Developing a comprehensive marketing plan for your medical practice can be daunting. With so many marketing and advertising channels to consider, many find it hard to simply get started. When creating a medical practice marketing roadmap, we recommend breaking it down into 4 pillars. These include building an incredible foundation, gaining visibility on page 1 of Google, building brand awareness and re-engaging your audience. By tackling these four pillars, your practice will be set up to successfully grow in your local market.
Chapter 1: Build an Incredible Foundation
Building a great foundation is critical if you desire to win in the long-run. Just like constructing a home, without a strong foundation, you’ll likely face challenges and more expenses down the road. A strong marketing foundation should include building a great website, claiming business listings and social media channels, and creating a cohesive brand that resonates with your ideal customer profile.
Tip 1: Create an online foundation that delivers a great user experience for prospective patients.
No endeavor has ever been successful without a solid foundation. Much like your practice’s physical locations, your online marketing efforts must have a firm footing from which to grow. That’s where your website comes in. You not only need a website that makes it easy for visitors to convert into patients, but also one that’s set up to support great rankings on Google.
Let’s dive into some specifics that separate the average website and a great website.
It’s gotta look great. You could have the #1 practice in the world, staffed by doctors who’ve cured cancer and created the Anti-Aging Pill, but if your website doesn’t look professional, modern, and attractive, you’ll be missing out on business. This is your home on the Internet, and it needs to represent your practice as accurately as possible.
- User Experience
While the design is incredibly important, you’ll miss the mark if your website is difficult to use, understand or navigate. Best practice is to group content and pages in a logical and efficient manner, naming menu items in a way that makes sense, organizing certain actions a user could take in a step-by-step fashion, and generally reducing Cognitive Load – basically, don’t make your visitors think!
Content is King for many reasons. One reason is that website content provides information for Google to absorb. For example, depending on your practice’s particular goals, content can be written with certain Keywords and Phrases in mind, in an effort to make your website appear when users are using those Keywords in their Google searches. Beyond this, there are other intangible benefits to professionally-written website content such as demonstrating expertise in your field and generally speaking to a level of care and detail that translates over into your practice as a whole.
- Website Speed
You and your practice can always make more money but you can’t make more time – it’s the single most valuable resource in the world. If visitors wait for even a handful of seconds for a website to fully load and become usable (this is called “Time-To-Interactive”), they leave, simple as that. That’s why website speed is so important. Even with the most effective online marketing campaign(s), if visitors arrive and your website is slow, it’s likely your visitor will bounce and search for a different option.
Tip 2: Claim your Google My Business Account – and optimize it!
When you’re opening your practice it’s important that you create a Google Business Listing. If you already have a practice and haven’t claimed your Google Business Listing, go ahead and take care of that by typing in your business name alongside your city and state into Google. Chances are, you’ll see your business listing on the right side of Google (show graphic of GBL). Within the listing, you’ll see “Claim this Listing” at which point you can follow the prompts to claim it.
So why is it important to have a Google Business Listing? With a Google Business Listing you can show up on Google Maps as well as in the map section on Page 1 of Google when someone “Google’s” services you offer. In fact, having a claimed business listing that is optimized, has accurate information, and shows positive 5-star reviews can help you gain more page 1 visibility when someone is searching for services you provide.
Interested in setting up a Google Business Listing? The process takes a week or two but is pretty simple. Go to Google Business Listing, click on Sign In. Follow the steps to set up your business and Google will send you a postcard within 7-14 days with a code. Once you receive the code, you’ll need to go back to your Google Business Listing account and verify your business by inserting the code. Voila! You’re now online.
Here are a few ways to optimize your Google Business Listing to take advantage of the benefits it offers:
- Ensure your practice name, address and phone number within your GMB matches the name, phone number, and address on your website. Google doesn’t like to be confused; it may just negatively affect your rankings if Name, Address, and Phone numbers (NAP) aren’t exactly the same.
- Update your Business Categories and Services. Within the Category and Service sections you have the ability to add the main services that your practice offers. This will help tell Google the services you offer for when someone does a Google search for the services you provide.
- Set-up text messaging so that your business listing visitors can text directly with you. It’s important to optimize your patients’ experience by giving them the tools to contact you the way they prefer.
- Upload your logo and don’t be afraid to upload a large number of images. According to Search Engine Land research, there is a strong correlation between the number of images you have on your Google Business Listing and the number of clicks, website visits and click for directions you’ll receive.
- Consistently ask for online reviews. With more 5 star reviews, your business stands a greater chance to show up in the map section when someone is searching for a practice like yours. These map section clicks tend to be very valuable as prospective patients click to visit your website and/or call directly from Google.
Tip 3: Create Social Profiles
Did you know that Google crawls social media profiles the same way as websites? Not only is it relevant to create social profiles but it’s important to consistently post to connect with your community and share engaging content.
There are multiple social media platforms to be on these days and it might seem overwhelming to keep up with all of them. The thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter how many different social media profiles you have. What is the most important is to be present on the networks that are relevant to your Ideal Patient Profile (also called in our marketing world the Ideal Customer Profile or Buyer Persona).
Once you categorized your current patients to see what they have in common, who they are, and what challenges they are facing, you’ll have a better idea of where they go to find information, ask advice, or simply listen to when it comes to their health, beauty advice, or new trends in the industry. That’s exactly where you want to be and at the right time. Whichever social networks you end up choosing, keep in mind these top pieces of advice:
- Choose your username wisely.
You want to pick a username that represents your business and that speaks for itself. Typically, you’ll go with your practice or doctor’s name. Keep it short, relevant, and easy to spell. Ideally, you want your username to be the same across all different platforms. Do research on all social media accounts to see if it’s already taken before committing to a name. Try to make it easy when your future or existing patients are searching for you. Something to also keep in mind is that you may be restricted to the number of times you can update your username.
