By QUINTIN L. GUNN SR.
In June of 2015, I wrote an article on Linkedin entitled Is Social Media Good for Your Practice? Most of what I said then still applies now because it showed how the internet, in general, remains an integral and necessary part of business and practice growth for consumer engagement. This thought process applies to both new and current clients.
The internet, in truth, is really the lifeblood of any fee for service business or practice.
Because we live in a Mobile First world
It’s where patients find out about who you are, what you can do for them, and if your products or services meet their budget.
From the outset, a monthly marketing budget must be established. Why? Because you can’t reach your income goals unless you know how many customers are needed and what it will cost to reach that number of paying customers.
In today’s competitive environment, marketing isn't free. But if you set a budget, make a plan for every month, and use all or most of the listed tools, you'll find continued and sustained growth in your business or medical practice.
How much do you need to spend? Typically, a budget of 20 percent or no less than 15 percent of your monthly gross income. That number is based on the fact that marketing is a necessary expense and should be viewed as a part of the monthly expenses.
When you start your marketing program, what are the tools you should use?
- Word of Mouth Referrals - This is a great, yet free source of advertising and usually has a higher conversion rate. Why do you ask? Because in most cases a friend confirmed the quality or benefits of a product or service after treatment or purchase. This is your walking, talking testimonial, recommendation, or referral.
- Practice Website - This is your 24-hour online brochure. It should be clean, easy to read and navigate, mobile, and have multiple ways to contact you or your business for service. With it, you can tell the who, what, when and how. Cost may vary based on the number of pages, design selection, content that is needed and modules used within the site to attract new business. Your baseline cost will range from $1500 to as much as $12,500.00. WordPress is the most consistent design platform that is accepted today.
Here are some typical things that go into your website: About Us, Product Images, Before and After images, Video, Contact Form or Patient Portals, Blogs, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Testimonials or Recommendations.
In the aesthetic industry, the more before and after images you show to consumers the better the proof of results and finally request for an appointment.
Videos, on the other hand, provide a live view of the possible experience a customer can expect when being treated at your practice or place of business.
Having a Patient Portal provides a way for some of the pre-authorization forms to be processed, thereby reducing wait times.
FAQ - (Frequently Asked Questions) Provide answers for some of the most frequently asked questions your business gets from inquiring customers. It is also a nice way to educate your patient population on some of the many services or treatment plans that are requested most often.
- Social Media Is Key to Brand Building and new patient awareness. While this is often a free tool for your practice or business to start out, there are some costs. However, the general idea is to create a lot of buzz about your business or medical practice. Most, if not all fee for service businesses utilize these tools. Why? Because they are fast becoming the required and dominant source for attracting and keeping attention.
Today’s consumers run hot and cold based on the time of the day, month, or year, it's best not to put your eggs all in one basket. Trial and error will determine what works best for your business or practice. Be patient and stay the course because it may take time for branding to take place and traction to begin - no less than six months.
Let's take a look at some of these easy to use tools
- Facebook - Uses images, allows live streaming of events, allows video, you can also post articles, and promote services via online coupons. It is one of the most interactive platforms today! In truth, at its core, it is an online website that provides viral marketing, testimonials, recommendations, and lead generation tools. You can also pay to promote your page or product using the Boost Page Option. The paid option can source by topic, specialty, location, age, gender, etc.
- Twitter - Uses 140-character content, with images and video options for promoting and finding new customers or a target audience of like-minded people. This is also a good lead generation tool if you pay a fee, and again uses sorting methodologies related to the topic, specialty, location, age, gender, etc. It helped Trump win the Presidency and is one of the primary ways he communicates to the country as strange as that sounds.
- Instagram - Uses images, video, and live streaming of events to help attract new prospects and customers. A paid option also exists for this platform. The downside is that many of your followers may not actually be buyers. But it is a tremendous branding and exposure tool. You can search and source by topic, specialty, location, age and gender.
- Pinterest - Image and now video-based platform with many infographics, graphs, charts, and useful tips for your followers to use and to be shown for improved response
- Google My Business - Is a free online website that Google provides for business introduction and updates. What makes Google My Business a great tool is that it gives you everything you need in an organic way to attract new business. You can post video clips, in office specials, patient testimonials, location map which can be the life cord to consumers trying to find your office. But the most important feature is the Click to Call feature that is often overlooked. Tremendous tool when its fully optimized and claimed.
- Snapchat - Image-based mobile platform, limited in what it can offer business, but is a fan favorite due to live stream moments, instant stories and events and targets mostly the younger crowd between the ages of 16 – 28. Young people like this format as the images dissolve after a time period. This allows a little more questionable behavior but it's becoming one of the most popular tools on the internet as the more mature crowd starts getting the hang of it.
