Archive for category: Articles

Requirements of the Pension Protection Act

Categories: Articles

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires that all defined contribution plans must have their plan document restated every six to eight years. All defined contribution plans must have their plan document between May 1, 2014 and April 30, 2016. This requirement creates the perfect time to accomplish three things:

  • Review and benchmark your plan for competiveness
  • Make those changes you’ve been delaying due to other priorities
  • Update your plan document to comply with IRS regulations

You, like many plan sponsors, typically have an on-going checklist of items they would like to change/amend on their plan. However, due to heavy workloads and the costs associated with making changes, many of these “discretionary” items are put off until a future time.

The purpose of this restatement is to incorporate plan amendments, which occur from time to time, into the actual plan document. It also provides an opportunity for plan sponsors to re-evaluate their plan features and benefits.

Most third-party administrators are charging a fee to update these plan documents. Fees can be as high as $2,000.

To learn more about these requirements and how to maximize your time and money, please feel free to contact Jay Cohen at 404-201-2284 or jay.cohen@lpl.com

Monterey Wealth, founded in 2004 with over $108 million in assets under managed, is an Atlanta-based, boutique wealth planning, investment management, and 401k consulting firm dedicated to providing unique and customized solutions to its clients. Please visit our website at www.montereywealth.org

Boost SEO Performance by Aligning Your Business Plan with your Creative Web Design for Medical Practices

Categories: Articles

What do you want from your website? That’s a rhetorical question with a lot of good answers. So, the real question is: What must you do to make sure your creative medical practices web design boost your SEO to help people find you?

The short answer is: Match your marketing plan to your business plan. Number crunchers may tend to look at all kinds of statistics, and some business owners can get so wrapped in being creative that they lose sight of their site’s business purpose. In reality, you can’t have one without the other. Both will yield a creative medical practices website design that hits the medical practices SEO targets you need to draw prospects and customers.

A good marketing plan will support your business plan, and you likely covered many of your marketing plan’s needs when you wrote your business plan. Info Entrepreneurs, a team of experts from the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, offers good advice to get you going.

  • “The focus of your strategy should be making sure that your products and services meet customer needs and develop long-term and profitable relationships with those customers,” the blog post says. “To achieve this, you will need to create a flexible strategy that can respond to changes in customer perceptions and demand. It may also help you identify whole new markets that you can successfully target.”   So create your plan and review in quarterly, if not more often.
  • “The purpose of your marketing strategy,” the experts add, “should be to identify and then communicate the benefits of your business offering to your target market.”  Are you about price, product features, customer support, convenience, variety or some combination of these?
  • The experts strongly urge entrepreneurs to identify groups or segments within their markets to be targets and to develop strategies to reach each target market. Their advice includes completing an analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to develop your marketing plan. Their advice lists tips and pitfalls.

You can also download a detailed checklist and worksheet from the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center through the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus. It will walk you through the steps outlined by the Montreal experts.

The resources from both postings can help you articulate your goals for a creative medical practices website and medical practices SEO program. And with that knowledge, you can work more effectively with NicheLabs to design and launch an effective marketing campaign.

We are a full-service agency for small businesses that don’t have a CMO or VP of Marketing or that don’t have the people or time to create content, to update website design, manage SEO and digital/ direct marketing campaigns. As part of your team, we have professional writers and designer to update your content and web design to help you get new, useful information out to your targeted market.  They can work as a team to help you keep your marketing up to date and your search rankings high.

For more tips and insights about digital marketing advancements, connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to read summaries of our weekly posts.

Providing the content that hits your targets can attract more business. Email us at sales@nichelabs.com, call 888.978.9254, or if you are mobile, visit us on your smartphone, and we’ll align your marketing and business plans.   

July Investment Letter

Categories: Articles

Here we are; just past the mid-year point. The market is up over 7% year-to-date which would be good by most standards. Second quarter earnings reports are just starting to come out. It appears earnings momentum is regaining traction after a weather-affected soft first quarter.

