Action Planning:

The Second Element of the RACE Planning Formula

Research
Action Planning
Communication
Evaluation

As you might expect, the action planning component of the RACE formula is the one where you plan what you will do. These are the key tasks to be completed during the planning stage:

  1. Establish your goals and objectives
  2. Determine who your markets and audiences will be
  3. Identify the resources you have available to implement your program
  4. Decide which tactics you will use (i.e., bylined articles, speeches, etc.)
  5. Prepare a timeline for implementing each tactic, covering at least the first 3-6 months
  6. Determine the key messages you want to convey
  7. Decide how you will evaluate your program

Goals and objectives

It is important to be clear about the expected outcomes before you begin your program. Why?

  • to know what to do
  • to be able to measure what you’ve done
  • to keep from diffusing efforts to things that aren’t important

Be sure to write down the major goals of your practice marketing program, even though they are easy to remember. These will be broad statements about what you want to accomplish, such as increasing fees, increasing (or decreasing!) your patient load, etc.

To help you achieve these goals, you will need to write specific objectives, such as, "I will increase new patient inquiries by 10% by publishing one bylined article per quarter during the next year."

As you can see in the example, a good action planning objective includes:

  • an expected outcome
  • a behavior that is observable (the action that will be taken to achieve the outcome, expressed as a verb)
  • a performance level expressed as a number
  • a timeframe

Determine market and audiences

You will be more successful in your marketing efforts if you have a clear picture of the market(s) you are targeting (often called target markets). These will include:

  • georgraphic market you plan to serve
  • demographics of the people you want to serve
  • your specialization within your profession

Understanding the audiences you hope to reach is equally important, and not the same thing as your market. In addition to those people you hope to serve, you may want to target your communications to referring individuals, referring organizations or agencies, the media, local government decision-makers, and current clients/patients.

Identify available resources

Knowing from the beginning the resources you have available to market your practice will save you time and money while enabling you to focus on the most important methods for reaching your goals. Realistically identify the resources you will have available to implement your plan during the first six to twelve months. Be sure to include your total budget and monthly budgets, your time, your staff members and their time available for marketing, and applicable skills available among staff.

Tactics

Initially, brainstorm a list of possible activities, then highlight some of the ideas that interest and intrigue you. You will add to this list as your action plan progresses. Eventually, you will need to prioritize your tactical activities so that if time and budget turn out to be different than projected, you can minimize the list while maintaining the highest possible value for the money and time spent.

Timeline

You should establish start dates and deadline dates for each tactical activity you include in your plan, covering at least the first 3-6 months.

Key messages

Key messages are those concepts that are most important for you to convey to your target audiences about yourself, your business or your services. They are important because they provide consistency over time and help ensure you talk about the most important subjects, even when an interviewer doesn’t ask “the right questions.”

Here are a few tips from PR for the Professions:

  • Don’t have too many key messages, no more than seven. I find five to be ideal.
  • Keep them short. You only want them to trigger a concept that you can explain in further detail.
  • Think in terms of differentiators: how is your practice different from others who offer similar services?
  • Avoid slogans and be as specific as possible.
  • When possible, include numbers or comparisons.

Decide how you will evaluate your practice marketing plan

The time to begin the evaluation process is during the action planning phase. There are four steps:

  1. Define what success will be.
  2. Determine how you will measure success.
  3. Construct a program that will most likely result in that success.
  4. Measure your results and progress toward achieving your goals.

Identifying success criteria is, in my opinion, the most important ingredient of a successful marketing initiative. By creating a program based on your success criteria, you will incorporate activities that enable you to achieve your definition of success with the least expenditure of time and money.

I recommend a thorough evaluation each year, with identification of new objectives and success criteria. This evaluation will serve as research for your new program, and you will make adjustments to change what has not worked well and to expand what has been working.

The action planning component of the RACE formula allows you to minimize the resources needed for your program while increasing both its efficiency and effectiveness. It is a tempting step to skip but it is actually your key to simplifying your practice marketing program.


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