- Pick a profile picture that represents your brand.
Imagine your website being the storefront of your practice and your profile picture being a window to this storefront. You need to ensure accuracy and build trust in your branding before patients even come in. It needs to be easy for them to recognize you. One way to do that is to keep the same profile picture among the different platforms you are on. As a big rule of thumb, simply use your logo.
- Write a bio that tells about your mission & your key differentiator
This is your chance to shine and make yourself appealing in one or two sentences for people visiting you for the first time. Try adding relevant keywords to your industry and a call-to-action at the end. If you don’t know where to start, write your positioning statement: “For mid-age men and women (target audience), Marina Plastic Surgery is the only destination serving Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and the world over while being a leader in the field of plastic surgery and aesthetic care (market context) because we owe our reputation to a highly personalized and meticulous approach (reason to believe). Will you fly with us (call-to-action)?” You might have to shorten your message depending on what platform you are updating.
- Add a link to a specific landing page, website or to content you created.
Depending on what network you are on, the placement of the link may be more visible than others. One additional thing to consider is to include a link that redirects to a special offer on a separate landing page, your website, or a piece of content you created to entice your patients.
- Personalize your cover photo.
Practices often forget about the oh so important feature of the cover photo. Get creative but always keep it sleek and professional. It’s an extension of your storefront so let’s consider this being the parking lot or the extra amenities you are getting prior to your entrance. It gives you an additional way to tell a story by using a visual with no more than 20% of the image occupied with words.
Now that you know what to prioritize when creating or updating your social media profiles, don’t hesitate to look at what your competitors are doing. Get inspired but don’t copy. Creating your social profiles is only the first step to the big world of social media allowing you to create a sense of belonging! #socialmedia #healthcaremarketing
Tip 4: Design a cohesive brand that spans all marketing channels.
The most identifiable brands have strict guidelines that specify the use of their brand assets, which typically include logos, fonts, colors and more. Over many years, these brands have stayed consistent with their identity across all channels in order to drive the most awareness. Like these big names, you have the same opportunity to design a unique brand identity that spans all of your traditional and digital platforms and marketing programs. So what assets should you start developing?
- Logo – This should be your most identified asset and should be unique to your practice. I know it’s tempting to use simple text as your practice name (and logo) to save money, but crafting a uniquely designed logo is worth the investment.
- Color Palette – Your brand identity should include a color palette that has primary colors, secondary colors and a guide for how to use them
- Imagery – When developing your brand identity, you should think about the type of images you want to use on your website and marketing material.
- Font – Font is often underrated, but is a critical aspect that drives your brand identity. You’ll want to consider choosing a header, sub-header, and paragraph font that’s used throughout all of your marketing channels.
When developing your brand assets, it’s important that you aggregate these to develop a single brand standard guide, sometimes referred to as a brand book. Whether you’re opening a new medical practice or considering stepping up your brand, it’s helpful to start with developing your brand standards and assets, and then ensure these are being used across all marketing platforms and channels.
Tip 5: Define your ideal patient profile.
All successful marketing efforts share a common starting point and this is no different for medical practices – they have a clearly defined ideal customer or patient profile.
So what is an ideal patient profile?
Simply put, an ideal patient profile clearly defines the types of patients your practice serves, outlines the problems you solve for them, and highlights what drives their healthcare provider decision. Creating an ideal patient profile allows you to target the right person at the right time with messaging that encourages, nurtures, and ultimately converts them into a revenue-generating patient.
It can be the difference between a marketing plan that connects with your target audience and drives great ROI or one that just falls flat. Unfortunately, this simple yet powerful exercise is often overlooked by practices when they create a marketing strategy and plan.
Not sure where to start? No worries, we can help. Just start by answering the questions we’ve outlined below and you’ll be well on your way to developing your practice’s ideal patient profile.
First, start with the common demographic traits of your best and most profitable patients:
- Are they male or female?
- What’s their typical age?
- Where do they live?
- Are they married, single, do they have children?
- What are their health characteristics or inclinations?
- What is their financial situation?
Next, you need to focus on the problems you solve for your best patients and why they choose your practice for their healthcare needs:
- What specialty are you most known for in your local market?
- What problems do your high-value procedures solve for patients?
- Why are patients looking for these services or procedures?
- What is your unique offering – in other words, why do patients choose your practice?
Finally, you need to understand what motivates your ideal patient as they decide on a healthcare provider:
- What are their needs or desires?
- Why are they seeking treatment?
- What questions do they typically ask on their path to a decision?
- What do they value most when choosing a provider?
- How do they typically first engage or interact with your practice?
And just like that, you’ve now defined an ideal patient profile.
If your practice offers multiple services or treatments, you will want to complete this exercise for each specialty as each ideal patient will probably have some differences.
Your ideal patient profiles should serve as the foundation for your marketing efforts and help you create audiences and messages that resonate with your best prospective patients.
Chapter 2: Gain visibility at the top of Google
Aah…the coveted top spots on Google. We all hope to secure them but rarely do we know what it takes to achieve them. Achieving top of page 1 visibility on Google search can pay significant dividends for your practice and from our experience is worth investing in. The more listings you have on page 1 of Google for high-value keywords, the more clicks you’ll generate and more new patients you’ll secure. Consider this; nearly all purchase decisions start and/or end with someone conducting a Google search. We’ve included 5 tips that should get you started on your quest for achieving Search Engine Dominance®.
Tip 6: Develop and implement an SEO Strategy
Acquiring new patients in today’s competitive healthcare space is challenging. However, most successful medical practices understand to deliver growth and profitability, they have to drive new patients into the practice each and every month.
