OK, we lied. The steps below aren’t easy. But, here are the things that, if you do them well, will solidify the marketing of your practice for years to come.
1. Build Your Brand for the Long Haul
Your brand is a lot more than the name outside your building. The biggest component here is understanding what sets you apart – what we call “differentiators” – and promoting those to prospective patients. Every surgeon says they deliver excellent results and have happy patients. You need to dig deeper. What do you do that’s unique? A custom version of a popular procedure? A premium, spa-like facility? Find these things and promote them anytime you can.
The best branding strategies take into account short-term differentiators and also set the stage for long-term growth and awareness. Logos change a bit over time, names often become shorter or punchier. And importantly in the medical space, doctors get older. There are many good reasons for your name to be the name on your practice. And there are many good reasons to build a brand distinct from your name. Building a brand distinct from your own identity gives you a valuable asset that can be transitioned, sold, or expanded down the road.
2. Delight Prospects as Well as Current Patients
Your business has many “touchpoints” online. These are places where prospects and existing patients may interact with you. Your website is a major touchpoint, but also think about social media channels, review sites, apps and local listings. Your goal should be to put together a consistent, engaging message across all these touchpoints.
A new patient will often hit several touchpoints to learn more about your practice. They might start with reviews, then check before and after photos on your website, then visit a few of your social channels to get a better sense of your vibe. Only then will they send an email or pick up the phone to request a consultation.
Keep in mind that it’s not just new patients connecting with you online. Your existing patient base is an important marketing asset – stay top of mind with them through email newsletters, text specials, targeted PPC ads and other channels.
3. Make Sure Your SEO is A-OK
SEO is about a lot more than slapping some popular keywords on your website. Your real goal is to be worthy of Google ranking you. What that takes is a complex mix of online tactics, offline customer service, and marketing savvy. Here are some factors that can influence your ranking on Google:
- Excellent reviews and ratings on multiple platforms
- An identifiable brand that matches up with the quality of service you deliver
- Web links to show you are relevant and have something unique to offer
- Impressive services and a warm, inviting office setting
- A full profile on Google My Business and other local listings sites
- Social media presence and engagement
- A fast-loading site that throws no errors on desktop or mobile
4. Have a Social Strategy
Posting photos, videos, stories and events on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is important to keep your practice looking fresh online. But these days, there’s more to it. Paid placement on social media is a necessary evil and needs to be part of your social strategy. Social platforms have a practically endless ability to carve up users and target interests – for the right price.
So you just need to hit “Boost Post” when you post to your business page, right? Not exactly. Boosting key posts with offers or other valuable info makes sense so you can reach a larger audience. But to build your fanbase, it takes a broader strategy that includes content calendaring to create buzz, PPC to reach new people, and active engagement with fans to build a loyal community.
5. Encourage Reviews and Respond to Feedback
Most doctors worry about getting negative reviews. And honestly, no matter how good you are, some negative reviews will roll in. But we prefer to take a more positive spin on reputation management so that you can make the most of online reviews.
- Drown out the cranks: Having a few 1-star reviews mixed in with many raving 5-star reviews actually helps to make all your reviews feel authentic. No one expects 5 stars across the board. Just make sure you’re getting lots of happy patients to post reviews too.
- Hear constructive criticism: Not every 1- or 2-star review is written by a grumpy troll. Sometimes, you fail people. If that happened, apologize, see what you can do internally to do better next time, and publicly post about what you’ve changed.
- Don’t discount word of mouth: Even if only a small fraction of your happy patients are writing reviews online, many others will be telling friends and family. It’s easy to feel frustrated that more reviews aren’t coming in, but by continually asking for reviews/feedback, acknowledging patient birthdays and special events, and sending appointment reminders, you’re keeping the relationship going and you’ll be top of mind when your patient’s friend or family member is looking for a referral.
6. Invest in Your Staff
Most doctors think they have a pretty good team working for them. And that may be true. But as hard as it is sometimes, it’s worth taking a cold, close look at your staff to see where you can help them do better. Because even rock-star practice managers and killer front office staff need direction and feedback so they have the tools to up their game.
Enlist your team to help you identify pain points and missed opportunities. Maybe someone has an idea for better phone coverage over lunch. Or they want to add a new scheduling widget to your EMR. Or they heard about a class on improving consultation-to-patient conversion. Encourage new ideas and new ways of doing things. Training, encouragement, vision, and support are critical components of any sound healthcare marketing strategy.
7. Pay for Online Impressions (PPC)
We touched on PPC a bit above in the section on social media. But the reality is that pay-to-play is the name of the game pretty much everywhere that counts online. You’re probably most familiar with the pay-per-click (PPC) ads in Google’s search results. But almost all online platforms offer some type of paid placement to get you more eyeballs.
Clients often come to us asking if a particular paid marketing opportunity is “worth it.” This pretty much always boils down to a pretty easy calculation. Are you likely to make more from new patients than the advertising opportunity costs you? If so, how much? We usually like to see a return on investment proposition of 5X to 10X to indicate that a paid marketing opportunity is worthwhile.
8. Explore Traditional Advertising Media
We’ll keep this one short and sweet because 1. it’s not really what we do, and 2. it has less and less relevance for most healthcare practices. Advertising on radio, billboards, newspapers or TV can be a big expense, but if you’re careful, it might be a smart buy. Every one of these traditional outlets has sales reps who are trying to dig their claws in and make a sale. It’s almost never a good idea to advertise because of a solicitation you received. And also don’t put up a billboard just because your competition across town did. Think about where the people are who you want to reach and look at which options will be the best fit for your own practice.
9. Connect with Colleagues
Networking with friends in your profession can pay many dividends. You can hear what’s working for other practices, what new devices or procedures are getting buzz, and collaborate on articles, PR events, and more. LinkedIn groups and other online forums can help you stay in touch. Just be careful – just because something worked for your colleague in Cincinnati, that doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon too.
10. Measure to Find What’s Working…and What’s Not
You have almost unlimited marketing opportunities, but not every one of them will be a slam dunk for your practice. For online leads and revenue, we recommend tracking performance primarily through Google Analytics. You can easily set up goals to track which investments are bringing you the most new patients, and you can sharpen that even further by utilizing user-identifiable lead and call tracking.
Offline marketing efforts make tracking harder, but custom url’s and phone numbers can be a big help. Word of mouth is also notoriously hard to track – and be careful about patient surveys asking how they first heard about you. While these surveys appear to give you objective data, keep in mind that self-reporting is not very reliable.