Last year was a bonanza year even though it started with huge uncertainty. Going into 2013, there was a budget battle in D.C. and most pundits predicted anemic market returns. However, the S&P 500 returned over 30% and this caught most people off-guard. With such large returns and with a brutal winter, the first quarter of 2014 could be characterized as choppy. Bond yields plummeted and the market was pretty flat. This rally in the bond market also caught most people off-guard as the Fed’s continued reduction in quantitative easing certainly should have seen rates increase not decrease.

What these events remind me is that no matter how smart you might think you are the market has a way of proving the largest number of people wrong. I’m further reminded that the long term trend is up and that we will continue to have bumps and sometimes major bursts along the way. This is as certain as the sun coming up tomorrow. Maintaining “iron stomach-like” rationale is the number one ingredient for successful investing along with patience, faith, and discipline.

As we look out into the future, I believe the next 18 months will be good as interest rates should remain comparatively low. However, on the horizon lurks trouble. At some point, the Fed will lose control of inflation and at that point, it will have to react with rapid rate tightening. This is the event that I am keeping my eyes trained on.

In the meantime, equities are fairly reasonably valued. There is still huge pent up demand in housing and autos. Budget deficits are coming in due to increased tax revenues. Balance sheets are strong with lots of cash. Tax policy will be revisited in the next couple of years. An election cycle looms. Manufacturing seems to be turning in America.

There is a lot of work to be done – immigration, corporate tax policy, healthcare refinement, social security refinement, regulatory overhaul, etc. The good news is we don’t have the irrational exuberance and the excesses that come with such conditions. In short, I remain optimistic for the short term that the equity markets remain the place to be.

Provided by Jay W. Cohen, MPA, CPA, CFP®, of Monterey Wealth
(404-201-2284 or jay.cohen@lpl.com)

How to be Loved by Google – Maximizing your SEO Page Ranking

Categories: Articles

How to be Loved by Google – Maximizing your SEO Page Ranking

Is getting a second look from the targeted love of your life easier than getting a first look from Google for your SEO page ranking? When you’re trying to build more business, it probably is. Just as you try to figure out how to make yourself more attractive for finding a life partner – and use creative website design to look good online — you need to make your content attractive to Google, which actually plays as your “wingperson” when you’re out there attracting business.

There’s one key difference; your human wingperson is already a friend who’s ready to appreciate and tout your outstanding qualities. With Google as a wingperson, you need to make a convincing case to its search bots before it agrees to award you with high SEO page ranking in searches by your targeted customers.

SEO page ranking success depends on putting out the content Google and your prospects will love. As Todd Bowerman, an eHow contributor writes in How to Attract Googlebot, the process is not that complicated although it does constantly evolve. While there are some technical things you need to do, and creative website design still matters to the humans, content carries the day.

Here are a few tips:

  • Create new content for your website. The more content you create, the more frequently your site will be crawled. High-quality content usually wins in a battle for search ranking. So, add a blog or news page to your website and update it frequently. You’ll only need a little creative website design here because this is more about your keywords.
  • Create a photo album on a website such as Flickr or Photobucket and use it regularly to post images related to your business. Photo albums create vital back-links to your website and they also encourage the Googlebot to re-scan them when they are updated.
  • Create a YouTube channel and post videos if you have good video content.
  • Construct a strong network of back-links for your site. Back-links are links that lead to your website from another site and they are one of the most important tools for establishing search ranks. You can earn back-links by participating in link shares and buying links on popular sites, but the most effective method is to create interesting content that readers will share across the web.
  • There are few other technical steps to take to maximize your SEO page ranking, including building a Google sitemap and pinging your website and links to let the bots know you’ve made a change.

NicheLabs can help you with all of the technical details and content and tie everything together to make your creative website design more SEO-attractive. Our professional branding specialists, designers, content writers and programmers can work as a team to help you keep your marketing up to date and your search rankings high. We are a full-service agency for businesses that don’t have a CMO or VP of Marketing or that don’t have the people or time to do website design, manage SEO and digital/ direct marketing campaigns. As part of your team, we can create the channels for pushing out your content and work with you to get the information out to your targeted market.

For more tips and insights about digital marketing advancements, connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to read summaries of our weekly posts.

Providing the content that Google and your targets will love can attract more business. Email us at sales@nichelabs.com, call 888.978.9254, or if you are mobile, visit us on your smartphone, and we’ll dress up your website.