One of the most successful tactics a medical practice can implement to acquire patients is a robust, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. SEO is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results section. This is often referred to as organic or earned traffic.
Why should medical practices utilize SEO as part of their patient acquisition strategy?
Well, consider the following:
- There are 250,000,000 healthcare-related searches on Google – EVERY DAY
- 93% of all website traffic comes from search engines
- 77% of potential patients are using search engines prior to ever booking an appointment with a provider
If patients are spending their time on search engines, researching providers, and treatment options, then that’s where your practice needs to be – on page 1 of Google.
Implementing an effective SEO strategy can be a daunting process, especially for someone who doesn’t live in the digital marketing world every day. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Here are some key things to consider and evaluate when developing your medical practice’s SEO plan:
- Page Title Tags: Most experienced SEO professionals will tell you that title tags are the cornerstone of any successful SEO campaign effort. They take a small amount of effort when compared to the major impact they have on organic rankings and website traffic. Yet, they are often overlooked or not given the attention they deserve for such a critical ranking factor. So what is a title tag? According to MOZ, a title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a website page and is meant to provide a clear and concise description of the page’s content.” It’s the clickable headline that you see on the search engine results page, or SERP, when you perform a search. Here are some best practices to follow for optimizing your title tags:
- Title Tag Length: Keep your characters between 50-70 characters and avoid using all caps.
- Avoid Keyword Stuffing: Overusing your keyword(s) in a title tag should be avoided. Instead think about the potential patient experience and what would make them want to engage with your website’s content.
- Use Unique Titles for Each Page: Unique page titles help search engines understand that your content is unique and valuable. It also helps drive higher click-thru rates.
- Lead with Important Keywords: While you shouldn’t stuff your titles with keywords, you should ensure that the keyword, or service, you are trying to rank for should appear at the beginning of your title.
- Write For Your Patients: Title tags are important for SEO. But their primary job is to drive clicks from prospective patients who will find your content valuable. In most cases, this will be their first impression with your practice when they find you through a search result so you’ll want to ensure your message is accurate and compelling.
Content Strategy: “Content is King.” That was true when Bill Gates said it in 1996 and it’s still true today. Consistently creating original and relevant content that answers the questions your ideal patients are asking not only positions you as a leader in your market, it also drives better search visibility, improved rankings, and more qualified website traffic. And more qualified website traffic equals more patient inquiries, consultations, and procedures.
Page Speed: Nobody likes a slow website. Not search engines and certainly not consumers. If your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, that’s a problem. 25%+ of your visitors won’t wait and will move one to another practice’s website or resource. So in addition to having your rankings negatively impacted by Google because your page speed is too slow, you are losing more than a quarter of your website traffic. Losing this traffic reduces the opportunity your practice has to win that patient. So yes, page speed is kind of a big deal. Not sure how you stack up? Google’s PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom are free tools you can use to determine your website speed and what you can do to improve it.
Business Listings & NAP Consistency: Think of business listings as your practice’s online business card. It’s how the practices’ key contact information – name, address, phone – is shown across 100’s of online directories. So if the information isn’t up to date or accurate, it can cause confusion – among prospective patients and search engines. Additionally, some online directories like Healthgrades or RealSelf.com provide relevant website traffic through “back-links” to your website. The key is to make sure the information is accurate and consistent across all platforms. Moz and Yext offer some free tools to scan your local listings and help you establish a benchmark for your SEO plan.
Tip 7: Invest in a Paid Search, also referred to as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Search Engine Marketing
When a medical practice is actively working to gain visibility at the top of the first page of Google, investing in a Paid Search is an important factor. Prospective patients are researching their health at an ever-growing rate, and it’s more important than ever for practices to have an intentional search engine dominance strategy in place.
Like the great Ricky Bobby once said, “if you ain’t first, you’re last!” This saying reigns true for the first page of Google. You see, researchers tend to love the first few placements within a search engine results page. According to Backlinko, over 75% of all clicks happen within the top 3 Google search results. This represents the importance of how an effective PPC strategy can be used to gain exposure and ultimately results for your practice.
Let’s begin by discussing the anatomy of the first page of Google. There are three primary sections:
- The paid section which can be up to seven placements. Four placements at the very top of the page and three placements at the very bottom of the page.
- The map section which can have up to four placements that typically sits below the paid section. You also have the ability to click a link that will take you to Google Maps where you can see additional options based on the searched service + location.
- The organic section which will have approximately 10 placements that will be listed below the paid & maps section.
The key factor to note is that by leveraging the paid search section, you capture the opportunity to rank at the very top of the first page of Google. This will in turn, begin to direct patients to your practice who have already shown an interest in a service you provide.
So how would a practice create a paid search campaign in Google Ads? I’m glad you asked! Here is a step by step tutorial on how to create a Google Ad Campaign. With that being said, it can be difficult and time-consuming to successfully manage a Search Engine Marketing campaign.
Here are a few tips to successfully optimize your PPC (Search Engine Marketing) campaign:
- Creating long-tail keywords can be a great way to optimize your campaign. Think about it. Targeting more generic search terms such as “skin care” attracts a bigger volume of clicks, but the consumer may not be truly interested in the specific service you offer. The longer tailed search terms like “best dermatology practices near me” indicate they are looking for a specific result, or are closer to taking an action.
- Crafting your ad copy is crucial in improving your overall PPC campaign and should be one of the first optimization efforts made. If your ad copy isn’t clear and your value proposition isn’t specific to your targeted audience, you will typically see a lower quality click share. Typically, less is more when optimizing ad copy. Some of the most effective PPC ads are simplistic in nature. Remember, you only have a fraction of time to stand out, so make every word count!
