You’ve conquered staffing, billing and other critical administrative mountains. But today’s practice manager is also responsible for an effective marketing strategy, especially involving the website and (more importantly) the dozens of social media platforms that patients use to find doctors.
To help you make good decisions about your web marketing programs, here's a checklist of seven diagnostic questions to determine the health of your practice web site and web 'presence'.
Do You Have The Basics? Many practice web site designs are very slick. Perhaps a bit too slick. Step back and evaluate your website design from the perspective of a new patient. Do you have the basics?
- Essential business information: address, phone, fax, email, insurance carriers, billing information, etc.
- A brief history of the practice.
- Useful, patient-friendly information about the providers and staff.
- The individual medical philosophy, academic and professional credentials of each provider.
- Before and after photos, or photos and testimonials from happy patients (especially if you're in any aesthetic-focused profession).
And, of course, when you include photos, make sure you include well-lit, professional quality images for both providers and staff. You may want to focus on individual portraits, not just group shots. Group shots can become obsolete as soon as one staff member leaves or another one joins the practice!
Also, if you have a suburban location, be sure to include an exterior photo showing the office from the road. This can be a helpful cue to patients who are driving to your office for the first time.
Are You Social? A great website should be the hub of your practice's on-line personality. You're in a people business, so you need to show potential patients your human side.
Beyond the practice website, many social media platforms are helpful intermediaries that allow your current, happy patients to attract like-minded new patients. Social media platforms provide valuable ‘social proof’ of a satisfied customer. When you attract positive reviews and “likes” from social media efforts, you become more trustworthy and “safe” in the mind of a new patient. This is especially true when a current patient provides you a public endorsement.
Facebook is tailor-made for businesses to socialize with patients. Click here to start a Facebook page for your practice. Be smart, friendly and up-to-date. You'll attract a lot of friends, both new and old, and show the world why you're an ideal provider for a new patient's needs. Just make sure you keep your professional page separate from your personal page.
YouTube is also good for 'show & tell' videos, especially if you have a procedure you can demonstrate. Many providers use explainer videos (2-3 minutes) to demystify a new procedure, or simply to overcome patient inertia. Sometimes a friendly, confident explanation can change a "maybe, someday" into a new patient appointment.
Click here to learn how to create a YouTube channel for your practice.
LinkedIn: with more than 35 million members, LinkedIn.com has a huge following, primarily with affluent, professional adults. A growing number of LinkedIn members participate in health-related forums for hundreds of different diseases. Join and actively participate in these user-forums, especially if you have professional credentials in a particular field of treatment.
Click here to add your practice on LinkedIn.
Are You Interactive? 7 out of 10 patients want their doctor to offer some type of web-based communications for appointments and reminders. Do you offer web-based scheduling & patient communications?
Several options exist including PracticeBrain, a web-based service that lets your practice accept appointments via the web, then communicate with patients via email, text message or AutoCall.
Are You Mobile? Look at your website via a smartphone. What do you see? Some websites get 50% of their traffic from a smartphone or tablet (like iPhone, iPad or Android). But many web designers build websites to look great on desktop screens only. Tiny screens? That's merely an afterthought.
If you can't read your website on a smart phone, your patients can't either. Invest a few dollars in a redesign…a good web designer will be able to translate your existing website into a version that's easier to read and interact.
If you’re more technically confident, free or inexpensive services like Mobify and Mobstac are also available to help you generate a mobile-friendly version of your website.
Here’s an important example for why your website should be mobile-friendly: on some websites, the phone number is depicted in a photo or image. It is not ‘text’, at least not to a computer. What’s the difference?
If you display just a picture of your phone number, a mobile or touchscreen device (like an iPad) can’t dial the number. Worse, information within pictures is ignored by Google, Yahoo, Bing or dozens of other search sites. That blindness can cause your practice website to rank poorly versus websites that have text-based information.
Are You 'Trust-Worthy'? This isn't a value judgment, just a reflection of the way Google (and other popular search engines) evaluate your website and give it priority in search results.
This topic (search engine optimization, or SEO) requires a whole series of articles, but one essential ingredient of being found is to have other websites link TO your website.
Essentially Google (and other search engines) count links to your website as votes of confidence. And some votes count more than others. Fifty links to your website from other websites (local businesses, medical associations, your alma mater, newspapers, chambers of commerce, etc.), can give you a leg up on similar practices in your neighborhood (i.e., the competition).
Click here to see what websites link to your practice’s website.
Successful web marketing requires a disciplined approach involving daily monitoring and upkeep. It is fluid and constantly changing, so you need to set up regular monitoring and maintenance. However, web-based tools make is much easier to automate these tasks. Once up and running with well-organized tools, web-based practice marketing can be successful in as little as an hour a day.
The key factors to manage:
- Make sure you have the basic information for new patients to find you and make a decision.
- Good-quality, professional photos are more important than a fancy, high-tech website design. Invest in photos that highlight the personality of your staff, and the professional appearance of your offices.
- Consider using social media platforms to attract new patients and to use your core patients to recruit new patients. These 3rd party services allow you to ‘show and tell’ in a public forum, and attract positive reviews and endorsements from satisfied patients.
- Make sure your website looks good (and functions well) in a mobile phone or tablet browser. You can’t afford to alienate 50% of your audience!
- Make sure your website is visible to search engines, and have a continuous effort to add new links to your website.
David S. Brooks is Vice President, Client Services for Doctor.com, a leading web-based directory for patients to find qualified healthcare professionals. Doctor.com offers free- and paid-listing services for healthcare providers including custom websites, search engine visibility services, and appointment request/reminder systems.