Medical Practice Marketing Overhaul – Preparation For The New ‘Normal’
An overhaul of your medical practice marketing goals and strategies may be the last thing on your mind at the moment. That would be understandable considering the current economic climate. However, if you have some space in your diary, either through a reduction in appointments or the change of work environment, now is a wise time to take action.
That’s because the best time to start increasing your marketing efforts is when others aren’t.
Not following popular thought will make it easier to get results as there will be less competition around. Also, some services such as pay per click advertising, are even offering incentives to advertise using discounted rates.
Taking advantage of these factors can mean that once social restrictions are lifted and we return to the new ‘normal’, your marketing campaign will have a head start over those competitors who paused promotional activities and have to start from scratch.
The current climate
The landscape for any small business has shifted during recent months and medical practices have not been immune. According to some surveys, a loss of revenue has been seen by some, while others have seen little change. The statistics are interesting but the most relevant data lies within your medical practice. A look at those figures could be a catalyst for a revamping of your medical marketing.
Whether or not a loss has occurred, every medical practice will have experienced some form of change. Be that adjusting to the management of TeleHealth services or adjustment of the services offered at the practice. It may even be the change to practice operation to comply with social distancing.
Whatever changes your clinic has experienced it will be hard to predict when these measures will end or if they will be part of the new ‘normal’. It will be difficult to quantify what effect these changes have had on practice numbers, but investigating how they can be utilised within your marketing will be of value.
Change Equals Both A Threat And An Opportunity
One thing is certain, that change can bring new threats to your current business model – but there are also opportunities.
When a patient’s normal services are disrupted at a medical centre and the changes are not to their liking, they will be looking elsewhere for something that meets their needs. For example, a medical centre that was quick to introduce TeleHealth services and kept patients up to date about the criteria for bulk billing eligibility would have created an opportunity to retain clients. Those medical centres that had the attitude of ‘business as usual’ with a bare amount of information hidden in a brochure somewhere may not have fared as well.
These changes in your practice business should also equate a rethinking of current medical practice marketing. They could be undertaken as major changes that promote full TeleHealth services or they may just be small adjustments to your website that keep your patients informed. Either way, your marketing should be reflecting on current patient needs and expectations.
These major and minor adjustments of how your practice operates, create ideal news items that can be promoted to the wider community. Well organised services that cater to social distancing or a change in billing structure to assist those who are in financial stress is worth knowing about, even if that is just through social media. Getting the message out there can then activate the most trusted form of marketing – word of mouth.
Taking On A Marketing Overhaul
What may have seen the business of one practice suffer could be an untapped opportunity for another medical centre. Now is the time to assess the changes that have been made within your medical centre and where adjustments need to be reflected in current medical practice marketing.
Even if the above does not apply to you and very little has changed, it is worth assessing to ensure opportunities won’t slip by. Start searching and you are sure to find that there is plenty to do in preparation for when business returns to the new ’normal’.
One of the most valuable exercises within a marketing overhaul is the review of ‘content’. Think of this as everything that a patient will be exposed to both online and printed. Auditing what is out there about your medical practice is the first step.
What information is outdated or redundant? What information needs to be added? The practice may no longer be focused on mental health for example and needs to promote other services such as maternal health. After looking at what you have online and in the clinic, you may find that material still has a focus on mental health and that the wording and images need to change. A few changes to the wording of your site and some images could help focus the message to the maternal health clientele you wish to attract.
Perhaps there are projects that you have wanted to work on for some time but have not had space with which to tackle them. For example, maybe the medical centre has collected a list of emails through patient registration forms and can see that now is the time to fill the communication gap that social distancing has created with some email marketing. Some see this as spam, but when the information is relevant and delivered in the right way, these emails can be of value.
The information contained in these emails could be a link to a blog or something simpler such as small notices that aid communication. It may contain what’s happening in the clinic, perhaps something that would normally have been passed on by reception in a conversation, such as ‘a new physiotherapist has started’ or ‘we are now going to have in house pathology’.
Sure none of these messages may be major news, but all those little pieces of information that would have been said or placed on a notice in the clinic can be placed in social media as well.
After all, we all communicate differently and how we like to receive information changes from person to person. Email or social media can be just another form of communication. With emails, if you have the patients consent but they still aren’t interested they can easily opt-out with the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of the email.
