CureMD: Which marketing platform has a better ROI for medical practices: print or online?
James: Online. It is our professional opinion and experience that online marketing produces a significantly better return on investment than print. Primarily because most consumers digest all sources of media and conduct search online. It's where the people are.
CureMD Marketing: The key is to know your audience. If you mostly deal with patients above 50, or your practice is in an area where people don't have access to fast internet or are not tech savvy , print or even no advertising ( we will get down to this later) would be a better option for you.
Otherwise, in terms of money spent wisely, online advertising wins, hands-down. First and foremost, you set your budget, not Facebook, Google, LinkedIn or whichever site you choose to advertise with. An important distinction between online and print advertising is that you only pay for the individual clicks that your ads get, nothing more and nothing less. If you set your budget at $1,000, but only get $500 worth of clicks, you only pay $500. If you run a print ad for $3,000 but only 50 people see it, you’re out $3,000, and you may not have turned any of those people into new patients.
Online marketing costs significantly less too. A single add in a newspaper or magazine costs anywhere between $150 to $2,000 depending on the publication and the placement of the ad. Compare that with Google paid ads ( ad cost can be as low as $2) or a monthly subscription with ZocDoc or yelp with guaranteed patients ( maximum $500).
CureMD: How important is it for practices to have an online presence?
James: Essential. No longer are the days of patients finding information out solely based on referrals. Now consumers are savvy and use the internet to educate themselves about everything. They search for products and services that fill their need. If you don't have an online presence you are missing a huge piece of the pie. Furthermore, a lack of an online presence diminishes credibility and is associated with being dated.
CureMD: What are some major obstacles for medical practices to have online visibility?
James: Time. Most practices are too preoccupied with the day-to-day business operations. They're reactive and marketing falls down the list of priorities. Of course, marketing should be near the top of that list. Every business needs to market to produce new patients/clients. In addition, great marketing should actually improve the overall patient experience. Take the time to develop a strategy and execute. Proactive vs. reactive.
Great Marketing improves the overall patient experience and can serve as a tool for patient engagement.
CureMD: Where do practices start ?
James: There is a clear list of marketing priorities for all healthcare practices.
- Quality Website Design
- Education Content
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Online Reputation Management
- Patient Retention Marketing including: email marketing & social media
- Paid Advertising
- Ancillary Marketing Services: IE. Video
CureMD: If a practice has limited time and cannot be present on all social media channels. Which one is the most effective in interacting with and attracting new patients?
James: Facebook. The overwhelming majority of time spent by consumers on social media sites is spent on Facebook. Globally, people spend more than 50 minutes a day across Facebook's suite of apps (not including WhatsApp), the next distant second is Instagram. After that Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat are bringing up the rear.
CureMD: How can practices encourage their patients to leave online reviews?
James: Great question. Convenience. Most patients have a good experience with their doctors. However, the process of posting a review can be tedious . One must first be solicited to post a review by a staff member. They need to be directed to the review site. Then the patient needs to know what credentials are required to post a review. (Yelp requires a Yelp account; Google requires a Gmail account). Lastly, patients have lives too and therefore once they leave the office the likelihood of them posting a review goes down significantly. Solution. Software. Software programs that automate the entire process from solicitation, to providing step-by-step directions and reminders via email and text to post when it's most convenient for the consumer.
CureMD: If a practice has multiple locations, do they need location specific marketing strategies ?
James: Yes, you need location specific marketing strategies. However, that does not mean you need a separate website or social media profiles for each location as they should represent the brand as a whole. For location specific sites like Google+ and Yelp, individual profiles allow the user to get information for each office. Plus it helps your Search Engine Optimization.
CureMD: When asking for referrals, what works best?
James: A genuine interest in providing exceptional care. Patients who have great experiences will naturally talk to their friends and family members. You can help to boost their word-of-mouth with email marketing, social media, and referral rewards programs. None of the aforementioned marketing tools will produce results if the quality of the service is lacking.
CureMD Marketing: Those that do send referrals your way send them a Thank you card, show them you appreciate their loyalty.
CureMD: Are there any risks involved in marketing small practices?
James: Yes. Two primary risks :
1. Selecting the wrong marketing company to represent you. Unfortunately the marketing industry is very fragmented and there is little barrier to entry. As a result, you get a lot of 'agencies' that produce poor quality work with little results.
2. Not measuring results. If you don't measure the results of your marketing strategy then you're just spending money and hoping patients show up. You have to measure and refine to produce a truly successful strategy.
