marketing plans and strategies to ensure growth in 2019, regardless of what happens on Wall Street.
For instance, in 2007, most plastic surgery practices were overflowing with prosperity and did not see or prepare for changes that were happening in the economy. Within a year, many plastic surgery practice were hit hard as the industry saw all of its major cosmetic body contouring procedures drop by double digits (liposuction: -19%; tummy tuck: -18%; breast augmentation: -12%). There was even a 5% drop in facelifts. Overall, cosmetic procedures saw a 9% decline from 2007 to 2008, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Other industries saw similar impact, including dentistry and ophthalmology, as consumer search activity for these services declined during this tumultuous time (Google Trends).
Of course, you can’t do anything to control what happens with the economy, but there are ways to minimize its impact and even leverage long-term benefits. Here are 7 steps you and your team can take to insulate your practice from potential issues. Or course each one can be expanded into an article of its own. I only list them today to get your practice thinking.
- Don’t Panic – Impulsive, emotional decisions based mostly on fear and concern typically make matters worse, not better. Much like financial planning, developing a strategy and having the discipline to stick with it allow your practice to succeed and gain in the long run. Practices that resist the urge to "sell off" and simply cut expenses and hibernate their practice as a way to "weather the storm" fare much better than those fall victim to it.
- Focus on Market Share – Financial stress may lower overall consumer demand, but there is still substantial interest in your services. Capturing a higher percentage of the market should be the goal of the practice and your marketing/sales strategies. Customer and competitive research becomes increasingly important to make effective decisions.
- Improve Your Intake and Follow-up Sales – Average or marginal lead intake and follow-up sales must be elevated to superior levels. Don't assume your sales team and processes are as good as they can be; there are always ways to improve. Boosting conversions is the most immediate and least expensive way to significantly grow market share (consumers will shop!), sales and ROI. Plan for more scrutinizing customers and longer sales cycles and train sales staff accordingly, and provide them with stronger follow-up sales protocols and resources. Be creative and provide more useful resources that differentiate you from competitors. Shopping top competitors’ intake and sales processes should be included in your competitive research.
- Realign (not Cut) Marketing Budgets – In order to reap the rewards from an improved intake team with superior protocols, and resources, they need the opportunities to compete and win business from competitors. Track the results of your marketing investments and reallocate budgets accordingly. This includes budgeting and planning for emerging or new marketing opportunities. Your marketing will also benefit from the reduced “noise” from panicked competitors. If you can’t afford more expensive brand advertising, focus more on marketing and branding to your highest quality audiences, referral sources, and retargeting prospects. Concentrate your exposure and messaging to potential clients who later in the decision-making process, especially those actively searching for information and comparing providers.
- Focus on Service (less on lowering fees) – Avoid undermining your practice’s reputation by slashing your fees (and profits!). Pricing is an important positioning tool that reflects the quality of your practice and services. Focus your marketing and intake to attract and convert customers that appreciate, pay for, and refer your expertise. If you have to compromise to remain competitive, consider modifying your offerings or reduce the scope of work before simply cutting your fees.
- Concentrate More On Existing Customers and Referral Sources – We all recognize that existing, satisfied customers are less vulnerable to strictly cost-driven offers. This is also true of referrals that come from satisfied customers or trusted professionals. If your practice has not developed or invested in internal marketing yet, this is another lower cost/high reward area to grow your practice during uncertain times. If your practice already incorporates internal marketing as part of your overall digital marketing campaign, consider steps that can elevate it. This includes developing or enhancing customer loyalty programs, email and referral marketing strategies.
- Review Marketing Is A MUST – Even when consumers become more price-conscious, quality and trust are still major factors in the decision-making process, particularly when it comes to choosing professional service providers where large amounts of money and outcomes are at stake. First, your provider must be part of the review marketing process and request assistance from satisfied customers. Don’t simply rely on automated emails and occasional team members to build your most important online asset: Your reputation. Also, consider utilizing a review marketing platform that can monitor all your review requests, immediately notify you when a review is posted and expedite your response. It is important to respond to all reviews, particularly positive ones, as they are likely your strongest advocates and likely to refer you. Review websites are key engagement forums to build rapport with loyal customers and stimulate referrals and profitable revenue, regardless of the financial environment.
In the end, focusing on these aspects of your marketing is not limited to tough financial times. They are foundational elements to any efficient marketing effort. Many practices have simply become complacent due to a thriving market, and not focused at improving these and other key marketing and sales areas.
Feel free to call us for more detailed suggestions and strategies for your practice.