When the engine goes out on a single-engine plane, one of the first items on the checklist for such an occurrence is FLY THE AIRPLANE. You see, pilots began to realize way back in the ’30s and ’40s that more test pilots were dying than in the past due in large part to the growing complexity of new aircraft. They were a bit uncomfortable with the growing death rate among their peers. So, they developed checklists to help them combat the growing complexity – to remind them of the simple things which can often go overlooked and yield big problems when relying solely on memory, experience, bravado, and improvisation. Now pilots have checklists for everything – pre-flight, landing, for when you’ve lost an engine, etc. These checklists help them remember the simple, yet vital tasks and ensure communication so they can focus on safely flying the airplane. I read about this in an awesome book, The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande. You can check it out here on my reading list. And thanks to the folks at the Levin Group for telling me about this book.
There’s no doubt that marketing in the dental industry is more complex than it used to be. A dental marketing checklist may have once looked like: Direct mail – check; trade shows – check; Ads – check; sporadic email blasts – check.
Now we have so many options and competition to contend with. Dare I even mention social media? Our marketing world has become complex enough to warrant some simple marketing checklists. As with the flight example, split your checklists up into pre-, during, post, and possibly even some special “emergency” cases. Here is my very first attempt at a dental marketer’s pre-campaign checklist for a new marketing campaign:
- Protect your core strategies – If something is working well, don’t mess with it
- DO SOMETHING – This is my version of FLY THE AIRPLANE. Don’t get so caught up in trying to make it so perfect that you become distracted from actually executing.
- Determine measurable objectives of the new campaign
- Determine appropriate communication techniques
- Ensure communication tactics are integrated with clear, consistent messaging
- Obtain buy-in from sales
- Achieve consensus with sales on how all those leads will be handled
- Alter/augment based on the measurements – This last step might be the 1st in a checklist for the “during” phase of the marketing campaign.
Obviously I’ve left some items out, such as “Obtain buy-in from management” and “Adhere to budget”. Checklists cannot be all-encompassing. A good checklist is a vehicle for communication within a team and helps remind people of the necessary tasks while leaving room for improvisation when needed and appropriate. A good checklist is also short enough to convey the key points without distracting the user.
Pilots, construction teams, and surgeons use checklists to help them deal with the ever-increasing complexity of their challenges and professions. Why should marketers be any different? Our little dental industry is evolving and becoming more complex too. What do you think of using checklists in dental marketing? Have you developed any checklists for your own use? I look forward to your feedback.
Thanks for this excellent post.
I haven’t yet read “The Checklist Manifesto” but I am a die-hard check list maker. However where this method goes awry is when market research, strategic development and setting tangible business objectives are not at the top of the “uber list”. There are far too many marketing robots who think they are doing a great job because they created a task list and checked off the tasks. To me, it’s kind of like self-testing where you develop your own questions, answer them one-by-one and then post your perfect grade on the refrigerator so to speak.
Thanks for the note. I think your comments are spot on. Checklists can be valuable tools for marketers provided they are used thoughtfully as aids towards accomplishing strategic objectives.
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