Before I jump into discussing the best online medical marketing idea, let me first identify the parameters which are critical for online medical marketing success. This is based on hundreds of hours of medical marketing research. As a medical doctor, what you want is an online marketing strategy that is (a) very low-cost, (b) has a very consistent pattern of bringing you new patients who are searching for medical services in your area, (c) something that is very easy to implement, and (d) something which is an ongoing process that does not require constant fiddling on your part.
The amazing thing is that the medical marketing idea I am about to share addresses all of these issues with respect to medical marketing media. It is without doubt the single best way to market your practice. In fact, prior to the Internet, accomplishing these goals was quite expensive, time-consuming and onerous for medical doctors.
I want you to imagine the following scenario. You have two or three patients in a day who are happy and delighted that you are their medical doctor. They are the kind of patients who would go home and tell their family or friends about you if someone asked them, “Do you have a physician to recommend?” Their response would be your name. Right now most medical practices are not leveraging that potential positive word-of-mouth in a way that brings them new patients.
A medical practice can facilitate this word of mouth by asking patients to visit their own medical review site. At this review site patients could share their feedback. The practice in this scenario would decide which reviews get pushed out onto the Internet for other prospective patients to see.
In the course of one month, you will have scores and scores of favorable reviews. This will be excellent intelligent medical marketing material for other prospective patients trying to see. Such medical office marketing will make you more visible on the Internet and prompt new patients to visit you. Your patients will do the work of writing the copy and the material that is necessary to attract new patients.
Because there are a couple of services out there that let you create your own review site, you will have the option of whether to work with a medical marketing firm or not. Did I just say that you won’t need BAC Medical Marketing’s assistance? I guess I did, at least as it relates to this one particular area! Your review site can be put on the Internet in minutes. From that point forward you will be in position to control which reviews are put online.
By creating content which is changing and reflects the firsthand experience of your existing patients, you will be in a position to rise very high in search engine rankings. Search engines love content which is changing and growing and reflects what people who are searching want to see. And there is nothing that appeals more to a patient trying to figure out which medical doctor to visit than to hear the actual firsthand experience of a physician’s patient. Medical marketing has never been better or easier.
The USA Today recently published a good article summarizing the phenomenon of online reviews. As we’ve highlighted before, traffic to local business maps and reviews sites is growing at an incredible rate, and most local search properties now offer the ability for users to rate and review local businesses, including dental, chiropractic, podiatric and other medical practices. The number of reviews online is also growing fast, with some sites claiming hundreds of thousands of reviews.
Thus, managing and soliciting reviews is a critical part of the online marketing mix that also includes creating an effective practice web site, driving traffic to your web site, measuring and tracking results, and managing online listings. Studies have shown that a majority of searchers for local businesses will read reviews about a business before making a decision, and many consumers’ decisions on providers are affected by reviews. We’ve also seen evidence that having many reviews from a large variety of sources can also help a practice web site or practice directory listing rank highly in search engines’ local category searches, which increases visibility of the practice and helps to drive traffic and ultimately patients.
Actively managing your review profile should include actively soliciting good customers to write reviews of your practice online, paying attention to reviews that are written about your practice on the various directories, and responding to both positive and negative reviews that are out there. Doing this properly can take some time, but in the end it can have big payoffs in terms of a positive online reputation for your practice, greater visibility on the web, and ultimately more traffic to your website and patients in your office. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, this is a service that BAC Medical Marketing offers to our physician, dental and chiropractic clients.
In the last few years there has been a dramatic shift in the way people are utilizing the Internet to acquire information – so much so, in fact, that the expectations of Internet users are actually changing. Companies looking to market their products and services on the web can no longer rely on a broadcast approach to target their audience and drive revenue. Largely due to the influence of social media applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, consumers are now looking to “participate,” thus forcing companies to embrace new, relationship-based, online marketing initiatives.
The good news is that technology has kept pace with the surging need for social media solutions. There are literally thousands of applications available (blogs, surveys, wikis, online chats, etc.) to help marketers engage and interact with their customers online. Unfortunately, with this sudden influx of available (and often free) online tools, enthusiastic executives tend to over-react and blindly task their sales and customer service staff with the responsibility of implementing as many “Web 2.0” tools as possible. This non-specific approach is a trend that in these tough economic times can often prove unsuccessful.
