In today’s Internet-savvy age, marketing and media have become an essential part of a medical practice’s growth. The truth is, a lot of people have shifted to seeking healthcare information online. According to research conducted in 2013 by the Pew Research Center, nearly 72 percent of users searched online for health-related information within the last year. This means doctors, medical practices and facilities need to establish a strong online presence.
According to a survey of over 12,000 physicians conduced in 2008, only 17 percent of doctors rated the financial position of their practices as profitable. This means nearly 83 percent of those physicians are not making enough money.
So, what medical strategies can dermatologists apply in order to increase profits and reach more patients? With a wide variety of marketing tools available, it is easy for dermatologists to go too far when trying to market their practices. These tips can help you create a successful marketing plan for your dermatology practice without wasting time and money on inefficient methods:
- Have a solid marketing plan: Practices with a well-defined marketing plan usually out-perform those without a plan. The most important part of a marketing plan is the goal, as it is the foundation for other critical decisions. To start with, develop five-year goals for your practice, and your one-year goals will fit within the context of a five-year plan. A five-year plan is broad in scope and is more strategic.
After each year, evaluate and adjust next year’s goals based upon whether or not you accomplished this year’s goals. Concentrate more on developing strong and tangible goals. In order to achieve this, limit your goals to five. Your goals must be:
- Challenging yet realistic
- Strong and specific
Different practices have different marketing plans, and hence their goals are different too. A new dermatology practice in a city will have different goals than a mature practice in a rural area, for example.
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- Consider online and offline media: The Internet provides a vast number of opportunities for free or inexpensive marketing. However, traditional marketing strategies such as TV, print and outdoor media often show good results. Unfortunately, many practices spend a lot of time and money on channels that do not attract much business. Simply put, do not put all of your eggs in one basket. A marketing strategy that balances both online and offline media will reach a wider customer base with minimum costs. In a 2012 Google/Compete Hospital Study, almost 84 percent of patients use both online and offline media for healthcare research. Of those patients who used traditional media for research:
- 32 percent of patients used TV
- 20 percent of patients used magazines
- 18 percent of patients used newspapers
Therefore, if implemented correctly, offline or traditional media can be just as powerful as online media.
- Build an informative website: Patients usually go to your website to share medical records and receive test results. However, most websites are not destinations; they are simply a secure post office to send and receive medical records. You can transform your practice website into a digital media channel. You can achieve this by posting educational content, responding to comments and questions, sharing links to relevant websites and posting information about dermatology procedures and treatments.
- Invest in search engine optimization (SEO): It is essential for dermatology practices to invest in SEO tactics for their websites because the ranking is critical to marketing your practice. This is because when the patient looks up dermatology practices online, you want to be one of the first names that show up. If you plan on growing your reach through the website, be sure to invest effort and money into effective SEO strategies. Also, content plays an integral role in website ranking as Google promotes websites that publish informative and useful content on a regular basis.
- Offer unmatched patient experience: The most efficient way to stand out is by providing an outstanding patient experience. From the content available on your website to the way your team handles patients, make sure every gesture is patient-centric. An excellent patient experience is a proven way to stay ahead of your competitors. Also, you must refrain from big-picture marketing strategies and focus on specific target audience groups. Niche customers are more passionate about their beliefs, benefits and interests. You can tap this opportunity and plan branding campaigns that ignite their passions and engage them on a personal level.
- Start a blog: Blogging can add fresh content to your website on a regular basis and also help with SEO. Consistently posting original content on your blog shows that you know your business and are happy to keep your patients empowered and engaged. You may provide information about general dermatology procedures, share skin care tips, announce discounts and deals and announce updates about your practice. You can promote your blog using social media and use it to engage with existing and potential patients.
- Encourage online patient reviews: Reviews are one of the most efficient ways of attracting new patients and growing your practice. Encourage your positive patients to share their feedback in an online review. You can do this by sending a follow-up email thanking your patients for their visit and encouraging them to review your practice. You can offer free services and discounts to reward patients for posting reviews for your practice. With the patients’ consent, you can make their reviews public by sharing them on your website. It will not only help maintain a healthy patient relationship but will also get your name out there.
- Get listed on Google My Business: You should take advantage of the free Google My Business listing, which is one of the most effective marketing tricks for a brick-and-mortar practice. Once you have created and claimed your business page on Google My Business, make sure that all of your information is consistent across all of the online directories and citations. It is important to sign up on review sites such as Healthgrades, RateMDs and ZocDoc as having positive online reviews will give your practice an edge over competitors.
- Focus on social media marketing: Social media is an influential marketing tool, but it has to be utilized correctly in order to maximize benefits. Social media will continue to play a significant role in how medical practices will market their businesses going forward. You must select your social media network wisely and be sure to dedicate sufficient time and resources to market your practice the right way. Having a strong social media presence is a great way to build a brand following, which will help drive new patients to your practice.
- Monitor your online reputation: There has been a steady increase in the number of patients using online reviews over the last few years. Moreover, a lot more patients are willing to consult out-of-network doctors just because of more positive online reviews. In addition to enhancing your brand image and credibility, online reviews increase the online visibility of your practice. In order to enhance your online reputation, you should encourage patients to post positive reviews on your website, social media accounts and third-party review sites.
- Make use of video marketing: Mobile is not the only way to include creative strategies in your marketing plan. Online videos on channels like YouTube have proven to be very effective in marketing a medical practice. A number of studies conducted by Explainer Video Company claimed that animated videos are most likely to boost businesses by almost three times and help with SEO, online presence, and medical practice marketing.
Most importantly, dermatologists should monitor the results of any marketing strategy and be flexible enough to adjust if it is not attracting patients to the practice. Online social media tools like Facebook provide built-in analytics that displays the channel’s effectiveness. Traditional marketing strategies such as cold-calling may be harder to track, but you can ask new patients where they heard about your practice. Collecting this data will help you determine the most effective marketing strategies.
Overall, nothing is better than treating your patients with empathy and concern. In competitive markets, though, these marketing strategies will set your dermatology practice apart from the rest.