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If you are looking to increase your practice’s visibility and generate more patient inquiries, consultations, procedures, etc., then this article should interest you. My experience as the Director of Social Media for VSA’s client base has provided me with a unique insight into effective digital strategies tailored for medical practices.
Building a medical practice in an increasingly competitive market is harder than ever. Many specialists, hospitals, and health systems are adding vein care to an already crowded market. To succeed in 2015 and beyond, an independent medical practice must take an entrepreneurial approach to marketing — actively seeking out new patients and referral sources. Entrepreneurial marketing does not need to be expensive. Your vein practice can achieve positive results by consistently utilizing a few proven, effective techniques.
Consumers today have many choices when selecting a provider for care. To remain competitive, a practice should continually deliver a message that focuses on the unique aspects of their practice. That message should capture the attention of both patients and referring physicians alike.
The key to entrepreneurial marketing is steady progress. To turn a modest time investment into practice growth, create a solid marketing plan and implement it consistently. An effective plan will identify your unique clinical skills or experience, targeted service area, current and potential competition, and existing and potential referral sources. List specific marketing initiatives, assign responsibilities, and set monthly new-patient goals. Whatever techniques you use, make sure to track referral sources so that you gain an understanding of which efforts are yielding the highest results. Remember, marketing’s job is to make the phone ring. Staff training is responsible for converting patient inquiries to consultations. The physician’s job is to convert consultations to procedures, when medically necessary.
Step 1. Strategy Development
The first step in developing a multimedia marketing plan should be an intensive strategic planning session. Look at the big picture to build and coordinate all of your branding elements into one cohesive marketing plan that is consistent across all media.
Your goals and your level of involvement will determine what your marketing team does for you, and how they go about doing it. Take a few hours away from patient care and answer the following questions for your practice:
Step 2. Take Another Look At Your Website
Your digital presence is only as good as your website. No matter how many people sign up for your email newsletter or engage with your office on social media, your website will still be the major influencing factor in their decision of whether to call for that appointment or not. An unprofessional or “dated” site instantly sets off warning sirens in a prospective patient’s head – “if they can’t bother to keep their website up-to-date, what other administrative or clinical corners might they be cutting?”
A vein practice’s website should have an ample amount of unique content on vein disease and treatment options, as well as the doctor(s) and other providers level of training and experience. Pictures should be available of the entire clinical care team. Your website should feature a video introduction from each of the clinical providers, as well as at least (5) new patient testimonials added annually.
Video patient testimonials succeed where written testimonials fail. A video testimonial delivers a message that prospective patients can relate to and delivers a subliminal “call to action” to schedule a consultation. Written testimonials, although better than nothing, fail to deliver a personal message from a patient. Video testimonials help the patients you have already treated appear more relatable in the eyes of the prospective patients viewing your website – they represent men and women, young and old, varying weights, etc, … in other words, they have imperfections like the rest of the population and are not paid models. Your patient video testimonials will represent a cross-section of the “actual” patient population your practice serves. They comfort prospective patients who are intimidated by most cosmetic print ads.
It is imperative that your website is easy to navigate, enabling patients to effortlessly find expansive, easy-to-understand explanations of common conditions, along with the causes, symptoms, and treatments. Clear, detailed information about how exactly your practice can offer relief is also a must. By making your website a go-to resource for patients seeking information about vein disease, you are elevating your practice to the status of a trusted expert in vein care.
The appearance of your website is extremely important. In many cases, your website is a patient’s first impression of your practice, so maintaining a well-organized, easy-to-navigate, up-to-date site is vital to attracting new patients. This is not a one-time effort. Your web site should be updated regularly, adapting to market conditions on a continual basis. It should not be an electronic brochure of your practice.
Step 3. Search Engine Optimization
With a solid website in place, the next step is to ensure that your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value is as high as it can possibly be. This process actually begins during the website development process, but it most definitely should not end there. Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process.
New and unique content is a must. Fresh content is a major component in Google’s rankings, so SEO can never be a one-and-done project. From regular blog posts using strategic keywords to updating static pages regularly with the latest research, effective search engine optimization means constant data-driven tweaking of your website.
Nowadays, a website just isn’t complete without a blog. Blogs provide a place for a business to demonstrate their expertise, offer valuable information to their audience in order to gain their trust and loyalty, post fresh, keyword-rich content to satisfy the search engines, and create engaging content to be shared via social media and email newsletters.
In order to be effective, however, a blog must be replete with relevant, interesting, informative topics and written in a relatable way that will attract readers and hold their interest enough to make them want to return to read your next post. It must also be maintained on a regular basis – if prospective patients notice that your posts are few and far between, or that the last post was published months ago, they’ll wonder what the problem is.
Link building is another essential aspect of SEO. Google optimization is based on the principle that the more people linking to your website, the more valuable your site must be, thus deserving a higher search engine ranking. In other words, search engines give preferential treatment to websites that are seen as authority resources by other sites. Actively working to build high quality backlinks is very important. This can be done by developing relationships with industry influencers, writing guest posts for other sites, as well as submitting your site to online directories. While social sharing (Tweets, Likes, etc.) may not carry the same weight as other types of links, there is evidence showing that social shares do affect rankings, which is another benefit of a strong social presence.
Both visibility and credibility are increased when a medical practice’s name begins to appear regularly on various prominent industry news outlets, whether in print or a digital format. The fact that industry influencers would think highly enough of a doctor or a practice to allow them to contribute to their site gives them instant authority as a fellow expert in the eyes of an audience. And any articles published through large, national media outlets only add to that perception.
Step 4. Social Media Marketing
The final piece of the online marketing puzzle is Social Media Marketing. Each different channel (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus) must be leveraged in the way best suited to its own particular audience and guidelines. Strategic posts must be made to each platform regularly, in order to gain engagement from their online communities. Regular themed campaigns are also a must, in order to draw renewed attention and interest.
With fresh, exciting content to share on a regular basis, the next step is to build an email subscriber list and send that content directly into the audience’s inboxes via an email newsletter. Blog post teasers form the foundation of these communications, but bulking them up with updates about the practice, as well as other relevant tips and tidbits, makes it even more likely that recipients will open them, read them, and then click through to the site to find out more.
Step 5. Maximize Patient Satisfaction
Consumers increasingly expect to be able to manage their lives using digital tools. Medical practices that fulfill this expectation will succeed in forging powerful links with a strong patient base. Start with your current EMR. Most systems can easily be configured to support a patient portal, allowing patients to request appointments, pay their bill, receive e-reminders and download medical records. Enhancing your website is another way to create electronic connections with patients. Provide content that keeps visitors coming back. Make patient forms available for download and update your site regularly with seasonal health information, “top ten” health habits or other useful content.
Remember that existing patients are your best source of referrals. Build patient satisfaction by listening carefully and communicating concern. Survey patients regularly and make improvements when necessary. Personally thank patients who refer friends and family to your practice.
Effectively marketing a vein practice online is anything but simple. It requires a significant investment of time and effort, and even then, there is no guarantee that it will have the desired effect. Your best bet is to work with a digital marketing firm with the experience and expertise to tackle every single step of the process in the most creative, consistent, and strategic way possible.
About the author. Alyssa Schmiege is the Director of Client Social Media Strategy for Vein Specialists of America. Alyssa can be reached at [email protected] or (630) 992-0060.