Medical practices depend heavily upon referrals from colleagues and word of mouth. While these are valuable, Vividus Marketing Director Jason Borody explains that without a solid marketing strategy, referrals are not enough to keep a practice profitable in today's competitive environment.
The reality of the online community
Studies show that 80 per cent of Australians use the internet to research health care. Internet users range from teenagers to the over 65s. In fact, internet usage among the more profitable 55-64 year old age category is over 60 per cent. What does that mean? It means that medical practitioners who are not prepared to meet their patients online, must be prepared to lose their patients. Your online marketing plan has quickly become a critical component of your broader marketing strategy.
Benefits of a good Health Marketing strategy
By utilising their online presence correctly, health care professionals are able to:
- Increase practice awareness
- Open lines of communication between existing and potential patients/referrers
- Establish themselves as an authority in their location and field of specialty
- Define your target audience and research their needs, perceptions, and questions. By doing this, you can write to them instead of simply for them. Think about their age, concerns, how they communicate with each other, and where they congregate online.
- Set achievable goals. This might require some market research and consultation into what works for the competition and what doesn’t. You should also survey patient and referrer perceptions regarding your practice and local healthcare issues.
- Integrate a mix of platforms and tools to market your practice. Only by providing information over a varied platform will you be able to reach a truly diverse audience. If your targets search for practices like yours, then invest in search engine optimisation (SEO) marketing. If they ask medical forums or social media sites, invest in a community professional to answer questions and post comments on your practice's behalf.
Absolutely DO NOT
- Rush in without giving any thought to your overall strategy. Content with no strategic planning can appear disjointed and erratic, and lead to damaged reputation. Having a proper plan for content development creates ‘sales funnels’. These are preemptive methods for answering patient questions and directing them to your practice.
- Forget to measure your success. One of the most exciting benefits of an online health marketing plan is that every part is measurable. Whether your strategy includes social media, blogs, website pages, PR, or online articles –all your material can be monitored and either refined until they are successful, or replaced with new effective activity.
Patients (and consumers generally) operate very differently than they did a few years ago. Rapid increases in the use of search engines like Google mean that health providers need to be savvier in the way they legitimise themselves through online directories, wikis, blogs, forums, and comments on Facebook or Twitter.
Building your online presence in a systematic fashion that both informs and guides, will build a reputation and ultimately get people talking positively about your practice. Engaging with your target audience and providing useful information whenever requested builds trust in your practice and awareness of your capabilities. Ultimately, readers will come to know and trust you before they walk in your door.
Successful medical practices need to effectively utilise online marketing through professional planning, implementing, measuring, and tweaking. The internet is always changing and your practice needs to keep pace.
Professional Healthcare Marketing
The Vividus team work to increase community awareness of your business and help you build patient lists via local-area marketing, professional websites, online marketing, satisfaction surveys and referral-based marketing. To develop a marketing plan that will attract patients, improve patient experience and build reputation, call 07 3282 2233 or visit www.vividus.com.au.
The content in this article was published in DoctorQ September 2013 edition.