Prioritize Marketing After the Deal Is Done
MarketVisory Group's Founder explores how private equity investors and operating executives can prioritize marketing post-merger to achieve their vision for growth.
Post-deal marketing is integral to achieving the growth potential that private equity investors see in their acquisition targets. Unfortunately, many PE buyers and operating executives don’t prioritize marketing after the deal is done. Instead, each office keeps doing what it’s doing, which is what got their panels to decent-sized but not bigger.
Imagine that you’ve been hired by a private equity firm—we’ll call it PE Capital—to run a portfolio of four podiatry practices that PE Capital recently acquired. In total, there are 10 offices, eight podiatrists and multiple staff spread across your metro area. Each has a decent-sized patient panel with room for more.
PE Capital told you they see potential in the practices to grow their patient panels; add higher value treatments; serve as a platform to buy more practices; and achieve cost synergies across the operations. Marketing is integral to realizing the first three areas and can participate in the fourth.
The sooner you put marketing high on your list, the faster PE Capital will realize its vision. So, where do you start? Build and run a marketing plan common to all offices and tailored where needed. Here’s what that looks like.
It’s common to see similar offices doing different marketing activities without a good reason. That’s what you find as you start to tour the offices. You’ve inherited a bunch of tactics. Strategy corrects that—it always comes before tactics.
The four essential elements of a marketing strategy are:
- TARGET PATIENT TYPES. Who are your patients? It’s not enough to say “people with foot and ankle problems.” Do they share commonalities of age Disease state? Activity level?
- YOUR CORE DIFFERENCE. Why is your new entity valuable and different to those target patients? “We have experienced podiatrists” isn’t enough. They’re table stakes. Are you offering broader treatment variety? Is your organization easier to deal with than competitors
- PATIENT LOYALTY. You want patients to be loyal, but that doesn’t happen on its own. What content and activities can you create to build loyalty
- TACTICS AND CHANNELS. Which tactics and channels—website, paid promotions, social, email, PR, etc.—will you use to bring your content and activities to life?
Now that you have a marketing strategy, it’s time to get it done. Often, marketing tactics are inconsistent. That never achieves results, and it wastes time and money. To be effective, marketing needs traction, which takes time and a religious devotion to consistency.
Here are the core components for consistent and successful implementation:
- A MARKETING CALENDAR. Create a marketing calendar for each office that shows what’s getting done and when. Build your calendars at a high level for the year. Each month, review the next rolling three months while refining your plan for the current month.
- ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES. Designate an owner for each tactic in each office. If you don’t, the tactic won’t get done.
- MEASUREMENT. Evaluate whether the tactics are working. Are new patient calls and form fills coming in? If not, why not
- COMMUNICATION. Ensure everyone is on the same page. Do the doctors and staff know what the strategy is and what their responsibilities are for tactics? Can they communicate to you openly when they need to
- HIPAA COMPLIANCE. Marketing and patient privacy overlap. Make sure the tools you use and people you assign to execute the marketing plan are HIPAA compliant per your HIPAA policies.
A Common Plan—with Room to Customize
PE Capital should create a single plan for all of its practices, with room to tailor the plan to each office when needed. They’re all podiatry practices, so PE Capital’s vision to grow patient panels and add higher value treatments can likely be implemented in similar ways across offices. Plus, it’s easier to understand and work through one plan vs. multiple.
It’s also more efficient. With a common set of tools, there are fewer to learn. Take the example of getting more patient reviews. You probably inherited different tools across offices for managing reviews. Instead, pick the best one and use it everywhere. That way, everyone learns the same tool, and it ultimately saves money. For subscription-based tools, subscribing to one tool for 10 offices usually comes with a volume discount. Then, once you’ve worked out the kinks, PE Capital will have a “marketing playbook” to use when they acquire more practices.
So how should you decide which parts of the plan to standardize and which to tailor?
STANDARDIZED: Patient types will be similar across offices, so the core difference that sets you apart needs to be the same across the organization. It’s the essence of your brand (i.e., the promise you make to patients), which should never waver across locations. There will be overlap in how you build patient loyalty and the channels you use.
Similarly, each office’s marketing calendar needs to look and work the same way. Use the same tactical tools and measure results for each tactic the same way.
TAILORED: One example where the plan can be tailored is sponsorship of local organizations, since the offices are in different communities. When tailoring other parts of the plan, use your judgment. Pressure-test tailoring something first: Does X really need to be different in this office from what we do in the other offices? If yes, do it, measure it and change it if you need to.
Marketing Is Integral to Realizing a Practice’s Vision
We follow this playbook when we work with clients— marketing strategy religiously implemented. When you start a new assignment, you won’t know what you’ve inherited. Follow this approach and you’ll catch up. You’ll install an effective marketing plan that everyone can understand and implement. Most importantly, PE Capital’s vision will be on the road to reality.