Successful healthcare practices realize that online marketing is now an essential component of a marketing strategy, necessary for new patient acquisition. However, there are a lot of options available, and agencies will often recommend the services that they specialize in. At Points Group, we are a full service consulting and marketing agency. Therefore, we are able to objectively recommend strategies that will be most effective for each client. While the most effective tactics will vary from situation to situation, we have found that there are six strategies that are important for almost every practice. While budget may constrict you from doing everything, we recommend taking a serious look at each of these tactics to maximize your marketing budget.
- Up-to-Date Website: This should go without saying, but still needs mentioning. Your website is a direct reflection of your practice. If your website has dated information, looks old or is broken (which happens more often than most people realize ), it sends a message about who you are and the quality of care you provide. We won’t get into the details here, but if you want to see necessary website essentials or common costly website errors, you may want to check out this article: How Your Website May Be Leaking Money.
- SEO: Your website may be a reflection of your practice, but if people never see it, it doesn’t matter. Website visibility through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is essential and can’t be stressed enough. People are using search engines to find information about their conditions, treatment options and who to see. It is imperative to have a strong presence in search engines to acquire new patients. (Closely related, a strong presence also affects how you present yourself to existing patients who Google you, as mentioned in “Reputation Management” below.) For info about understanding SEO and how to get started, see Medical Practice SEO.
- PPC: No matter how good the SEO for your website is, it is unlikely that you can rank for highly competitive keywords that are usually monopolized by extremely strong sites like WebMD. However, through paid search, you can rank highly for key search terms, and the return can be immediate. Even in cases where you are ranking well organically to begin with and remove PPC, statistically you will only recover 50 percent of the traffic with your top listing and the rest of the traffic will go to other ads. Though there is often extra costs associated with PPC due to the ad spend, the direct input on keywords and control of bidding and landing pages can make it a very strong option.
- Reputation Management: Reputation management is simply controlling what people see when they Google your doctors’ names or practice name. The results you need to watch can be anything from bad reviews on third party websites to negative press. Through reputation management, it is possible to remove or suppress many of the negative reviews or content, especially if information is false or misleading. Not every practice needs reputation management, but every practice does need to be on top of online reputation. Though it may sound conceited, Google yourself on a regular basis so you know what people are seeing when they research your practice. To learn more about reputation management, this is a good place to start: What Does a Patient See When They Google You.
The Very Good to Have
- Social Media: This one could technically go in two categories. It is important to have at least a basic social media presence. However, it is also very good to have a stronger presence, where you can continue to market to your patient base on sites that they likely check every single day. Also, for a nominal fee (we recommend $100-$200 for most average-size practices), you can have a significant reach via paid promoted posts on Facebook, broken down by your target demographics. While most practices won’t see a significant return on Facebook (which is why we typically recommend a smaller budget and time allocation to the tactic), consistent time in front of your patients to stay top of mind, with the potential to reach some new patients makes it worth the small investment.
- Email Marketing: Though email marketing does not necessarily bring in new patients, it does increase top-of-mind attention for those who are interested. Sending a routine newsletter for patients who have opted in can serve as a strong reminder to make routine appointments, follow-up visits and potentially additional elective procedures. Strategic email marketing can also aid in acquisition of new reviews for reputation management purposes.
How to Get Ahead (3 Great Options You May Not Know About!)
The following tactics are not often used in healthcare. This isn’t because they don’t work, but because they are newer trends that most healthcare marketing practices haven’t caught on to yet, and many healthcare marketing agencies do not offer. Engaging in these now can significantly help a practice get ahead.
- Lead Nurturing: Lead nurturing is an excellent tactic for practices that have a longer lead time from interest to patient. It is generally an automated process that sends out personalized contacts based on user interaction and sets funnel parameters. For example, if someone fills out a contact form or downloads information from your website, an automatic, personalized follow-up message can be sent to them in a few days and a separate message will be sent one month after that. “Visitor returns” to the website can also be tracked as well as additional communication and correspondence. If someone takes a specific action on your website or returns, other specific messages or alerts can be triggered. This allows you to contact the patient at key points of interest. For longer-term care and procedures, this can be very helpful in turning high-value interested candidates into patients.
- Retargeting: Due to healthcare privacy laws and website policies, this is not an option for all practices. However, it can be very powerful for those that it is an option. Retargeting (often called “remarketing”) is a method of showing ads on third-party websites to visitors who have previously visited your website (or specific pages on your website). This allows you to continually show ads to users that you know have an interest in the services you provide in a very targeted way. For procedures that a patient may not make a quick decision on (a knee replacement, for example), this allows you to stay top of mind and consistently in front of, reminding him/her of your practice during the pending decision-making process. This is an excellent way of increasing the conversion rate of visitors who come to your website and may be interested but for one reason or another do not come back. Due to website policies, retargeting as an option must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but it should be investigated by virtually all healthcare practices.
- Programmatic: Programmatic media is a newer player to the game, and many practices aren’t taking advantage of it. That can give you a strong competitive advantage. Programmatic media uses complex algorithms and software to determine the users who are most likely to convert based on the specific websites they visit and then targets ads to those specific users. You can target users by almost any demographic or criteria – age, location, gender, occupation, shopping habits, car interests, etc. Systematic learning also helps to determine profiles of users that are more or less likely to click on ads and fill out forms. It then changes the distribution of ads accordingly – ensuring that you’re always in front of the internet users who are the best match for your practice.
Of course, there are a lot of options. Money is not infinite, and you must develop the approach that works best for your practice. Need help trying to figure out where to start or if a new initiative is right for you? Let us know. With an expert mix of consulting and marketing, Points Group can help you choose the right tactics for your practice without agenda and help you execute.