Level-up your digital marketing strategy with these five tips

Having the right digital marketing expertise and growth strategy tailored to consumers’ preferences is essential for moving forward and staying profitable.

Practices relying on word-of-mouth marketing face a hard truth in today’s competitive climate: it simply doesn’t carry the weight it did 10 years ago.

While peer recommendations are still influential, the primary source that patients consult when choosing their provider, according to a 2019 consumer survey, is the Internet. In fact, 58% of consumers use search engines like Google over any other online source, including their health insurance’s website or consumer-review portals like Yelp. Mounting evidence suggests millennials are especially more likely to prefer digital means to access health recommendations, and this trend will only accelerate over time as younger generations come of age as healthcare consumers.

For this reason, healthcare providers’ digital personas—their website, reviews, SEO rankings, feedback, and social media activities—are increasingly tied to their professional credibility and success. Today, the quality of an online presence is directly tied to a practice’s ability to gain new patients, keep existing patients happy, and generate profits.

Yet it is precisely in this area of designing a digital strategy where so many well-intentioned physicians, provider groups, and medical practices miss the mark.

The Science Behind Patient Acquisition

Marketing for the purposes of new customer acquisition is less art and more science in the digital age. It involves knowing how to target consumers in the right way—and leverage the right tactics at the right time — with the right technology.

To generate the best ratings, reputation, and web traffic, physician practices need:

  • a highly functional, active, eye-catching website that loads easily, feels intuitive, and is easy to navigate;
  • insight on how search engines like Google rank physician practice listings (e.g., plastic surgeons within a 5-mile radius);
  • consistent name, address, and phone number across local directories;
  • a well-established foundation of patient reviews that can form the basis of an online reputation;
  • targeted content such as blogs and/or thought leadership articles to boost Google rankings;
  • a working knowledge of best practices surrounding search engine optimization (SEO)
  • a robust social media presence based on the Internet behaviors of their target demographic.

This working list is just the beginning. Attracting new patients—in the right way, at the right time—is a constant, ongoing effort. It’s not a one-and-done strategy or a quick campaign.

Understanding Marketing Shortcomings

While practices may be aware of the necessity to market digitally, mistakes are still common—even among specialists in more competitive areas.

Some physicians who have been in business for 20 or 30 years, for example, still rely heavily on referrals and patient recommendations to generate new business, but when new patients query them, only a few reviews pop up. Some of these reviews are not positive. Other practices simply lack an organized, targeted, and consistent marketing strategy.

We see this frequently with physician groups that have all the components of an online presence, such as a website, and, perhaps, a Twitter or Facebook account. Unfortunately, these assets aren’t always updated on a regular basis, which results in a digital “home” that is not modern, sleek, relevant, or inviting. For many patients, this is a negative reflection of a practice and can prove counterproductive, ultimately working against a practice.

This isn’t necessarily the fault of a physician’s practice. Many are trying their best to keep up, allocating hours to crafting relevant and informative content, which ends up buried during Google searches.

Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t have the resources to hire a dedicated digital marketing person to address all these pain points.

A Smarter Way Forward

While each practice’s business priorities vary, the need for a consistent and professional digital marketing strategy is universal. Here are five moves that practices should make to level up:

1. Take inventory.

The first step to making any changes starts with an assessment, in this case, of existing Internet presence. When a physician’s practice searches for itself on Google, Bing, or another search engine, what happens? How far down the first landing page does the practice show up? How many stars show up in a rating?

Answers to these questions can help a practice get a sense of how it is faring. Also, as part of a comprehensive inventory, a practice should also look at the insights from its digital assets such as social media accounts. How many and what kinds of posts are generating high click-through rates to the practice’s site? While these are only basic examples of a full-blown inventory, they’re important metrics.

2. Compare.

Competition is a constant reality for owning any business, whether a small practice or a Greek restaurant. Too often, the Michelin-star-worthy eateries — or hidden-gem physicians — aren’t getting the buzz and business they deserve. How does your practice’s web presence compare with those other similar practices in a particular community (or a 10-mile radius)? What kind of social media presence do the top practices in a particular area have?

3. Gauge client feedback.

The easiest way to improve online reputation is to ensure current clients (i.e., patients) are satisfied with the services, care, and treatment they receive. One way to do this is using proactive patient surveys (e.g., text-based surveys) after every patient encounter. This way, practices are alerted to problems such as poor customer service before they turn into poor online ratings. Practices should also follow ratings outlets like Yelp and respond to poor reviews or complaints quickly. This demonstrates to potential patients that a practice is paying attention and committed to resolving issues.

4. Set growth goals.

Inevitably, what a practice does with its marketing budget should be tied to specific growth goals. What do you hope to accomplish in one year, two years, or five years? Maintain the status quo? Grow business revenues for a particular procedure by 20%? Every goal influences the direction of marketing efforts and budgeting decisions.

5. Address the biggest pain points first.

Resource-strapped practices often lack the ability to fix everything at once, so it’s better to tackle the most glaring problems first, such as a website that’s hard to navigate, or poor or nonexistent local SEO. A third-party expert, or digital marketing consultant, can help a practice maximize its resources, and improve any weaker areas of its digital strategy.

To generate new business in late 2021 and 2022, practices need to consider the evolving preferences of consumers and clients. Having the right digital marketing expertise and growth strategy tailored to consumers’ preferences is essential for moving forward and staying profitable.

About the Author
Shawn Miele is the Founder and CEO of Advice Media.