Strategically Develop a Successful Annual Marketing Plan

Without an annual marketing plan, it’s easy to waste time and money on marketing activities that don’t produce results for your dental practice. An annual marketing plan will help you focus your marketing efforts and allocate your resources in the most efficient way possible.

As a practice owner, you need to dedicate your time and budget to activities most likely to generate revenue and ultimately help grow your practice. Creating a data-informed annual marketing plan helps ensure your actions are aligned with your business goals and sets you up for a higher chance of success.

A Measured Plan is a Managed Plan

Like any strategic plan of action, your annual marketing plan isn’t set in stone. Instead, a marketing plan is more of a roadmap to help intentionally guide your practice toward a goal with forethought around how you’ll spend your marketing budget. You’ll have plenty of room for pivoting as you check in on your progress throughout the year.

Ultimately, the purpose of having a plan is to save you from falling victim to red herrings that may not align with your business goals. If you don’t develop your marketing efforts through data-driven decision-making, you’re likely to waste precious funds based on someone else’s clever sales pitch or your own gut instinct, both of which lead to suboptimal results.

Who Should Create the Annual Marketing Plan?

Since marketing affects the well-being and longevity of the entire practice, it’s critical to task the plan’s development with someone who understands some key foundational elements, including:

  • A holistic view of your patient base
  • The defining traits and values of your brand
  • The needs, goals, and daily operations of your dental practice
  • The fundamentals of marketing and best practices

Finding an experienced marketing professional tailored to your practice is easier said than done, as these seasoned professionals are rare in the industry. Additionally, your practice might not be financially capable of supporting this role yet.

Given the challenges involved in filling the role of marketing director, consider developing your annual marketing plan as part of a combined effort. Leverage an operations manager or office manager, your doctors, and anyone else with in-depth knowledge of your practice as a resource to form a marketing team that’s deeply knowledgeable about the needs and goals of your practice.

What Should You Include in an Annual Marketing Plan?

The most important (and perhaps most difficult) aspect of your annual marketing plan is determining an appropriate budget. Before deciding on a new budget, analyze the previous year’s spending and new patient numbers. Use that as a guide to determine the current year’s target marketing budget and compare your spending to the overall new-patient flow versus your most recent target.

What is the net change? Whether you fell short, met, or exceeded your goal, analyzing these data points will give you a good idea of how much you should spend on marketing for the coming year.

Once you select an annual budget, it’s time to create a monthly breakdown of marketing tactics and allocate a percentage of your budget to each one. When choosing your tactics, consider the following questions:

Who is your target audience? Which touchpoints will resonate with them the most? What are their pain points?
For example, if your goal is to grow your new patients who are under the ages of 42-55, consider a digital marketing campaign that resonates with them, such as a social media campaign or partnership with local schools.
What tactics have demonstrated success in the past?
If you’ve hosted an event or partnered with a specialist who referred quality patients, reevaluate those strategies and the benefits of doing so again.
What new tactics are you willing to try or improve, considering how the patient base and modes of communication have evolved?
Consider the benefits of redesigning your website or reformatting patient emails and the change that could make in the perception of your practice brand.

After selecting your tactics and allocating a percentage of your budget to each one, consider the metrics you will use to measure the efficacy of each tactic and how long you anticipate it will take to start seeing results. It is essential to know how you’ll measure progress toward your monthly goals since you will want to adjust your strategy if you notice you aren’t hitting them for several months in a row.

When Should You Craft Your Annual Marketing Plan?

The most optimal time of year to launch a new marketing plan will vary, depending on your organization’s complexity and marketing life cycles. In general, it’s usually best to begin developing your plan in early September, allowing you enough time to set your long-term goals for the coming year.

Getting started several months before the new fiscal year gives you time to collect year-to-date data, run any necessary analysis, and create invaluable insights to inform your marketing strategy.

There are also benefits to staying consistent. If you can create your marketing plan around the same time every year, you’ll have the added bonus of spotting year-to-year trends that you may otherwise miss without timed analytical consistency.

How Do You Prepare Your Goals?

To prepare your team to develop a fruitful annual marketing plan, you should begin by pulling relevant practice data and preparing reports for analysis to create a data-informed goal. Of course, the exact data points you need to analyze will vary, depending on your practice. Consider the following questions when preparing your goals:

  • What business objectives are you trying to achieve?
  • Do you want to focus on increasing visibility to prospective patients?
  • Are you trying to build your online presence?
  • Do you want to raise brand awareness?

If you’re unsure how to choose a marketing goal, try looking for gaps across various data points and develop a plan to close the gaps. For example, suppose you notice your attrition rate is uncharacteristically high. In that case, you may decide to focus more of your marketing efforts on a reactivation strategy rather than developing a plan for acquiring new patients.

Final Thoughts

An annual marketing plan is a powerful tool to help you achieve your business goals while setting realistic expectations for practice growth and employee performance. Although developing a yearly marketing plan can be a complex process, leveraging your seasoned team can make the process efficient while also allowing everyone to reflect on the practice’s achievements and opportunities for growth in the coming year.

While many successful practices choose to go at this and other critical business functions alone, others have discovered the power behind partnership. The Apex marketing team has a sophisticated process for developing and managing customized marketing plans for each one of our managed offices, all while preserving the autonomy of our practicing partners. If you’re ready to learn more about the extensive benefits of a partnership, contact us today.

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