Once upon a time, all you had to do was buy the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages and, occasionally, the newspaper, and then sit back and watch the revenue roll in. Sure, you had to have a decent product, but that was a given.
How times have changed.
Now, we live in a fragmented, socially-driven media market. A slew of great Yelp or Google reviews can have the same effect as a large Yellow Pages ad once had and, conversely, a couple of bad reviews can sink your hospital or urgent care center.
If you’re not acquiring as many patients as you’d like, here are four likely reasons why.
Reason 1: Your Website
If your patient base isn’t growing, it’s probably because your online footprint isn’t. Your website is your new front door. The same care and attention given to the aesthetics and functionality of your hospitals entrance and intake areas needs to be given to your website. If information can’t quickly be found and your site is a general clunker, you’ll lose people in droves. A good website, optimized for mobile and offering a superior UX (user experience), is key.
Reason 2: Poor SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is another malady that can sink a healthcare provider. You can have the most polished, easy-to-navigate website out there, but if Google can’t find you, your business might as well not exist.
Whether it’s whipping out their phone in an emergency to Google the closest, most convenient urgent care facility or finding the best pediatric neurosurgeon, people are turning to Google, Yahoo and Bing to start their health journeys.
You need to have as many SEO-rich content, posts and good reviews instantly available. Someone needs to be able to type in “urgent care” “sprained ankle” and “Springfield, Missouri” and have your hospital or urgent care center come up first or second.
Reason 3: FTA
One reason your patient ecosystem may not be growing is FTA, a common malady impacting legacy businesses like healthcare providers. FTA is Failure to Adapt. Believe it or not, some businesses still cling to the idea that paid ads in traditional media are the way to go. They aren’t. Seventy percent of patients 18-24 search for physicians online, but even 41 percent of Baby Boomers look online for guidance.
Even if you have an online advertising strategy, failure to properly target those ads is another trap. And it’s not enough to target just Millennials or Baby Boomers, because many different types of healthcare consumers exist within those groups.
Psychographics pertain to people’s attitudes, values, lifestyles and personalities, and are the key to their motivations, behaviors and communication preferences. There are five distinct psychographic segments in healthcare, each of whom have unique priorities and approaches to healthcare.
For example, PatientBond research has found that one segment of healthcare consumers, Willful Endurers, are up to seven times more likely to visit urgent care centers frequently. When a New York City-based group of urgent care centers began targeting its banner ads to Willful Endurers, it saw a 25-200 percent increase in click-through rates.
Reason 4: You Aren’t Communicating With Existing Patients
An old patient could become a patient again, and an engaged, satisfied patient could recommend you to their family, friends and even strangers via online reviews. That’s where the most crucial component of growing your healthcare practice comes into play.
Algorithms change and social media platforms go in and out of fashion. Many businesses found out this out the hard way after spending years cultivating Facebook followings when suddenly the algorithms changed and their communication line with their customers was effectively cut.
But a contact list of your own patients is yours. Send them regular communications with relevant, shareable content that builds a relationship. But go beyond email newsletters. Find balance — don’t bombard — and cultivate relationships with patients based on their health histories, motivations and communication preferences.
Think of these personalized communications as the next generation version of the follow-up call from the doctor’s office. This is a specialty of PatientBond, which uses a proprietary psychographic segmentation model to customize messaging based on patients’ psychographic profiles.
Given that there are five psychographic segments, there can be five different versions of communications for any initiative, to engage patients according to their specific motivations. Each psychographic segment prefers a different marketing mix of channel (e.g., emails, text messages, phone calls, etc.) and frequency and cadence of communication. This approach is unique to PatientBond, extending it beyond other platforms to amplify patient engagement and achieve unmatched business and clinical results.
If you’ve fallen victim of any of the above missteps, here’s how to change course:
Having a direct line to a patient is a big responsibility, and it requires striking a delicate balance between being a relevant, important part of someone’s overall life circle to being a pest of a sales person urging an upsell.
PatientBond can help by personalizing your communications via email, text or phone, depending on patient preference, for applications such as appointment reminders. (“Happy 50th birthday! Don’t forget to schedule that colonoscopy!”)
Taking care of existing patients, deepening your relationship with them and providing them with shareable content will help bring in new patients. Again, if you become a relevant part of people’s lives, old patients will become new ones again, and they’ll likely refer others.
Emphasize Your Core Strengths
Amenities like an international buffet or on-site yoga are nice and important and they do differentiate your hospital from the one across the interstate. That said, we know of one hospital that blanketed a major highway with billboards touting its free wifi.
If the most important thing you have to say about your hospital in the five seconds you have to capture someone’s attention on a billboard is free wifi, then you may need to recalibrate your messaging. Patients want to know you have a top cancer center, urology department or trauma unit — not free wifi. Again, priorities differ by psychographic segment, so a deep understanding of current and prospective patients’ needs and priorities is critical.
Use Mixed Media
Yes, algorithms change and social media platforms rise and fall, but you still want to be a part of the larger landscape. Make sure you have shareable content and posts that offer relevant health and or practice information. Your hospital or clinic needs to be on Facebook and Twitter — that’s a given — but don’t ignore Snapchat, Instagram and other social media channels, if that’s where your target patients are.
Important to keep in mind is that Strategy should drive Execution, not the other way around. Just because the social-media-platform-du-jour has a lot of press, it doesn’t mean your desired patient target audience uses it.
While non-traditional is the way to go today, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for promotion through old-line media. Whether it’s highway or bench billboards, newspapers, or, yes, the Yellow Pages, having your name out there reinforces the sound in the echo chamber that you’re a player of merit — and there’s always value in that.