Marketing In The Age Of TeleHealth
A big game-changer has been TeleHealth. Previously this technology was used where long-distance made the usual face to face consultations impractical. This technology has come to the fore as we face a period of self-imposed isolation.
Where once we were geographically tied to our doctors, now consultations that involve subscriptions, referrals, chronic disease or mental health can be performed over the phone or via video link from anywhere in Australia. That means that searches for these services will not be restricted by location. This has the potential to attract new patients from further afield, but could also see existing clients search elsewhere for those services.
So with TeleHealth having created a change in customer behaviour, it’s worth thinking of how best to retain the current customer client base of the medical practice while attracting new clients. This could simply be a Google Ad or Facebook Ad campaign that promotes that service, along with notices within the website and other patient communication.
Of course, some face to face consultations will be required for things such as physical procedures, examinations or checks. For those services searched then the location of the medical practice will still be applicable.
Pandemic specific marketing
Marketing mediums can also be used to show your clinic is proactive in the pandemic environment.
This can build upon the trust of existing patient experience or attract new clientele looking for clinics that are staying up to date with health measures and advice.
Updating patients about pandemic related health messages or services will be appreciated as long as they are delivered clearly and positively. They can be stand-alone posts in social media or attached to existing services such as SMS notifications when sent as appointment reminders.
Marketing relating to the pandemic could be used to;
- Dispel coronavirus misinformation with a blog dedicated to COVID-19 myths
- Educate patients with small pieces of information about best practices for hygiene
- Remind patients through social media to keep their regular health checks going including kids immunisation schedules
- Reassure patients that your medical centre is using the best COVID-19 health practices to keep them safe during their face to face visits
- Outline how your medical centre will be utilising TeleHealth in the future once social distancing rules have been modified or removed
The core messages can be recycled throughout other mediums such as the website and newsletters to offer variety for what patients read and to increase the reach of the message, for example to those who may not be on social media.
Extending the reach of pandemic specific marketing such as the offering of TeleHealth video services should be done in a way that search engines will start collecting and showing your medical practice in search results. For example, there may be a goal at the outset of your marketing overhaul of being in the top three positions on Google locally for the term ‘GP Telehealth services’. Those words would then be used in all materials produced online to support that goal.
You may wish to produce a video, pamphlet or blog that reassures patients by addressing key questions commonly asked at reception while including what is being done within the clinic to offer the best possible care.
On a minor level, it’s important to ensure your practice details such as opening hours are kept up to date on your website, social media and elsewhere to avoid any potential for patients to be frustrated. After all, the general level of anxiety in the community has understandably increased, so best to avoid anything that will exacerbate it.
With that in mind, it may be worth checking in with reception staff as they are the first physical point of contact with any medical centre. Ensuring that they are supported will help to reduce the stress levels at the front desk and enable staff to provide better customer service for patient queries and concerns.
Consistent Elements Within Medical Marketing Mix
The current coronavirus restrictions have created a game-changer for medical marketing. Staying ahead of these changes and proactive addressing the current and emerging needs of patients will help ensure future growth.
Change is inevitable and so the mix of marketing tools chosen now will most likely need adjustment in the future. Some things will stay the same though and will always need to be worked upon, no matter what changes take place.
For example, the time spent now creating in-depth, informative, engaging and original content for your marketing can be used over and over again through all your material. Writing blogs with the same qualities will continue to be valued by those who read them and in turn will hold value for long term marketing goals such as the medical practice ranking on search engines like Google.
Seeking the current concerns of patients and addressing them with targeted messages in medical practice marketing will demonstrate the medical centre’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of the community. Good communication with patients by keeping them informed of all clinic changes, coronavirus related or otherwise will be appreciated. Making a genuine effort in these areas will help build another level of trust outside of the consultation room.
A good medical marketing plan and its execution will be a team effort. Doctors and support staff should ideally work with a practice manager to relay feedback from patients and to provide information that could be of interest to the general public. This can be relayed by the practice manager to those in marketing so that what is produced is consistent, targeted and properly communicated.
With decades of experience in virtual practice management and the health industry, Nicky Jardine is well placed in understanding and assisting with your medical marketing goals.
She can initiate, advise, plan and implement any or all the following key areas of medical marketing:
- Website Design
- Website Support
- Google Ranking
- Google Ads
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Advertising Regulations
So whether you are setting up a medical practice marketing campaign or need to overhaul the medial marketing of an existing GP clinic, Nicky Jardine is there to guide your medial centre into to the new ‘normal’.