- LinkedIn - This is a wonderful tool for business professionals, students, and consumers of all types. Additionally, as your audience grows, your email contacts begin to grow by the company, position title, product type, specialty groups or communities, which provides very specific targeting for products or services you want to sell or make available. You can also share ideas or gain business insights within your field from some of the most important thought leaders.
- Google Ad words/Pay Per Click - Used to accelerate and enhance your ability to jump to the front of the line in order be found at the top for online search engines. Large and small companies alike use Google Ad words with the goal of jumping to the front of the line for new consumers and businesses alike. Users must keep in mind that this is a pay to play model, and some view it as online extortion, because of traffic of new prospects slows or stops completely if you lower or eliminate your ad word budget. Another recent downside or negative is Google can disallow certain medical marketing based upon industry intolerance.
Regardless of how a business or medical practice may feel, if you don't feed them, they won't feed you new prospects of any kind beyond intermittent organic leads.
In our view at Social Media Solutions for Doctors, Google Ad Words can still be an essential part of any marketing or new website design program as it enables businesses to set a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual budget for lead generation and new customer acquisition via online advertising.
Google Ad Words are largely focused and/or targeted via specific keywords which again identify products, services, people and brands that a person or company might search for or has expressed an interest in via their Google, Yahoo, or Bing searches
Every practice and business has high and low revenue cycles, know what your business highs and lows are and adjust the marketing budget accordingly. We tell all our clients, plan ahead for slow months, and expect to spend more during these slow times as your competition is likely adjusting their own budget upwards to reach those buying prospects during this down cycle.
The great part with Google Ad words is that you only pay when people click the featured link that takes buyers to a dedicated landing page or your website contact page where questions get answered, services get promoted or where you can display products that get purchased online. It also provides the ability to understand your buying audience, their customer needs and what types of leads become buying consumers who pay most often from your website.
Because Google Ad Words has the ability to move you to the front of the line and above Organic search results. You should expect to pay a premium for this opportunity of the preferred placement. Otherwise, without great content related to the topic or service, most businesses or resources find themselves languishing just beneath paid search placement with little or no traffic. So the rule of thumb with Google AdWords is Pay To Play!
- Newsletters, Email Blast, Blogs:
Newsletters: A newsletter’s primary goal is to keep current patients or prospects up to date on the latest and greatest related to products, services, or planned events. This should be done quarterly and is most effective when you're announcing some milestone or major business achievement.
Email blasts: Email blasts should be used monthly and provide a list of in-office specials or online specials which the business or practice offers. You can also list upcoming events, new patient testimonials or before and after images from happy patients. However, we advise before you use any patient images, that you have the patient release forms completed and in the patient's record showing approval to use their online image in your marketing information. This can be a great tool, but overuse can cause even your most loyal customers to unsubscribe.
Blogs: Blogs provide an ongoing update of information and lead generation related to treatment pathways or services that your most frequent users care about. It also provides a great resource for helping with organic ranking. Because Google is nothing more than a big online library the Google spiders tend to always source new information for the search engines to display.
- YouTube: Is a video catalog of instructional, entertaining, and informative video from a multitude of topics, countries, businesses, and individuals. It is one of the premier ways to show off your services, skill, and knowledge. In fact, many people use YouTube as an online television.
By adding meta tags (internal keywords for sourcing the video) for each video that relates to a topic, you can post a video that is sourced by category, products, services, interviews, how to demos, and music selection. YouTube videos can be shared across most if not all social media platforms, newsletters, blogs, websites, landing pages and pay per click programs.
Now that we’ve identified several of the major players in capturing new business, or patient leads. Expect that there will be more on the horizon. And you can also expect that within each company that we've listed, they will continue to make updates and modifications within their own platforms as their goal is to capture you in their net or have you select them as the go-to company used to acquire new business or patients.
The truth is, no one size fits all since each company impacts different audiences.
All the new or current services you provide are tied to your ability to be seen, heard, or identified. Using all or some of the listed tools will help you maintain and grow your business or medical practice. Failure to use these tools properly, show misleading information or images or having a budget that is too small for the audience you want to reach will slow or kill your business brand or medical practice profits.
Set a budget, be willing to modify if needed, and try as many tools as you can.
Our next discussion will center around third-party marketers, and directories. Who are they? Do they help or hurt, or can you do it yourself?
Quintin L. Gunn Sr. is a Practice Development Consultant with Social Media Solutions for Doctors. Visit www.SocialMediaSolutionsforDoctors.com