- Rewarding top performers is an important part of maximizing your PPC campaign. One of the best components of digital marketing is that you have the ability to track everything that happens. From impressions to clicks to conversions, you can see what is working and what isn’t. When you find certain search terms or keywords that are performing well, begin focusing more of your efforts on these terms at the expense of the less successful terms. Remember, what can be measured, can be improved!
Search Engine Marketing can be a great way to drive traffic to your website and ultimately your practice. Now that we have discussed several ways to improve your campaigns, go out there and attract new patients!
Tip 8: Document your Reputation Management Strategy
Patients have more choices than ever when it comes to healthcare providers. And they want to make the right choice. Reading reviews plays a crucial role in determining which provider they choose. To underline the importance of your healthcare practice’s online reviews, consider these statistics from Becker’s Hospital Review:
- 72% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new physician.
- 19% of patients use online reviews to validate choosing a physician they have tentatively selected.
- 47% of patients would go out-of-network for a similar doctor with better reviews.
Why do reviews matter so much? There’s power in social proof. Patients want to hear what other patients have to say, uncensored, about the outcomes and experience doctors provided.
What can you do to build your online reputation to a level where patients will pick you as their provider?
- Claim all of your listings.
- Claim your Google My Business (See Tip 2), Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, and Facebook. This ensures that you automatically stay up-to-date on any review activity on each of these platforms.
- Grow Your Online Reviews.
- Don’t assume your patients will write a review. Ask for and welcome feedback.. Reviews strengthen your credibility to patients looking you up online and the sheer volume of them can protect against one negative review dragging down your overall rating.
- Make the review process convenient.
- Ask for reviews immediately following an appointment. The experience is still fresh on the patient’s mind. The time to write the review can conveniently fill an otherwise occupied waiting time in the office (as they wait to schedule a follow-up appointment, wait for post-appointment lab work, etc.). And, according to Medical Economics, reviews collected in the office tend to be more positive.
- Send Satisfaction Surveys to all patients after visits (See Tip 20) and ask promoters to submit online reviews if they haven’t already done so. Proactively respond to survey respondent’s negative feedback to mitigate likelihood of negative online reviews.
- Devise a Response Plan.
- Designate a person who will monitor activity on your listings. For convenience, this should be the same person who has ownership over or access to your listings.
- What position will the practice take regarding negative reviews, positive reviews, and other issues? And who knows that position?
- Who will deliver the response?
- Monitor Your Online Reviews.
- Monitor listings for activity.
- You can also monitor online conversations by leveraging Google Custom alerts. Doctors can enter their personal name and/or the name of the medical practice. Any time these names are mentioned online, an email alert is sent to the practice. You’ll have access to any good or bad online news as soon as your name is mentioned.
- Be Responsive.
- Respond to every new online review, positive or negative, and in a clear, concise, and professional manner. And in your replies, keep HIPAA compliance in mind. Never include PHI or care details within responses, even if the patient does.
- Positive Reviews – Thank customers for trusting you with their care.
- Negative Reviews – Don’t shy away from responding to negative reviews. Your current and prospective patients will see that you listen to your patients’ concerns and address them professionally. A startling 51.8% of patients who submitted negative online reviews about a medical practice had not been contacted to address their concerns (Medical Economics). Yet research shows that you can roughly double a patient’s satisfaction rating simply by addressing their negative feedback (Medical Economics).
- Know how to respond to negative reviews. Negative reviews will happen and a small amount of them can build trust because it shows patients you haven’t manipulated feedback. Here are some best practices to follow for responding to negative reviews:
- Promptness—Respond to negative reviews in 1-2 business days.
- Acknowledge, Apologize and Thank the Reviewer – Physicians Practice recommends a soft yet firm tone that shows you’re trying to resolve their concerns. Apologize for any discomfort caused by the incident, explain why and how the incident happened, and thank the reviewer for giving you the opportunity to address a potential problem.
- If the conversation continues, use discretion and offer to reach out directly to the patient and take the conversation offline.
- Build on the Positives. Mitigate the impact of negative reviews by gaining more positive reviews. With time, fresh positive content will push down the negative reviews (Physician Practice). Below are some best practices for building on positives:
- Consistently ask for reviews..
- Post informative blogs on issues your patients care about.
- Share positive press releases.
Tip 9: Develop your Medical Practice’s Content Marketing Plan
It is important to entice potential patients to your medical practice’s website by showcasing your clinicians’ expertise and thought leadership. Patients want to Google their ailments. They want to read about medical conditions and common strategies toward addressing them. They want to hear what your clinicians have to say about the latest procedures, and how well your team is utilizing cutting-edge research and technology to address their needs. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to produce frequently updated content, usually in the form of additional website copy or a blog.
Blogs in particular accomplish many goals for a successful medical practice:
- Blogs allow a practice to showcase their thought leadership on procedures and outcomes. Whether it’s showcasing a before/after scenario with a willing patient, or describing how a certain treatment is executed, you want to show your patients the depth and breadth of knowledge inside of your practice.
- Blogs will nurture potential and existing patients over time. When written consistently and informationally (2-3 times a month, for example), you are able to cover a large list of frequently asked questions, dispel myths and preconceived notions, or purely educate in your field of expertise. These blogs can be showcased in the form of a monthly e-newsletter, posted on social media channels, and even distributed via paid ads.
- Blogs enable search engines to best understand what your medical practice website is all about, thereby making it easier for them to index your content and serve it up to the right people organically at the point they’re searching for your information. Frequently updated blog content, combined with relevant, targeted, and interesting subjects, become the catalyst by which people will organically see your content and gain confidence in reaching out for an appointment with your medical practice.
