Do you use leeches in your clinic?
Of course not, that was a medical myth that is no longer practiced. There are better ways to treat patients now; then there were over 100 years ago.
The same is true about marketing. The landscape of digital marketing in healthcare changes rapidly and, most likely, you still believe (and invest) in on or more of the myths below. At best, these myths aren’t working any longer for you, and at worst, they are impacting you negatively and causing you to lose patients.
Let’s fix that!
Below, I’ve tackled 12 of the most prominent online marketing myths that keep medical practices in a rut instead of growing.
Myth #1: Participating in events that require face time should be your marketing bread and butter.
Reality: Community health fairs have their place when it comes to connecting with consumers. Don’t stop doing these things but think long and hard about committing a majority of your marketing budget to events like these. Consumers want to know your practice online, and it is here where you can offer a connection that can be reinforced in every post, every blog and at every touch point along the way. For example, close to 60 percent of “…consumers’ decisions to receive treatment at a healthcare facility are strongly influenced by that provider’s social media connections,” according to a study posted by Evariant. With data like this, a social media presence matters to consumers and can be obtained remarkably well through means other than live events.
Myth #2: Digital marketing is a quick fix.
Reality: Setting up a digital marketing roadmap and then implementing that roadmap takes time, effort and a balanced dose of reality. If you just redid your website, don’t expect your practice to double in size in the next few months. It will take time, multiple efforts spread across many channels and continual tweaks to increase engagement. Let this engagement happen organically and through paid channels.
Build the marketing framework, invest money into it and trust the team you put in place to be a good steward of your marketing budget. Invest time in meeting with your marketing team to talk about data wins, new opportunities and progress across channels. Ask them challenging questions. But also realize that if you hired them to do a job, you can entrust them with that responsibility.
Just make sure to give them the appropriate portion of your overall gross income to do something worthwhile to make successful gains. The more you want to do with less money, typically the longer it will take to get results. For instance, Neil Patel’s own research suggests that “…at least 12 quality posts per month can start generating results within six to nine months…” but this type of volume is not something every business can strive for, at least initially.
Small businesses may be more apt to pay a skilled copywriter to write two to four posts a month, which takes longer to build momentum. Instead of feeling defeated that you cannot throw the money you want to into marketing, do something now with at minimum two percent of your gross income and continue to increase this budget accordingly. Results take time and money, and there’s no way around this.
Myth #3: A pretty website is all you need.
Reality: Pouring money into your website so that it has a pretty finish can wow consumers, but that doesn’t mean the prettiness distracts from what is or isn’t offered on your site. According to Forbes, having a bad website is likely worse than having no website at all. You want to engage with consumers online, and by having a solid website, you gain opportunities to shine.
Before deleting your current site or spending too much on a site redesign, consider what your site needs to be performing at an optimal level. Choose powerful brand colors and vibrant images and incorporate a layout that tells a story your consumer will want to engage with.
Then, take the user experience into account by ensuring your site is user-friendly. Ask these questions:
- Who is my website primarily for? (New patients or returning)
- Can someone figure out how we can help them in 5 seconds or less?
- Is navigation easy-to-use?
- Does the site work well on mobile phones? (this is called mobile responsive)
- Are your social sites listed and linked to from your home page?
- Do you have a built out content library with consumer-friendly blogs compiled with helpful statistics, powerful stories, rich provider profiles and solid information backed by experts?
These are the types of questions you should be asking. Don’t assume your practice manager can make all of these things happen in their spare time in a WordPress. There is a certain skill involved in producing a website that encapsulates your practice and gets your mission across.
You want a website that reflects your business in the same way your lobby does. You wouldn’t hesitate to replace ripped chairs or worn carpet, why because they reflect poorly on your practice. An outdated, poorly designed website has a similar impact to an outdated lobby. It reflects poorly on your business.
Bonus: If you haven’t changed up your website in the last three years, it’s time to make the change. Technology has changed, and patient expectations have changed — make the investment now, so you keep growing.
Myth #4: Blog posts are a waste of time and marketing budget.
