How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan for Your Weight Loss Practice
— By Karol Clark, MSN, RN
Without a marketing plan for your weight loss practice, you have a higher risk of attracting the wrong clientele, spending much more money than necessary, negatively impacting your sales and impeding your ability to reach those that need your services and products the most.
Creating an effective marketing plan for your weight loss practice does not have to be difficult. In fact, once you learn this effective system, you will not only plan in advance, but you and your team will be able to create spontaneous promotions quickly and easily to further grow your weight loss practice. Additionally, this systematized method has been shown to be useful for large or small initiatives, paid advertising or organic methods, and large or small budgets. To assist with this process, this blog includes how you would apply each step of the process to accomplish a common business goal for many weight loss practitioners.
1. Assess Your Current Situation
Whether you are starting a new weight loss practice from the ground up or growing an existing one, it is important to assess where you are now and where it is you want to be — often called a gap analysis.
A way to begin is to take the time to seriously consider your top frustrations when it comes to promoting your business. Frustrations such as: being the best kept secret in town; not having enough new leads, new patients or product sales; lacking positive online reviews; difficulty obtaining patient testimonials; paying a lot of money for marketing with minimal return on your investment; trying so many marketing strategies you don’t know what is actually working; feeling like you are a low priority for the marketing company you are paying handsomely; and/or feeling as if you are being swallowed up by your competition.
Evaluate what is working well and (honestly) what is not working well. Completing this analysis will help identify your top priorities and guide relevant strategies for overcoming your frustration.
2. Determine Your Specific Goals
This may seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, specific marketing goals are not always identified; or when they are, they are often not communicated to your team or regularly evaluated for success. Let’s face it: You are busy! As a result, goals may be addressed either one time a year or whenever things aren’t going as well as you had expected. However, identifying your goals (at least every six months) will help you create a marketing roadmap with appropriate outcome measurements that will lead you to your final destination of goal accomplishment.
As you determine your goals (just as you recommend to your patients), make sure they are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. In addition, make sure before you begin ANY marketing process (this one included), you have taken the time to clearly define your ideal patient. When you do, this will help you focus your plan on how to attract them specifically rather than others who may be interested but never act or follow your advice.
Goals could have to do with the number of patients on the program, patients taking the appropriate number of supplements per day, patients losing the appropriate amount of weight, etc. Each of these goals can be measured — and they should be every three months and adjusted as appropriate.
3. Brainstorm with Your Team
Your team is one of your greatest assets. They know your patients well — their pain points, what they want most as well as what they need most. A great team not only wants to understand business goals, but they want to be a part of the process to ensure goal attainment. Brainstorming brings your goals to life and when you involve your team, you will get better ideas, greater ownership/support and usually a higher level of job satisfaction, loyalty and dedication. You will be amazed at what can be accomplished when you include your team instead of trying to do it all on your own or relying on one or two people.
Brainstorm your goals, ideas for goal attainment, marketing strategies, implementation strategies, outcome measurements, and roles/responsibilities for bringing it all to fruition — all the while, focusing on your desired outcome. Be sure to include what you identified in your assessment — what is working well so that can be incorporated and what is not working well so that can be abandoned or improved upon.
Discuss all aspects of product sales (products offered, point of sale system, team product knowledge, displays, onsite promotion/online promotion) and brainstorm how to improve each of these aspects as well as new initiatives for each aspect that will increase product sales as well as patient census.
4. Establish Your Plan
Just as brainstorming brings your ideas to life, planning makes them a reality. This includes aspects such as project roles, responsibilities, action steps, deadlines for completion, internal and external promotional strategies, creation of assets for promotion, agreed upon budget, outcome measurements, team project communication and whether or not outside resources are necessary. This may seem like a lot but it provides the framework for actually getting things done and providing sanity along the way.
Identify implementation team members and outline what needs to be accomplished. Perhaps you are implementing a social media campaign highlighting individual team/patient favorite products or a “benefits of nutritional products” awareness campaign, newsletter highlights, e-mail campaign, special of the month, new rewards program or packaging products into a weekly offer or jump start your weight loss plan. No matter what it is, each step is outlined, shared with the team, tracked for completion as well as the impact on your overall results.
It’s time to make it happen. Take your detailed plan and get to work! Be sure to have a way to monitor progress and communicate any difficulties along the way that require modification. Don’t forget to set up a system for tracking your identified metrics and reporting back to the team.
Whether you use project management software, Google Docs, or Excel spreadsheets, keep it simple yet effective. Create your plan, outline it by due date/person(s) responsible, track progress weekly and communicate effectively with each other.
Put those metrics to work! In this phase, you will analyze your data to see if your efforts are paying off or not. Are you meeting or exceeding your goals? Is your implementation plan on track? Are team members engaged in the process? Have you brainstormed any issues that arose along the way? If you are having difficulty, then it is time to re-group, edit your plan if necessary and keep going. You can (and will) figure it out.
Did patients lose the prescribed amount of weight? Did your census and product sales grow? What was most effective? Keep those strategies going and either tweak or eliminate the strategies that are not serving you well. As needed, brainstorm new ideas and include outside assistance as necessary from trusted advisors, such as your Robard Territory Sales Manager and/or someone who understands your business/bariatrics and how to overcome potential barriers to your success.
You can use this system for any marketing endeavor. And remember, it is always best to do what will serve your patients, your weight loss practice and your team the best. It is not one size fits all. In fact, when you focus on these areas, competition becomes much less of a worry. You begin to attract your ideal patients, serve them more effectively and easily increase your reviews and referrals so your organic practice growth can take on a productive life of its own.