Most practices have a website, and maybe a social channel or two, that have the usual suspects: a homepage, an about us page, physician bio pages, some downloadable intake forms and hopefully some patient education content. This is all good information, but to really have an effective marketing strategy you need to focus your marketing and build your brand. This is becoming increasingly more important in today’s healthcare and cost-conscious climate as consumers and patients research their options to find the best treatment.
1. Determine who you are and what makes you different. Would you go out of your way to buy a sofa from a furniture store who proudly proclaims “We’re just like everyone else”? Of course not. Advertising is intended to showcase the desirable difference, and your marketing strategy should reflect this. Remember, marketing is defining your message, your audience and their needs, and advertising is delivering that message to that audience. Look at your practice and what you bring to the table: do you use minimally invasive surgical techniques? Do you have open high-field MRI? Do you perform image-guided surgery? Make a list of what sets you apart from other spine practices. And put that list on your homepage right away while you’re revamping your marketing campaign.
2. Identify the competition and opportunities. Take your list of differences and use Google to tell you who is looking for these terms, and who your competition is. Google offers a free keyword tool at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal that lets you try out different search terms to see what people are really searching for. Don’t be discouraged if some of your terms don’t show up. The differences you are going to showcase will be seen by prospective patients looking for broader terms that you’ll capture.
Try different terms that are broader in nature. For example, suppose you want to showcase artificial cervical discs. Google Keyword tool tells us there are 1,300 local searches monthly for this term. Local, by the way, means United States. If you are in San Diego and search for “artificial cervical disc” you’ll see a few entries at the top from medical websites and societies and then the first surgeon website, mspine.com. This belongs to Dr. Robert Pashman, a surgeon in Los Angeles. Further down the Google results you’ll see a link to neckpainexplained.com. This is also owned by Dr. Pashman. You can see that Dr. Pashman created multiple sites, each one focused on a specific area of his practice, and filled those sites with content and keywords that helped him get found.
Dr. Pashman doesn’t practice in San Diego, and there are no local results in the organic results. On the ads at top and sides are some of the usual suspects, but also ads from Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles, Dr. Kenneth Light in San Francisco, Dr. Anthony Virella in Westlake Village, and Dr. Rudolf Bertagnoli in Germany. No one from San Diego is marketing themselves effectively for artificial cervical discs! There’s an opportunity for surgeons in SoCal. Also check out related search terms found at the bottom of the Google search results for more ideas of terms.
3. Create content and then more content. A word isn’t as good as a page, and multiple pages are even better. Consider the approach by Dr. Scott Hodges of Chattanooga, TN. Dr. Hodges markets himself as a leader in minimally invasive spine surgery using image guided techniques. But he also focuses on patient safety. His website, http://www.micronavspine.com, contains content on the first page focusing on these aspects of his practice, and the navigation shows a link titled “Minimally Invasive Approach.” This menu drops down to show multiple links to articles about patient safety and minimally invasive spine surgery. These pages continue to reinforce the two areas of focus of his practice.
By creating this content and having it in multiple places on his site, Dr. Hodges now has a foundation for patients to stay engaged with his website and learn in-depth about these subjects. These pages also serve as landing pages for ad campaigns for keyword marketing. If you have a focus area or two, you should have at least one page for that area of focus, and preferably more. Got a social media strategy that is begging for something more than pictures of your office? Put links to this content and continue to deliver your area of focus message on Facebook and Twitter.
4. Go short and go long with search engine marketing. Once you’ve identified your focus, and created content on your site, you can sit back and wait for people to find it or you can take some steps to make sure you get found. In the short term, buy some keywords for those phrases you found and checked out on Google Keyword tool. When you buy the terms, make sure you localize it to an area you serve, or would like to serve. We established a 300 mile radius for Dr. Scott Hodges’ campaign and we deliver patients from within that entire radius by running ad campaigns with keywords that his demographic is searching for.
We use the Google analytics tools to tell us what is working and continue to try new ads and terms to capture our audience. For the long term, you’ll want to ensure you’ve done all the right things for search engine optimization. This includes properly formed titles, focused meta tag descriptions, sitemaps created and submitted to Google Webmaster tools, and all of the good practices your medical marketing specialist should know. Continue to add more content and update your sitemaps since Google loves to see sites that are growing and rewards them with higher placement in the results.
A focused marketing approach should also be reflected in your offline campaigns as well. Keep pushing your message to your audience and measure the results. Ask your patients how they found you, and whether they came to you because of your message. Ask them what they think and whether your message is important, and be prepared to change your mind and try new approaches with your patients input. As always, work with your marketing staff or consult a medical marketing specialist to help determine your focus and deliver patients to your door.
Contact us at [email protected] or your local medical marketing specialist for more information.