Companies need to carefully consider their commitment before jumping on the social media bandwagon. Often the decision to implement a trendy new marketing strategy is driven by fear – fear of missing out, losing market share, or getting lost in the ever-changing landscape of strategic marketing solutions. Fear-driven responses, however, generally don’t solve much. In fact, lack of planning and blind acceptance of what the competition is embracing can be costly and ineffective.
Implementing and maintaining a useful social media strategy can be time consuming to say the least. Further, it requires a knowledge base and skill set that may not match that of the staff tasked with the responsibility of getting it done. Worse, if done poorly, it could backfire and damage your brand! Companies must consider the new roles and responsibilities that come with implementing this sort of initiative – especially if it is to be handled in-house.
We all know that developing strategic marketing initiatives is a must for running (and growing) a successful business – especially these days, during a recession. At a time when every dollar matters, shouldn’t marketing solutions actually solve something? Stay tuned for more on this later … In the meantime, ask yourself:
• Is my company really ready to engage in a social media strategy? And more important, will our customers actually engage?
• How will we measure success? Do we know how?
• What applications are most appropriate for our target audience? Will a blog, wiki, or RSS Feed actually be effective?
A social media strategy can prove enormously successful and rewarding if managed correctly; but it MUST add value. Before attempting to leverage Web 2.0 applications, be sure the answer is YES!
What to have on your web site:
Make sure that your web site is designed with the priorities of your practice in mind. These priorities should be a key focus of your design and accentuated to be easily viewed by your audience.
Different ideas and components should be separated on your site with boxes, colors or lines for different elements of your practice. There needs to be a clear distinction between the differing ideas you are attempting to express in your web site.
“Call to action”:
This is a clear directive given by you to encourage your audience to take immediate action. It is often displayed as an icon or form, photo gallery or blog. Instead of having a link that says “contact us”, you can entice viewers with something more proactive, such as “Click here for a free consultation.” By doing so, you are inviting the viewer to contact you immediately so that they can get started at their earliest convenience, thereby helping to speed the process of building up your clientele. Providing perks, such as free consultations, can often help viewers decide to pursue your practice.
Areas on your web site that are most important to your practice should be spotlighted. In determining the priorities of your practice, the most important aspects should be highlighted so that the viewer knows what services your practice provides.
If your practice is in medicine, try to build a web site that is clean and crisp with bright colors. Use secondary colors to show areas that can be clicked on. If the design appears too cluttered and messy, it may send the wrong message about your practice to potential clients.
These components should be avoided since they may be deemed as a turn off by your specific audience:
People have their own opinions as to the type of music that they find enjoyable. For some, listening to music when they view a web site can be considered annoying. People may also research your practice while they are at work where it may be an inappropriate time to listen to music. Music can be an effective feature on movie web sites, since the soundtrack is often what makes a film so spectacular but for practice web sites, information is key.
Splash Page/Enter Site:
Years ago this was a popular style used for most web sites. Now, it is not only an extra click of the mouse, but lacks the links that search engines love. You only have a limited time to grab your visitors and bring them into your site. The goal, in designing your site, is to make sure that what your visitors came to the site for is on the first page. Eliminating the splash page help keep viewers captivated by what your site has to offer for a longer period of time.
Different web technologies and design styles have come and gone over the course of time; some proving to be timeless and others leaving the scene as quickly as they arrived. It is important to recognize that the styles that are no longer considered ideal were perhaps not used appropriately by practices and businesses, thus turning off their respective audiences.
In order to maintain a functional and current web site, you should balance classic design techniques with the latest web site technology. Your visitor should be able to navigate your web site with ease and be conveniently guided to the priorities and defining characteristics of your practice. By highlighting these components, viewers are more likely to contact you to schedule an appointment or seek out additional information. Remembering these simple tips and suggestions, to improve the overall appearance, functionality and presentation of your web site will help keep your site current and refreshed for your general audience of web viewers.
