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Christopher Webb - Ambulance Marketing Consultant

Ambulance Marketing: You're Doing It Wrong
Christopher M. Webb

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It's been a long time since I was an EMT; almost twenty years as a matter of fact.
Life ended up taking me in a different direction and marketing, business management, and finance have consumed my life since those days.

I can still take vitals, manage an airway, recognize different medical conditions and so on but since those days what I've really perfected is the art of growing businesses. Not just small growth here and there but significant and sustainable growth designed to take companies to the next level. This is what I do best.

As our organization grows and we work with more and more ambulance companies, one thing seems to pervade the entire industry from the smallest of ambulance companies to the largest national conglomerates.

Bad Marketing

Nobody should take that personally. If ambulance companies across the nation were doing a great job of marketing, there would only be five hundred of them, not five thousand. The unfortunate truth is; everybody's doing it wrong.

For us at Marketing911.net that's great news! It means we can come into a market, spend quality time developing an actual marketing plan, implement our tools and training, hire the right people, and launch a program that goes so far beyond the efforts of the competitors in the market that we are able to deal a significant (and sometimes devastating) blow to the competition.

So what are the signs of bad marketing? Let's take a look at them and see if they apply to you.

No Representation

By far, the worst thing you can do to grow your ambulance company is do nothing at all. Without representation in the marketplace, you'll never make any great strides in increasing revenue and run volume. Being on time, providing good service, and having a frictionless sales process are all great but will only go so far in bringing the kind of growth I am sure you are looking for in your private ambulance company. So the first step is making the commitment to bring someone on as your representation in the market.

Hiring The Wrong People

It's been said that the key to success in business is either being good at hiring or being good at firing, and it makes sense. Getting the right people into a job position and getting rid of the wrong people is probably one of the biggest factors that will affect your company's success in the future. Too many times, companies hang on to old employees who were once a good fit for the position but have not grown personally as fast as the duties and responsibilities of that position. Other times we see companies hire or move the wrong people into positions that they don't understand.

Getting the right people for the jobs is imperative. You wouldn't hire me to be an EMT on one of your ambulances so why would you hire an EMT without professional marketing training to be the marketing arm of your organization?

Developing the Position

I see it almost every day, for example Bob Smith, Director of Marketing and Business Development or Jan McArthur, Vice President of Sales. Visit these individual's LinkedIn accounts or see them in action and it becomes very apparent that these individuals are not Director or VP level executive staff but instead, mid to entry level field marketing associates with overinflated titles.

Why do ambulance companies do this? Well, truth is it's not just ambulance companies that do it. Smaller companies almost always make the mistake of pinning a title on someone that doesn't fit simply because that individual is the only person in that particular department or because they don't truly understand what the title means.

The first thing you should ask yourself when embarking on a marketing journey for your company is "What is it that I truly need". Do you need someone to visit facilities and make connections? Do you need someone that is capable of taking your run data and analyzing it to uncover trends and opportunities? Are you looking for someone to build a web site, develop print materials, and design ambulance wraps? Are you looking for someone that can sit down with a CEO or an Administrator and negotiate a transportation contract?

Are you beginning to see that marketing your ambulance company is a much bigger undertaking than you thought it was? Are you also beginning to see that to find one person capable of doing all this at once is not only impractical but would come at a great expense to your company? In a 40 hour work week, how many of the above tasks could a single individual accomplish effectively? The answer is none when burdened with all the rest.

Again, the first step of this process is to determine what you REALLY need and for many ambulance companies the answer to this question is; you need an entry level marketing person to hit the streets and grow your brand. Without a doubt, this is step one.

I have personally witnessed, time and time again, an ambulance company with only 5,000 runs a year that employs a Marketing "Director" or "VP" at a cost of $50,000 to $120,000 a year. Unless you have over 10,000 runs a year, you do not need a full time Marketing Director or VP; that is simply a waste of your money.

Missing Structure

I can't make this stuff up. Take a moment to look at the "duties" section of a "Business Development and Marketing Director" position I pulled off a job board, literally just moments ago.

*Work with management to create and follow assigned territory growth plan.
*Track and measure call volume trends in assigned facilities
*Make adjustments, changes, and recommendations according to fluctuating trends in volume
*Report & record all marketing activity/visits
*Act as a customer advocate in resolving client issues

On the surface this may seem a pretty reasonable set of duties for a Marketing staff member. But look closer and you will see that this position is designed to fail.

Task one indicates that the staff member will be responsible for creating a growth plan for the company in a specific geographical region. This will involve identifying customers and facilities, identifying what competitors serve which facilities, estimating potential run volume from facilities, and designing a plan to reach all of them. This is a Director or VP level responsibility.