Destroy Your Marketing

Categories: Articles

We have the marketing equivalent of gastric indigestion. It’s that churning upset in our gut when exceptionally effective medical practice advertising inspires qualified prospective patients to phone the provider’s office—only to be rejected at the front desk.

Here’s the disturbing little back-story that upset us recently. Keep in mind this is true and, unfortunately, it’s all-too common. We tell this tale for the benefit of other healthcare providers. There are valuable doctor-marketing lessons here.

A prominent and professionally respected specialist group put a healthy budget behind their medical practice marketing. The phone was ringing. Tons of calls from prospective new patients. But it wasn’t leading to many new business appointments.

It was more than simply a lack of proper training. In this case it was pure incompetence.

Based on our real-world example, here are three sure-fire ways to destroy your medical practice marketing, drive patients and cases you want into the arms of your competitor, and damage your professional reputation. (Gastric indigestion is purely a bonus.)

Number Three: Phone calls are a distraction; dispose of them quickly. Administrative and clerical help should never put new business ahead of shuffling papers, filing charts or break room gossip. Hire a high school kid to stop all that pesky ringing noise. There’s no need for training; anyone can answer a damn phone. (By the way, when is lunch? That’s at least an hour and a half of prime business hours when we can turn off the phones entirely.)

Number Two: Have no policy or procedure regarding prospective patient calls. Have no policy, that is, other than assigning no importance to these calls and doing your best to ignore them. A vigorous “no policy” approach actively supports the “no training” and “unqualified help” dynamics of Number Three (above). It’s synergistic, plus there’s more time for the holiday party committee meeting.

And NUMBER ONE: Never offer a caller an appointment. Can you imagine what chaos would follow if we actively invited callers to make an appointment? This doctor advertising stuff is bad enough…it connects with people in need who are prequalified as prospective patients. Callers are hungry for any little signal that they might be welcome as new patients. Engaging a caller in conversation, building rapport and/or offering a convenient appointment at any time during the initial phone conversation carries a high risk of (gasp) new business.

Amusing? Absurd? In fact, we routinely find these, and other, self-damaging practices draining revenue from otherwise well intended and potentially successful physician marketing efforts. But among these three, the one quick and easy step to completely undermine your medical practice marketing effort is when a prospective new patient calls and no one offers to set an appointment.

The sobering reality is that in some situations, disconnecting the office phone line and burning cash at the front desk would be less costly and less damaging. Do you really know how well your office handles new patient enquiries? If you don’t know, you might find a churning upset in our gut.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, we should talk. It’s alarming, but 90 percent of practices and healthcare organizations lose money when they answer the phone, particularly when it comes to advertising generated inquiries.

Connect with Zac to see if your friendly team… are too friendly and killing revenue.
www.linkedin.com/pub/zac-wright/37/46a/3b0/

Zac Wright
Difference Maker
(Z) 470.255.2454
(O) 888.296.9545
(F) 866.356.0279
www.newpatientmd.com
Schedule time: https://www.timetrade.com/book/24PZJ

Capitalizing on Your Good Work and Goodwill — Get Testimonials

Categories: Articles

Testimonials are the lifeblood of referral marketing. Many customers and clients are happy to give them when you do a great job or provide outstanding service on a project or over the long term. Sadly, few companies then put them in the right places to capitalize on them.

Building a good testimonial requires more than just doing good work. A blog post by Cairril Mills, owner of a design and marketing firm in Bloomington, IN, goes beyond the obvious. She advises approaching the clients who are like those you really want to work with and make sure they have a compelling story to tell. Then, interview people most likely to impress the prospects you want to impress. Get them to describe the problem or need they had, how your business helped them solve that problem or fill that need and the benefits gained from their relationship with you.

The best way to get the testimonial is to do a video interview. Focus on your customer’s or client’s face – or faces if you’re interviewing more than one person – and engage them in a conversation. You want them to tell a story, not recite a bunch of answers. As you engage them, give them time to talk, and don’t worry about too much silence; it will help your editing.

If you can’t do a video interview, you can easily record a phone conversation and display a static picture or series of related images while the audio is heard.