In the early days of the web, many sites were created with the simple idea of establishing a presence on a new medium. Other sites were created with the idea of generating new business or fulfilling some other business function, but little was known about how people used the web and what strategies would maximize the effectiveness of a web site.
Eventually, web sites began to give more focus to attracting visitors and getting these visitors to take action. With a lack of detailed tracking, these marketing efforts were difficult to measure and adjust. The booming market in search advertising helped fuel the creation of modern analytics software which gave web sites the ability to segment their audience and truly evaluate their marketing campaigns. This not only gave advertisers a level of tracking unavailable in any other form of advertising, it also furthered the science of creating web sites by giving designers a better understanding of how to build sites for maximum effectiveness.
The future of the web will focus highly on action-oriented web sites which are tested and adjusted, over time, to maximize performance. Software is already available that allows for sophisticated methods of testing different designs, layouts, and text, ultimately determining what makes a website more effective.
We’re not at a stage where it is practical or cost effective for small businesses to conduct this level of testing and analysis, but clearly a lot has changed in how sites are created today based on what the past has taught us. By taking a fresh look at your old web site and defining a better strategy, determining the needs of your target market, and meeting those needs with strong calls to action, the finished product will be a site design which is better oriented toward achieving your goals.
Defining a strategy: What do you want your visitors to do?
If you’re currently thinking about a redesign, now would be a good time to take a fresh look at your existing web site and how it relates to your practice. Before even thinking about colors, layout, and content, you need to determine what you want your web site to do. What is the overall goal of your web site and what action(s) do you want visitors to take when they arrive?
If you have an insurance based practice then you may want to inform and educate existing patients. You may also want to encourage them to download patient history forms. For a marketing oriented practice, you most likely want to drive potential patients to contact you via telephone or a contact form. Determining the end result of what you want visitors to do will help ensure that your site focuses on directing people toward that action.
What are the needs of your target market?
Obviously the visitors to your web site have medical needs which direct them to research a procedure/treatment. What information do they need to explore before taking that next step in contacting you?
Education on procedures & treatments * Comfort with your experience/credentials * Examples of your work (for cosmetic practices) * Testimonials * Financial information (insurances accepted, available financing, discount programs) * Contact information
The priority of these items can vary depending upon the target market, but potential patients will clearly want to seek out this information before contacting you. In most cases, the critical needs to fulfill revolve around demonstrating what makes you and your practice appealing, credible, and personal. By understanding these needs you can funnel your visitors into taking action.
Getting your visitors to take action
One part of the battle is getting people to come to your web site; the next part is getting them to take action. This is where you need to spell out what makes you different (unique selling proposition). Visitors to your site will most likely shop around and visit the sites of other practices. You need to show them what makes your practice special, whether it’s a unique approach to treatments, exceptional credentials, impeccable work, or special offers and unique financing arrangements.
If the goal of your web site is for potential patients to contact you, a special offer or promotion is a sure way of getting more people to take that step, especially if the offer has a timeframe that inspires people to ‘act now’. Even basic steps, like making your contact information more visible, can have a dramatic effect on the amount of contact you receive. Your phone number should be large and visible and repeated multiple times throughout each page of your site. The links to your contact form should stand out from the rest, and even better, you should have a small contact form on every page of your site. In most cases, the majority of people land on an interior page of the site, not the homepage, so consider that as well when placing a promotion or making a decision regarding the design of your site.
Ultimately, you have to find what’s right for your practice and your market; there is no one size fits all solution. The web is a living thing in a constant state of evolution and needs to be treated as such. Updating your site, on a regular basis, not only helps you keep up with these changing times, it can also have a dramatic effect on the new business it generates.
Existing patients are an extremely valuable group to market to and communicating with them effectively not only increases return visits, but also the likelihood that they will refer others in their network to your practice. Here are some different avenues you can explore to make the most of your existing client base.
Make the most of your web site. By now you know your web site is a tool with many purposes. It’s a way to generate business by attracting new patients; it can help reduce overhead and lessen the burden on your administrative staff, and is a living resume that details your accomplishments and credentials. However, your site can also be a tool for keeping patients informed and involved in your practice.
