Take the time to plan ahead

How important is it to take the time to make an annual marketing calendar? Very!

What is the difference between a ‘marketing strategy’ and a ‘marketing plan’? Think of it this way—your marketing strategy should outline what your goals are, and your plan is all about how you are going to get there. Basically, you cannot have one without the other. It is not the same as your marketing calendar; rather it is an integral part of it.

A detailed, well-structured 12 month marketing calendar will serve as the road map to marketing prowess— that is, if you stick to it. Start by breaking down the year by quarters, then by months, and then by weeks. Address all of the main marketing activities that will take place during each period, and as many of the smaller projects you are planning as possible. Spell out general marketing programs first, and then add more detail by itemizing individual promotions or events when the information has been finalised. The more specific your marketing calendar is, the better it will work for you. Set up reminders for all deadlines for insertion orders, art requirements, e-blasts to be sent, and so on, to stay on top of every activity. For example, you may be bringing in a new piece of capital equipment, which could be your focus for the quarter. You can next decide how to promote it on a month-by-month basis. The first month may include an introduction to your VIP patients with a private reception where they are encouraged to bring a friend, and an e-blast to announce that you have something new to o er. For month 2, you may run an ad campaign in your local newspaper’s website. For the third month, you can promote the new treatment with a geo-targeted Facebook and Instagram ad campaign.

Whereas a strategic marketing plan integrates long-term planning (3–5 years) and short-term implementation, a marketing calendar is a short-term plan that itemises the immediate day-to-day implementation of individual tactics. At a more tactical level, an annual marketing calendar should dovetail with your long-term strategic marketing plan to ensure that every action is geared toward achieving your strategic goals. The best time to address your marketing calendar is toward the end of the year to start fresh at the beginning of a new year. Plan to reflect on what worked and what did not, and what you want to do differently next year. For best results, make it a team effort and get the whole clinic involved in the process.

FIVE REASONS YOU NEED A MARKETING CALENDAR

1. To stay organized
An annual marketing calendar organizes the tactics to help you launch marketing programs, campaigns, and initiatives throughout the year in a way that forces you to stay on track. It will assist you in figuring out what you need to do and when to do it for maximum impact. Ideally, if you follow the marketing calendar you created (optimally to start January 1 for the year), you can capitalize on every opportunity to market your practice without any lapses. Your planning, budgeting, sta ng, and consultants will be handled. Within your calendar, you may also delegate a separate, detailed daily social media calendar for blogs and all content for your practice social channels that coordinates with the main marketing calendar.

2. To stay on track
A marketing calendar crystallizes your focus and allows you to analyze the investment and value of your marketing tactics to help build consistency into your planning. You can avoid that feeling of panic that sets in when the phone stops ringing or patient visits slow down. The time to jump-start your marketing tactics is not when business is slow. By fleshing out a calendar, you can plan well in advance for the slower months.

Aesthetic medicine is not always cyclical; however, certain months are naturally bound to be busier than others. For example, the fourth quarter is prime time for procedures and noninvasive treatments due to the holidays, family gatherings, and special events. January is a notoriously quiet month. Summer can be slow, but August can be active if your practice attracts specific segments of customers. In some markets, the winter or summer season is when the population swells from the arrival of visitors and tourists. When drafting a marketing calendar, keep in mind what your best months are and when your practice is at risk of slowing down and act accordingly. Take into account all the factors that could affect your business.

3. To enable clear decision making
Having determined the critical success factors that affect your clinic, and deciding on the resources you have to deal with them, you are in a better position to make smarter marketing decisions. Are your services meeting your customers’ needs, or should you be adding new treatments? Is your pricing strategy right for the market? Do you need extra sta or should you outsource marketing or social media services? Do you need PR or a bigger budget for SEO? The questions that arise will be easier to navigate in the context of a marketing calendar with clear timing, planning, and budget. It will also help defer reactive decisions by providing the framework to make sound choices. You will know what is set up for the next months and weeks, and are less likely to make decisions on the y in response to market developments or external pressures from vendors.

4. To manage your budget
Create a marketing budget to make it easy to see at a glance which events and strategies were productive and on target, and delivered the best ROI. This will aid you in planning for future periods. Each year you should revisit your marketing calendar template and revise it accordingly. Your next marketing calendar should reflect changes and additions based on the previous year. For example, if your monthly Facebook advertising budget delivered positive results, you may want to increase that budget going forward. But if you ran an ad series in a local magazine that did not generate enough patients to pay for itself, you can redirect that budget to something else.

5. Because shift happens
Think of your marketing calendar as a working document; plan to make changes and additions along the way. New issues may arise at any time that may call for a deviation in strategy. A regular review will reveal what you have followed and completed, results that were tracked, and any holes. How frequently you revisit your calendar will depend on the nature of your practice and the extent to which the factors affecting it change. For example, a new treatment that gains US. Food and Drug Administration clearance (or in Australia, TGA listing), that you want to offer in your clinic may necessitate a change in strategy. You may decide to take budget from one quarter and move it up or push it to the next month. Your calendar should be the bible to refer to whenever there is a marketing decision to make. AMP


This excerpt is published by kind permission of Wendy Lewis and CRC Press.

 

WHAT GOES INTO A MARKETING CALENDAR

• Major holidays and seasonal events
• Elections
• Local/regional events (health fairs, charity benefits, parades, garden shows, etc.)
• National events
• Award shows (Emmys, Oscars, BAFTAs, etc.)
• Disease-specific dates (skin cancer, breast cancer, etc.)
• Social media events (Throwback Thursday, Fitness Friday, Sunday Funday)
• Speaking engagements
• ‘Hallmark holidays’ (National Lipstick Day, Valentines Day, etc)