Physicians today navigate an ever-evolving world in many aspects of medicine, but this is especially true when it comes to attracting and retaining patients. Additionally, the fast-changing online landscape often makes implementing effective marketing strategies for medical practices feel like shooting a moving target.
But however difficult it may be, marketing is a must for doctors. Those who invest in marketing themselves thrive, while others who resist tend to fall behind. Luckily, a few simple tactics can quickly boost your medical practice’s online and offline presence, making it easier for patients to find you. Before we dive in, there a few key things to remember as you plan your marketing strategy:
- Marketing is not advertising, though advertising can play a part in your marketing strategy. Marketing involves public relations, media planning, client support, market research, and community involvement as well as advertising.
- Marketing is an ongoing process. Your strategy will adapt to changes in the industry and the world around you. Invest in a long-term strategy to grow your business over time rather than trying a “set-it-and-forget-it” scheme that will likely fall short.
- Marketing is an investment. You should not only plan to spend time and money on your marketing strategy, but you should also track results to determine your return on investment to ensure you’re on track towards success.
- Marketing is a conversation between you and your clients. As such, you should focus on what your target audiences—whether patients, other doctors, or a combination of both—wants and needs from their doctor, i.e., you.
- Marketing is useless if you cannot back up your claims. Your practice will grow from your clinical excellence—unmatched patient care, expertise in your field of medicine, and successful outcomes. Focusing your efforts on improving your practice will ultimately be the most effective marketing strategy.
1. Build a website
Your medical practice needs an online home, somewhere you can be found by current and potential patients. Luckily, you don’t need to be an HTML wiz to get up and running with a customized site. Online services like Wix and Squarespace are straight-forward, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive. Alternatively, you can hire someone to design and code a site for you—you can find freelance contractors on sites like UpWork or Fiverr. How you proceed depends on your comfort level, time, budget, and skills.
2. Start a blog
A regularly updated blog connected to your medical practice website provides many opportunities to address the needs and interests of your audience. This is also the place for content marketing, a type of writing that helps build your personal brand and show who you are. “The adage is ‘show, don’t tell,” says Chris Blose, Vice President of Content at Imagination, a content marketing agency. “You’re showing you’re a leader in your field.” Some suggestions for topics include your specialty, trends, and patient stories.
3. Share content on Facebook
There are more than 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide. And as the social network’s tagline makes clear, the site is all about connection. A professional Facebook page for your medical practice (separate from your personal page) allows you to frequently contact your audience and remind them of your presence. Posting tips, news, and other noteworthy items will help ensure followers and fans keep you in mind when they’re in need of medical services. It’s also an ideal forum for your blog posts—useful and interesting links you post on Facebook can be shared and passed around, providing virtual word-of-mouth about you.
4. Connect on Twitter and Instagram
Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks like Snapchat and LinkedIn provide additional opportunities to connect and share with your audience. Doctors-only services like Sermo can help you network with professionals around the world and further demonstrate expertise in your field. The key to maintaining a successful online presence is frequent and consistent posting—try posting to your Twitter and/or Instagram accounts several times a day, if possible.
5. Become a source for journalists
There are few better ways to establish expertise and gain exposure than by being cited in media. Journalists for print, online, and TV regularly seek out medical professionals to provide context and legitimacy to their stories. “Think about partnering with a local news outlet on a health column to position yourself as the expert to prospective and current patients,” advises Andrew Hanelly, Partner and Creative Director at Revmade, a marketing and advertising agency. Signing up for services like Help a Reporter Out and ProfNet will gain you access to media queries as well as provide you an outlet for pitching story ideas of your own to journalists.
6. Send an email newsletter
Capturing email addresses and regularly emailing your list of contacts drives traffic to your website, blog, and social network pages, which in turn, drives additional appointment requests and referrals. Start by collecting subscribers from your existing client and referral base as well as from your social media followers. Then create a newsletter template with an inexpensive mailing service like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Not sure what to include? Try starting with highlights of your recent work and links back to your blog posts.
7. Build an online profile
As with so many things in today’s digital world, like choosing where to eat and which babysitter to hire, people expect to be able to search and find doctors online. Building a profile on online industry marketplaces, like Zocdoc, will enable you to verify your information as well as add a link to your website, upload photos, and display patient reviews.
8. Deliver unexpected care packages
Not all modern marketing practices are online-only. Everybody likes freebies—and imprinting your office details on inexpensive promotional items like pens, stress balls, magnets, and water bottles to give to patients and other doctors will keep your contact info literally on hand. “Not only are unexpected patient perks an opportunity for you to win affinity and build relationships with people, but they also create the launchpad for social media moments that amplify the goodwill,” Hanelly says. “Everyone is looking for their next Facebook post.”
9. Leverage patient reviews
Your current patients and referring doctors are your best marketing partners. Harness the power of happy clients to help spread your name to potential patients by requesting referrals. “Asking for reviews not only gives you the best kind of marketing fodder—what other people say about you—but they also give you a chance to see yourself as they see you, which is an invaluable resource,” Hanelly says. “Patient reviews are a mirror for your practice’s health,” Hanelly says. ”Embrace the valuable feedback people are giving you instead of arguing or denying it.”
10. Contribute to industry publications
As with blogging and acting as a source for media stories, writing pieces for medical journals about your experiences and expertise can enhance your profile among fellow doctors—and possibly lead to referrals. “If knowledge is power, then sharing that knowledge and perspective in the credible environment of a publication puts your message in the right context,” Hanelly says.
11. Start a patient referral program
A record of top-notch care and genuine concern for your patients will go a long way towards encouraging positive word-of-mouth and referrals to friends and family. But there’s nothing wrong with a little reminder. Print referral cards with a simple message like “Share the gift of good health” and your office information, then be organized about handing them out, perhaps as part of your care packages. When you do get a referral, be sure to follow up to let your referring patients know how much you appreciate them with a handwritten note, phone call, or small token (so long as its value is $10 or less).
12. Improve your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO), improving the likelihood you can be found via online search, can help drive targeted leads (i.e., patients and referring doctors) to your website. You can improve your SEO with localization like adding your practice’s address on your web pages. Creating original content for your website and blog also help, as does encouraging linking to your pages from other sites. Offer to guest blog on other doctors’ sites and comment on social network posts to direct more traffic to your own site.
Individually, any of these tactics can help grow your medical practice, but these marketing strategies are ideally employed in tandem in a coordinated, sustained manner. They will support and enhance each other, producing much better results than any one strategy alone.