Marketing Like Your Practice Depends on It (Because It Probably Does)
What’s the worst thing that can happen to your practice? Mediocre reviews, a lack of new patients, or maybe even a global pandemic? These certainly won’t help, but the real answer is “none of the above.”
The real answer is an unwillingness to reach your customers or adapt your messaging to their changing needs. We’ve spent too much time marketing and enabling our clients, overcoming countless disruptions in the healthcare space to think any other factor could come close. The evidence is clear.
Business in our industry has changed, likely forever. You can wait around, hemorrhaging patients, and new business opportunities, or you can change too. COVID has catapulted technology to the front lines of healthcare. Telemedicine, a tool gaining popularity in early 2020, is now standard practice with many insurance providers offering service coverage. Virtual care companies are coming out of the woodwork.
But don’t fret. As important as it is to understand how to navigate this new corona-conomy and rapid evolution of healthcare tech, it’s equally important to recognize what business tactics continue to offer stability and growth. And providers should utilize tried-and-true methods alongside efforts to ramp up their digital patient experience.
After all, your medical practice is a business. It’s not a question of should you be marketing, but rather a matter of how and to what extent. Our data consistently shows that the most competitive providers never rely solely on referrals, nor do they remain silent with rapid shifts in the market — patients more hesitant than ever before certainly qualify for a new outreach campaign. Successful physicians, hospitals, and private clinical groups maintain existing patients, reach new patients, and educate with the help of marketing.
Up-and-coming doctors are entering the workforce with a better understanding of how to leverage their brand, a byproduct of growing up during the age of social media. But the act of establishing a presence is merely the tip of the marketing iceberg. As a result of the coronavirus, the ordinarily fast-evolving healthcare industry has only expedited its growth and change rate, with new trends, government mandates, strategies, and pharma always in development.
During COVID-19, patient education and information have fast emerged as the focal point. Unsurprisingly, we see that clinicians who invest minimally in their brand’s upkeep or underestimate the importance of communication aren’t as adaptable, leading to a decline in business. Don’t miss the opportunity to speak to patients directly; patients who are longing to have their concerns lessened. Now is the time to increase your visibility while positioning your healthcare service as the go-to choice.
It is a direct result of the growing number of choices that you need to invest in and adapt to the “new normal” sooner rather than later. The medical service landscape is flooded with available possibilities. Nowadays, patients have more options than ever before. With so much information readily available, those providers willing to promote and communicate will always have the upper hand. Patients no longer feel compelled to visit the closest hospital or medical practice.
Accordingly, it has become increasingly necessary to develop a well-budgeted marketing plan to increase new patient acquisition while maintaining patients in your respective market. You need to consider all the reasons why a patient might ditch you as their healthcare provider; such rationale isn’t limited to changes in the type of healthcare insurance or relocation but also dissatisfaction with waiting times, negative experiences, and poor communication. Always endeavor to address these concerns and control what you can. What exactly can you control? A lot.
Here are five actionable tactics to improve your business immediately:
1. Practice what you preach:
Keep your identity and values at the forefront and communicate them through every single touchpoint. When you claim that you value your patients yet keep them on hold for 20+ minutes on the phone, you’re killing your brand. A recent study by Forbes magazine showed that startups like Capsule and TrustedHealth quickly cover the gaps where long-standing providers are falling short, where research shows a staggering 81% of consumers are reporting that they are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience. Don’t let easily fixed mishaps control the narrative of your practice!
2. Build a website worthy enough to feature you and your services:
Your identity is a crucial component of your website –the new “front door” of your practice. It’s the first thing patients interact with, and, if not optimized for user experience, it may be the last time a person considers your practice. Roughly 94% of patients use online reviews and web presence to evaluate providers, making it critical to building an effective and responsive healthcare website that speaks to your competence level. Patients look for this and want to see that your practice website reflects the level of care you provide. And beyond the content and design, the loading speed of your website should be a significant consideration. Insights from Google show that it takes only 5 seconds to lose a prospective patient who decides to move elsewhere thanks to your slow site.
3. Help patients discover your existence:
Search engines are vital. They help people search (and sometimes find) your services. Unfortunately, the entire healthcare industry has grown wise to the importance of search, which has increased the competition for first page results. Only 7% of respondents from a recent study indicated that they look past the first results page for context. One solution to this problem is to run PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads. PPC ads can be run through Google and social media platforms, allowing you to reach potential patients whenever they are looking for your services. These ads, coupled with a consistent presence on social media, can help you prominently appear in front of the people that matter. According to Pew Research, over 72% of people use social media to find and share healthcare information. Improving your searchability through PPC ads and social media is a great way to bring your desired brand experience in-line with reality and massively boost your new patient numbers.
4. Ask, and you shall receive:
For each life you touch with your services and procedures, there is a story. You and your patient may share wonderful exchanges behind closed doors, and, in some cases, that’s as far as those conversations will ever need to go. But for the incredible stories that should be shared, it’s recommended that you ask your patients to help bring these experiences to the masses. There are significant privacy concerns to consider, but there is no better way to highlight your capabilities as a provider than a patient testimonial or review. Automated reviews are the best solution for this healthcare marketing strategy. Make sure to include patient feedback and doctor referrals in your marketing efforts. Check-in with your current patients, and as always, patients will likely appreciate that you took the time to ask for feedback. They may even stop everything they’re doing and immediately recommend your medical practice to their friends and family. But you’ll never know unless you ask.
5. Stake your claim as a thought leader:
You may be strapped for time, but you’ve also invested a good amount of your time toward becoming a medical professional. Don’t waste that effort. If the opportunity comes along to speak about your specialty, do so. Establish yourself as an authority in your field and consider hiring a public relations team to reach out on your behalf to the appropriate media outlet when you have something to say. Remember to invest in these strategies when the time is right because you’ll gain the most traction and credibility from them. Be sure to continually track your marketing efforts, including your speaking engagements, with tools such as CRM (i.e., Adobe experience manager), Google Analytics, Google Ads, and a HIPAA compliant phone tracking system.
Our bottom line for private practice groups, clinicians, and managers is this: build for a better future for your practice today, not later!
Weary, cost-conscious, and paranoid patients will not wait for you to figure things out. They will opt for the provider addressing their concerns in a timely fashion and offering the services that are in demand. Lay the groundwork now and cultivate patient trust and confidence early, while everyone else is scratching their heads about what comes next. Start promoting your practice and adapting to our post-pandemic world. Or you can wait around for everything to return to normal.