Specialists are special! Unfortunately, your computer systems are not and most of you are left to struggle with systems that were not designed to help you manage your marketing efforts. Still, there are opportunities to capture data and use existing data that can help you create smarter, more effective marketing plans for your practice. This talk covers two different ways to use computer data to improve your marketing choices and increase your marketing effectiveness.
Part 1. What's Going On?
Informed Choices Take the Guess Work Out of Marketing
Whether you are a self-employed veterinary specialist, part of small group practice, or a member of a multi-specialty referral center--no matter how big or how small your practice is--you need to market your services. It is smart to select marketing plans that can help you thrive and prosper with the least amount of time, money and effort possible. Your database can help guide those choices, if you are capturing and tracking the right kind of information.
These are the some of the major things that your computer system should be set up to track to help inform your marketing choices for your practice:
Which rDVMs (referring veterinarians) are sending you cases now?
How many cases did you receive from each rDVM in the last 12 months? 24 months? 36 months?
How many referral cases did you receive from your own, or another Emergency Service? (This is often difficult to determine, but worth the effort because ER should be a robust source of referrals to specialty practices.)
What kinds of cases do you receive? Ideally, these should be sorted by medical type, e.g., oncology, cardiac, endocrine, gastrointestinal, neurology, renal-urinary, and more.
What's Working? What's Not?
Armed with information like this, you can easily spot trends--are referral cases increasing or decreasing? Who are your top referring rDVMs? Which rDVMs are in the second tier? Which ones refer only occasionally or almost never? What types of cases are most commonly referred to you? By whom?
Use your data to populate spread sheets and graphs so that you can "see" what is working and also what is not working. This information also gives you a baseline against which to measure the results of your marketing plan.
Finally, you can use this information to help identify specific services to market that can help you grow your practice: Look at your baseline and ask yourself, is this what I want for my referral practice? What do I need to change to improve these results? For instance, if you have set up your practice to do chemo-therapy treatments but you currently receive insufficient oncology referrals to make it a profit-center, design a targeted marketing plan to grow oncology referrals. Conversely, if you are doing a lot of cardiac cases and you are not setup to handle that volume, you are looking a an opportunity to re-design your operations to more efficiently manage those types of cases and maintain your standards of quality patient care and client service.
If you build your marketing plan based on data-driven, informed choices, you will make smarter decisions and get better results.
Part 2. Mass Customization--or--"Yes, We Can Do That For You!"
Use Your Database to Customize to Your Customer
A simple way of thinking about marketing is to see it as a disciplined way of finding out what people want and need and positioning your services to meet those needs. The larger your practice, the bigger the challenge it is to do this and keep track of all those "wants and needs" but it is always worthwhile to try. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database program, such as ACT!, is an invaluable tool to allow "mass customization" and superior client service in working with rDVMs.
Customizing to the needs and preferences of your rDVMs, communicates that you are really interested in meeting their needs and not just providing "cookie cutter" service. A CRM database program can keep track of rDVMs' preferences, such as how often they want to be contacted, when they want to be contacted, how they want to be contacted (fax, e-mail, telephone), their idiosyncrasies and special requests and all of their vital contact numbers.
If you already have an rDVM database like this good for you! Your challenge is to keep it up-to-date and think of ways to improve it to offer even better service. If you don't have a customer database, there's no better time to start building one than now!
If you are new in your specialty practice, one of the best ways to build your database is to meet in person with veterinarians who could refer to you. This will give you the information that you need for your database and more importantly, give you an opportunity to establish relationships with the doctors you visit.
If you are established and already have relationships, it will be important to call your rDVM hospitals and verify the information in your database: associates change hospitals; hospitals hire new associates; doctors move out of town; they retire; they die; they get married and change their names, and they change their minds about how they want you to treat them. The only way to keep your database fresh and up-to-date is to make someone on your team responsible for updating it at least once a year. If this person isn't you, pick someone who will make a good impression when they call; who will know how to diplomatically respond to complaints they might hear, and who will pass along ideas and suggestions to improve service that customers give them. This is not a data entry job. This is a marketing job. This person's role is to be a goodwill ambassador for your practice as well as to obtain the information for your database.
Your database should be setup to be searchable in different ways if you want to maximize its value: You should be able to search by date, referring doctor name, by the hospital's name, by doctor's telephone number(s), e-mail address, street address, type of preference for contact, how many cases they send you, and types of cases they send you. The more ways that you can retrieve information from your database, the more useful it is to you. For instance, if you want to identify all of the veterinarians who have sent you cardiac cases in the last 24 months because you have a new break-through treatment for these patients, you should be able to generate a the list from your database.
It is a lot of work to setup a database! Without one, however, it is impossible to provide efficient and consistent customized contact with each rDVM you work with. Your database also allows other specialists, nurses, and ER doctors that are part of your practice to do the same, should they need to respond to an rDVM on your behalf.
A well-built customer database can enhance your rDVM relationships and provide you with a competitive advantage in customer service and if you build it, they will come (back)!