Task number two is pretty clear in that it will be expected that the marketing staff member organize run volume information and organize it in a way that will then allow then to analyze the data and identify trends. This is a monumental task for someone using Excel (or worse; paper) to accomplish. Even if you only do ten runs a day and serve twenty five facilities (each with an average of three callers inside) that equates to seventy five different charts and analysis that have to be compiled. If this were this individual's only job then it would make sense but to add this to all the other things on their list, well, it is a recipe for disaster. This is the job of someone who truly understands statistics and analytics; an analyst.

Task number three depends on duty number two being accomplished. Unless the marketing staff member has done all the work (correctly) to identify trends and opportunities already, this task is an impossible one to effectively accomplish. As a result, what you'll really end up receiving from this staff member (because they have not had time to actually compile and analyze the data) is a generic marketing report based on their "gut". Don't' believe me? Try analyzing all your run and contact data yourself and see how much time you have left at the end of the day to visit a facility or generate a strategic marketing plan. This is a director level responsibility.

Task number four insinuates that this individual will be making facility visits and attempting to build relationships using face-time as the means to accomplish it. If you're serving twenty five facilities, each with three callers inside, your marketing staff member need to make seventy five individual connections each month just to stay on the radar. If each one of these visits takes ten minutes of drive time and fifteen minutes of meet time, that's 23 solid hours of work every month, and that's being quite conservative. This is a job for a low level marketing associate.

Task number five, my favorite, is acting as a consumer advocate and resolving client issues. We drop patients. We show up late. We sometimes even pick up the wrong patients. It happens and it happens a lot! The more attention you spend on providing quality assurance and customer service (which is a good thing) the more your phone rings to address these issues (also a good thing). However, how effective can someone be at providing the highest level of customer service possible when they're also attempting (and I stress attempting) to accomplish duties one through four? This also is a job for the low level marketing associate.

You see? It's designed to fail. We have taken the responsibilities of a Director-level employee, and analyst, and a sales rep and thrown them all into one position that will inevitably pay far too less to attract the caliber of individual you are looking for. Even if you pay this position $75k a year, the individual you hire will neither have the right experience to accomplish all five duties effectively or the desire.

No Director-level executive manager, capable of producing great results, is going to take a job that requires them to go out to the field and pass out pizzas. Conversely, no matter how much you pay that recent college grad or charming EMT, they are not going to have the experience to perform all five of the duties outlined above.

With all that said, who's going to do all the other things you forgot to mention in your job ad like: manage your web site, develop your brochures, order your marketing materials, negotiate and execute contracts, mange your social media accounts, manage your online advertising, and everything else associated with marketing?

Who's going to work eight hours a day for four weeks to put together that winning RFP response?

You're setting your company up for failure.

Losing Track of Your Marketing People

Marketing associates are notorious for riding the clock. If you think a Marketing Associate can't fit a game of nine holes into a work day and still make a few facility visits you are sadly mistaken and if your marketing associate hasn't learned how to do this already, they will quickly learn how to shop, play, fraternize, and otherwise waste your valuable marketing labor budget.

Losing track of your marketing associates will result in poor ROI (return on investment) of your marketing labor budget and substandard representation in your market. You must employ a means to track, log, and review all marketing associate activities on a daily or weekly basis to ensure you're getting your money's worth. Not to mention you need to find a person that is not only willing to visit people all day long but LOVES to visit people all day long.

Knee-Jerk Marketing

You just heard that XYZ Ambulance has been passing out pizzas to area nursing homes along with pens and notepads. Instantly you jump to action and pull your best looking and most personable EMT off the ambulance and give them a credit card and a mission to deliver donuts and ice cream to the nursing homes to combat your competitors brazen attempts at stealing your customers.

How dare they!

If I had a nickel for every donut, pizza, pen, and notepad that an ambulance company has passed out in an attempt to steal away business, I would not be writing this article I would be retired in Costa Rica.

Not only is this approach a reactive knee-jerk approach to marketing but its also an unsustainable one. The more food you take the more food your competitor will take until someone somewhere runs out of marketing money and gives up...at which point so does the other guy. Then you're back to square one.

Your marketing plan should always be proactive instead of reactive and it should not be the result of an hour long discussion on marketing strategy with management. A complex, large scale, sustainable plan will always prevail over any short term over, under-thought, and unsustainable (monetarily) one.

And Everything Else

These are but a few areas where your company may be "doing it wrong". I could write a book (and actually I did) on all the areas where you can make mistakes in marketing. If you'd like to read it, it is available at Amazon.com and entitled "Marketing 911".

