Gone are the days when world-class doctors, reputation and referrals alone were enough for medical practices to have a steady flow of patients walking through the door.
In the ever-changing landscape of healthcare, doctors need to be smart and savvy when it comes to medical marketing. They need to use marketing strategies and tactics that will attract and retain new patients, reduce attrition and help their practices grow.
Here, read on for 6 proven ways to use marketing to grow your medical practice this year.
1. Create content
According to a report by Healthcare Insight, approximately 73 percent of healthcare marketers use content marketing and for good reason.
Posting well-researched, engaging content at least two to three times a week is one of the best ways to market to both new and existing patients.
But don’t stop at your blog. Offer a free report to those who opt-in to your mailing list, an e-book or post regular videos.
2. Strategically use social media
You might think that Facebook is the best place to share content and advertise, but that might not be the best channel to market your practice.
First find out where your current and prospective patients hang out. If you’re trying to market to those between 18 and 29 years old, Facebook is probably the way to go, but not so for Medicare patients, for example.
3. Show off
When patients look for a new doctor, they crave authenticity, transparency and trust. Referrals are always best but if they’re searching online, they’ll look for reviews and what people say on social media.
Testimonials can help too, and although many medical practices will include them on their websites, most fail to include stories, or case studies, about how they helped a patient find a cure for their fatigue or prevent a heart attack, for example.
4. Host an event.
When patients have the opportunity to meet their physicians, they’ll feel more comfortable with receiving care.
In fact, 85 percent of people said it’s important to have a doctor who listens to them and 71 percent said they want a doctor who is caring and compassionate, a study in the Journal of Participatory Medicine found.
Aim to have an event at least once a month at your practice, at the local chamber of commerce office or the local library.
Host casual meet and greets and special events to present a timely and relevant topic that your patients want to know, such as “5 Myths About IVF,” or “How to Optimize Your Fertility.”
Cater the food and wine, have a raffle and ask everyone to bring a friend to increase your referrals.
5. Send direct mail.
Direct mail is not dead. In fact, in 2015, direct mail volume was down but data spend saw an increase. Take advantage of newcomer’s clubs or purchase lists and send a letter and a brochure about your practice.
Although you may not see an immediate flood of calls, people keep paper and will call when they need you. Include information about the doctors, their services and what patients can expect.
6. Keep in touch.
Medical practices need to think like brands and make patient loyalty a priority. Patients want to feel that their physicians actually care so think about special opportunities throughout the year to keep patients engaged.
Send cards for birthdays and anniversaries, SMS or direct mail reminders for annual wellness visits, mammograms and prostate screenings or a monthly newsletter with targeted health tips.
If you’re part of an internal public relations team or represent clients, you know one of the biggest challenges you face is how to get the media interested in your stories, your products and your campaigns.
You might work for weeks at pitching and then cross your fingers and hope to get those coveted media hits.
How to write a pitch and get the media’s attention is something I’m asked to speak about frequently. In fact, last month I was a guest panelist for the Public Relations Society of America New York Chapter’s Meet the Media: Healthcare event.
Credit: Cherry Dumaual
I enjoyed speaking with the public relations teams about the types of stories I write, what journalists look for in pitches and how to get placement. Here are some tips we spoke about and a few more.
1. Know your audience.
You might think you have the most exciting new product or irresistible story idea but if you’re sending the same pitch to every single outlet, you’ll get nowhere fast.
Each outlet you pitch has an audience with their own unique demographics and drivers so the stories they decide to cover must be written for them. Sure, you might pitch a health story but it must be different enough that their competition won’t also be interested.
- Before you pitch, ask yourself:
- What does this outlet cover?
- If it’s a freelancer, what outlets does this person write for?
- Will they be interested in this story?
- Has this person already covered this story?
- What makes my pitch unique?
- Is it newsworthy or new?
- Is it timely and relevant?
- Am I pitching a product when this reporter doesn’t write about products?
- Am I leading with a product when I know they won’t mention the product?
Do your research first and make sure your pitch is perfectly suited and personalized for the media outlet and the journalist you’re pitching.
2. Cut to the chase.
According to a survey by ISEBOX.com, 52% of journalists write at least 5 articles per week so suffice it to say they have less than a minute to scan your email and decide if it’s a good idea or not.
Don’t take two paragraphs to get to the point and don’t bury the lede. If you can’t get to the hook within the first 2 to 3 sentences, your email will probably end up in the trash.
3. Write a strong subject line.
With dozens, if not hundreds of emails filling up a reporter’s inbox everyday, it’s easy for your pitch to get lost if it doesn’t grab their attention. You want to make sure that your subject line summarizes the story idea in as few words as possible and is interesting enough for them to open.
Avoid these headlines:
- Quick question for you
- Expert available
- Great story!
- How to lose weight (or anything generic)
- Breast cancer awareness month or New Year’s Resolutions
- Connecting: story idea
- John, can you chat?
- What’s in your food? Pesticides (really, no way!)
4. Make it easy.
The reporter you pitch doesn’t always have the time to dig further into a story idea and see if it’s worth pitching to their editor or producer.
