One of the biggest challenges facing rural hospitals and their marketing strategies is planning a budget. Spending money is not something small hospitals take lightly. But it’s important to remember that marketing and PR are not expenses, but rather investments in your future.
Although your healthcare facility may not have an unlimited budget to spend freely on marketing and communications, knowing your priorities can help you make good use of your resources and see a bigger return on your investment.
Don’t let last year’s budget become this year’s
Too many healthcare facilities fall into this trap. It may be easy to just repeat last year’s marketing plan, but in most cases this will set you up for failure. Doing the same thing over and over again means you will miss opportunities for growth and repeat the weaker parts of your strategy.
Do your homework. Go over last year’s budget and identify strong and weak elements. With a limited budget, why continue to waste money on ineffective or inefficient marketing?
Consider your online presence
Studies show that approximately 80 percent of people use the internet to find information about health issues and healthcare services. Your online presence matters!
Start with your website. Your website is often the first impression your hospital or clinic makes with a person seeking healthcare information. If it looks bad or is confusing and hard to use, what do you think people will expect to find at your hospital or clinic?
In addition to a great website, focus on ways to improve your social media presence. Social media is a powerful tool in small communities, where people look to their local social networks to find out information about health, healthcare services and events.
It is especially important for rural hospitals and clinics to get out into the community. Think of ways to be more active and visible.
Participating in local events such as parades, community celebrations and school events are great ways to make a positive impact and improve your reputation.
Hosting events is also an important way you can bring people to your healthcare facility. Seminars, health fairs, luncheons – these are excellent opportunities to connect with your community and raise awareness of your services.
Focus on areas of profit
With limited resources, it’s a good idea to focus on the areas that bring the most revenue back to the hospital.
Concentrate on services that will bring in revenue and incorporate them into your marketing strategy. For many facilities, this could be the swing bed program, physical therapy or the rural health clinic. Use your marketing and PR materials to raise awareness of these services in your community. Often, people simply don’t know what is available!
Know how much you should spend
How much should you spend on marketing? The simple answer is usually more than what you are spending now. Of course, it depends on your starting point. Do you already have a marketing plan in place?
Typically, small hospitals will have to spend a higher percentage of their budget on marketing and communications than larger facilities in order to get a return on investment.
To get started in the right direction, make sure to set your budget based on concrete goals. Decide on clear tactics with specific cost estimates so you can get a picture of how much you will have to spend.
Do you have a budget plan in place? If not, SRJ can help. With three decades of experience empowering rural healthcare facilities with effective marketing strategies, SRJ can help you plan and execute a cost-effective marketing plan that engages your community. For a free consultation, call today at 1-800-441-7401.