The Impact of Inbound Marketing on Your Medical Practice

August 3, 2012

If I told you there was a high-yield, cost-efficient marketing technique that works 24-7 to bring patients into your practice, would you be curious? It exists.

The vast majority of ads and marketing campaigns used by medical practices can be classified as outbound marketing. This means the practice "sends out" a message to potential patients, usually through printed media like newspapers, magazines, or mail. Outbound marketing can also include ads on websites or on TV.

Most outbound marketing messages go something like this: "Hey, potential patient! We’re here, this is our name and phone number, and we do this stuff for you."

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, has a different message. It goes something like this: "So, you’re wondering about your medical problem? Well, here’s a free demonstration of what we do, our expertise, and proof you can trust us. Here’s what to do next to solve your problem..."

An inbound marketing message is designed to reach a patient who is actively looking for a solution to her problem. These patients are already looking for you - they just haven’t met you yet.

Using inbound marketing techniques in your practice usually involves creating and "parking" solid, reliable, trustworthy information in a place where patients can find it when they need it.

I’ll use two "offline" examples to illustrate the difference.

Billboards are a classic example of outbound marketing. Imagine you’re a male construction worker driving down a highway to work, passing a billboard advertising the local women’s hospital. How likely are you to look at that billboard? Not very. Yet some marketing committee approved thousands of dollars to be spent to get that billboard in front of you.

Now imagine you’re a guy whose wife just told him to find a urologist and have a vasectomy because she can’t tolerate another three years of changing diapers. You go to the Yellow Pages and start looking for doctors. You see a giant ad that says, "Need A Vasectomy? Download our free guide at the following website..."

It should be obvious which medical group has spent its money well.

Inbound marketing usually involves long-term efforts that get easier over time instead of short bursts of expensive marketing campaigns scattered throughout the year.

Here are three broad goals of inbound marketing for physicians that will help clarify this concept:

1. Establish authority

This is all about demonstrating your expertise to potential patients. Example methods include:

• Writing blog articles on your website
• Creating a podcast for your practice
• Creating videos
• Writing an e-book or white paper on your area of clinical expertise
• Posting articles and links on social media

While these things are usually put online, once written, they can be used offline, like given to referring doctors to hand out or even distributed in your own office.

2. Establish trust

One of inbound marketing’s greatest strengths is the power to create trust with the potential patient.

The more of "you" and your practice available for people to see, hear, and get familiar with, the closer the bond they feel with you before walking in the office door.

A billboard or magazine ad can’t do that alone, yet most physician marketing campaigns make no attempt to start a process of establishing trust.

One easy way to integrate this into existing marketing efforts is to include a short line in an ad like, "Watch our videos on children’s allergies on our YouTube channel at this address..."

A huge part of inbound marketing is letting the patient get familiar with you at his own pace, taking as much time as he needs before deciding to come see you.

3. Make yourself easy to find

Don’t limit yourself to being found on just one "channel" of media, online or offline. The more widespread your materials can be distributed, the better.

This is why search engine optimization is a boon for physician practices - patients are literally typing in what they want. If you know what that is, you can present them with highly relevant information every time.

Always create a "next level" of trust-building information or resources, regardless of where you place your next marketing message.

For example, if your practice advertises on TV or local magazines, create an article, e-book, or online video that gives more detailed information on a relevant clinical topic. Don’t just tell people to go to your general website; point them to a very specific resource that further establishes trust and authority beyond the limits of your current media.

Find out more about C. Noel Henley and our other Practice Notes bloggers.