Partner, Chief Strategy Officer at RUNNER Agency.
Physicians and medical practices are evolving their approach to marketing. They have to. Patients are becoming more digitally savvy. Yet many doctors are held back by misconceptions about the limitations and possibilities of digital marketing. In this article, I cover the most common myths I hear.
1. HIPAA prevents digital marketing.
While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is important to protect patient information, it doesn’t prevent you from digital marketing. It’s never been easier for a practice to launch digital marketing strategies that are HIPAA compliant and protect sensitive patient information. In fact, as many patients now rely on digital channels for research, digital marketing has become a necessity for medical practices.
2. Your reputation as a physician is enough.
The reputation of a physician is one of the most important assets a practice has. Reviews are an important part of convincing potential patients to reach out. But a great reputation doesn’t guarantee that you’ll reach new people. In fact, it’s not always the best physician that gets the patient, but the physician that’s in the right place at the right time with the right message.
3. You have to rely on physician referrals.
Physician referrals have always been an important channel. Some medical practices invest far more in physician liaisons to drive referrals than in marketing. But that’s because they don’t realize that you can attract far more patients at a lower cost through paid digital advertising. In fact, we recently worked with a practice that generated 70% of new patients from digital advertising.
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4. Advertising is too expensive.
Advertising costs vary from specialty to specialty, but how “expensive” something may be is subjective. Think about advertising costs within the context of your return on investment. If you pay $100 to acquire a patient through advertising that returns $3,000 in revenue to the practice, is that expensive? Many digital advertising channels allow you to only pay when you receive a click or allow you to get very specific in terms of the types of patients you target, which eliminates waste and unnecessary spending.
5. Remarketing is intrusive.
We’ve all seen remarketing ads that show up after we’ve visited a site. They’re some of the most targeted ads you can buy because they’re based on a potential patient’s behavior. While some may see remarketing as just intrusive, it’s often an essential medical marketing strategy because the patient journey often involves in-depth research over many days. Remarketing allows your practice to stay top-of-mind for potential patients as they explore their options.
6. Phone calls are still the most important lead type.
While phone calls will always be important for medical practices, we’re seeing patients begin to prefer text messaging over phone interactions. It’s not uncommon now to see questions asked and entire appointments booked over a text message chain, with absolutely no phone interaction. As most Americans no longer answer their cellphones when calls come from unknown numbers, and front offices struggle with calling patient leads back at the right time, it’s important for medical practices to begin to embrace a different way of communicating.
7. Medical marketing should just be educational.
While education is absolutely more important than marketing, the best medical marketing is educational and motivating. Many medical marketers stop at education and forget that it’s not enough to explain a condition or a treatment. Your job is also to help potential patients understand the stakes — and in many cases, that means not waiting to get a diagnosis or treatment.
8. Content equals blog posts.
Content marketing used to mean creating blog posts. But now it means so much more. Content can take many forms, including social media posts, e-books, videos and even posts published to your Google My Business listing. Videos, in particular, have become extremely important to both grab attention and educate potential patients. Don’t get stuck thinking about just blog posts.
9. You need to post frequently on social media.
This is a common myth that was true many years ago but doesn’t hold true in 2021. Focus on quality rather than quantity. Most social platforms, like Facebook, have deprioritized brand content. This means that you shouldn’t expend a large amount of energy for a small return. Rather than worrying about how frequently you’re posting, create fewer but higher-quality posts that address real patient questions and concerns.
10. SEO is all you need.
It’s common for medical practices to lean on SEO for marketing. SEO is viewed as driving some of the highest quality leads, but that’s because search is often the last channel potential patients use before they reach out — meaning it gets all the credit even though other channels are often involved. The truth is that SEO is important, but local SEO is the most important traffic a medical practice can get. It doesn’t matter whether you drive thousands of monthly visits to your site for a blog post about bunions. How many of those people actually live in your market and could become a patient? The most successful medical marketers don’t just capture existing demand from searches; they create new demand through paid advertising.
11. It’s difficult to measure digital marketing.
Digital marketing is much more measurable than traditional channels. But there are some particular challenges that medical practices face. First, you have to put tracking in place to measure where all your leads come from. That includes setting up both form submission tracking and phone tracking that can measure exactly how many calls you get and from what marketing platforms. In addition, you need to track what happens after a lead is submitted. How many office visits does Facebook generate for you? This is all possible with the correct tracking setup.
These medical marketing myths are often rooted in the desire for a silver bullet, or they’re based on a lackluster previous experience. The truth is that great medical marketing is a mindset — an acknowledgment that channels work together — and an openness to experimentation.
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Author: John Keehler, Forbes Councils Member