So 2019 is upon us. The New Year is traditionally a time to stop, pause, and evaluate the 'big picture'. As medical doctors, this is easier said than done: It's all-too-easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of treating patients. However, for any doctor who wants to strategically position their practice for future growth, it's very important to find time to PLAN. You should be asking yourself the following questions:
- How did 2018 go? What went well? What could be better?
- Where do I want my practice to be 5 years from now? What do I have to do by the end of 2019 to be closer to that goal?
- If I need to grow my practice, what marketing strategies should I invest in?
- What will FUTURE patient referral patterns look like? Are my marketing strategies aligned with these future patterns?
At Red Castle Services, we believe the future of patient referral patterns looks like this:
3 Words: Online, Online, Online. All patient referral patterns will be ONLINE. A patient needs an urgent care center? They will look online and find the closest one or the one with best reviews. A patient needs an orthopedic surgeon? They will look online and even SCHEDULE online. A patient needs a pain management doctor? Yep, you guessed it, they look online and schedule online.
But what does this mean for practices which want to be successful in 2019?
It means they need to be EASY TO FIND ONLINE (Top of Google); patients need to LIKE WHAT THEY FIND (excellent reviews / top quality website); AND they need to allow easy and convenient ONLINE SCHEDULING. Plus all this needs to be available via mobile devices, as well as emerging technologies such as voice search.
But how, specifically, can doctors start to strategically position their practices for this? The list below offer actionable items which your marketing team can work on to start positioning your practice for the inevitable (online) future.
Below is a list of 10 Tips for Marketing your Physician Practice in 2019:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of positioning your website as high as possible in search engine's (such as Google) search results. The 2 minute video below explains why doctors should consider SEO:
With more and more patients looking for doctors online (and this trend set to continue in 2019), being easy to find on Google is a MUST. Read more about SEO for Doctors.
2. Google Ads
If you want to get to the top of Google immediately - and you're willing to pay for it - then Google Ads are a good option. Within hours you can have your ads displaying your website at the top of Google Search Results. The image below shoes the difference between Google Ads and regular search results.
The only downside is you pay for every single click. If you're getting a lot of clicks each month, this can quickly add up. For this reason, many practices prefer SEO, or at least a combination of the two.
3. Google My Business
Google My Business is not only a powerful tool to help patients find you, but it is a free tool. Even if you have not heard of it, you have no doubt seen it before. It is the 3 listings which appear on a map when you search for something on Google. For example, if you search for "orthopedic surgeon Orlando" you will see a map at the top of the search results with 3 orthopedic surgeons restaurants nearby.
Doctors (and their practices) need to ensure that their Google My Business profiles are set up well (correct info plus good images), have good patient reviews, plus that they have one for every location where they see patients. Performing these actions will increase the chances of the profile appearing top of the search results.
4. Patient Reviews
Let's be honest: There is no point in getting your websites and profiles top of Google if you have a bad online reputation. Yes, patients will find you, but will they like what they see? Will they really schedule an appointment with a doctor who has a 3 star reputation? Unlikely.
This is why it's important for you to start collecting positive patient reviews TODAY. Plus, you need to start the process of removing negative reviews, or at least preventing future negative reviews. Want to know how to do this? Read more about Online Reputation Management for Doctors.
5. Social Media
Social media can be a black hole for your time. However, when used well and efficiently, it can offer a medium to reach thousands of prospective patients, while simultaneously building the brand and online reputation of your practice. Further, frequent posts on social media can help to boost the SEO of your site.
Read more about Social Media Marketing for Doctors.
6. Re-targeting Ads
Did you know that advertising to patients who have never heard of you before is LESS likely to work than advertising to those who are ALREADY FAMILIAR with you or your practice? After all, why do you think Coca Cola spends so much on advertising even when everyone already knows about it?
However, a physician practice does not have an advertising budget as big as CocaCola's, so you cannot advertise everywhere else it will bankrupt you. So, how can you advertise to the small percentage of people who live in you area and who may already be familiar with your practice? This is where Ad Re-targeting comes in. For example, you can set up Ads so that anyone who visits your website will later be shown your ads on their Facebook Wall.
7. Online Scheduling
Online scheduling increased in 2018 and this trend is set to stay. If your website is not allowing patients to Request an Appointment Online, then it's something you need to add in 2019. These forms should be prominent on your website, yet simple and easy to complete.
8. Patient Newsletters
Any marketing-savvy practice has been collecting patient email addresses over the past months - or even years. One of the greatest chances of future referrals is PAST referrals. So, why not remind past patients about your practice? A great way to do this is through a patient newsletter.
For example, Red Castle writes SEO articles for your practice, which we then INCLUDE in the practice newsletter. This provides your patients with great (unique) content, plus means that you stay on their radar. The newsletter can also be used to encourage more interaction on Facebook or positive reviews.
9. Diversify your payer mix
It is said that most practices get 80% of referrals from just 20% of their referral sources. For many practices, this means Medicare or Medicaid. Ask yourself this: What would happen if that referral source dried up? Or suddenly stopped? From a Risk Management perspective, it's a good idea to diversify your payer mix.
SEO and Online Marketing can be a great way to increase your number of Private Pay Patients. You may also consider growing other niche demographics like AUTO, PI, and Work Comp. Read more about Work Comp Marketing for Doctors.
Yes, this one is so important it's worth stating TWICE! We can't stress enough the future importance of your practice being easy-to-find on Google. We predict that the practices which will be most successful in the future, will also be the practices at the top of Google. And that will not be a coincidence.
About Red Castle Services
Red Castle specializes in online marketing for physician practices. Read more About Us and Our Beliefs.