Why Your Potential Patients Are Like Hansel & Gretel—And How To Leave A Trail That Leads Them To Your Waiting Room

Whether they’re seeking a doctor to correct sight or hearing loss, or for consultations to address cosmetic or weight loss concerns, patients today have more control than ever when it comes to deciding who they will entrust to solve their health conditions. And the tool that’s driving their individual care choices is no longer the family practice doctor or even the insurance companies. It’s the internet—namely search engines like Google and social media outlets like Facebook.

Consider this: According to the Pew Research Center 74% of internet users engage on social media and 80% of those internet users are specifically looking for health information. Nearly half of those are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.  

In other words, millions of people globally are using online searches and wading through vast amounts of information in their quest for treatment options and doctor recommendations.

For many practitioners who are used to previous generations who relied on family doctor referrals or flipping through the yellow pages, this can be bewildering. But think of it this way: your patients are like Hansel and Gretel, lost in the woods. The trail markers they’re looking for are, “What’s my condition?” “How is it fixed?” “Who can help me?” and “Where can I find the best treatment?”

Your job is to help them find their way out of the woods, which you do by targeting your medical practice marketing like a trail of strategically placed breadcrumbs. Just blanketing the woods with breadcrumbs—or the internet with a flood of information about your practice—won’t show them the clear path. You have to know which turns they’re be making, and how to point them toward your practice at those junctures so they don’t get off track and head in another direction.

Crumb 1: Awareness

Who is lost and what’s motivating them to look for your help? Marketing to a specific patient will help you attract patients who are an excellent fit for your practice. Be aware of who Hansel and Gretel as patients are by evaluating your current patients. Why have they chosen you? Is it your reputation for successful lasik surgeries, or cosmetic laser procedures, or your patient referral rate?

If Google is the proverbial woods, when these patients conduct their searches they should be able to find your practice easily. Write about your top practices and procedures and promote them on your website and on social media. Not just once, but over and over, with examples of how it’s worked for others, along with titles and keywords that target the subjects. Incorporate popular words and phrases your patients might use to find you and/or your specialty. Need help getting started on blog post titles? We’ve written two months of free medical blog post titles that work, like “10 Myths About (Insert Illness) & Our Treatment Advice.” or “4 Keys To Choosing An Expert (Insert Specialty) Doctor.” Download the two months of medical blog post titles here.

By creating content that addresses what your patients are wondering about, you’re essentially dropping the crumbs that say, “We see you and we’re over here! Come this way!” In short, the results that appear on the first page of a Google search are the options prospective patients will most likely consider when determining their next step. A good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy will also help your practice jump to the top of search results.

Crumb 2: Consideration Options

Once your patients have found your first crumbs and are aware of who you are, you need to show them how your practice is a fit to solve their problem. At this stage they’ve gathered enough information to be aware of several medical practices that might help them and are considering which is the best fit, so you need to keep showing them how you’re better or different than the other healthcare contenders.

By providing your patients with free information to answer their medical questions, you not only position yourself as an expert in your field but you also become a resource that potential patients feel they can trust. Create digital content like checklists of symptoms, downloadable brochures or eBooks, or simple infographics about what happens before, during and after a procedure.

You don’t need to use patient’s names, just verifiably true examples of people who have had conditions like these potential patients, and how you’ve solved their condition. Use blog posts and checklists, etc., to show them what you’ve done for others like them, and how they too can be free from the pain or worry their malady is causing.

Crumb 3. Action Steps

When your prospective patient is at this stage of their journey to your waiting room, they’re almost clear of the woods. They see what you have to offer, have considered their options with other medical providers, and are ready to head your way.

This is the stage that medical practices too often abandon that trail of crumbs and consider the journey done, but this is a big mistake. At every stage of the journey—with each blog post or content created—you need to provide a way for potential patients to submit their contact information, or book a free consultation or appointment online.  

This can be as simple as a link at the end of each blog post that takes them to your “contact us” or “request a consultation” page which invites them to enter their name, email, and phone number. Until they’re ready to take action, they may not enter this info unless it’s required to download a resource you’re offering such as a checklist or symptoms quiz, but make it available on every post and page of your website—including prominently on your homepage.

Once you have their name and email address, they become new contacts and you can nurture them with automated, yet personal, emails to gently remind them that you are there to help and encourage them to take the next step into your office.

These nurturing emails help you become a familiar face as well as an expert your patients can trust. Monthly email newsletters to your contacts also work well because they provide readers with a glance into what your practice has been achieving that month and what is going on in your world of health care.

Some people prefer a more personal touch, so if the situation warrants, you can even call them directly (with the phone number they provided when downloading one of your resources or filling out the “contact us” info) to inquire about a treatment they referenced or to answer any questions they may have.

Remember that people who don’t want to request a free consultation or book an appointment now may become patients later, so don’t become discouraged if your new patient list is shorter than your email list. Each patient is at a different stage in the consideration and action-taking journey and some just need extra crumbs to find their way. Occasional, nurturing and non-pushy contact will maintain the relationship and serve as a reminder that you’re there for them when they’re ready to receive care.

Then, when they do emerge from the woods and enter your office, you can reassure them that the hardest part of the journey is over and that they’re in good hands, ready for the next step.

These are the strategies Baker Labs uses in marketing for medical practices, such as a vein clinic and vascular surgery group practice that was not having success with their traditional marketing methods. To see how we increased their website traffic 300% and generated hundreds of new appointment requests online, view this case study.

At Baker Labs, we believe in the power of content marketing and use a variety of digital strategies to help medical practices grow by attracting new and loyal patients and establishing the medical practice’s reputation as a leader in their region. Contact us for a free marketing assessment of your medical practice.

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