February 4, 2003 Feature

Where to Start Marketing? Develop a Plan!

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"People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan."

"Without a plan, any direction will take you to nowhere."

These two quotes capture why audiologists and speech-language pathologists often feel like they are overwhelmed with their marketing efforts. It doesn't have to be this way! As professionals, you are immensely skilled in planning when providing day-to-day services to patients, such as arranging follow-up for a hearing evaluation or scheduling additional speech treatment. But professionals often ignore a comprehensive strategic marketing plan because they are so busy with everyday responsibilities.

A strategic marketing plan is important to anyone in any practice setting. Whether you are in a school, clinic, hospital, or private practice, a plan gives you and your staff direction. A strategic marketing plan is a roadmap that allows you to lay the groundwork for your entire practice and gives you the directions to get you from point A to point B. The plan allows you to accomplish several things, including:

  • implement timelines and decide what audiences—such as physicians, school administrators, and other groups—you want to reach
  • craft the messages to target your intended audience
  • choose which promotional marketing tools, such as direct mail or advertising, you want to use to reach your audiences

Seven Key Reasons for a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan will enable you to:

  • budget for both promotional and staffing expenditures
  • get buy-in from management, administrators, and other staff
  • track and evaluate performance
  • respond to competitors
  • prioritize activities and stay on schedule
  • coordinate your marketing efforts to achieve synergy in all that you do
  • become successful to "get what you want"—money, staff, and time

However, planning does not just happen. It requires you to invest time to decide what you want to accomplish and which activities will give you the best return for your overall marketing efforts and your money. Planning also will allow you to decide which marketing efforts you want to pursue within the confines of your resources—both human and monetary.

Planning your marketing efforts requires that you examine your marketing in detail. Marketing planning is the process of organizing your objectives into workable actions. It is here where you need to lay out your timeline: who will do what, when they will do it, and how it will be done. Be specific!

The first and most important step in planning and improving performance is keeping track of current performance. You can't have better planning or improved performance—from any system—unless you know accurately how it's performing now. Understand where you are today, and then decide on where you want to go.

As you begin to develop your marketing plan, start organizing your thinking. Your planning is accomplished by making decisions based on your individual situation. No two marketing plans can be alike because no two practices are alike. Start by thinking about these questions: Who are my audiences? How will I reach them? How often and when? What do I want to communicate to them? What tools will I use?

It is through planning that your marketing strategies can be transformed into your specific marketing programs. Once you have determined the answers to these questions, what you want to do and how you want to do it will become not only clearer but also simpler to put into action.

Log on to ASHA' s member marketing page to see several examples of sample marketing plans. You can even download blank plans to use in your own practice setting. Good luck and good marketing.

cite as: Weimann, G. (2003, February 04). Where to Start Marketing? Develop a Plan!. The ASHA Leader.

Why Market?

Marketing. It can mean different things to different people. But marketing in its truest sense is the lifeblood of any practice. No matter what your setting—whether you work in a school, clinic, hospital, or private practice—how you market yourself and your services can affect all aspects of your professional life. Marketing can help reduce or increase your caseloads; educate colleagues, administrators, referral sources, and consumers about the role of audiologists or speech-language pathologists in the treatment of communication disorders; secure funding; improve relationships with colleagues; and build support within institutional settings for the services you provide.

Marketing is awareness, marketing is swaying public opinion, marketing is educating, and marketing is about thinking outside of the box.

Like providing professional services, there is not always a clear-cut answer on how to market. Often marketing is ignored or takes a back seat because of the rigors of daily work responsibilities. But, to remain successful, you must market your professional services. Without marketing, you may find you have less control over everything—from your caseloads and funding, to public opinion and reimbursement issues.

We think this issue’s special focus on marketing will have something for everyone to learn from, whether you’re a seasoned professional or someone just starting out. You’ll find articles from ASHA members on unique ways to market. There are also articles from the marketing professionals working at ASHA providing insight into everything from marketing planning; using ASHA products, the Web, and e-mail to market your services; and working with the media. We hope you enjoy our focus on marketing.


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