The best blogs are the ones where your physicians are quoted, or better yet, write themselves. That said, it’s no secret that physicians are extremely busy, and their time is at a premium. To overcome this, there are ways to effectively produce lots of valuable content each month without any one person slaving over the process.
- A Content Calendar is a Must. A best practice for a blog is to sit down once every 5-6 months and plan out what you’re going to write about. Bring in several subject matter experts into a room, and do a 20-30 minute brainstorming session about topics patients most want to read. Identify which topics can be written by someone in the office, and which topics must be authored by a physician.
- Speed Rounds of Blogging. Once you’ve prepared your 6-month content calendar with 12-18 different topics, you should have assigned who will be the “expert” on each blog post. Let’s say you have one physician who will be the expert on three of those blogs over the next six months. Have someone interview that physician in a quick 30-minute session at a time when they’re not seeing patients (i.e. their drive to work in the morning, their drive time home at night). Ask them pertinent questions about the blog topics, and record the conversation. Later, you can transcribe the conversation, clean it up into different blog topics, allow the physician to proof them for accuracy, and you’ve knocked out three really powerful posts without taking up too much of your physicians’ time!
Keywords are Crucial. Google will index your content over time based upon the types of keywords your prospective patients are most likely searching for. So you’ll want to have some idea of the very best keywords for your medical practice.
Tip 10: Build Local Pages and Services Pages
Once your practice has a website that’s lightning fast, delivers a great user experience and offers great content, give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve successfully set up a solid foundation. However, to gain great rankings on page 1 of Google, it’s likely you’ll need to continue investing in building new pages on your website. Here are the types of pages and why they help.
- Individual Service Pages – Imagine you offer 5 core services that you desire to rank for. Examples might be Mohs Surgery, Mole Removal, Dermatologist, Body Sculpting and Fillers. Ranking for these services may require you to build individual services pages per service. By building individual service pages with robust content on that topic or service, you are sending a strong signal to Google that you offer that service. In turn, you’ll stand a better chance of ranking for that service in your local market. Speaking of local markets….
- Local Market Pages – Let’s say you offer services to several communities in your general area? It’s not uncommon for these communities to be several miles apart (imagine your office is in the main city but you provide services to individuals in a suburb 15 miles away or visa versa). Because of this, you may fail to rank in communities separate from the market where your physical office exists. One strategy that may support generating better search rankings is to build individual local pages on your website.
So don’t forget that building a foundation is great, but it’s necessary to continue building new pages on your website if you wish to have a healthy volume of organic web traffic.
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Chapter 3: Build brand awareness and connect with potential patients
When you’re building your marketing plan you should consider branding tactics to help connect with your target audience and generate awareness around your audience and what you do. Branding itself isn’t the best lead generation source but it certainly supports higher click through rates on Google, higher conversion rates on your website and supports offline conversions resulting in new patients. We’ve broken down brand awareness into 5 tips and tactics that you’ll want to consider when you invest in brand awareness campaigns.
Tip 11: Create Social Ad Campaigns that Reach the Right Audience
Run brand awareness, traffic and lead generation campaigns on social media channels.
The reason why social media advertising is so effective is because of all the available targeting options. Once you know who your Ideal Patient Profile is (IPC), it’s time to build an audience with a specific goal in mind. There is a wide range of targeting options but you need to keep it relevant to your audience as well as the goal for this specific marketing campaign. Ask yourself… Are you trying to build awareness? Drive traffic to your website? Generate calls? The goal of your social campaign will depend on your business goal. Most likely it will change throughout the course of the year because your patients have different needs at different times.
Sharing content organically on your social media pages allows you to connect with your audience that already liked your page. If you are wanting to reach out to people who do not already know you but that might be interested in your services, social ads can help you accomplish that. Your goal may vary from creating brand awareness, driving engagement or traffic, generating calls, or even in-person visits. Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin offer great targeting options to help you accomplish your marketing goals, such as:
- Demographic targeting: age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, and education level;
- Interest targeting: serving your ads to individuals whose interests broadly align with your targeted audience;
- Custom: creating a custom audience using your email list (the more emails the better), fans of your page, or information from a past campaign who performed well;
Lookalike: to refine your targeting, you can create a lookalike audience from that custom audience you created, to deliver your ad to people who are similar to them.
Today’s patient wants to play an active role in their healthcare. They have the tools to access more content and resources online than ever before. And they are using them.
Patients are online accessing content to validate information from providers, evaluating the latest innovations for treatments, and educating themselves on what outcomes they should expect from a procedure or treatment.
This active patient presents a great opportunity to differentiate your practice with online video. The way we consume video has evolved rapidly over the last 5 or so years and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Why should my medical practice care about online video?
- The 19-49 age demographic consumes more video each month on YouTube than all cable channels – COMBINED!
- YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine & generates more than 3 million health-related searches each month
Patients are seeking out and consuming health-related video content. Practices that want to acquire new patients need a plan that meets and influences patients on their path to decision in order to influence who they ultimately choose as their provider.
As you are building your content marketing plan, you want to dedicate time and resources to ensure video is part of your marketing plan.
Here are a couple of ideas for your video content:
- Testimonials: This is one of the most important types of content you can create. When most people make a decision, they want someone to help validate that they are making the right decision. Testimonials help provide that reassurance.
- Tour of your practice: Tour videos can be especially helpful for new patients who are looking for a new provider.
- Meet the Staff: Introduction videos help give a “human face” to the practice.
- Educational/Procedure: These types of videos can be helpful for patients who are trying to learn more about a potential treatment or procedure. When making a procedure video, keep the audience in mind. Remember, the goal is to educate and differentiate so the patient ultimately chooses your practice for their healthcare needs.