They might be interested in your story but they need to know why? why now? and why you or your client?
Make it easy for them and cite new studies, surveys or quotes from experts proving this idea is newsworthy.
5. Don’t pitch topics, pitch stories.
Here are some examples of ineffective pitches I recently received. The reason they don’t work is because they are topics, not stories:
- October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
- Story: Children’s Health During Back to School
- Flu myths…
- Staying Sane During The Holidays
- Toddlers and Fussy Eating
These are much better:
- 6 Food Myths That Are Making Kids Fat
- 6 Worrisome Vaginal Issues
- New Data: Sleep Problems for New Parents
6. Write content.
It’s no longer enough to simply be an expert, you need to think of yourself as a publisher too. Content marketing and public relations go hand in hand.
Writing your own content will establish your company as a thought leader, build brand awareness and help reporters searching for a source find you.
7. Offer video.
If your goal is to be on TV, you need to show the producer you’re pitching that you have the chops to pull off an appearance. If you don’t have links to prior appearances, then shoot your own video.
Even if you’re simply pitching a story for a print or web article, video can show the outlet that you know how to give a great interview.
8. Be available and reliable.
If you respond to a HARO or tell the outlet that your expert is available for an interview, do everything in your power to make sure he is ready at any given moment.
Journalists work quickly and have fast deadlines so if your source isn’t available, they’ll find someone right away who is.
9. Offer a unique point of view.
Reporters always need to write balanced stories and one of the best ways to land an interview is to pitch a strong perspective.
For example, when an executive pitched me “the dirty little secret” of a particular medical sector, I had him on the phone immediately. Another time, a doctor pitched me the downsides of a diagnostic tool and it made for a strong story.
10. Conduct your own interview.
One of the best ways to uncover great story ideas is simply to ask. After I interview a source, I always ask, what are you working on? and what trends do you see?
Instead of pitching only the stories your client has on their agenda, take some time to interview them about what they’re currently passionate about and you’ll come up with plenty of new story ideas to pitch
It’s one of the biggest challenges my clients face: how to get their c-level executives to buy into the value of content marketing.
Healthcare technology start-ups are more likely to be early adopters but for large hospitals, physician practices and health insurance plans, getting c-suite buy-in is still a challenge for many healthcare marketers.
Without your executives on board, you’ve got your hands tied when it comes to getting the budget approved, recruiting doctors and other key players to contribute and share content, and most importantly, meeting your sales goals.
Although selling your c-suite on content marketing may initially be an obstacle, there are several strategies you can use to get them to sign off in no time.
Pitch the “why”
In your initial meetings, think of yourself as a publicist pitching a story idea to the media. Just like journalists, editors and producers, your executives need to know why in order to say yes.
You must make a compelling business case for content marketing and list of all the reasons they need to start now. They must know why relevant, timely stories are vital for lead generation, acquisition and retention and why one-way marketing and advertising alone is no longer enough.
Do your own research and pull together surveys, white papers and special reports that point to the value of content marketing and how other businesses like yours get results.
Explain how you’ll do it
Once you have your content marketing strategy and buyer personas in place, share the tactics you plan to use to attract and retain customers. Make sure however, that each type of content you plan to create is connected with your company’s overall objectives to build brand awareness, strengthen credibility and grow revenue, for example.
Show them the competition
Your c-suite knows they must keep up with the ever-changing landscape of healthcare and one of their pain points is being left behind. To make your case even stronger, show them examples of how your competitors are using content marketing to get results.
Before they make any business decision, your executives must know what their return on investment will be. When it comes to content marketing however, it’s not always so clear-cut. Unlike a one-time marketing campaign or an ad, content marketing is a long-term strategy that takes time to attract, convert and retain buyers.
Keep in mind that your executives also don’t care about page views, click rates or social shares, although they do pay attention to traffic.
According to a report by True North Custom, about 43 percent of healthcare executives said that measuring the effectiveness of their content was one of their most significant challenges and nearly 80 percent use website traffic to measure content marketing success. They also want to know how content marketing will engage their buyers, build brand awareness, forge relationships and foster loyalty.
Although it will probably take time to get a 100 percent buy-in from your executives, when they start to see results from your initial efforts, your business case will be even stronger and they’ll be more engaged than ever.
As a healthcare marketing executive, you’re trying to juggle a ton of tasks every day. Between lead generation and conversion, to your content marketing strategy and brainstorming ideas for your editorial calendar, you’re constantly trying to prioritize which tactics will be give you the best ROI.
Yet since your team is stretched so thin, it’s easy to forget about the bigger picture and make mistakes that can hurt your bottom line.
Here are 6 mistakes healthcare marketers make and how to solve them—stat.
1. You don’t have c-suite buy in.
One of the biggest challenges healthcare marketers face is getting their c-suite to buy into content marketing. Particularly in hospitals or large healthcare systems where content marketing is a new idea, it can be a hard sell.
One of the best ways to get your c-level executives hot on the idea of content marketing is to build a business case for it by showing them that one-way marketing, regardless of industry, is no longer effective.