CureMD Marketing: We don’t think marketing itself creates any risks that were not there before. Even if you decide not to have your own website or social media pages for fear of bad reviews or because you don’t have the time to manage them, there are third party sites where people will go and talk about you. Thus, there are more benefits to having an online presence than risks. To avoid negative advertising , the rule of thumb is to not do anything you won’t like being done to yourself i.e, incessant phone calls to people, sending too many emails to the same people in a very short period of time or posting pictures of your staff or patients online without their consent.
CureMD: How do you measure which online channel is working best for your practice?
James: Great question. So many practices invest in marketing without a clear way to measure the return. Social Doctor uses two programs to measure results :
1. Google Analytics - Free.
2. My Leads - Social Doctor software that tracks every phone call, email (leads) and the outcome of the conversation.
We love telling our clients how many website visitors they’ve received from each source, but the bottom line is how many ‘appointments’ resulted from the individual source. With the use of tracking urls, landing pages, proxy forms we can deliver those bottom line statistics with a small margin of error.
CureMD: What content is necessary for medical practices to share?
James: Information about the doctors, the history of the practice, the practices services, the practices successes. Doctors provide two primary value propositions to patients. 1. They help diagnose and treat conditions and illnesses. 2. They help educate people on their conditions and illnesses. Your marketing materials should act as a proxy for #2 as the doctor is not always available to everyone at the same time 24/7. Your marketing materials are.
CureMD Marketing: Always remember the 80/20 rule. Educate and entertain your audience first, market to them second. If your physician can maintain a blog of their own it can be an amazing opportunity for current and prospective patients to feel connected with their care provider. Share patient success stories, send an email to your patients introducing new staff members or if there are any changes in your practice that will affect your patients. Small gestures go a long way.
CureMD: Should there be a different marketing strategy for each specialty?
James: Yes. There are clear commonalities between all practices. However, a strategy should be conceived for each individual practice. For example, a dermatologist has a tremendous opportunity to retain patients and provide additional services after they've delivered the initial treatment.In that example email marketing, social media etc. become more important to keep patients engaged and coming back. Versus, orthopedic surgeons deliver services and if the surgery is successful they may never see that patient again. For such as practice patient retention marketing is lower on the priority list.
CureMD: How can a practice ensure repeat visits rather than just acquiring new clients?
1. Customer Services.
2. Patient Retention Marketing (Email Marketing, Social Media).
CureMD: It is difficult for new patients to assess the quality of care a practice provides. What are some of the proxy measures that practices should work on which will help project quality ?
James: Clearly the office interior and design are very important. Right or wrong, people associate old and dated furniture to old and dated approach to healthcare. The immediate second, is staff communication, if the staff is organized, collected and professional the patient will clearly feel as though the office is a smooth operation. Last, but clearly not least is the doctor’s interaction with the patient. There is no substitute for a good bedside manner.
CureMD Marketing: In our experience the front desk desk staff is probably the most crucial hiring in any practice. First impressions are generally lasting. Rather than hiring people based on their qualifications only, invest in someone with a cheerful disposition. Policies and procedures can be learnt but the ability to put people at ease while communicating with them is not an easy skill to develop.
CureMD: If a practice does not want to spend on advertising how can they still market their practice?
James: Work on providing the best patient experience when the patient is in the office. Delivering a phenomenal patient experience will generate referrals.
CureMD: What’s the most cost-effective way for start-up practices to market themselves?
James: Stop, think and develop a sound logical marketing strategy. If you don't have a strategy, then you'll most likely be burning money. So before you invest in anything, know your competition, understand your objectives, and research the marketing tools (SEO, Reputation Management, Social Media) that best match your goals.
CureMD: What are the benefits of using a third-party source to market a Medical Practice?
James: Time. Expertise. Skill. Hiring a professional marketing agency, should save you time, provide expertise (they've done it before and were successful) and afford you access to multiple people with different skills (writers, designers, developers, creative). Hiring in-house would be cost-prohibitive.
James is the founder of Social Doctor and heads the business development department. He is responsible for managing Social Doctor’s marketing, brand direction and product development.
Prior to launching Social Doctor, James was a manager and consultant at a leading medical consultancy, where he built relationships with top healthcare brands and doctors domestically and internationally. He brings over 9 years of experience to Social Doctor and a unique perspective on the ins-and-outs of effectively managing a healthcare marketing company. James saw the potential of Social Media as a tangible business tool and with the founding of Social Doctor became the first mover in the healthcare social marketing industry. With the help of a great team and relationships with leading healthcare companies he has expanded Social Doctor’s services and product portfolio.