But I digress.

In A Nutshell

You're too small to afford a $75k a year marketing director, a $50k a year analyst, and a $36k a year field marketing representative all at the same time. However, you're big enough that a full scope marketing department is the only thing that is going to take you to the next level in business and produce the kind of growth you experienced in the early years of your company.

So what now?

The Solution

You're in luck. Once upon a time, a group of EMS and Private Ambulance Professionals were sitting around discussing how many ambulance companies were being pushed out by new competitors or losing market share due to inadequate marketing when someone said; "Wow Chris, we should just send you over there to show them how to do it right." I replied "I'd be happy to".

What began as a seemingly insignificant conversation has led a truly remarkable model in the EMS and Ambulance industry.

Take our example of "Duties" in the job description mentioned earlier in the article.

*Work with management to create and follow assigned territory growth plan.
*Track and measure call volume trends in assigned facilities
*Make adjustments, changes, and recommendations according to fluctuating trends in volume
*Report & record all marketing activity/visits
*Act as a customer advocate in resolving client issues

We thought; what if we could bring products, services, and processes that made it not only easy for ambulance companies to market but also serve to bring the strategy and experience needed to significantly increase gross revenues and run volumes for any given ambulance company without breaking their budget? What if we could design processes that made it easy for ambulance companies to market and also serve to bring the strategies needed to significantly increase revenues? A marketing staff member's duties would simply look like so:

*Report & record all marketing activity/visits
*Act as a customer advocate in resolving client issues

We've just taken what probably would have been a $50k to $120k employee and shrunk it down to a $35k position. Now all the company needs is a Marketing Associate, not a Director or VP. We wondered how we could do that and over the past few years, we've designed the perfect model to do just so.

You need a Marketing Director or VP, an analyst, a print and digital media guru, and RFP development expert, and one or more field marketing associates. However, unless you're a huge company doing tens of thousands of runs a year, the only one(s) you need full time are the field marketing associates. All the rest of those professionals can do what you need in just a few hours worth of work a week.

This presents a problem. Most people aren't looking for part time work and hiring consultants or outside vendors on an hourly basis to perform each of these duties gets expensive.

We've got the problem solved.

First, we have developed the only market analysis and trending software for the ambulance industry. Forget wasting you or your employee's time on crunching numbers, we do it for you in real-time with EmergiTrack™ saving HUNDREDS of hours of number crunching each year; hours you're paying for that should be spent building relationships with facilities.

Second, we've developed a model to provide your company with a complete Marketing management solution. Our team will:

  • Initially train your associate using our proven methods and best practices in growing ambulance businesses
  • Track your associate's activities to ensure they are performing at maximum efficiency
  • Identify and alert you and your marketing associate to trends and changes in your market as well as opportunities
  • Electronically follow and document customer complaints and incidents and ensure proper resolution
  • Uncover business intelligence including facilities, management personnel, contacts, and competitor accounts
  • Assist in developing your organization's marketing plan and strategy

Third, our experienced RFP and proposal writers are at your service to assist in developing award winning RFP responses and specialty proposals. Our team has over twenty years of experience in writing and winning RFPs in both government and private sectors. Most ambulance companies only bid on a handful of projects each year but you can rest assured that when you do, you will have a team comprised of exceptional proposal developers by your side to give you that winning edge.

Fourth, using our technological expertise we will ensure that you look good on the web, in print, and that you're consistently growing your company's online network and brand. Additionally, our teams continually monitor and tweak your SEO and online advertising to drive traffic to your site and your company.

Finally, we have built the only comprehensive organization that has the capability of providing answers and useful information on every aspect of EMS and Ambulance Service operations including:

  • Ambulance Billing
  • Medical Direction
  • Human Resources
  • State and Municipal Licensure and Inspection
  • EMS Education
  • Staff Management
  • Fleet Management
  • Quality Assurance
  • 911 System Development
  • Paratransit Development
  • Dispatch and Call Center Operations
  • and more

As you can see, we have an experienced team of EMS/Ambulance professionals and we're here to help you succeed. For an example of what we can accomplish in your unique situation, please use our free feasibility calculator at www.marketing911.net.

"Do what everyone else is doing and you'll be where everyone else is."
-Christopher Webb

About the Author

Christopher M. Webb brings over 15 years of marketing experience through multichannel development to the private EMS industry. He is the Vice President of MiK Market Systems, the creator of EmergiTrack, the developer of LinkEMS.com, and the author of “Marketing 911” ISBN 978-1-4507-9243-1(available at amazon.com). He can be reached at c.webb@mikmarket.com or through the organization's web site at www.marketing911.net






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