Did you know that marketing for doctors can look a bit different from marketing for other businesses? While many core principles remain the same, there are 3 key steps that every modern medical practice should prioritize when creating a modern, successful, online marketing strategy.
With so many marketing agencies making big promises in exchange for steep price tags and unwieldy strategies ––it can be difficult to know whom to trust and where to begin.
After all, with digital marketing these days, it can be easy to “lose the forest for the trees,” so-to-speak. Before you know it, you’re spending a ton of money on half-hearted strategies that take you away from your practice and leave you questioning if you’re really affecting your bottom line.
Do you really need to be spending $500 a month on Facebook ads, and another $500 retainer on your website? Do you need to be on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin?
For this reason, it can be uber-impactful to take a step back, zoom out, and make sure that, first and foremost––you have these 3 important steps in place before implementing a more comprehensive marketing plan for your business.
So whether you’re just launching your private practice or looking to grow your medical business, this article breaks down the 3 most highly effective steps that as doctors and other health care providers you must have in place to create a modern, successful, digital marketing strategy that noticeably impacts your business.
Step 1: Improve Your Google Business Profile
In a survey of more than 1,700 American adults, it was found that approximately 80% of respondents have used the internet to make a healthcare-related search in the past year. Further, 63% of those respondents will choose one provider over another because of a strong online presence.
Simply put, if you’re looking for new patients, it’s important to meet them where they’re at: and these days, it’s online.
For instance, well over 200,000 people in America type “Doctors near me” into Google every month. Plus, there’s significant search volume around more niche-specific versions of this query, including phrases like “podiatrists near me” or “pediatricians near me.”
Since Google registers users’ locations in order to offer better, more customized search results, making it onto Google’s list of top doctors (like in the same search below), can have a huge impact on your business.
But of course, just making it onto that list isn’t enough. One factor that can further increase patients’ chances of reaching out to you is the number of reviews that you have below your name. If one doctor has 0 reviews, and the other has 50 (positive) reviews, which one do you think people are more likely to book an appointment with?
If you already have positive reviews on your Google Business profile––fantastic. Keep going! Rather than just hoping for patients to take initiative and leave you reviews, find ways to systemize this process. For instance, after patients visit you, automatically send them an email asking if they could do you a quick favor and leave you a Google review.
If you’re worried about “bothering” your patients––don’t be! Another survey found that 68% of consumers are happy to leave a review if they’re asked.
If you have no reviews, or worse—you have bad reviews, the next steps are for you.
If you have no reviews, it’s never too late to start sourcing them. Start by reaching out to 10 of your best clients and ask them if they could please write you a Google review.
If you have negative reviews, the following steps are recommended:
- Address each negative review with a comment. Not only does this address the person who left you the negative review, but it also demonstrates to others reading the reviews that you care.
- Apologize. Remember the adage: the customer is always right? Let this be a mantra as you write your comment, regardless of how rude or nasty their review was.
- Fix the problem. There is almost always a shred of truth in a negative review. Don’t let it get you down—nobody is perfect and it’s difficult for every single aspect of your business to be running flawlessly. But rather than getting defensive or ignoring the concern, take it seriously, and take measures to ensure the negative experience does not happen again. Consider including these measures in your comment as well.
- Consider reaching out to the commenter directly (outside of Google Business) and asking them if they might be willing to take down the negative review. It might work; it might not. Either way, it’s worth a try.
Remember, a little bit of consistent effort in the “reviews” department goes a long way.
As a note, Google reviews are intended to populate slowly and organically over time. So rather than trying to get fifty 5-star reviews in one month (Google might be suspicious), start simply with a few positive reviews, and then build review-seeking into your operations so that they continuously roll in over time.
Step 2: Optimize Your Website for Mobile
Most practitioners know they need a website if they want to start or grow their practice. They might invest in a beautiful website built by developers, or pay a freelancer to create their website on a website-builder tool such as WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix.
Regardless of which route you take, it’s important to keep in mind that these days: the strength of your website relies on how good it works on a mobile device.
In 2018, one source estimated that 52.2% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones. This means that, essentially, over half of your potential audience is looking at your website on a mobile device. Today it is likely even more.
If your website:
- Looks great
- Loads quickly
- Is easy to navigate on a cell phone
- Lists your phone number and location
- Offers a clear next step for people to take if they’re interested in scheduling an appointment (for instance, a “Book Now” button that works––more on this in the next step).
Then, you’re in great shape. You are officially “optimized for mobile.”
But often, even experienced website builders will overlook technical issues on mobile phones–– for instance, pages taking too long to load, broken links or inactive buttons, or confusing layouts that don’t answer people’s questions.
Not only does a non-mobile-optimized website negatively impact user experience and cause “friction” in a user’s journey towards booking an appointment with you–– it also sends a signal to Google to not show your site to more people.
