How much should doctors spend on marketing?

It’s the number one question on the minds of doctors we meet with to discuss practice marketing, and rightly so.

"How much should doctors spend on marketing?"

Let’s take some of the mystery out of marketing budgets and develop a formula that can serve as a guide.

First, let’s get in the right headspace to think about marketing, budgets, and measuring results. When we're discussing marketing for doctors and medical practices, here are the questions that we ask to get a feel for where they are now, and where they want to go. Answer these questions to put yourself in a position to see the big picture before moving on to the basic formula and setting dollar amounts.

How much should doctors spend on marketing?

Marketing Budget Questions for Doctors

  1. What kind of marketing efforts do you currently have in place?
    Make a list of everything you are currently doing in an effort to market or advertise the practice. If you have a documented referral strategy, make sure to include it. Include offline activities like billboards and radio and online activities like SEO social media advertising, and pay-per-click.

  2. What kinds of results are you seeing from those efforts?
    We ask this question for two reasons: First, we want to know if anyone in the practice is measuring the results of marketing activities and what metrics they are using. Second, we’re looking for areas where marketing dollars may need to be reallocated or strategy may need to be changed.

  3. How much do you currently spend on marketing?
    It’s helpful to know how much is currently budgeted for marketing and brings context to the efforts that are in place and goals for growth.

  4. What are your growth goals?
    Growth goals are usually stated in terms of revenue or patients. Some practices are at capacity and need to market just enough to make up for attrition. Others want to grow to take a practice to the next level and have aggressive growth goals.

  5. What is the average lifetime value of a new patient?
    We’ll be the first to say that this is a very difficult number to come up with, but it’s very important. To get a clear picture of ROI (Return on Investment) and ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) you must know the value of a new patient to the practice. With online marketing, (and some offline marketing) we can track the specific journey new patients make.  By connecting new patients to specific marketing activities and campaigns, we can analyze the return on that campaign. This also allows marketers to compare campaigns and activities to each other, which helps guide future budgeting conversations.

A Formula for a Marketing Budget

While you’ll see a lot of numbers tossed around, a standard marketing budget is 7 to 12 percent of revenue. That number will change as will the type of revenue... some formulas use gross revenue, some use net revenue.

A recent survey on marketing budgets appearing in the Wall Street Journal (prepared by Deloitte) shows healthcare companies with marketing around 10% of the total budget.

marketing budget by industry healthcare

That is consistent with the formula we use with our clients, with a distinction: 

MARKETING BUDGET:  10% OF REVENUE GOAL

We generally start with 10% of your total REVENUE GOAL. From there, we advise doctors and practices to look at several factors and made adjustments:  

Adjust Up

We’re in a competitive market.

+1%

We have high-profit services and treatments. (Example: a dermatologist or plastic surgeon offering in-office aesthetics)

+2%

We’re losing market share to competitors.

+1%

We want to grow.

+2%

 

Adjust Down

We’re in a small market.

-1%

We’re the only provider of this specialty.

-1%

We want to maintain, we’re not looking to grow.

-1%

 

Conclusion

Every practice is different! Use the formula and chart to guide a conversion in your practice about where you are now, where you want to go, and what kinds of resources you want to commit to getting you there. 

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About the Author Casey O'Quinn

Casey founded Gravity Digital in 2000 after serving as the Internet Services Director for a Nashville-based Ad Agency. He's a rare breed that operates both left and right brain, so along with oversight of the company he's active in the creative process for our clients.

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