Finally, have a plan for how you plan to distribute your video content to engage patients on their path to a decision. Here are some great uses and channels:
- Website: Having video on your website can provide a better user experience for potential patients and deliver an SEO benefit that improves organic rankings and traffic.
- Social Media: Using video on social media produces a much higher engagement rate than posts with static images. Think of it as “thumb-stopping” content for patients who are scrolling their feeds.
- Email: Certainly video can be used in your email newsletter and email marketing campaigns. It can also provide value in your email signature line.
Video Marketing: There are a variety of channels where you can distribute paid video campaigns – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram are some that your medical practice should consider. To learn more, check out Leveraging Video to Grow Your Healthcare Practice.
Tip 13: Create an Email Newsletter Strategy
With the vast majority of adults utilizing email, developing an email newsletter strategy can be another great way for your practice to target new patients! In fact, according to Statista, the number of email users globally is 3.9 billion and is expected to grow to 4.48 billion users by 2023. Here are some simple tips and tricks to follow when you are looking to drop emails directly into your prospective patients’ inboxes.
- Build your targeted email list – There are a few ways you can obtain a list for email marketing purposes. One way is to work with a qualified partner who can offer a list of emails. Develop your email list based on specific targeting options like geography, demographics, household income, or interests! You’ll also want to make sure you promote an email newsletter on your website and social media accounts in order for you to continue collecting email addresses. You may even want to set up a pop-up on your website asking users if they would like to opt-in to your newsletters.
- Develop an email content calendar – Having a well thought out email marketing strategy increases your chances of having the patient click through to your website. Make sure your topics are relevant to the reader with several calls to action throughout. Being intentional with your content is important as well. For example, if you decide to develop a monthly newsletter strategy, make sure your content is relevant based on the time of year your reader will be receiving the email.
- Track and measure your performance – If you’re working with a partner or utilizing an email marketing tool internally, you’ll be able to easily track and measure the performance of your campaign. Check for open rates, click-thru rates & engagement rates in order to determine the amount of engagement your potential patients are having with your emails. If you notice that patients are showing engaging & showing interest in reading your blogs, make sure to continue including blogs in your newsletter. It’s always important to pay attention to what your patients want.
Tip 14: Reach Patients with Display Brand Advertising
Display advertising is one of the most common forms of advertising today. It is the process of paying for ad space on Google, similarly to the traditional way of paying for a billboard on the side of the road. But unlike a billboard, display advertising allows you to advertise to ONLY individuals who look like your ideal patient! When done correctly, display advertising can be a highly effective way to brand your practice to the right audience. Here are a few tips to designing a highly effective display campaign.
Develop a Custom Audience – One of the key steps in designing a successful display campaign is building your custom audience. There are a plethora of different targeting options Google offers for you to choose from. Depending on the type of patient should help guide you in deciding which targeting options to choose. For example, if you are a dermatology practice and you want to run a display campaign to raise awareness that you now offer Botox you’ll want to target based on what the average Botox patient looks like at your practice. These options might include but are not limited to, average age, average income and gender! To create positive outcomes, you’ll need to have the targeting as accurate as possible.
Building the Creative – Once you’ve built your target audience to look like your ideal patient, you’ll then want to start developing your creative. You’ll want to be sure you’re creative is going to attract the attention of your potential patients. On that same note, you also want to keep your ad creative simple. It can be tempting to want to throw as much information on to the ad as possible but refrain from doing this. Display ads are fairly small. If you have too much information on them it can be confusing to understand what you’re offering and also difficult to read. The most effective display ads use high-quality images with less words and include the right amount of white space. It’s also extremely important you include a clear call to action. If you are the dermatology practice that wants patients to book botox appointments on your website, you’ll want your call to action to say “Book Now” or “Schedule Today”. It’s important that your ask is clear and concise in order to see the results you want.
Choose the Right Landing Page – There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking an ad and landing on a page that was not what you expected. This is not only irritating for the end-user but it’s also not good for the health of your website. You can definitely expect your bounce rates to go up if you chose an irrelevant landing page. This seems simple, but this is an easy mistake practices make when building their display campaigns. If your goal is to book more Botox appointments, make sure the ad links to the Botox page on your website. Also, don’t forget, just like the ad needs a clear call to action, you’ll want to make sure your landing page has a clear call to action as well. If your goal is for the patient to book an appointment, make sure there is a form fill and phone number on the landing page readily available for the patient to book.
Setting Up Goals and Tracking – Last but not least, you’ll want to understand your goals and make sure you’re tracking your results. An important KPI to look for is your CTR (click-thru rate). Your click-thru rate will be a good indicator of whether or not you’re targeting the right audience or if your creative is relevant and effective. If you’re CTR is low, take a second look at your targeting or your design. A/B testing is also a good best practice with display ads. Try running two ads at the same time and compare their results. This will give you a good indication of which ad the patient is more drawn to.
Tip 15: Develop and Implement a Remarketing Campaign
Now that you have learned how to drive patients to your website, you’ll want to ensure that you get them to visit your website more than just once. Most individuals will not convert after just one visit to any website. It usually takes a couple of visits in order to get a potential patient to call or fill out a form. The good news is, if you can get them to come back to your website a second time, they are 70% more likely to convert.
The first thing you’ll want to do is get the remarketing tag added to your website. If you’re not familiar with your website’s code, you may want to consider reaching out to your website developer to do this for you. After the tag has been added to your site, it will automatically start remarketing visitors based on the rules you set. There are a variety of different ways you can set rules for remarketing. One good rule to follow is excluding remarketing anyone that bounces. If an individual is to bounce, they likely didn’t mean to go to your website anyways, so it typically doesn’t make sense to send an ad to this individual.
