- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On April 1, 2016
- Blogging, Digital advertising, Email marketing, Online reputation management, SEO, Social media, Websites
This week I’ve been working on our new physician marketing programs.
As I worked on these future marketing packages I realized that we should not only describe what physicians need to do to boost results but also give them a clear plan of how to get started and how to grow.
This post gives an overview of the digital marketing areas that should be addressed by a medical practice and the order in which they should be tackled.
It should not come as a surprise but good physician marketing starts with planning.
A robust digital marketing program is a pretty complex beast with many moving parts so it definitely pays to have a plan before diving into execution.
I recommend that a medical practice at least develop the following components of a plan before launching into any other elements:
An ideal patient profile: You need to develop a patient profile document (also called a “persona” description) that details who you want to attract to your practice.
This profile goes deeper than a demographic description. It’s about getting “into the head” of your prospective patient. Once you identify more about how they see the world you can tailor your marketing more accurately to their needs and feelings. You can learn more about developing this document here.
Content themes: Once you’ve consolidated your knowledge of your ideal patient’s needs and feelings, you can brainstorm the topics they would probably want you to address in any content you produce. (Yes, the online marketing I am suggesting includes content.)
The tool I’ve found effective is a “mind map”. Below is an example of a content topic mind map I created based on a persona we developed for a hospital marketer.
Editorial calendar: The content themes you develop in your mind map will be high level in nature. The next step is to break down these content areas down into potential blog/article titles.
One way to make this task easier is to search for blog posts others have written on these topic areas (or similar topics) then develop post titles based on what you find.
This can be done by inserting synonyms into titles or adding numbers, e.g. “10-steps to serious online marketing results for physicians”. For more details on how to come up with blog titles, read this post.
Put all your blog titles in a spreadsheet for future use. Add projected dates to this spreadsheet and you will have an editorial calendar for your blog.
2. Your website is your hub
After completing the above planning the next step is to take a look at your website.
Your website is the “hub” of your online marketing. It’s the place most patients will find you when they Google and it’s under your control so you can tell your story your way.
Take a look at your current website and ask yourself if it represents you well from a branding point of view. Does it look good? Does it tell your story effectively? Is there content on there your patients will want to read/view?
Does your website look good on an iPhone? Is it easy to use with “chubby fingers”? Half the visitors to most websites today come from mobile devices. You need to make sure your website is up-to-date and ready for smartphones. If not, it’s time for some web development. For more details on how your patients are going mobile see this post.
Is your website easy for you to update? Things change rapidly these days. You need to be able to update your website whenever you want.
We’re WordPress fans as we find it gives our small business clients the ability to update most of their website whenever they want without the need for a tech guru on standby.
3. Reviews matter
Online reviews are becoming a critical marketing issue for health systems. For example in 2014 JAMA found that 59% of patients considered online ratings at least somewhat important in selecting a physician and BrightLocal’s 2015 research showed that only 13% of consumers will consider using a business with a 1- or 2-star rating.
For physicians this means tackling online reviews are the third thing you should do. These reviews really matter in terms of your branding and whether prospective patients will visit your website or office.
You need to make sure you’ve identified all your online reviews. Poor reviews could be costing your patients without you ever knowing it. One simple way to find most reviews is to just Google yourself.
You need to gather positive reviews on an ongoing basis. This can be done manually by using your existing email program or you can simplify the process and work required by using a dedicated review management system.
4. Are you a friendly expert?
There are approximately a billion websites in the world now but many are pretty thin on content.
The research suggests that websites with more content generate more leads (which lead to more business.) Not only that but content acts as a form of positioning in the mind of a prospective patient.
Content gives you the opportunity to position yourself as an expert in your field by showing your expertise not just telling people you are good..
Some of the forms of content that really help position you as an expert and drive patient volume are: blogs, ebooks and videos. As a plus this kind of content is loved by Google, which is looking for quality information for searchers, meaning you will improve your search results.
If you’ve gone to the trouble of shoring up your website and even generating some initial content, then it’s time to set up ways to measure your success.
The basic tool here is Google Analytics. Google Analytics you allow you to track data on your website such as visitors and leads generated and see which pieces of content are performing the best.
See this post for a detailed introduction to Google Analytics.
Email works. According to the Direct Marketing Association email marketing offers a roughly $38 return on investment (ROI) for every $1 spent.
So once you have the foundational elements in place described in points 1-5 email is the next digital tactic to deploy.
Despite the rumors, we find that targeted emails (some call them “eblasts”) still perform. If your information/offer is on target and your messaging and design are high quality there is still a good ROI from offer type emails—even if your offer is simply a piece of content or an invitation to an educational event.
Of all the forms of email that digital marketers use e-newsletters rank the highest. If you’ve gone to the trouble of developing content for a blog then e-newsletters will be easy for you to produce and present a great payoff for all your work. You can simply use your blog posts as articles in your e-newsletters.
After email SEO presents the next best ROI in our experience. But SEO today is really about your total web presence not just your website.
Being optimized for search means getting on page one of searches results for keywords that are relevant to your practice. The items that appear on page one of search results today are often not your website. They can be your business listing in a host of online directories and review sites. Each one of these search page results needs to be optimized so it shows up the way you want it to.
This means you should work on “cleaning up” your online directory listings. Your listings need to be consistent across the Internet and consistent with your website information.
Optimizing your website also still matters. You need plenty of good content, then you need this content to be optimized for your keywords. Finally you need to reach out to others to start building inbound links. More detail on link building in this post.
8. Lead generation
Your website can generate new patients for you.
Some patients will schedule an appointment with you directly but others will need to be cultivated. You can cultivate patients by first signing them up to your email list then staying in touch with useful content.
To get potential patients to sign up for your email list you will need to offer them something. This offer can be an educational piece in the form of an “ebook” (PDF document), series of educational emails or a video (or series of videos.)
The best practice is to house these offers on a dedicated page on your website. You can use this dedicated web page to give more information on the piece and encourage your prospective patient to enter their email address and download it. Having this dedicated “landing page” and monitoring it in your Google Analytics you will be able to optimize its results over time.
9. Social media
It’s easy to get mired in social media. There are so many different platforms and it’s easy to get lost in growing “vanity metrics” such as your number of fans or followers. Hence I’ve placed social media as the ninth step in a digital roll out plan.
Social media works but it’s better to get the other elements of the plan in place (at least to some extent before dedicating too much time to social media.)
A key to success with social media is knowing which social media channels your patients really use (your ideal patient profile developed in step #1 will really help you here.) You need to “fish where your fish are”. The second key point is to track metrics to see what social media is actually doing to drive leads or appointments.
There are two very different ways to use online advertising to drive your business both can be very effective.
Testing: You can use Google Adwords as a keyword/content testing platform. Before investing a lot of time in organic (free) SEO projects you can allocate a small budget to an Adwords campaign and see if searchers click on your ad. These results will help you define a strong plan for a long term organic SEO program.
Expansion: This strategy is rather the opposite of the testing approach above. Once you find content and keywords that are driving traffic to your website, you can use advertising to increase this volume. You can place ads on the keywords that are working and keep growing your traffic indefinitely as long as you can track that the money you are spending on ads is less than the profit you are making from new patients.