How can you effectively do this? First and foremost, you need to make your site a resource so patients want to come back. Post informative articles in your blog with timely information that is of interest to your patients, list special offers that change on a regular basis, and keep patients informed of news that they should be aware of.
Your web site should be a center point of all of your marketing opportunities. Keep this in mind so your site not only communicates with potential patients, but also meets the needs of your existing patients.
Build up your referral network. Everyone has heard of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Myspace but many assume they can’t benefit their practice. Realistically, these sites can be great ways to not only network with your existing patients, but also to gain new ones by getting your face in front of their friends and colleagues. Most practices rely heavily on referrals. By taking advantage of these tools you can kick that part of your practice into high gear.
Here are some tips on how doctors are finding success with these sites:
Focus your energy on one site – You need to put work into these ‘virtual relationships’ the same way you do in real life, so focus your limited time on one site. Choose the site that you feel best fits your practice or the site you know many of your patients are on. Keep people informed about what is happening in your practice – New service offerings, changes in staff. New equipment can also be a reason to communicate with your network and make yourself visible. Communicate your specials, putting balance in your communication – Special offers, patient appreciation days, and events can be great ways to entice people to pay you a visit, but fight off the temptation to bombard your network with pitch after pitch. Make sure these are sandwiched between helpful information that makes you appear as both an authority and as a resource. Having trouble coming up with an appropriate offer? Look at your competitor’s web sites, print ads, and paid search ads to see what they are doing. At the very least you will see what they are promoting, and this is a great way of coming up with offers that are not only appropriate but competitive. Post photos/news that personalizes you, but are not personal – Use your judgment in posting personal information about yourself. It’s nice to let people know you are a real person with a photo of you hitting the slopes, but you may want to avoid posting photos of you attending a friend’s birthday party. Take advantage of the different widgets that are offered – Facebook allows you to build specific pages for your practice, its related events and important dates. You can post videos on your pages, create special forums, and have your blog postings inserted into your profile using RSS feeds. Use email to communicate with existing patients Email Marketing is one of the most affordable and effective means of communicating with your patients. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to easily target and track your campaigns at a high level in order to maximize results.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of this marketing medium:
Make sure you gather email addresses – This would seem obvious, but you need to make collecting email addresses a priority throughout your practice. Whether it’s through electronic forms on your web site, paper forms within your office, or other means of collecting data, building up a patient database is a valuable asset that needs to be taken advantage of. Segment your audience – Having these email addresses in a database along with other information can allow you to segment people into multiple groups. The groups can be as broad as existing patients and potential patients to as narrow as age groups, gender, treatment history, treatment interests, and/or a combination of the above. These segments help you avoid sending announcements to people they don’t pertain to, and more importantly, the exercise of creating them can give you a better idea of who your patients really are. Know your audience, and tailor your message to them – Wwhether you’re announcing a patient appreciation special, a new service, or just sending a general newsletter you need to entice people to go to your web site for more information. The more tailored your emails are to your audience, the more likely they are to take action and show interest in what you have to say and what you have to offer. Measure the results – As with everything else web related, there are endless opportunities to test and track results. From step one you can conduct subject line testing to maximize open rates. You can then track how many people click over to your site and what they do when they get there. This information can be used to improve future campaigns and further customize the emails and the site to your audience ultimately helping you achieve your goals.
BAC Medical Marketing offers an email marketing service but there are other companies out there that allow you to manage the process yourself. Constant Contact is a service that has gained a lot of popularity in this arena. They allow you to manage your list, send emails using predefined templates, and track the results. Be sure when your are using these services that you are portraying a professional image consistent with the rest of your branding. As with any do-it-yourself project, it’s also important to track your own time to ensure you are not spending more money by doing it yourself than you would by having hired a professional.
Blogs are great tools for maximizing the effectiveness of your web site. They allow you to quickly and easily add content, build up the size of your site and keep postings fresh for a low cost. Blogs are what you make of them; there is not one specific way they have to be used or a schedule you need to keep up with. You just need to be clear with their capabilities and develop a strategy that fits the goals of your practice.
Below are some ways you can use a blog as a marketing vehicle for your practice. You can use some or all of these ideas to help build your own blogging strategy. Over time you will begin to discover the value of having a blog associated with your web site.