There are multiple different channels for you to utilize in order to remarket to your prospective patients. You may choose to remarket on the Google Display Network or maybe it makes more sense for your practice to remarket on your social media channels like Facebook or Instagram. Best practice is to test which channels get the most engagement from your patients and continue to remarket your practice there.
Ultimately, remarketing allows you the opportunity to get high-quality patient leads to come back to your site who have already shown interest in you. Don’t skip out on this small step that can make a huge difference in the outcome of your overall marketing campaigns!
Chapter 4: Re-Engage your prospects and customer base
Generating a visit to your website is a great first step in securing a new patient. Unfortunately, 90%+ of your website visitors won’t call you or become a lead. In addition, many of your current patients won’t become repeat visitors (or at least big spenders) unless you have a strategy to make them one. Luckily, there are many mechanisms or tactics that allow you to track website visitors and re-engage them. If you desire to turn more website visitors into patients and more patients into advocates, you’ll want to consider these 5 tips!
Tip 16: Email Market to Your Current Patient List
Brands are built on repeat customers. They are also the most cost-effective way to increase your sales revenue. It is why understanding your Customer Lifetime Value is so important to determining marketing ROI.
While satisfied clients will return for a variety of reasons, when they return is not always as straight-forward. It is important to stay top of mind with clients by sending them promotional offers, company newsletters, and invitations to special events so that they continue to feel valued. It’s important to maintain accurate records. During an in-person visit, ensure that the information on file remains accurate in order to have a complete customer profile for marketing purposes.
Popular services for email marketing include a host of features that track, maintain, and provide insights into reader engagement. According to Hubspot here are some of the top platforms available in today’s market.
Why is email marketing so important for existing customers?
Building customer personas
- Not all clients are interested in the same services, and in addition to that they are not all motivated by the same CTAs (Call to Action). Identifying the types of customers you’re servicing and which offers are attracting them to return to your practice serves as a valuable tool. Customer personas allow you to segment these groups so that your emails are targeted to focus on their motivations. This strategy also provides insights related to opportunities for existing patients to try new services and products.
- Customer loyalty programs make customers feel valued by enabling them to receive discounts or promotional offers that are not offered to other clients. It also reduces friction for repeat clients by creating an incentive for continued treatments at your practice.
Helps establish your brand identity
- Many practices establish a specialty and become ‘known for’ specific treatments in their area. While specialization is a great asset, the challenge most practices face is informing existing patients that their services expand beyond such a narrow scope. Email marketing provides an avenue to educate and inform existing clients about your expertise in a well-rounded manner.
Tip 17: Make phone outreach to share promotions and solicit recent visit feedback
One of the most valuable, underappreciated tools a medical practice can leverage to impact their bottom line, is the telephone. That’s right. A tool that has been in existence since 1876 has the power to revolutionize your practice and drastically improve patient flow.
In an age where healthcare is becoming the new retail, it’s increasingly important that medical practices evaluate ways to improve the overall patient experience. The retail industry has been leveraging people’s addiction to their phones to improve their customer service for years and we find it all too common for medical practices to try and avoid a phone call versus embracing it.
Here are a few eye-popping statistics in regards to calls made into medical practices:
- 88% of healthcare appointments are scheduled by phone. Prospective patients who are researching online prefer a phone call because it’s more personal and private. (source: Sequence)
- 2.4% of healthcare appointments are self-scheduled online. Many patients are disinclined to type their reasoning for an appointment or their personal health information into an online form. (source: Accenture)
- Callers convert 30% faster than web leads. Reaching a patient on the phone will provide a more immediate return on investment than any other form of communication. (source: Forrester)
Taking the time, energy, and effort to improve your communication process for your current patients will lead to a more satisfied patient. This will, in turn, lead to patient retention, and ultimately an increase in patient flow.
Here are a few tips when considering ways to improve your communication process with your patients:
- Soliciting post-appointment feedback is a great way to show the patient that you care. According to Medical Economics, 65% of patients form an opinion by reading anywhere from one to six online reviews. Calling your patient to clearly understand their overall experience, and potentially solicit an online review, is a great way to provide exceptional service while also improving your online reputation.
- Reconnecting with patients after a missed follow-up appointment is a challenging yet essential component of adequate physician-patient communication. According to Princeton Insurance, the standard of outreach attempts after a missed follow-up appointment is three phone calls. Once you have the patient on the line, try to better understand their situation, and why they may have missed the appointment. This is an opportunity for the practice to build trust with the patient and work to reschedule the appointment.
- Inviting patients to attend an open house at your medical practice is a great way to start a line of communication and show them that you value their business. Hosting an open house is not only a great reason for you to connect with patients that haven’t visited in a while, but will also allow you to share new services and procedures that are unique to your practice.
As a digital agency, we believe in the importance of a strong online presence to drive leads that result in phone calls to your practice and scheduled appointments, but extending beyond that, it’s important to make every effort to speak with your patients and make each experience they have personal. Making this small but effective change could result in a huge difference for your medical practice.
Tip 18: Invest in Lead Nurturing
While a website visit is a critical step along the patient journey to purchase, their arrival does not automatically equate to them becoming a client of your practice.
Keep in mind that the ‘research & consideration’ phase for cosmetic procedures is 2x longer than standard medical procedures and can take an average of 141 days before a prospective client is ready to move forward with the purchase of a procedure.
As mentioned in Tip 16 in relation to existing clients, email marketing serves as a valuable tool for providing prospective clients an insight into your practice’s services or specialties.
Gathering contact information can be done via multiple channels:
- Website contact forms
By studying your website’s layout, identify areas to place conversion points that ask for more information about the user.
