What if everything you thought you knew about marketing was wrong? Business owners in every industry often make the mistake of seeing marketing as a separate function of their business, isolated from customer service and service delivery. And especially in healthcare, where doctors have typically shied away from promoting their practice because they have an obligation to not advertise in an unprofessional or unethical way.
But the truth is that you can’t avoid marketing, even if you try. Marketing impacts every point in the patient journey at your practice. Consider how new patients typically find you, all the way through to retaining them as a loyal patient and if they actively refer you to their contacts. Whether your marketing is by design or by default, patients will have an experience that they will more than likely share with others.
It’s very likely that you are already offering a high-quality service and good patient experience at your practice, but are you using what you already doing right to build your business? Like any business, it’s important to differentiate yourself from other similar businesses. This article explores the 4 key ways you improve your marketing for a more profitable practice.
1. Get online
Patients are the lifeblood of any practice. And if your practice is growing, you will have a healthy stream of new patients visiting the practice and loyal, long-term patients who keep coming back. One of the best ways to reach new patients is to make sure they can find you online.
While this might be new territory for some practices, we’ve put together a step by step guide to help you choose the most essential platforms for patients to find you when they’re looking for a healthcare service. Bear in mind that you don’t have to be visible and have resources to manage every possible online platform, instead start with a few and build up from there. We recommend Google My Business, a Facebook page and RecoMed online appointment booking platform as a start.
2. Convert prospects into patients
Once you can be found online, it’s important that what prospects see and read about you reassures them that they are going to have a good experience at your practice. This is essentially online reputation management. What it might entail is making sure that reviews and comments about you are favourable, posting information on your pages that is relevant and useful for patients, and/or sharing any content where you have been placed in the media for your expertise. Remember that managing your reputation online can be a powerful tool to impart credibility with prospective patients.
3. Nurture patients to build trust
Like any business, you want to build loyalty with your patients. You might already be great at converting prospects into patients, but do they choose you as their preferred doctor? It’s unlikely that you have the time and resources to reach out to every individual patient from time to time to build a long-term doctor-patient relationship. Fortunately, there are tools at your disposal to make that interaction possible and meaningful. Consider Bulk SMS for example. You can send a message to all your patients within a matter of seconds.
Imagine the difference it would make to patients managing a specific condition if they received an SMS from your practice reminding them to book their follow up appointments. Or you could send a message reminding your whole patient population to come in for their flu shot or communicate any changes at the practice. Communication by SMS has been proven to be a powerful way to build trust and loyalty with patients and something to consider if you want to do the same.
4. Get loyal patients to refer you
Word of mouth remains your most powerful marketing tool and something you want to encourage at your practice. It’s a reality that patients will look at reviews and ask for recommendations on platforms like Facebook when they are looking for a service provider. The same is true for healthcare services.
While no one wants to be badgered to write a review, you can find ways to encourage patients to review your practice that doesn’t put anyone in an uncomfortable position. If you have the kind of doctor-patient relationship with certain patients that allows you to ask them outright, then do so. You can also leave a notice at reception, include a link one your social media pages or in your email signature asking patients to leave a Google review or a review on the Recomed platform.
Of course, you will need to monitor reviews and have a process in place to respond to negative reviews as part of your online reputation management strategy. It’s a good idea to see negative reviews as feedback and an opportunity to improve your service where possible. It’s also true that a patient might just have had a ‘bad’ experience for several other reasons that don’t necessarily have to do with your practice. But overall, if you are committed to a high standard of care and good patient experience you are more likely to build up many more positive reviews than negative ones.
Because patients are so important to the livelihood of your practice, it’s essential to engage in these 4 crucial marketing activities to attract and retain loyal patients to boost your profitability in the short and long term. Contact Healthbridge if you want to start using SMS or online appointment bookings as part of your practice management and marketing strategy.