If you work in healthcare, you’re probably an expert in medicine, not marketing. But if you run your own practice, you need to understand how to attract and retain patients. While marketing can become overwhelming if you try to take on too much too quickly, there are a lot of simple–and sometimes free–tools that can help you start growing your business today.
Recently, our in-house marketing strategist, Nina Ojeda, sat down with Eric Lefkowitz, general manager at iMatrix, a full-service digital marketing company that works with small veterinary, chiropractic, and optometry practices to help them take their businesses to the next level. The pair shared several strategies for ramping up your marketing efforts, with a particular emphasis on what to do as the country tries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few of the strategies they recommend.
How to Market Your Practice
- Build a professional website. If you don’t have a website, you need to get one now. This is the main way people can find information about your business online, and in our digital world, if you’re not online, you basically don’t exist. But having a website isn’t enough. It needs to look professional and current, and it needs to be continually updated. Did you set up your website five years ago but have since changed your hours of operation? Not only does having outdated information affect your reputation with potential customers, but it also hurts your rankings on Google, which will move you lower in search results if they detect bad or conflicting information about your business online (for example, if you list different addresses on your website and your Facebook page). There are lots of free or inexpensive tools like Wix or Squarespace, but if you have a little money in the budget, Nina and Eric recommend hiring someone to set up a Wordpress site for you. This will ensure a high-quality design and give you the ability to customize without you having to learn how to code. Plus, with some quick training, you can learn how to update the Wordpress page yourself if you need to change anything down the line.
- Know your audience. One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is thinking they know who their customer is when they actually don’t. If you think your audience is primarily Millennial city dwellers, you’re going to market your services differently than if they were middle-aged parents living in the suburbs. Before you spend any time or money on marketing, spend some time getting to know your customers.
- Try online advertising. Google Ads is one of the most well-known, efficient, and cost-effective marketing tools available. The service allows you to take advantage of Google’s algorithm to advertise to people who search for certain terms that are relevant to your business online. It can be a little confusing to get set up with Google Ads, so we recommend hiring a professional to help you get started. If you run a veterinary, chiropractic, or optometry practice, iMatrix can help, but there are also agencies that specialize in this type of digital advertising across a variety of industries.
- Produce content. Advertising is not the only way to get in front of people on Google. By publishing content like blog posts, articles, social media posts, or videos related to the work you do, Google will eventually begin to prioritize those pieces when people search for related terms. This is known as search engine optimization (SEO) and is one of the most effective digital marketing techniques. SEO can seem really complicated, but the most important thing is to just produce relevant content over a sustained period of time. For example, if you’re a veterinarian, you might start writing blog posts about the best way to protect your pets from fleas and ticks or how to treat certain common ailments at home. That way, if someone searches for “flea and tick prevention” on Google, they might come across your blog and learn more about your business.
- Use social media. Social media is a fun, free, and immediate way to engage with new and potential customers. While there are dozens of popular social media platforms, you don’t need to use them all in order to be strategic. In fact, limiting yourself to one or two platforms based on who your target customer is will result in a more effective social media strategy. For example, if your customers are a little bit older, they’re probably on Facebook. If they’re younger, they’re likely more active on Twitter or Instagram. The most important thing to do on social media is to be authentic and consistent. People respond to real people whom they can relate to, but they won’t engage with anyone if you’re not posting regularly.
- Partner with other brands. If you’re interested in marketing to potential clients, consider partnering with another brand in your industry to share information. For example, a veterinarian may want to partner with a flea medication or pet care brand that they frequently recommend. You can offer to share your email contacts in exchange for their email contacts and market to those lists together. If either of you get new contacts from your efforts, you can share them with one another so you both grow your database. It’s a win-win, and you might even be able to offer things like promo codes or trial products to customers.
- Hire a pro. Unless you have marketing experience and really love the work, you don’t need to take precious time away from running your practice to focus on marketing. Hire a professional or an agency to do the work for you. Even if you just hire someone to design a website and get you started with a blog on social media, it will be much more efficient than trying to figure out everything from scratch.
How to attract new business during COVID-19
COVID-19 has presented new challenges to businesses who are trying to attract customers. For several months earlier this year, many healthcare practices had to completely shut down or severely restrict their services, which made it difficult to communicate with patients. As many clinics start to reopen, however, they may find that even longtime patients are hesitant about coming in for a visit. This makes regular communication more important than ever. Not only is digital marketing the easiest way to reach new and current customers, but it’s also a great tool for sharing updates about the services you’re offering.
- Prioritize safety. What is your practice doing to ensure customer and staff safety? Are you offering telemedicine services? Curbside or another contactless payment option? Are you following social distancing and sanitation protocols? Limiting the number of patients and staff on premises? The more you are doing to promote safety, the better, but it won’t be worth the effort if you’re not letting people know that it’s safe to make an appointment. Update your website, send an email, write a blog post, post something on social media–or do all of the above!
- Consider telemedicine. While telemedicine had been gaining traction pre-pandemic, it’s become more useful and popular than ever before. Given how convenient it is and how long it will likely be before COVID-19 is no longer a threat, it’s likely these tools will be sticking around for some time. While there are certain rules governing how practices can use telemedicine, it is a great way to promote safety while continuing to care for patients. Eric at iMatrix has said he’s seen veterinarians report success in conducting a pet examination remotely–with the pet in the clinic and the owner outside or at home. Chiropractors may not be able to make an effective diagnosis via Zoom, but they can walk patients through exercises or check in to see how their symptoms are improving without requiring an in-office visit. Telemedicine is also great for follow-up visits.
You don’t need to spend a ton of time on marketing to be effective. If you know your audience and have a basic strategy in place, even a couple of hours a week can make a huge difference. The most important thing is to not slow down.
by Brooke Carey, Lead Storyteller
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This post was adapted from “How to Market Your Healthcare Practice–During COVID and Beyond,” part of the free Gravity Talks webinar program.