Growing an independent healthcare practice requires effective healthcare marketing, but most doctors are marketing novices. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for doctors to make a few missteps when attempting to promote their practices.
The problem is that seemingly innocuous mistakes can have big business ramifications. And just like in medicine, some wrongdoing can only be healed with aggressive action — while many major blunders cannot be corrected at all.
Read on to discover seven marketing mistakes doctors commonly make and how to correct them.
Most common doctor marketing mistakes — and how to fix them
1. They do not have a healthcare marketing strategy
Developing a marketing strategy should be the first thing every doctor does when devising how to promote their practice, but the reality is that many doctors skip this step. A marketing strategy is a plan in which you define your business goals and then determine the marketing tactics that are the most likely to help you achieve those goals. Having a marketing strategy cuts costs and helps make marketing efforts more efficient and effective.
To develop a marketing strategy, first define your business goals. For example, one of your goals might be to continuously attract new patients. Then, think about the marketing tactics that could help you achieve this goal. Research is key here: You’ll want to conduct primary research by interviewing your current patients (How did they learn of your practice? What persuaded them to schedule an appointment?) as well as your peers (What have they done that has resulted in practice growth?)
Secondary research is also important. Look for studies that provide insight into how patients look for and choose their doctors as well as marketing best practices for the healthcare industry.
2. They haven’t clearly defined their target audiences
Most doctors know they want to market to patients in their geographic area. Some might even know the ideal age of their patients. But defining a target audience often ceases with basic demographics. This is problematic because demographics don’t really give insight into what communication channels your audiences prefer or what messages most resonate with them.
Knowing who you are talking to is essential for marketing success. When you know who you’re trying to help, you can uncover how to best speak to them, what motivates them, and where to market to them.
To define your target audience, first think about which services you’d like to provide more of and what types of people will be most interested in these services. Start with demographics like gender and income, then think about their possible motivations for seeking those services. Finally, consider what might be the best communication channels for you to get your message to those patients.
3. They allocate too much budget on outbound marketing
It can be thrilling to see your healthcare practice advertised on television or to have your smiling face peering down at motorists on the highway. However, traditional outbound marketing — things like commercials and magazine ads — is less effective than it once was.
Today, you can spend significantly less money for a leaner, more efficient marketing plan that runs mostly online. According to PatientPop, nearly three out of four people (74.6 percent) have looked online to find information about a doctor, dentist, or medical care. That’s an astounding number of prospective patients searching for and waiting to connect with your practice.
Although your marketing plan might include some traditional outbound tactics — like sending direct mail postcards to remind patients of annual appointments — the bulk of your budget should be allocated to digital efforts like search engine marketing, social media, and email marketing.
4. They have not optimized their healthcare website
Many doctors don’t realize the amount of harm an outdated website can do for their patient acquisition. If patients aren’t already aware of your practice, Google and other search engines are unlikely to surface an outdated website highly on search engine results pages (SERPs). If a patient beats the odds and somehow finds an unoptimized website, a poor user experience, unappealing design, and outdated content won’t persuade them to schedule an appointment.
An optimized healthcare website has a strong keyword foundation that helps patients looking for care find you. An optimized website also loads quickly and features a responsive design, which means page content adjusts to accommodate any screen size. Additionally, optimized healthcare websites feature accurate, up-to-date content, and they publish new content regularly, usually via a blog.
If your website is not optimized, prioritize an upgrade. This will likely mean working with an outside company that specializes in developing custom healthcare websites.
5. They do not ask patients to share feedback
When looking for a doctor, prospective patients want to see reviews and feedback from current patients because it helps them anticipate the quality of experience they’ll have and care they’ll receive. According to a PatientPop survey of patients, nearly 60 percent of patients say online reviews contribute to their decision when choosing a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare provider. However, more than one-third of doctors (37.3 percent) do not actively request feedback from patients, according to a PatientPop survey of healthcare providers.
There are a number of reasons doctors do not ask their patients for feedback. Some think patients won’t bother sharing their thoughts and opinions, though a BrightLocal survey shows only 14 percent of people say they would never leave an online review. Others worry about overburdening their staff with additional responsibilities, but automated patient satisfaction surveys solve for this.
No matter the rationale, doctors must overcome any fear they have of asking patients to share feedback. Failing to do so will significantly impact their ability to be found via online searches and to persuade prospective patients that they’re the best doctor to care for them.
6. They contract too many outside marketing vendors
Similar to how doctors specialize in a particular field of medicine, marketing professionals will specialize in a particular discipline such as paid search marketing or content marketing. Because a robust healthcare marketing plan involves many disciplines, doctors frequently find themselves working with several outside vendors, which usually leads to confusion and high costs.
Rather than working with dozens of marketing companies, keep your list of reliable contracted vendors lean. Look for multi-functionality as much as possible (i.e., a single company that can develop an optimized website, enhance your online presence, manage your social media marketing, etc.). By taking advantage of this multi-functionality, you can expedite marketing processes, work concisely with one team, and increase your chances of unified tone and messaging across your channels.
7. They don’t know which marketing metrics matter
It’s not unusual for doctors to be in the dark regarding the success of their marketing programs. Knowing the performance indicators that matter will help you improve your marketing strategy, whereas tracking the wrong metrics can cause you to think your marketing efforts aren’t working.
So, what marketing metrics really matter? It depends on your goals. Returning to our original example of continuously attracting new patients, you should monitor where your website ranks in search results (and whether its ranking is improving), whether website visitors and appointment requests are increasing, and whether your online reputation is improving (increase in the number of patient reviews, the frequency of reviews, and review sentiment).
Your marketing vendors should be able to help you identify the metrics that are related to your goals and help you continuously measure those metrics. What’s more ideal is getting direct access to a dashboard where you can easily track essential performance metrics on your own.
Strategic marketing is essential to achieve your practice growth goals because it allows you to reach new patients and deepen your connection with current patients. By doing what you can to avoid these common marketing mistakes, you’ll keep your patient acquisition and retention healthy for years to come.
This post has been sponsored by PatientPop
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