How to Attract New Patients Without Relying on Advertising
Billions of dollars are spent on healthcare and pharmaceutical advertising each year. As technology continues to advance, we are seeing an upward trend in digital advertising. In 2014, $1.41 billion was spent on paid digital media, with $333 million on mobile ads alone.
Advertising has been effective at increasing company revenue in the past, however it’s difficult to determine whether it’s effectiveness in attracting new patients outweighs its cost.
You’re probably wondering “Why should I change how we market to patients?” Great question!
Here’s why: There has been a fundamental shift in patient behavior. Your patients now have a greater control what kind of information they’re exposed to, which is why they’re not responding to what you’re showing. (Hubspot).
- 84% of 25-34 year olds have left a favorite website because of intrusive advertising.
- 200 million Americans have registered their phone numbers on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list.
- 86% of people skip television ads.
- 91% of email users have unsubscribed from a company email they previously opted into.
- 44% of direct mail is never opened.
Technology has made accessing important information quick and easy. Because of this, your patients have evolved into a more knowledgeable audience. Instead of silently accepting their general practitioner’s referral, well over 80% of patients research doctors and practices online before finally deciding on a specialist.
While we wouldn’t go as far as to discount advertising entirely, results show that marketing that mimics real life conversation (a strategy we call “inbound marketing”) produces better results because it builds a sense of trust.
How can I attract new patients without advertising?
A successful inbound marketing strategy takes into account your patients’ personas and where they are in the decision-making process. Because your target audience relies on digital research to stay informed, there are specific inbound tools that will strengthen your practice, grow your client list, and make more money without ever increasing your advertising budget:
Powerful SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
When people realize they have a problem, the first thing they do is conduct an online search to to solve it (i.e. neck and shoulder pain, how to lower blood pressure, knee replacement recovery, etc.). The information shown the top of the results page is the information they use to determine their next step. A good SEO strategy will help your practice jump to the top of search results. When you write online content for your practice, incorporate popular words and phrases your patients might use in order to find you and/or your specialty
SEO Tip: Although they’re knowledgeable, your patients are not experts. They will often search for something using incorrect terminology (i.e. “surgery” instead of “procedure”). Use keyword research to determine the best phrases to use when creating your website content. Although it might make you shudder, you will want to write the words your patients are searching for, not what is technically accurate.
The digital content that can be used in your practice’s inbound marketing strategy comes in all shapes and sizes:
- Blog posts, articles, and white papers
- Videos and podcasts
- Infographics and slideshows
- Digital downloads (eBooks, checklists, calculators, apps, etc.)
- Conferences and special events
When creating content for your patients, keep in mind that what you produce only has as much value as your patients give it. While you may be very knowledgeable in varicose vein genetic research or new ultrasound technology, your target audience hasn’t been to medical school, so they won’t fully understand the significance of these advancements to appreciate them in their entirety. Your patients would be more interested in practical ways to relieve leg pain and available treatments that have shown positive results.
If you’re unsure about what topics would interest your patients, start by thinking about the questions you are asked most frequently. “When can I return to work after having varicose vein surgery?” can turn into a blog post: 8 Ways to Recover Faster After Varicose Vein Surgery.
Social Media Interaction
Because healthcare is a regulated industry, many medical practices have avoided incorporating social media into their marketing strategy. However, when used correctly, a practice’s can use networking to build trust with their patients and strengthen their relationship with their doctors.
Why is social media important to healthcare professionals?
The success of your practice is in the hands of your patients. Your patients are on social media and they expect their doctor to be there too. Check out these statistics from referralMD:
- More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they manage their health.
- 41% of people say social media affects how they choose a specific doctor or medical practice.
- 60% of users trust social media posts and activity by doctors over any other group.
- Parents seek medical answers online: 22% use Facebook and 20% use YouTube. Of non-parents, 14% use Facebook and 12% use YouTube to search for health care related topics.
- 49% of patients expect to hear from their doctor when requesting an appointment online or a follow-up discussion via social media within a few hours.
- 60% of doctors believe social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients.
Another interesting fact: The Mayo Clinic’s followers rose by 76,000 after the clinic began using social media to promote their podcasts. The clinic was already distributing these podcasts as valuable content, however the number of listeners did not significantly increase until they began using social media. It’s that important!
At Baker Labs, we believe in the power of inbound marketing and use a variety of advertising-free strategies to help doctors build a reputable practice, attract new patients, and make more money. We understand that effective healthcare marketing must not only produce good results, but it must remain compliant when doing so. Contact us for a free marketing assessment of your medical practice.