- Social media contests
Incentivize your social media followers to provide their contact information in return for a chance to win a prize. Social media engagement also serves as a pillar to developing strong brand loyalty.
Email Drip Campaign
An email drip campaign (defined as an automated series of emails to a single person over a period of time) achieves lead nurturing goals by using triggers gathered from your website to deliver relevant information to those who have shown intent. These automated campaigns also provide measurable data to enhance your marketing message as time goes on.
Email is a tried and true channel for outbound communication. However, It isn’t the only tool.
Here are some additional tactics that can turn a prospect into a client:
While SMS is not considered a new or ‘hot technology’ texting remains one of the most cost-effective channels for communicating your brand message. It is also one of the most valuable. A prospective client who opts-in to an SMS campaign has shown tremendous interest in your practice by giving you the keys to the most valuable real-estate they own….their mobile phone! This communication channel has high visibility which equates to a higher chance at engagement. Sending messages via text can also direct someone directly to your practice’s website for quick conversion.
Keep in mind that lead nurturing is not limited to a single tactic at a time. A multi-channel approach leveraging two or more will increase effectiveness and is always recommended.
Tip 19: Opt-in to a HIPAA Compliant Texting (SMS) Platform
We are an active, connected, and increasingly mobile society. This is evident by the fact that more than 81% of the U.S. population owns a smartphone. And that smartphone is rarely outside of arms reach.
We also have more communication channels at our disposal than ever before between phone, texting, social, email, and more.
With all of these options for communication, which one do you think is the most popular? You guessed it. Text messaging is the #1 way people communicate. People read and respond to text messages at a much faster and higher rate than any other channel. And it’s not just millennials. Texting has become much more common across all age groups as well as in all facets of business – healthcare is no exception.
Let’s take a look at how text messaging stacks up against email communication:
- Text (SMS) message open rates are 98% vs. 20% for email
- Response rates for text is 45% while email is about 6%
- Response time for text is about 90 seconds with email being over 90 minutes
This should signal that text messaging be an integral part of your multi-channel patient communication strategy. If you haven’t implemented a secure SMS or 2-way messaging system, you should start that process today.
Here are some things to consider when evaluating a messaging platform for your medical practice:
- HIPAA Compliance: Ensure any platform your practices implements is HIPAA compliant – this should be a “non-negotiable”.
- EMR/EHR/PMS Integration: Having a 2-way messaging platform that integrates with your practice management software drives a lot of value including better patient engagement. Most platforms will allow you to implement appointment booking and automate reminder options which reduce no-show/cancellation rates.
- Phone System Integration: Some platforms offer added functionality of integrating with your practice phone system. This can reduce your call volume and eliminate “phone tag” while offering patients an easy and secure way to communicate with your practice.
Website Integration: Adding secure messaging as a communication option on your website makes it easy for potential and existing patients to start a conversation with your practice and can improve patient conversion rates.
Tip 20: Send Satisfaction Surveys
Sending Satisfaction Surveys helps you keep a finger on the pulse of your patient base and act on what you learn to better your practice and its online reputation. The process also helps you to build patient relationships as you get to know your patients on a more personal level.
Send Surveys After Every Visit
Send a simple HIPAA-compliant survey to patients after every visit asking them to share how their experience was with you. You can send these surveys manually or, if your budget permits, through one of many convenient automated services. In your survey, make it clear that you value what they have to say, will listen, and will use their feedback to better the patient experience for them and others.
When designing your questionnaire, FPM recommends providing questions that are answered on a scale (for consistency and measurement) and 1-2 open-ended questions. The survey should briefly and clearly cover three main areas: access issues, quality issues, interpersonal issues.
Understand and Address Issues
As you review survey feedback, look for common themes among dissatisfied patients and use that information to improve your practice. Respond to urgent issues personally and promptly. And remember that proactively and personally addressing patient grievances may prevent dissatisfied patients from submitting online negative reviews.
Understand Promoters and Leverage Positive Social Proof
Similarly, look for common themes among promoters to improve your practice and do more of what they find helpful. And when promoters haven’t left any sort of online review, reach out to them personally and ask if they’d be willing to share their experience in an online review and/or in a testimonial on the website.
Tip 21: Run Remarketing Campaigns to Nurture
What is Remarketing?
Remarketing, also known as Retargeting, is a way to advertise to users who have interacted with your website in some way. We as consumers have all experienced it — perhaps you shopped online for a toy for your child but perhaps you didn’t purchase it. Then, that next week, you saw ads for it seemingly everywhere, on your Facebook newsfeed and/or on other websites you visited. That’s retargeting.
Remarketing is a powerful way to keep your business in the forefront of a user’s mind even after they’ve stopped searching for and looking at your products and services. The end goal is to bring the user back to your site when they’re ready to convert (whether that means completing a purchase or calling to schedule an appointment).
For remarketing to work, a snippet of code known as a tag or pixel is added to your website and customized for different pages so that visitors can get added to your remarketing audiences through browser cookies. When the visitor leaves the website, that cookie tells remarketing platforms to serve visitors ads from the website publisher.
Challenges with Remarketing in the Healthcare Space
However, because these kinds of campaigns require the above-mentioned data to be collected about the consumer, there are HIPAA implications. To avoid violation of any HIPAA laws, Google and Facebook err on the side of caution and do not allow most healthcare remarketing on their platforms.
So what can you do?
You can use the data you’ve collected with your pixels to build a lookalike audience on Facebook and Google and serve ads to them. This audience will share similar characteristics as the remarketing list you could’ve built, making it an effective way to target prospective patients. And without the one-to-one-targeting, you avoid HIPAA violations.
If you do choose to pursue remarketing and use an one of the ad platforms that permit healthcare remarketing.