Because as a search engine, Google’s #1 job is to give users a wonderful experience by showing them what they’re looking for. If they send people to websites that take forever to load and are frustrating to navigate, Google will register how long people stayed on the page, and how quickly they exited out of the window. When users “exit” quickly after getting to a page, this is called a “bounce rate.”
If your website has a high “bounce rate,” then Google could essentially penalize your page and be less likely to show it to more people until you fix those issues. This will negatively impact your ability to rank in Google’s top 10 search results for your desired keywords. In marketing language, this means that your SEO (search engine optimization) will suffer, and anyone who knows anything about digital marketing will tell you there is tremendous strength in SEO––especially for local businesses.
If your website is not mobile-optimized, take the steps to make it so.
If you already have a trustworthy website builder, then ask them to prioritize these changes. If you don’t, consider hiring a freelancer off of UpWork or even Fiverr to make these changes for you. Often, a few quick fixes can have a tremendous impact on the way your site shows up on mobile.
Step 3: Offer a Clear “Next Step” for Patients to Take
Once your google business section is looking great, and people click on your website and it loads quickly and easily–– then what?
To answer this question, we must put our “marketing hats” on and consider the person’s mental and emotional state when they are googling “doctor near me” before ending up on your site.
First and foremost, if somebody is googling “doctor near me;” chances are, their intention to find a doctor near them with whom to book an appointment— is quite high.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but this marketing term known as “user intent” is incredibly important.
For instance, they may have first googled something like, “why does my back hurt?”
When somebody googles, “why does my back hurt?” chances are, they’re coming from a place of curiosity. They’re doing research into how the body works, comparing their symptoms, and, like many health-related Google inquiries––attempting to self-diagnose.
Although they are googling a medical-related question and may very well be in need of a doctor, their intention of actually booking an appointment with a doctor––based on their search query–– is actually quite low.
But, let’s say they find an article about how lower back pain may be caused by a kidney infection, and therefore, they decide that they really should go see a doctor.
So, they type in “doctor near me.”
In that case, their intention to find a doctor and book an appointment is most likely high.
They are ready to book, and what they experience in the next few minutes will determine whether or not they become a patient of yours, or the next doctor on the list.
So, how do you make sure they book with you?
Well– the key is to make their booking experience as smooth and frictionless as possible.
In marketing-speak, “friction” is not good. Most people are in a hurry, and are easily distracted. Something as simple as a page taking too long to load, a difficult checkout process, or a confusing appointment booking system can cause a potential client to click off of your page, and call the next doctor on the list whose number was easily listed for them on Google.
So to create a smooth and frictionless experience, when visitors get to your website:
- It should load quickly
- It should be easy to scroll with their thumb
- The font size should be large enough to read easily
- There should be a very clear Call To Action (also known as a CTA)
The Call to Action (marketing-speak again) is a simple button you’ll see throughout the website that easily allows people to take the next step to book their appointment with you.
Now, every practice, and their target demographic, requires a slightly different CTA.
If you work with an intergenerational demographic, you might want to keep your CTA super simple. Rather than an online booking system, consider allowing people to quickly and easily call your office by pressing a CTA button that says “Call Us” and automatically starts dialing your number on their phone.
In that case, your front desk staff should be trained in a simple sales process that allows them to answer potential patients’ questions and then encourage them to book their appointment right then and there on the call.
If you’re working with a modern, younger demographic in a busy city, it may be more preferable for potential patients to be able to book a virtual appointment easily right on your website. In that case, the CTA could say something like “Book Your Virtual Appointment.”
Regardless of what your CTA or “next step” is (as mentioned above, this should look a bit different for each practice), the important thing is that you have one––that it’s clearly defined, and featured at least 3 times throughout your home page.
What? You thought we were going to say social media, didn’t you?
Social media is undoubtedly important. Truthfully, if this article had 4 steps, then creating and optimizing a Facebook page for your business would probably be step #4.
But do you know why it’s not included in our top 3?
Well, it all comes down to the marketing term we introduced above, called user intent.
For a lean, optimized digital marketing strategy, the very first channel you want to prioritize is the channel that is most likely to have the highest user intent.
How do most people search for a doctor? Not on Facebook. (Unless, of course, they’re posing the question to their Facebook community––ie., does anybody know of any good doctors in the area?–– in which case, your reputation and network will definitely go a long way).
But most of the time, for serious search queries with high user intent to actually book an appointment––the first and most consistent place people visit is Google.
For this reason, if you’re looking for marketing for doctors, please keep in mind: Google is your friend.
In summary, making sure your profile is optimized on Google business, your website is optimized for mobile access, and your home page is optimized with a very clear CTA (call to action) are the 3 key steps for marketing your practice. When you have these in place, you are laying down the most impactful infrastructure for online marketing success, upon which all the rest of your marketing efforts can rely, and which will ultimately grow your business.
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