I am a firm believer in the increasing importance of educating and targeting healthcare consumers as part of a well-rounded marketing plan. I advocate providing consumer-level educational materials provided they can be tied directly to the branding efforts of the healthcare provider.
Research shows that 75 percent of people are using the Internet for health information, while 77 percent are getting knowledge from physicians. Additionally, about 40 percent turn to family and friends, while publications such as journals and books serve as a significant resource for 35 percent. According to a recent RAND health study, people surfing the web for health information are much more likely to use a search engine than go to a particular web site, but when they type in "diabetes" in Google, they are likely to get more than 6 million links.
I present the above situation as a case of client information overload that might call for the creation of a more structured form of patient information delivery. While it is definitely true that sifting through several million links could qualify as "information overload", rather than develop new ways of reaching consumers, some healthcare marketers are instead using search engine marketing techniques to place their web sites at the top of the rankings for these patient searches.
BAC Medical Marketing targets exactly this opportunity and our healthcare clients can attest to the effectiveness of these search engine marketing strategies. As a result of our marketing efforts, their patients are finding the information they need and our healthcare clients are realizing an excellent return on their advertising investment.
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.
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.