The number one way to build your practice is by getting referrals. However, it is also possible to acquire a significant number of new patients from those searching online.
Acquire New Patients
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It is common knowledge that the number one way to build your practice is by getting referrals from your current patients. However, it is also possible to acquire a significant number of new patients from those searching online for the services that you provide in their area. These prospective patients can become satisfied current patients who will happily refer you to their family and friends, thereby compounding the growth of your practice. This is the power of online marketing, and whether those patients searching online choose your practice or your competitor's practice, depends on four key factors. While all four of these factors are common sense and relatively easy to accomplish, most healthcare practices do not execute them properly.
1. Make sure that people who do not know you can find you on the internet
Anyone who knows you or is referred to you by name can easily find you by Googling your name. However, if someone does not know you and is searching for your profession or the services you perform in your local area you need to get them to visit your website to have any chance of them making an appointment. Coming up on page one of searches is essential or these potential patients will find a competitor. Using SEO marketing is very important to move higher in search, but to guarantee being on or near the top of page one in searches requires Search Engine Marketing (SEM) such as Google Ads (formally Adwords). In the last year or two the number of healthcare practices using Google Ads has more than doubled. Bottom line-if they can’t find you they will not come.
In addition to Google Ads, Facebook Ads can also help get new potential patients to your website. Some professions are naturally good fits for Facebook advertising. Facebook collects a huge amount of data on its users. Did you ever notice that ads in your feed are often related to your interests? Using Facebook, you can target potential new patients by zip code, gender, age, interests, purchasing history, annual salary and much more. For example, if you are a pediatrician, children's dentist or orthodontist you might want to target parents. If you are a plastic surgeon, dermatologist or if you are a dentist running an ad for tooth whitening, you might want to target people who have purchased beauty products between the ages of 18-49.
Another important online marketing tool is Ad Retargeting. Ad retargeting allows you to continue to market your practice after online visitors leave your website. We all know that once we visit a website sometimes we notice ads for that website continue to follow us around as we go to other sites on the internet. This means that your ad will continue to be in the face of someone who has visited your website but has not yet made an appointment. Studies show that once a potential patient or customer views these ads repeatedly, it increases conversions. The click-through rate (CTR) of a retargeted ad is 10x higher than a typical display ad. The end result is that retargeting increases new patient phone calls from those who have already visited your website.
2. Make sure your website is INCREASING the likelihood of a potential patient calling your office
Ok, a potential patient found and clicked on your Google ad and is now on your website. You want to make sure that your website INCREASES the likelihood of an appointment being made. To accomplish this you need to make sure that:
Your website is a modern website that appears perfectly on all devices such as smartphones and tablets without being difficult to read or navigate. If your website looks like it is from 2012 it will turn off potential patients.
Make a first-time website visitor feel comfortable about making an appointment. Make sure there are pictures of your office, pictures of your staff and a picture of the doctor or doctors. The absolute best idea is a short 60-90 second video of the doctor talking about himself/herself and the practice and stressing the best points about your practice. Examples of topics to stress in the video are personal care, modern technology, specific procedures that you specialize in or that you work with insurances. For a prospective new patient, seeing and hearing the doctor speak makes all the difference in the world.
Have a form on your website for potential patients to request an appointment (or an online appointment book system) and make sure your staff has a system to contact these patients on their cell phones as soon as possible.
3. Make sure that your online reputation is excellent
Nowadays, no one who is a potential new patient, even if they were referred by family or friends will make an appointment without checking your reviews. Now imagine if that potential patient was never personally referred to you-they will NEVER follow through and make an appointment if your reputation online is not great. To maintain a great online reputation you need to do the following:
Have a regular system of getting reviews (at least 5-10 per month) from current patients who you know love you. Have a system with a 3rd party company in place to generate these reviews using your front desk staff. If you only have a few Google reviews, even if they are all five stars is NOT enough. Potential patients will think you do not have a very active practice.
Have a system with a 3rd party company to flag any bad reviews. If you don’t have a real-time system, a bad review can be online for weeks and weeks before it is noticed. If you have a negative review, your 3rd party company can help you get the review removed or at the very least diluted.
Train your staff and have very tight control over how they interact with your patients. Believe it or not most bad reviews that a practice receives are because of staff. Do NOT stand for staff members who are rude, unfriendly, combative or uninterested. If you put up with average or poor staff members who do not know how to interact with your patients correctly you are hurting your business.
4. Make sure that when a new patient calls your office to make an appointment (or fills out an online appointment form), they have a great experience
OK, you did everything right. You invested money in Google Ads and reputation management. Your website is perfect. A potential patient is now trying to make an appointment. You want to turn this potential patient into a regular patient who refers others. To get to that point you need a well-trained staff. If a potential patient has a bad experience during this first phone call they might not show up even if they schedule an appointment.
If a potential patient calls your office for an appointment and speaks to a very friendly staff member who makes the potential patient comfortable you are doing things right. A positive first impression is so important and you only have one chance. Here are some examples of ways to make a poor first impression:
Keep the patient on hold for a long time. If a staff member is busy, they should apologize and take the potential patient’s cell # and call them back promptly.
Do not respond to an online appointment request or form submission immediately. The prospective new patient has no idea if you have seen their appointment request and will wonder what is going on. Put a system in place that all online appointment requests are carefully monitored and responded to immediately.
Have staff members who interact with the potential patients who are robotic, uninterested or unfriendly. You need to train and continuously manage your staff on this. Do NOT underestimate the importance of this.
Acquiring new patients online is important to building your practice and can be accomplished relatively easily by following the simple common sense principles discussed above. Having a modern website, maintaining a stellar reputation and training/monitoring your staff are all essential for your practice as a whole-not just for new online patients. However, in order to acquire new patients from those searching online, these potential patients need to find you. Health professionals will need to spend some money on SEO and/or Google Ads in order to come up well in search results. The amount spent is up to the practice owner and can be scaled up or down depending on your success and marketing budget.
Joshua Gindea is one of the founders of https://DoctorsInternet.com a company that manages the online persona and online marketing for health professionals.
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