Reality: Building out a blog library on your site can be cumbersome if you are relying on your administration team to write these in their spare time. If you are asking doctors to write the blogs, you’re going to be waiting even longer between posts and likely will miss all of your content library deadlines. So, why post at all? Blogs written with SEO in mind funnel people to your site by increasing your ranking on Google for specific keywords. Having a solid blog library with evergreen content helps you gain organic traffic and referrals. But asking your team to write these posts can be a waste of time and talent. The more you can keep roles defined, the better. This is why partnering with a digital marketing team who excels in content creation is essential. Sure, it is going to cost you—about 20 percent of your marketing budget should go to content—but in the long run, your spending here will bring in money by building out your practice with patients. Post more, but do so after strategically considering a content direction and having a plan of attack run by digital marketing experts.
Myth #5: Your website messaging should focus on your abilities.
Reality: Put your patient first. Hard-sell messaging that touts your abilities gets your point across but doesn’t have the same selling power as a marketing approach that moves to meet and move with consumers as they progress from strangers to your practice to prospective patients. You want to offer potential patients information that is helpful, timely, supportive and practical while also being remembering that story sells. People don’t want to come to a practice because the building looks expensive. They want to come to a practice because someone else experienced healing there while also being pleased with the knowledge, professionalism and emotional intelligence of the team employed there. Again, story is the vehicle to bring these intangibles to life. Package these details carefully without being overly reliant on data that only claims X doctor does X amount of surgeries. If the numbers are high, share them, but do so in a way that adds depth to the story you are already telling. Don’t make data claims your entire story board. Clarify your message, as StoryBrand would say. To learn more, watch this video.
Myth #6: Online advertising doesn’t work.
Reality: Online advertising allows you to buy attention from patients who are looking for help on Google, and the right type of patient on Facebook. Ideally, you’ve already done the hard, costly work of building out a website, setting up flourishing social accounts, producing evergreen blog content and implementing a smart marketing strategy to funnel potential consumers toward action. Most likely, you started with paid ads to gain momentum in these pursuits. There comes a point when you want organic traffic to build and exceed paid ad traffic so you can redirect marketing dollars elsewhere, from ads to new projects.
The point isn’t to reduce your medical marketing budget, but to allocate dollars appropriately. If you are spending the recommended two to three percent of your practice’s gross income on marketing—up to five percent if you want to accelerate growth—and are seeing significant success, keep pumping dollars into this initiative. This may seem counterproductive. Wouldn’t you want to spend less here and pocket more money? No, you wouldn’t because right now your spending is generating more money for your practice.
If you reduce your marketing budget because it’s working, you’ll also reduce your potential future earnings. Spend the money but not without a plan for every dollar in your marketing budget. That plan can include paid ads at around 20 percent of your budget starting out, especially as you gain an online presence and build out your social platforms. Just don’t make paid ads something they were never meant to be: an end game. They are more appropriately deemed a means to an end that can, and probably should be adjusted as your marketing efforts show success.
Myth #7: No one uses online reviews to determine healthcare choices.
Reality: Consumers want to find quality care and not by cycling through doctors in their spare time. They want to find a good fit the first time, and they do this by searching the internet for reviews on places like Google, HealthGrades, Vitals, Facebook, and RealSelf.
They are looking for medical experts who also thrive when it comes to bedside manner. A good clinician also needs to be a good listener who shows empathy and compassion and makes their patients feel respected. Is this a tall order? Sure, it is. But thanks to online reviews, consumers can find this information without jumping from practice to practice and doing their own investigative work. A Pricewaterhouse Cooper survey showed that approximately four out of ten people on social media looking for health information are skimming through consumer reviews.
42% of patients is a significant number. To take an even bigger picture approach, consider this: Up to 62% of people admit that when they are looking for a doctor, their first step involves online reviews, according to Software Advice™. Thankfully, smart digital marketing can influence the conversation here by implementing an online review strategy to build out reviews for social media platforms. To do this well, you need a plan in place and someone to oversee it. Not sure how to do this? Partner with a digital agency who understands how online reviews can make or break your practice and comes ready to implement a steady process for obtaining health-related reviews.
Myth #8: Social media posts are going to annoy your audience.
Reality: If you post randomly or too much on social, sure, your audience may unfollow you. But if each post is born out of a deep understanding of your patient buyer persona, it will perform exactly as intended by influencing people to consider your brand as an authority they respect, trust and eventually depend on to meet real needs in real time. This doesn’t mean every post has to be packed with information that is completely brand specific and extremely hard sell. People want to see your brand in all its humanity. Bring in a soft-sell approach and don’t always generate posts to sell a certain procedure or praise a new technology.
Talk about your mission, your purpose, your team, your influence, your passion. Bring life to your brand by widening the topics of your posts.
