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The Most Valuable Asset You’re Ignoring: Why Internal Marketing Is the Smartest (and Least Expensive) Way to Grow Your Practice
Your existing relationships are your most valuable asset.
By: Bob Fabbio
If you’re spending all (or even most) of your marketing budget on external marketing to attract new patients, you’re missing an important revenue opportunity. And it’s costing you more than you may think.
Your existing relationships are your most valuable asset, and while attracting new patients should be a component of your overall marketing strategy, you simply can’t afford to ignore the patients you have today. In fact, they arguably deserve most of your attention.
When you gain a patient through external marketing but lose one you already had, you end up with the same number of patients. But that’s not the whole story. Losing a patient means lowering your margin, because it costs much more to acquire a new patient than to keep an existing one through internal marketing. So, staying even—by adding one new patient to offset every one who goes away—is actually costing you profit through increased expense.
Not convinced internal marketing is the workhorse of an effective—and cost-efficient—growth strategy? Here are five reasons it’s hard to argue against investing in internal marketing:
- Eighty percent of future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing clients. (Gartner Group)
- It’s 50 percent easier to sell to existing clients than to new one. (Marketing Metrics)
- Existing clients convert at 60 to 70 percent, compared to new prospects at five to 20 percent. (Marketing Metrics)
- Repeat clients spend 33 percent more compared to new ones. (CMO.com)
- Boosting client retention by five percent can raise profits by 75 percent. (Bain and Company)
Internal Marketing in Practice
In 2015, Dr. Sheena Kong began focusing on nurturing her existing patient relationships to grow her San Francisco med spa. A CoolSculpting promotion she ran quickly proved the cost effectiveness of internal marketing. She marketed the special to her contacts through a multi-channel digital campaign and targeted new patients through television ads and online search. About half the total appointments generated from the promotion came from internal marketing, while the other half came from external marketing. However, the campaign to her existing contacts cost only a small fraction of the price of the ads and online search.
“I do invest in external marketing, but it’s expensive and it’s not enough. You have to have a good balance to bring in new business and still maintain and grow the business you have,” says Dr. Kong.
In 12 months of dedicated internal marketing, her campaigns generated 238 appointment requests, tying directly to revenue.
Houston-based dermatologic surgeon Dr. Suneel Chilukuri has also seen internal marketing fast track the growth of his medical and cosmetic dermatology practice. Instead of chasing new patients, Dr. Chilukuri began a comprehensive, multi-channel internal marketing strategy in March. His campaigns include email, text messages, targeted Facebook ads, web landing pages, and push notifications and automated conversational content on a smart phone app—all exclusively targeting his existing contacts.
For Dr. Chilukuri, fully leveraging the benefits of his patient relationships meant outsourcing the marketing to experts.
“I want my staff taking care of patients, not marketing to them,” he says. That’s critical to Dr. Chilukuri’s overall strategy. For patient relationships to effectively power growth, they have to be strong. That happens by delivering extraordinary care and exceptional results in-office. It’s why patients want to return and will respond to well-executed internal marketing. Satisfied patients also drive new referral business by sharing positive experiences.
That holistic approach is what’s driving results for Dr. Chilukuri’s practice. In the first month, internal marketing generated 21 new appointment requests. He says many of the leads generated were his medical dermatology patients, who made consultation appointments for cosmetic procedures they didn’t know were offered through his aesthetics practice—until they received the campaigns.
“I wanted to introduce our patients to our other cosmetic procedures, and that’s exactly what it has done,” he says.
Getting It Right
If you’re thinking about investing the necessary resources in internal marketing, here are some important factors to consider:
Multiple Channels Offer Convenience—and Control. Patients value control over how they interact with you. They want to make appointments and get information on their terms and schedules. They aren’t always available during your business hours. Provide ways to make appointments or ask questions online, and offer easy links to do so from your email and landing pages, as well as through texting and mobile apps on smartphones.
And, remember, people have communication preferences, so you’ll reach the most targets—at the most opportune times—when you’re not dependent on a single channel.
Systematic Communication. You establish credibility when you regularly communicate—across channels—to your patients. Set and stick to a regular schedule. But don’t over-communicate or you’ll find your open and click-through rates will decrease, while your unsubscribes increase. The best way to determine the right schedule is to test and measure results. Weekly communication through each channel is a good place to start.
Track & Measure Results. Before you begin a multi-channel campaign, clearly identify the metrics by which you will judge success. If it’s customer appointments you want, ensure your marketing campaigns provide a clear path to make an appointment. You will also need an easy way to monitor and track results, and then tie them to specific efforts. You want to know what works and not waste money on what doesn’t.
Listen to your patients, then adapt to the methods they prefer and respond to most.
When to Seek Help. Once you’re committed to growing your business through internal marketing, you have to determine if you have the internal resources and expertise to do it on your own.
Marketing automation tools are an option, but does your staff have the time and expertise to implement them effectively? While an initial investment is necessary if you choose to outsource, the most cost-effective path may be to hire an expert. An expert familiar with marketing best practices and executing the work for you will likely yield results much more quickly than an overburdened and inexperienced staff’s trial and error. With outside help, those internal resources can remain focused on patients.
A Final Note
Aesthetics practices investing in thoughtfully planned and well-executed internal marketing campaigns are reaping big rewards—stronger patient engagement, reduced competition and ultimately significant revenue growth. You may have to overcome some initial technology and resource barriers to get started, but internal marketing is the smartest and most cost-effective strategy for success in an increasingly competitive business climate.
So far, I haven’t met an aesthetics practice that says they regret taking the leap.