Cutting Your Marketing Budget in Tight Times is a Mistake

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Important events rarely happen in a vacuum. The “fiscal cliff,” for example, is not a sudden event, but the result of years of economic policies. Countries do not one day decide to go to war. Even Hurricane Sandy was claimed to be the result of man-made global warming, a phenomenon even the Pentagon has acknowledged.

It is often difficult to foresee the eventual upheaval while we are in the middle of the process that will bring it about. The relevant case in point is medical imaging, in which we are at the beginning, middle or end of fundamental changes in the ways in which we conduct our business.

The November 30th New York Times online featured a story about the demise of the private practice, due in part to the acquisition fever of many of the nation’s hospitals. The story focused on the hospital-physician relationships in Boise, Idaho, but it is a national trend that includes hospital acquisitions of radiology practices. According to the story, “about 39% of doctors nationwide are independent, down from 57% in 2000.”

Now combine that with the reported 9% decline in this year’s RSNA meeting attendance and together with GE Healthcare CEO John Dineen’s comment that the fiscal cliff is causing prospective buyers to postpone purchasing decisions, and we see that medical imaging may be in the eye of its own “Sandy.”

So, based on these bits of information, if your enterprise is not hospital-owned and if yours is solvent, what should you be doing next year?

In your own market, there may be several answers to that question, based, among other influences, your competition, your demographics and the various opinions and goals of partners and senior managers.

What you should not do is what most independents are likely to do, which is to hunker down and ride out the storm. That is the one mistake that will most likely lead to the very fate you are trying to avoid, which is acquisition by a hospital or even bankruptcy.

In the eye of this storm, it may seem counter-intuitive to continue with a strategic marketing program, but doing so will pay long-term dividends. Remember that many successful people and businesses got that way by buying when others were selling and vice-versa.

Many independent medical imaging facilities or chains will not take this advice. Those are the ones that still see marketing not as the science that it is, but as “squishy,” – something for which they are unable to draw a direct line from investment to results. If they cannot, however, it is not because marketing doesn’t work, but because of their own failure to establish proper reporting and accountability protocols.

If we are in fact in the eye of a medical imaging storm, our own “Sandy,” establishing and/or maintaining that scientific marketing effort may be the wisest move you can make in 2013.


Steve SmithWith over 25 years of marketing experience — nine years as a former Vice President of Marketing for a leading healthcare marketing company — Steve Smith has consistently developed effective strategies to help fuel the growth of countless healthcare enterprises. Since 2007, he has specialized as a marketing and business development consultant to medical imaging facilities nationwide. Mr. Smith has been a featured speaker at imaging conferences and is a former member of the marketing subcommittee of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA). He has contributed marketing articles to numerous healthcare publications, including Physician’s Money Digest, Radiology Business Journal and more. Mr. Smith is the creator of “Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service™,” a medical imaging training program that provides easy-to-use tactical customer service support to staff.