Wellness is a major push in the healthcare marketing realm right now. Speak into this. Use your posts to show that healthcare is about keeping people well and takes a proactive stance. When considering how much to post, don’t go overboard and stick closely to your marketing plan. Try to stay balanced: For Facebook, post three to ten times per week; for LinkedIn, post anywhere from two to five times per week; for Twitter and Instagram, post about five times per week.
Myth #9: Digital marketing only matters to millennial patients.
Reality: Digital marketing is for everyone. Just because your audience may be older doesn’t mean they aren’t scrolling through Facebook, posting to Instagram, sharing articles to LinkedIn, scanning their email inbox and reading up on healthcare reviews online. Saying digital marketing is for a certain type of audience implies that all things digital aren’t accessible or easily understood, which is bogus. Digital marketing is about using tools effectively and with specificity. The tool may be more appropriately geared to any certain audience, but a well-crafted message or targeted campaign is geared to whomever you want if you test appropriately and continue to refine what you are doing.
According to a Social Media Use in 2018 report conducted by Pew Research Center, social media use is represented from young adults to seniors. In this report, almost 80 percent of people ages 30 to 49 admit to using social media. This number dips to 65 percent of people between ages 30 to 49 and down to almost 40 percent among those 65 and older. While this number dips as ages increase, the ages are still represented by using social media in some capacity across a broad spectrum of generations. Plus, digital marketing includes email campaigns, where almost nine out of 10 people ages 45 and older admit to using email, according to a July 2015 statistic posted by Statistica. The message here is to use digital marketing tools that work for your brand, and don’t be scared to take a calculated risk when it comes to meeting different ages using different tools.
Myth #10: Taking videos of experts to share on social channels can cost a fortune.
Reality: Not true. If you have the marketing dollars allocated toward video content and can spend cash on high-quality videos, do it. But if you want to produce videos at low cost using your iPhone, a tripod and lapel mic, go for it. The bottom line is getting a medical expert to sit down and share quality content in one-minute increments.
Make sure the lighting is right and that outside sounds are minimized. Pay attention to how content comes across. You want content to be somewhat scripted but still appear to be said as an off-the-cuff statement.
Someone talking to a camera who doesn’t blink and sounds monotone isn’t going to get good engagement. Someone performing using their tone, credibility and personality will bring results, as long as they are answering common questions your audience has about healthcare issues. Make it relevant.
But don’t make it overly costly, unless, of course, you can do so without overspending on budget. According to statistics shared by Syndacast, half of marketers worldwide suggest video has having the best return on investment or ROI. Make videos work for your brand and do it on the budget you can afford. The key takeaway here is that video sells, so use it as part of your digital marketing strategy going forward.
Myth #11: Bots and live chat will distract customers.
Reality: Bots and live chat are about disruption, but helpful disruption. They can immediately engage with website visitors, asking them leading questions that get to the core issue. After determining the core issue, bots can then work through segmented steps to offer solid educational articles written for a consumer audience. That way, people aren’t thumbing through Google to find an article highlighting the medical question on their mind. They can go to your practice’s website as a leading authority. To not use bots on your site page is to lose out on a key opportunity to meet consumers where they are on their buyer’s journey. According to Hubspot’s research on bots, people want answers immediately, and bots meet their need for speed. A HubSpot research statistic states that “of the 71% of people willing to use messaging apps to get customer assistance, many do it because they want their problem solved, fast.” If your practice isn’t willing to offer this digital marketing tool, consider it a lost opportunity to truly serve your audience base in their time of need.
Myth #12: Search engine optimization (SEO) is a one-time thing.
Reality: SEO changes just like anything else in marketing. It’s never enough to do initial SEO and then expect this dated homework to still work in the next year or 10 years. SEO should be considered part of the overall marketing framework, and just like your approach to shifting ad budgets and optimizing social channels with solid content, regard SEO as a piece of the puzzle that will change shape and need tending to. What SEO fits for your practice now will not fit later on. It’s a marketing fact. If you do not thrive in environments that often shift and require lots of time learning, then take another route and pay a digital marketing team to do this legwork for you. If you want results, SEO is part of that process and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Exposing the myths above is my way of helping you not stay stuck. Doing the hard work of implementing the strategies suggested will go a long way in moving you forward if you partner with a marketing team that knows how to take these nuts and bolts and put them into action. Now, that’s the fun part.