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How to make a marketing plan that works

How to make a marketing plan that works

We understand the struggle of budgets in healthcare marketing

We won’t sugarcoat it — budgeting is a pain. Misalignment between goals and budgets. Budgets that don’t change when your performance metrics do. Strategies that aren’t created from a holistic perspective and lack operational support. These are the problems every CMO, VP of Marketing, and Marketing Director knows well. 

And on top of each of those struggles comes a seemingly inescapable cycle. One where budgets are planned and submitted, only to be cut. This, in turn, leads to marketing teams holding onto their budgets in order to avoid running out of money, only to scramble and spend it all before the fiscal year comes to a close. More often than not, that leads to wasting money that could’ve been better used throughout the year.

Preparing for the year ahead doesn't have to be a headache, believe it or not, there’s a very simple way to break free from those cyclical shackles: Create a plan.

The first step in creating your marketing plan

Every good plan starts with a first step, and yours is to take a look at your goals and ask yourself, “what items in this budget are absolutely necessary, and which of them are just nice to have?” Making those decisions up front can make things a lot easier for you down the road if budget cuts hit and you have to pivot from your original plan.

The second step? Checking out our webinar that dives deeper into formulating an effective marketing budget.

But the most vital part of setting up your marketing plan is establishing a baseline to work from. This is the part where you dig through last year’s financial files and folders. The data you’ll find there is a key piece to the analytical approach that’ll produce results beyond your wildest dreams. Looking to factors like previous media spend, spend per media type, patient volume increases, and plenty more, is crucial to setting a solid foundation for your plan.

Build your baseline budget and start from the ground up

Once you’ve got a starting point for your budgeting and marketing plans established, you’ll have to shift your focus to how your performance will be measured. It’s important to make the rounds and determine who has what expectations, so you have a framework in which you can operate. In other words, it sets a level playing field for leadership buy-in and success.

At this point, the best thing you can do is pay a visit to your finance and/or strategy departments and ask them for last year’s volume target by service line and the actual volume by service line. These simple questions will allow you to see if your strategy and finance teams are giving you achievable goals. You’ll also want to ask what this year’s target volume by service line is and, using that past data, determine if they’re realistic.

  • Are there any major investments — like new technologies, facilities, or providers — happening within the hospital we should be aware of? (It’s important to ask this so you can be prepared if leadership wants to promote these investments later on.)
  • Are there any community initiatives or sponsorships the hospital will be involved in this year? What are the costs, details, and timeframes associated with those sponsorships? (You can always leverage initiatives or sponsorships as part of your marketing plans and use them to determine target audiences, content types, and technology like geofences.)

Finally, make your way to the top three service line directors’ offices and ask what their own priorities are. Their answers will shape your marketing plan as it becomes more detailed and nuanced. Similarly to your conversations with hospital leadership, you can guide them to providing more valuable information with the following questions:

  • Are there any specific types of conditions or cases that you’re looking to prioritize within your service line?
  • Are there certain types of patients with those conditions that you want us to drive to your line? (For example, a physician specializing in acid reflux may request targeting women in their fifties and sixties because taking antacids regularly can cause bone density loss and increase their risk of osteoporosis. This means women in that age group have more motivation to seek alternative acid reflux treatments.)
  • If you were speaking to a family member or friend about why they should choose your hospital, a specific treatment, or you as a provider, what would you tell them? (Essentially, you’re asking for reasons to believe while prompting them to think about it from a more personal angle.)
  • Can you tell me a few exciting things about your programs that we wouldn’t be able to find online? (This is a great source for engaging content that will capture a prospective patient’s attention.)

Data in helps you see where to put your budget

Now that you’ve talked to all the right people, you can move on to the next step: analyzing data from the previous year’s campaigns. You might be wondering, “Why not do this at the beginning?” In short: You need a lens to view that past data, and that lens needs to be formed by your baseline and expectations. 

As you look through that information, search for the data that matters most. Specifically, spend by service line — both traditional and digital — and performance. Remember to look not just at the numerical results but at the creative that resonated with your audience as well.

Get your high-level plan approved then focus on the details

Congratulations, you’re finally ready for the last step! This is when you begin developing your overarching plan and outline what campaigns you’ll run, when they’ll run, and budget allocation for each service line. Once your high-level plan is blessed and you’re ready to tackle the granular details, don’t feel like you have to do it on your own. Reach out to your agency partners, who will identify what tactics and channel-level strategies will keep your marketing plan sailing smoothly through the whole year.

And the great thing is, we’re always ready to talk budget and marketing plans. So if you’re chomping at the bit for even more, let’s talk. 

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