Establish yourself as an authority
Posting informative articles and opinion pieces can further enhance your professional credibility. For those visitor’s, who don’t know about your practice, part of your web site goals should be convincing them that you have a thorough knowledge of your field. A blog can be used to supplement a basic bio or curriculum vitae by showcasing your knowledge and expertise. Making these articles timely shows that you are keeping up-to-date with the latest innovations in your field and that you have an opinion and insight beyond what is reported in a news broadcast or headline.
Keep potential patients informed about what is happening in your practice
Highlighting new equipment, new staff and new treatments, as an example, shows visitors that your practice is current, evolving and fresh. Spotlighting events related to you and your practice can help to establish a personal connection with the visitor and boost their perception of your image before meeting you.
Help patients relate to procedures/treatments
Before and after galleries have become common place on the web sites of many medical and dental practices. For certain specialties, patients expect to see these photos and use them not only to judge the quality of your work but also as a way of relating to the past patients you have. Blogs can be used to highlight cases with photos along with an actual story of the patient that describes them, what procedure they had, why they chose to have the procedure and the outcome. These more detailed cases can further help potential patients relate to you, your practice, and the work you perform.
Highlight philanthropic work
Many doctors will often work with charities that care for people that are less fortunate. Some of our clients have travelled great distances to other countries in order to help with certain relief efforts and medical causes. Rather than simply mentioning this somewhere on your web site, where people may or may not notice it, these charitable activities can be further addressed on your blog.
You can post a simple article, complete with photos, that helps tell the story. You also have the option of posting an elaborate diary, complete with periodic posts, which truly describe your experience.
Not only does this show potential patients that you give back to the community, but it makes for interesting reading.
Entice potential patients to take action
There’s nothing like a special offer to get people to take action. A blog is a great vehicle for publishing these incentives on your web site. You or a member of your staff have the ability to log in at any time and make updates to keep special offers fresh and timely relative to events, seasons and holidays. You can detail reward programs for patient referrals, along with mentioning patients who have benefited from these programs. If offers and incentives don’t apply to your practice, be creative and think of other ways you can inspire people to come to your office. For example, if you are a family doctor writing an article about the flu season ties in with the benefits of getting a flu shot. The end of the article can then have a link to your contact form with a call to action "Book your flu shot appointment today!". There are ways to market any type of specialty, with some creativity and brainstorming you can uncover strategies that apply to your practice.
Make Your Web Site ‘One With Your Blog’
All BAC Medical Marketing's blogs are designed to integrate into the design of your web site. This ensures that your blog has the same look and feel as the rest of your web site thereby preventing your potential patient from being confused when they enter the blog. With a little creativity you can further integrate your blog into your web site.
By making categories within your blog, you can incorporate these categories within the main navigation of your site. For example, rather than having a standard link to your blog which reads ‘Blog’, you can have a link that says ‘Monthly Specials’. This can link to the monthly specials category within your blog. When visitors click the "Monthly Specials" link, they will be brought to all of the current monthly special postings in your blog.
Integrating the blog into your web site allows you to have multiple sections in your site that are updated, by you, with timely and fresh information. Putting a link within the main navigation of your site highlights the content and informs potential patients it exists and allows them to travel to it directly. Otherwise, someone would have to go to your blog first to even know that there were monthly specials within it.
Enhance the visibility of your web site
Arguably the biggest benefit of adding a blog to your web site is in regard to search engine optimization (SEO). Over time, blogs will build up the total size of your site because each time you post an article to your blog it creates an additional page on your site. Not only does this help your site, as a whole, become more ‘authoritative’ to Google, the additional content gives you new opportunities to be found for a variety of searches - ultimately driving people to the main areas of your web site.
