All things being equal, why would a patient choose your practice over the one around the corner? Here’s a hint: it’s not your doctor’s credentials. Traditionally, and even until recently, doctors’ and physicians’ approaches to marketing and generating new patients were centered around the doctors themselves, their credentials, their qualifications, and the level of the technology they offered.
However, the internet and social media have radically changed the way people communicate, and have revolutionized how patients now search for, and choose, their doctors.
So, how can you differentiate your practice immediately from your competitors?
Old modes of patient marketing are becoming less and less effective, to the point of becoming obsolete. The most successful doctors and clinics in America today are using what’s known as a patient-focused approach to marketing; a strategy developed by Insight Marketing Group, a medical marketing agency for independent physicians based in Orlando, Florida.
Today’s consumers of medical care are more refined and discerning than ever before. They need more than to see a billboard or a brochure, plastered with the faces of a clinic’s twenty physicians and their credentials; potential patients now seek an emotional connection with their doctor, and they want to know about other people’s experiences with that physician. Many turn to internet review sites such as Vitals.com and Healthgrade.com as well as social media for reviews and recommendations from their peers, in order to make an informed decision about their healthcare provider.
Assuming most, if not all, physicians are board certified, how can you as a doctor differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack? Most prospective patients who visit a doctor’s website already assume the physician has proper credentials; so what sets the doctor apart from the rest is the experience they offer to the patient.
Physicians need to understand in today’s medical market, it’s not about YOU the doctor, it’s about the patients, their stories, and their outcomes. That is what creates authority, connection and interest to drive potential patients into the office. It’s all about trust and accountability. The patients are the ones who will do the marketing, through word of mouth, from friend to friend, and from network to network.
One of the key aspects of patient-focused marketing is sharing the outcome and the benefits right from the patient’s mouth. This has proven to be the most effective means of communication to prospective clients than any other message you can send out.
In a recent industry report by tech resource Software Advice, 62% of surveyed respondents said that they use patient reviews and testimonials to start their search for a new doctor. And 19% use online reviews to validate their choice of a physician before making an appointment.
And, as technology and social media begin to play a larger role in our daily lives (and the future lives of those household decision makers) it is imperative to make sure physician offices are proactive in putting their best foot forward and presenting their practice as a patient-focused, highly successful and well-reviewed business.
If someone declares to their network and their community that a particular doctor changed their life, that physician now has a personal testimonial of great power and impact. That proclamation creates an immediate connection with potential patients; something that will serve as a key differentiator for the physician’s practice. Leading with the patient’s positive experience and turning it into a marketing strategy can pay great dividends in the long run.
Testimonials also give doctors the opportunity to better manage their online reputation. If there’s a negative Google review floating out there about you, you can change that by overwhelming the search engine with positive reviews.
Becoming a Trusted Expert
Another key aspect of the patient-focused marketing approach is providing free education and content on the web and via social media channels. By sharing relevant expertise and knowledge, you’ll become a trusted go-to expert in your field, and not only because you’re board certified.
Content tying the patient’s experience to a commonly asked question, or content that combines giving pertinent information about your practice with a patient testimonial can work wonders for your reputation and your practice. It will also position you as an expert in the minds of potential patients as the “go to” for information about your subspecialty in the area.
There are still opportunities for doctors to talk about themselves within the patient-focused strategy. While creating a personal connection with prospective patients, physicians can tell their ‘story’: talk about their families, why they got into medicine, where they studied, and what they love to do; and in this way portray themselves as personable, affable and trustworthy.
Let Facebook Work For You
Nowadays, people are looking for that personal connection, and what better way to do that than through Facebook? It’s the reason why the platform was created in the first place! People trust what their friends say on social media and value their opinions; therefore, patients are more likely to take their friends’ advice and recommendations.
Through your Facebook page, you can create a visual and personal connection with your patients and prospective patients, before they even walk in the door. When people care and become part of your community, they will naturally be interested and share any updates, stories or testimonials that you post; and they’ll comment and share their own positive experiences with you. Organically it’s some of the best advertising traffic that you can get without spending a dime.
One doctor took a picture with an older patient, who had undergone a successful knee replacement surgery and was ready to go home; she posted that smiling and happy picture with her whole family, her friends, and her community on social media, creating a buzz. That kind of advertising is priceless and extremely powerful.
People connect deeply with others who have suffered what they are going through and have overcome it with the help of a doctor. For example, someone with severe back and spinal problems may view or read a testimonial from a patient who underwent spinal surgery and now feels better than ever. As a result, they might say something like, “Oh yeah, that’s me…I want that; I want to be able to do those things again!”
Synchronize Your Message
Once you’ve established a strong patient-focused presence online, your reviews and patient stories can be converted into hard paper format in the form of print ads, brochures, newsletters, and books. This will connect all the dots and synchronize your positive message across all your digital and print marketing channels.
Potential patients can easily get confused if your billboard portrays one message or theme, while your website displays another, and your brochures send out yet another signal. By synchronizing your message, your prospective patients will feel comfortable and secure throughout their search and experience with your clinic; making them more likely to walk through the front door.
Sink or Swim
There’s no doubt that today’s patients are embracing their role as empowered consumers. To actively captivate this market, physicians need to swim with the times and put their patients forward.
The key to marketing these days is to build a community, and one of the keys to growing community is to share stories and experiences about members of the ‘family’. Leading with the patient brings down those walls and those barriers to entry; it’s your patients that are being your advocates and that will drive others to your practice.