A good line of questioning should include:

  • What was their pain point?
  • What were they doing about the pain point before working with you?
  • How did you help them identify their problem or need and implement your solution?
  • What were the specific benefits?

Once you have their story, you can tell it in a number of ways in a number of places. A blog by Kristi Hines, list six different places where you can post testimonials – each serving a specific purpose. They are:

  1. Facebook Reviews
  2. LinkedIn Recommendations
  3. YouTube Videos
  4. Local Search Directories
  5. Niche Trade or Industry Review Sites
  6. Google Alerts and Social Mentions

Local search directories and niche review sites require that the reviews be genuine – written and posted by the actual reviewer. You also need to monitor those review sites so that you can respond to negative reviews to head off major problems. (That’s the downside of opening your business to reviews; however, we can tell you is it well worth it. In many cases, a negative review can be turned in to a very, very positive review; there’s not space in this article, so ask us how)

If you’ve served your customers and clients beyond their expectations – and offer them an appropriate reward – you should be able to collect testimonials that can motivate your targeted prospects.

NicheLabs can help you develop a strategy for testimonials and then set them up on your website and social media channels helping you nurture your community and monetize your goodwill.

We are a full-service agency for businesses that don’t have a CMO or VP of Marketing or that don’t have the people or time to develop websites and digital/ direct marketing campaigns. We have the resources to help you develop an integrated marketing communications program that includes social media, website content and email marketing for a total marketing communications and digital solution. And we’ll help you make decisions you can live with.

For more tips and insights about digital marketing advancements, connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to read summaries of our weekly posts.

To speak with our team, please Email us at sales@nichelabs.com, call 888.978.9254, or if you are mobile, visit us on your smartphone. When you and your customers and clients have good stories to tell, NicheLabs can help make sure they’re seen and heard.

Dollars & Cents

Categories: Articles

There’s nothing like a real-life success story to illustrate the bottom-line, dollars-and-cents value of staff phone skills training.

In this case, a physician group specialty practice more than doubled its new patient revenue by training their staff to more efficiently and more effectively answer the phone and convert callers into made and kept appointments.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to capitalizing on physician advertising. There’s an up side and a downside, and the difference is in how the office is trained and prepared (or unprepared) to handle inbound calls. And frankly, nearly every practice has something to learn and much to be gained. Even when a practice does zero advertising, we see the same staggering new patient results.

Our President, Zac Wright, whose official job title is actually Difference Maker, provides the following numbers from this vein practice in a central time zone with four locations and an average case size of $2,900.00 per new patient. “Accounting for each location,” Zac reports, “they went from 185 new patients in September last year to 347 new patients in September this year.”

Doing the math, the new patient revenue more than doubled from about $536,500 per month to over $1,000,000. Zac—who is understandably diligent about tracking results—says that, “Overall, they realized an across the board increase of about 50 percent for all locations in the three months following training.”

So, you might ask, just how did they do that? The answer may be a bit of surprise.

The “Anti-Sales Philosophy”
Zac tells us “all we did was leverage their existing staff—their largest overhead expense, by the way—and turned them into revenue producers.” In other words, this practice didn’t change its personnel, and what’s surprising is that the training created “revenue producers” and “brand zealots” using an anti-sales philosophy.

“That’s right, anti-sales.” Zac says, “We never want the staff to sound like they are selling anything. In fact, they are not ‘selling.’ Training is about helping the patient appreciate the quality of care, understand what’s involved in treatment and the support that the office provides each patient. And they set an appointment for the prospective patient in an entirely new way… a patient-centric way.”

The core idea is that the patient can’t benefit from the services of the doctor or the practice over the phone. They can only help the patient once they come into the office, and a first appointment is the beginning of a process of caring for the individual. Onsite staff training—Patient-Centric Scheduling—works from the perspective of helping the patient and boosting revenues for the practice.

Connect with Zac to see how training your team is the proven, pragmatic, foundation for boosting your revenue. www.linkedin.com/pub/zac-wright/37/46a/3b0/

Zac Wright
Difference Maker
(Z) 470.255.2454
(O) 888.296.9545
(F) 866.356.0279
www.newpatientmd.com
Schedule time: https://www.timetrade.com/book/24PZJ

Steps to Increased Revenue When the Phone Rings

Categories: Articles

For a doctor or office administrator, the first red-flag warning sign is when the office phone is ringing, but the inbound inquiry calls are not converting to new patient appointments. The practice was not prepared to handle the calls properly and opportunity was lost.