Maximize the SEO benefit of your blog by doing the following:
Posting Frequently - More is better! Every time you post to your
blog, you are creating an additional page on your site. The more pages you have out there indexed by Google, the better chance you have for potential patients finding your site. Lengthy postings - You should try to make your posts several paragraphs long rather than short one paragraph. This gives individual pages a good amount of content for search engines to index. Add content with keywords - Mention the procedure and/or keyword along with the market you are targeting (i.e. Manhattan) several times within your post. You can also mention variations of the procedure and location within the post (abdominoplasty vs. tummy tuck or New York City vs. Manhattan). An even better strategy would be to create separate posts to focus on these variations so they are more specifically focused and targeted. Title your posting - The title of the blog post is the most important element of your posting and should contain the subject (keyword) the post is focused on as well as the location. This element will not only dictate the heading of the article, but also the name of the page and the title of the page. Naming your categories - Articles should be posted in appropriate categories by selecting or adding them when you create your blog posts. These categories should be keyword-rich as well because they are included in the URL and will ultimately help your blog’s SEO. If you follow these guidelines your blog will definitely improve the visibility of your site over time.
Find what works best for your practice
You know your practice best and have the capability to develop a successful blogging strategy that works for you. For many doctors, their time is limited so it’s important to use that time wisely.
Having a plan in place is a good step toward doing just that, and part of that plan should include how and when these articles will be written. You may decide to be the sole author or choose to have your staff post them and submit to you for approval. Whether you commit an hour a month or several hours a day, your web site and your practice will benefit over time.
What are Blogs?
Blogs are web logs that are updated on a regular basis by their author. They can contain information related to a specific topic. In some cases blogs are used as daily diaries about people’s personal lives, political views, or even as social commentaries. The truth of the matter is that blogs can be shaped into whatever you, the author, want them to be.
Blog’s give you an opportunity to write content that is unique to you and your practice. While some people are uncomfortable with self promotion, your blog gives you an occasion to interact with your visitors while promoting who you are and what you do.
Today blog’s are being used for all sorts of purposes. You have companies that use blogs to communicate and interact with customers and other stake holders. Newspapers incorporate blogs to their main website to offer a new channel for their writers. Individuals also created blogs to share with the world their expertise on specific topics. And so on.
How do you get people to read your blog?
One of the ways to attract readers to your blog is to title your postings so that you can get their attention and draw them in to your blog. Take into consideration the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), when you are writing in your blog, so that you can bring in traffic not only to your blog but to your site. A prime example is a blog entry for abcplasticsurgeon.com entitled “Botox Safety”. Dr. Smith has placed tags such as Botox, Plastic Surgery, Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles on his blog thereby boosting his SEO presence.
Where Did Blogs Come From?
The roots of blogging can be traced back to the mid 1990’s. Who the very first blogger was is actually unclear, as the art of blogging did not really take hold until 1999. The original "weblogs" were link-driven sites with personal commentaries. The very first blogs were human guided Internet web tours. While initially thought of as diaries or online journals, blogs have evolved into the latest fresh web content.
Why is Blogging Helpful to Businesses or Individuals?
Just as having an animated image was once cool, blogging has become the trendy thing to do. That does not mean that it is not beneficial to businesses. Businesses struggling to keep fresh, attractive content on their websites to lure visitors back, have found blogs the answer. Content is a necessity for online businesses, both for purposes of being found by search engines but also because it gives visitors a reason to come back.
Blogs & Your Business
You need to determine how a blog will benefit your practice. Establish a schedule to keep your blog current and adhere to it. Let your readers know what to expect and when to expect it. Blogs provide great supplemental content and direct attention to areas of your practice that you may want to showcase by letting you direct the content and having your readers guide you.
The Future of Blogs
While trendy, "blogging" is the wave of the future. Whether it’s a fad, or proves to be a new way to communicate with existing and potential customers it deserves a serious look at the very least.
What are the differences between the blogs we create for our clients and external blog companies?
Look and feel – you can customize an external blog to a certain extent. BAC Medical Marketing's blogs are integrated seamlessly into your site so that it follows the same design as the rest of your site. Domain – the external blog company domain is specific to their hosting. This is a means to direct visitor’s to their site with your blog as an afterthought.
For example, the domain you would establish with them would be: externalcompanydomain.blogspot.com. The blog you have with BAC Medical Marketing would be: yourdomainname.com/blog. Limitations of external blog –There is no real method of tracking the traffic to your blog or a means of submitting your blog to search engines. Remember, with the blog hosted on their site, you would really be tracking the traffic to their main site.