by Carrie Sjogren
Practices face a lot of pressure, but marketing is critical to their success. However, marketing often falls to the bottom of a practice’s to-do list. Marketing is your ability to create demand for your brand/practice. Start by creating a marketing plan:
Your website is like a storefront and the first impression many parents have of your practice. Therefore, it not only needs to adequately convey what makes your practice better, unique, different, but also look professional and not outdated. I’m sure that you’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately that does not necessarily hold true with websites. If yours looks outdated, parents may assume that your practice is too.
Use simple layouts with clear calls to action (instructions on what you want your target audience to do while on your site) and include information families need to know. Also, keep in mind that your parents might access your website through their phones, tablets and/or laptops so you need to ensure that your site renders correctly on mobile devices
Consider setting up your site through WordPress (minimal cost). Or try Shopify or GoDaddy which use simple templates. If you’re too busy to update your site, hire low-cost freelance designers or high school or college students looking to build their resumes. Or, explore gig economy talent on Upwork.
Social media networks and rating sites like Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Yelp let you communicate with current and future families who find your practice online.. Start by creating Facebook and Instagram pages. Use Facebook to communicate important messages to your patients and their families regarding things like social distance, flu vaccines, and changes to the services you provide. Instagram is all about showcasing your practice’s personality through photos. Use this platform to share pictures of staff dressed up for Halloween, staff getting flu shots, etc. To start, try and post on each network weekly. Once you get in a groove, you’ll be able to post more frequently.
To encourage parents to follow your practice on your social networks or write reviews for you on Google or Yelp, provide them with instructions on how to do so. You can create postcards with this information on it to hand out to families at checkout or send them emails. Whatever you do, don’t forget to include your Facebook and Instagram addresses.
Another effective marketing channel is community outreach. Host online events for new parents. Or host a virtual event within your community and invite firefighters and police officers. During the event, ask everyone to recommend you and like you on social media.
A monthly drawing to win a gift certificate is another way to increase brand awareness. And separately, speak with your local OB/GYNs so they know about your practice.
Another channel to consider is direct mail. Yep, the kind you receive in your physical mailbox (which is generally far less crowded than the virtual one). Send graduation, birthday, and/or holiday cards. A mailed postcard shows your attention to detail which improves patient perception of your practice. It’s a small reminder that you’re there.
If it’s within your budget, hire a marketer. Consider college or high school students, or parents who like to write. Start a blog with content like, “My kid is teething. Now what?” or “What to do about vaccinations”. Your blog posts can be short and directed at your target audience.
Aside from writing, create a video blog or vlog. Keep it informative and entertaining and share it on social media. Next, invest in email communications and start a newsletter with your blog and have your staff encourage families to sign-up and stay informed. Including your blog on your site gives search engines like Google more opportunities to find your website.
Stepping back from the marketing landscape, provide great experiences pre-visit, during the visit and post-visit. And, include reception, billing, and your physicians to make visits run smoothly.
Help meet your parents’ needs. They likely have busy schedules, so offer Saturday appointments or extended hours until 8 pm. Other ideas include providing telehealth, sending appointment reminders, and using curbside check-in to skip the waiting room.
To understand what families need, conduct in-office interviews or use anonymous email surveys (Mailchimp). Then, post these on your site to communicate the improvements you’re making.
Ultimately, marketing is trial and error. Repeat what works and refine or replace what doesn’t. Great practices include effective marketing strategies. Once achieved, everyone will know you have a great practice, too!