I recently met with Vanessa Passov, a caring and talented chiropractor. Like many of us in helping professions, she loves her work healing painful injuries and teaching patients how to keep their bodies healthy.
But the marketing class she took during her training was completely inadequate for showing her how to attract patients with whom she can do the work she feels is her calling. "They said we can get pens printed up with messages on them and our phone number. That's about all I remember from that marketing class."
There's a place for imprinted messages on everyday items. But if you don't have an overall plan based on your niche in your field, a pen with your phone number is not going to fill your office with clients.
Do you need to write or revise your marketing plan? Before the holiday season is an ideal time for most of us to plan for the year to come. One way you can use this sample marketing plan is to write down the following headings and brainstorm how you can adapt these suggestions to your own business.
My focus is to help people who serve a population they care about, and to network and educate colleagues, community members, and others with whom they genuinely enjoy interacting.
Here are the suggestions I made to Dr. Vanessa Passov, Chiropractor in Calabasas, CA. Her specialty area is deep muscle work, and she enjoys working with patients on preventive maintenance.
Goals: Vanessa's goals are to:
- Increase her professional reputation in the community
- Create networking relationships to develop ongoing referrals
What are your current goals? Specific goals will help you create a plan that "writes itself." Broad or dollar-based goals sound good but don't help you spell out how to meet those goals.
Note: You can write it out like this sample plan, or you can chart it like a flowchart. The flowchart might be easier to grasp at a glance and add ideas to later.
1. What is your niche? (Previous article on this topic: "No Niche, No Scratch" available by email) You can define this by either a, b, or c below. Then make sure the other two elements are in alignment:
- Specialty area (e.g., deep muscle work)
- Population you care about (e.g., active children & teens)
- Type of problem you solve (e.g., youth sports injuries and injury prevention; teaching young people to understand, take care of, and listen to their bodies)
2. Who else cares about this niche that could be networking partners or an audience for you?
- Parents of 8 to 18 year olds
- Pediatricians in Calabasas, Agoura and Westlake Village
- Little league coaches
- Phys. ed. teachers
- Dance, martial arts, and other instructors
- Massage therapists
3. How can you share your interest with, and solve a problem for, the people listed in #2?
- Parents: Do talks, provide flyers, etc. Think about where you'll speak and on what topics (for example, "Helping your child get ready for the baseball season," or "Helping your child recover more quickly from a sports injury.")
- Pediatricians: Provide flyers for their patients, consults for them, share technical info.
- Coaches: Share stretching, prevention tips, offer flyers for their team members. Go before a practice at the beginning of the season to teach young people how to prepare for daily practices, and what to do if they think they have just gotten injured: when to "walk it off" and when to wait for the stretcher, for example.
- Phys. ed. teachers: Offer continuing education for them with more technical information so they can prepare their classes and understand their students' needs better.
- Dance/martial arts/other instructors: Combine c and d suggestions above
- Massage therapists: These are people you can really network with and work together as a team. Find some you think are really good, and meet regularly/swap services if appropriate and help each other grow your businesses.
4. How do you stay in touch with your network/the people in #2? Send information on regular basis...flyers, articles by other people, etc. You don't have to meet each of them face to face, although it's better to network with fewer people more personally in my opinion. But at least remind them of you on a regular basis...quarterly is good. An email newsletter can be a good way to do this. Or just write a tip sheet and pass it around, drop it off, or snail mail it to those that could use it.
Note: If you have one basic specialty area, most of your network will be interested when you write on that topic. You just have to determine if that piece is for the lay public or other professionals.
5. Build relationships, and your practice will follow
- You're educating, not selling
- You're meeting with people you like and with whom you share a common interest. NEVER network with someone you don't like or respect because you think they can help you.
- Depending on which you feel more comfortable with, these are two ways to build your professional reputation in the community.
- Write/talk about problems you solve for that particular audience.
- If you're talking to a group of phys. ed. teachers, talk about how they can better understand the needs of their students. You can use some technical language, and give them some expert information to better plan their classes.
- If you're talking to parents, acknowledge their anxiety about their child getting hurt, how they can encourage their child to take better care of their body, and you may even mention something about sportsmanship.
7. Your marketing materials need to be consistent, reflect your personality and professional style, and focus on your niche. A good printer (the person, not the machine) can be very helpful with this aspect.
8. A written marketing plan can help you coordinate all the elements above, including how to incorporate pens imprinted with your name and phone number. Start with your mission statement (email me if you want this worksheet), how you will reach your market, and how often.