For one practice, with a typical case size of $2,200-$3,200, it was a huge problem. Fortunately, they saw the symptoms and acted quickly. Many healthcare advertisers—about 90 percent—lose money on the phone with advertising generated inquiries.

In fact, we encounter this problem so frequently that we use a comprehensive rating system to chart and report the effectiveness—or lack of it—in handling initial inquiry calls. We’ll gladly tell you more about how this works, but in outline form, successful practices train employees around a proven process from inquiry to new patient appointment.

There are five core components to the system that are critical for success. Think of these as stages in a process that begins when doctor advertising causes the phone to ring.

  1. EFFECTIVE GREETING: There’s a lot more to it than simply saying “hello.” The key component is “effective;” a call can easily be “DOA” without a proper start.
  2. INFORMATIVE ANSWERS: Surprisingly, staff members may not be prepared, and unscripted and incomplete answers to caller questions erode confidence.
  3. CONTROL OF THE CONVERSATION: A prospective patient probably does not know what to ask or how to progress to the next steps. Guiding the conversation delivers useful information and leads it in the direction of a first appointment.
  4. CAPTURE AN APPOINTMENT: Knowing when and how to “close” and set an appointment is a critical step. (Simply failing to offer an appointment is the number one killer of opportunity.)
  5. FOLLOW-UP: Questions about the patient and their needs and interests help secure the appointment or provide background for a subsequent follow-through with an unscheduled caller.

What’s the score in your medical practice? Are you using a systematic approach that includes these five components? If you are one of the many healthcare providers that is converting only one in ten prospective new patient callers, your physician marketing and advertising dollars are being squandered, and worse, your new business opportunity has the sound of a deeply annoying busy signal. www.linkedin.com/pub/zac-wright/37/46a/3b0/

Zac Wright
Difference Maker
(Z) 470.255.2454
(O) 888.296.9545
(F) 866.356.0279
www.newpatientmd.com
Schedule time: https://www.timetrade.com/book/24PZJ

Build Trust in You and Your Business Through Communities

Categories: Articles

BuildTrustThroughCommunities

Back in the old days of marketing – the 2000s – businesses pushed out a lot of messages to customers, clients and prospects. That approach doesn’t work as well anymore.

While you still need to push out information to introduce yourself and feed the marketplace as well as the search engines, it’s the conversations in the communities of your customers and clients that help people trust in your business. The community dynamic is something you need to understand and embrace as part of your Continuous Improvement Process.

Technology has always played a major role in how businesses communicate, starting with newspapers and magazines. But readers had to take the word of reporters and editors that they printed as the truth. By the 1950s, TV had become commonplace in most homes, and people could say: “I know it’s true because I saw it on TV.”

The Internet opened more direct communications channels for businesses to reach customers. You could publish websites, blogs, newsletters and even news releases. You don’t have an editor from a news outlet as a gatekeeper. You could start Facebook pages and invite friends (who may or may not be customers or clients) to “like” your business.

The common denominator is that you, the business, pushed out all of this information (and opinion) to your market. People sarcastically started to say: “I know it’s true because I saw it on the Internet.”

The problems with past tactics are:

  • Lack of trust of the message
  • Lack of trust of the messenger
  • Not what I need or care about
  • Can’t find your message among the clutter and noise

Today, it’s about communities that build trust in your business and its brand – everything you stand for. In 2014, communities are built on people who know and trust you and your business:

  • Brand advocates
  • Influencers
  • Community members

One way to tap into a community is through LinkedIn groups, where your claims are subject to comment among the group. When people without a stake in your business comment favorably about it or about your message, it gives you credibility. That leads to trust.

Because technology evolves at breakneck speed, your Continuous Improvement Process requires close, regular attention to new developments.

