It's that time of year again! The season's colors are changing, holiday decorations are out in force, and if you're like most private practices, competition for ad impressions is getting fierce. Plus, since it's Q4, you are probably reviewing your budgets and marketing plans for 2020. But googling "how much should a law firm spend on marketing" or searching frantically for the next winning plastic surgeon marketing idea is a fruitless endeavor without a fundamental understanding of how internet marketing is supposed to work.
We know wrapping your head around marketing is easier said than done, though. Marketing technology has exploded over the last decade, and tactics that were wildly successful even a year ago fail miserably today. Marketing moves so fast it's hard to keep up with it all, even for us! That’s why a Marketing Wheel is such a useful visual aid when setting your marketing priorities.
At its core, the marketing wheel is a concept designed to help doctors, lawyers, dentists, and practice managers quickly understand both the purpose and interdependence of each marketing activity they currently have deployed. But beyond that, it's a tool for quickly diagnosing problems in your marketing system and highlighting opportunities for improving your patient/client experience.
Once you understand the marketing wheel, the answers to your most burning marketing questions will become more apparent. So let's get our John Dewey on and dive into the mind of your customers!
Whether it's buying a pack of gum, a car, or professional services, all of us go through a purchase decision process. The only real difference between any two purchases we make is the speed at which we go through the process. For example, someone buying a pack of gum (a low-involvement decision) will move around the marketing wheel very quickly. However, someone considering an attorney to handle their case (a high-involvement decision) will move through each stage of the marketing wheel much slower. In every instance, the purchase decision begins with awareness.
Given that all of us are consumers in this crazy information age, it's safe to say everyone inherently understands one key purpose of marketing is to make people aware of a particular brand. People must first be aware of a brand before they can consider doing business with it. So, marketing activities like press releases, social media, advertising, and SEO are critical in helping consumers become aware of your practice and the solutions you provide.
Most people think advertising and creating awareness is the complete summation of marketing's role. But, in truth, it's just the beginning! Advertising and SEO are not synonymous with marketing because they are but one small piece of the marketing function.
That may strike some of you as a bit cavalier, but chew on this for a while: People don't buy products and services. They buy solutions and relationships. That's why marketing isn't just about building awareness or making a sale. It's about providing solutions and building relationships!
The implications of that are enough for a whole blog series, but the short of it is that we, as a marketing agency, are only one part of your marketing team. Anyone in your practice (yourself included) in a customer-facing role is an integral part of your marketing team and should be focused on moving people through the marketing wheel. You may not even realize it, but every 5-star review that calls you out by name is proof that you are a great marketer. You and your staff are as equally adept as Page 1 at moving people to the next stage of the marketing wheel.
Once people are aware of your solution, they can start their search for more information, begin to compare all the solutions available to them, and evaluate the efficacy of the relationships that come with their purchase. In this stage, the content Page 1 creates such as blog posts, FAQ videos, and quizzes help differentiate your practice. They engage your audience and establish your expertise.
On your side of the marketing team, questions answered by you and your staff over the phone or during initial consultations work to build credence and help people determine whether you're the one to meet their needs. But make no mistake: while this might seem like a highly logical process, in truth, it's a very illogical and emotional process. Your brand identity and the character of your staff make a huge impact during this stage. It is arguably the single biggest factor in getting someone to move to the next stage.
In high-credence industries like legal services and plastic surgery, quite often prospective clients will need a nudge – or, more accurately, many little nudges – before they will commit to putting their life in your capable hands. In the purchase stage, various calls-to-action help create an impetus to those little nudges, or what we call micro-commitments.
When a prospective client or patient has made enough micro-commitments, the final commitment to buy your solution (and relationship) becomes a natural next step, rather than feeling like a giant leap of faith. Every time someone clicks a button to learn more about their rights as a car accident victim, they make a micro-commitment. Every time they give away their name and email address to download an e-book detailing a mommy makeover, they make another micro-commitment. Every time someone calls your office to speak to a real person, they make a micro-commitment.
That's why lead intake training for plastic surgeons, dentists, lawyers, and ophthalmologists is so important! Whoever you have manning the phones and answering emails, their primary job should be to capitalize on those micro-commitments and get consultations on the calendar.
After the purchase decision has been made, reinforcing it is critical to mitigating buyer's remorse and laying the foundation for a healthy relationship. Marketing activities in the Adoption stage help your clients internalize your brand values, develop shared expectations for their case, and nurture the trust they have placed in you and your team.
Marketing automation technology is key to pulling this off. Setting up automated email sequences to welcome new patients, invite them to exclusive Facebook groups, or show off your best work are incredibly impactful. Having every touchpoint and communication here on out finely tuned can make the difference between a 5-star raving fan and a disgruntled person fixated on making trouble for your practice.
That said, you need to know that a happy and satisfied patient or client is not inherently inclined to use your services again. Whether it's marketing for plastic surgeons, marketing for dentists, or marketing for ophthalmologists, many people are willing to start the purchase decision process all over again in search of a better price or more convenience. And, due to the nature of most legal services, clients may never need your legal services again.
Regardless of your industry, keeping the value of your solutions top-of-mind is critical to helping people feel connected to your brand. Your marketing activities need to go beyond the intake process, solidify personal relationships, and provide value to a community.
Closing the loop of the marketing wheel is the Advocacy stage. It is in stark contrast to the Retention stage because loyalty is not the same as advocacy. Patients and peers alike may be loyal to you, and yet they may be unwilling to refer business to you for any number of reasons. The Advocacy stage also differs from Retention because it is the feedback mechanism through which the performance of your marketing system and service delivery can be evaluated and improved.
The act of collecting testimonial videos and reviews in this stage has an interesting dual benefit. When someone is asked to advocate for your brand on the record, they become much more likely to advocate for you off the record via word of mouth. This not only helps instill a sense of active advocacy in your patients and clients, but the testimonials you collect are also invaluable content to help others move through the purchase decision process.
Round and Round We Go
Finally, the marketing wheel ends where it first began – awareness. After all, your goal isn't to have a linear relationship with your patients and clients. You want to have an ongoing relationship so you can make people aware of other product lines, services, and solutions you provide. The goal is to let them know there is more value still to be gained from the relationship. And so the marketing wheel turns ... again ... and again ... and again.
Now that you have a solid understanding of the marketing wheel as a concept, the question becomes how to use it as a tool for budgeting or for improving customer experience. There are a number of ways to use the marketing wheel as a tool, but the simplest is to use it as a map to look at your marketing system holistically. List all the marketing activities you currently have deployed next to each stage of the wheel. Pay particular attention to the purpose of various content types. Some content serves SEO and is seated squarely in the Awareness stage. Other types of content are more informative and serve the Evaluation stage.
Once you have every marketing activity you can think of listed next to a stage, take a step back and look at your wheel. Does it look well-balanced, or are all of your marketing activities lumped into the Awareness and Evaluation stages? If your marketing wheel was a physical object, how well would it roll?
Next, write down how much money is being allocated to support each stage of the marketing wheel – everything from ad spend to CRM subscriptions and other marketing technology. Again, does your marketing wheel look balanced, or is it a bit heavy on the right side? Once you have a visual representation of where your efforts and budgets are being spent, you'll have a better idea of how to reallocate resources.
The more well-rounded your marketing wheel – the smoother it turns – the more consistent your revenue will be. In short, a well-balanced marketing wheel can free you from the ebb and flow of cyclical revenue. Just remember that with great power comes great responsibility. If you'd like to start rounding out your marketing wheel or discuss unique marketing strategies for your practice, call 303-233-3886.