That’s where we come in. Yes, this is about pushing out a message to your company advocates and your community.  When you have the need for marketing solutions but not the time to design and implement them, Niche Labs can your trusted advisor. We are a full-service agency for businesses that don’t have a CMO or VP of Marketing or don’t have enough website development and digital/ direct marketing resources (people or time). 

We can work with you to:

  • Conduct a marketing assessment of your company and its market.
  • Find new customers by increasing website traffic through communities
  • Strengthen your online presence with a new, high quality e-Commerce website or by improving an existing website
  • Engage your new and existing customers with community-building activities

For more tips and insights about digital marketing advancements, connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to read summaries of our weekly posts.

To speak with our team, please Email us at sales@nichelabs.com, call 888.978.9254, or if you are mobile, visit us on your smartphone.  Let’s build a community together.

Provided by Hal Schlenger of NicheLabs,
(770-335-0077 or hschlenger@nichelabs.com)

Lease Language… The Devil is in the Details

Categories: Articles

The focus of most medical lease negotiations is on the business terms and while they are certainly critically important, after coming to agreement on business terms you should not forget to spend the time necessary to negotiate a good lease document. 70 to 80% of any lease document will probably never be used. Most of the language in a lease is like an insurance policy, it is only important if there is an event that invokes it. Many of the non monetary issues are given only cursory attention during the negotiation process.

Among the issues which should be considered are:

Use – Most tenants pay very little attention to the use provision but you should make sure in deciding on the description that it is sufficiently broad to cover all of the things you currently do as well as future services that you may offer as your practice and medicine continue to change. You should also try to keep the use sufficiently broad to allow flexibility in the event you should need or want to sublease in the future.

Permitted and Restricted Uses – Particularly in buildings on hospital campuses but also in buildings which may now have or have in the past had tenants which were owned by hospitals you need to pay particular attention to the Permitted and Restricted Use paragraph. Hospitals in an attempt to drive ancillary services to the hospital have put a range of restrictions on tenants of Medical Office Buildings (MOBs) which they have touched by the hospital either as a tenant or a building owner. Make sure that you will not be restricted from offering a service which may now or in the future be important to your practice. The areas they tend to restrict include imaging services, laboratory services, physical therapy and some types of procedures. Ultrasound, for example, is a procedure which is generally restricted by hospitals but is also frequently used in the normal course of diagnosis by a wide range of specialties. Failing to address any such service which is a restricted use puts you at risk of being declared in default in the future. Also remember that just because the landlord chooses not declare you in default when they discover the violation does not mean they won’t choose to declare you in default at some point in the future.

Damage & Destruction – This paragraph covers damage to the premises which is either partial or total as the result of fire, water damage, acts of nature or terrorism. It is important to remember that this is an issue which effects both the Landlord and the Tenant. There are no winners in negotiating this paragraph, rather it is everyone’s intent that they just survive such an event. The language covering both partial and total damage should specify a reasonable time for reconstruction. Notice of the Landlord’s intent should ideally be given within 30 days but certainly no more than 60 days after the event. This paragraph should also discuss what happens if the Landlord gives notice to the tenant of its intent to reconstruct the space within a certain timeframe and doesn’t follow thru.

Assignment & Subletting- It is important to remember that there is a difference in an assignment and a sublease. In a sublease the tenant brings in a subtenant to share the space or take over the space entirely but in a sublease the original tenant remains liable for the obligations of the lease most notably the monetary obligations. In a true assignment the original tenant is allowed to assign all of it’s rights and obligations including monetary obligations to a substitute tenant. Most Landlords are reluctant to allow for an assignment of a lease because just like a bank they want to keep as much collateral or as many guarantors backing the payment of rent as possible. The landlord should however be willing to allow a sublease provided they approval the substitute tenant’s financials and use of the space. The landlord’s approval should be qualified to say that their approval shall not be unreasonably withheld, restricted or conditioned.

On your next lease hopefully you will spend the necessary time and attention on these and the other non monetary points in the lease to insure that if one of these items occurs that your practice will be able to survive it. The business points are an early measure of negotiating success but careful negotiation of the lease language may ultimately be more indicative of a truly successful lease.

Provided by Stan Sharp, President of HealthOne Realty Advisors.
(770-578-4996 or
ssharp@healthonerealty.com)

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