Creating relevant, timely stories is vital for lead generation, acquisition and retention. Another way to get them on board is with case studies and examples of how their competitors have used content marketing to generate revenue.
2. No content marketing strategy.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 report, B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, only 32 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy even though 85 percent of respondents cite lead generation as their most important goal.
Just as you have a business plan and a marketing plan, your team must develop a content marketing strategy if you want to get c-suite buy in, get your allocated budget for content marketing approved and ultimately follow through on your goal to drive sales.
3. No buyer personas.
You may understand who your customers are, but without documented buyer personas, no one on your team will be able to create content that truly speaks to your leads.
Buyer personas should include demographics, identifiers, goals, challenges and pain points, how you help solve their problems as well as their common objections.
You should also take the time to conduct interviews with your customers so you can compile quotes and understand what they need from you. Check out Xtensio, a tool that can help you create your buyer personas easily.
4. You don’t give the media what they need.
When I was recently working on a story for a national magazine, I tweeted a company because after checking their website, LinkedIn and press releases, nowhere did they list the name of the person who handled public relations.
After I explained that I was interested in featuring their business in the story, they directed me to a search capability on their website and refused to put me in contact with their public relations department.
If you want to get media coverage, make it easy for the media to find you. Make sure your website includes the name of the person or people who handle PR on your website and in your press releases and make sure those people include their titles on their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.
5. Social media is subpar.
According to a report by Expio, 41 percent of patients use social media to choose a specific hospital or medical facility yet social media for lead generation is still one of the areas where many healthcare organizations lag behind.
Be sure to share relevant and timely health content, including case studies and videos, at least 3 times a day and make it a point to engage with your followers.
6. You hire any freelance writer or you do it yourself.
If you don’t have a team of writers, or a colleague who only handles content marketing, it will be impossible to get it all done. What’s more, when you’re so close to your business, it’s impossible to give your content the fresh perspective you need to generate leads.
When you search for a freelance writer, make sure you hire someone who writes for the healthcare industry, understands your business and can take all of your great thoughts and make them work for you.
Landing an interview for one of your doctors with a national news site, a morning news show or a popular magazine is always a public relations win. It’s good for brand awareness, lead generation and sales. And when you give the media a source they can rely on, they will be more likely to call on you the next time they need a source.
Yet let’s face it, doctors are a unique set. They may be smart, have years of experience and some are even published authors, but when it comes to giving interviews, it’s not always their strong suit.
Here, read on for 7 common mistakes doctors should avoid when they give interviews.
1. No preparation.
When it comes to giving phone interviews for print or online outlets in particular, it’s common for physicians to show up unprepared. They don’t know what the story is about, the name of the outlet and if it will be a print or online story.
Watch any morning news show that includes sit-down interviews with doctors however, and you’ll see that they’re pros. Although the producer has likely provided them with talking points, these physicians have done their homework and know how to give a great interview. They know how to field questions and bring their A-game.
When you land an interview for your organization, it doesn’t matter who the outlet is or where will it be seen. Make sure your doctors know all the details ahead of time and encourage them to do additional research so they will be a shining source. After all, they’re the experts.
2. Boring the audience.
Your doctor might be the leading expert on a certain disease or health condition, but if she cannot deliver the information in an interesting, engaging way, the story falls flat. On TV and radio, the audience will be bored to tears and in print or online, their quotes might be weak or paraphrased.
Find a consultant who provides media training to help your source or at the very least, rehearse with her beforehand.
3. Talking on and on.
Some doctors love to talk and in fact, that’s probably why you chose them to be sources in the first place. Although your physician shouldn’t give one-word answers, he should answer the questions in sound bites, regardless of the format. Getting succinct quotes and quick sound bites always makes the story shine.
4. Dumbing it down or making it too complicated.
When your physician gives an interview with a health journalist, there’s no need to clarify abbreviations like ICSI or explain what the microbiome is. The reporter speaks your language and they will ask for clarification if necessary.
On the other hand, make sure the physician avoids medical jargon because the reporter isn’t likely to include a quote that includes words like “immunocompromised” or “cryopreservation.” The same goes when your doctor gives a TV or radio interview: KISS—keep it simple, stupid.
5. Having an agenda.
Even if they come prepared, it’s common for doctors to veer off course and talk about what they think the story should be. This can certainly give the reporter ideas for another story, but make sure they know to leave those ideas until the end of the interview.
6. Plugging your company.
When giving interviews, a physician may be asked to talk about what she sees as a trend or what common practice is at their hospital. Yet this isn’t an opportunity to sneak in a shameless plug. Unless the story is about the hospital itself, the interviewee knows who the doctor is and will not talk about how great your company is.
7. No added value.
The last question I always ask on interviews is, “Is there anything else that’s important?” When I ask this one simple question, 9 times out of 10 I get some of the best information of the entire interview, something I never thought of or an entirely new story idea.
Before any interview, advise your physician to have additional thoughts or ideas prepared. If he can give the reporter something extra and of value, chances are he’ll be called again for future stories.
Although there are so many ways journalists, editors and producers find story ideas, the press release is still a tried and true method for getting the media’s attention, especially for healthcare companies who have new studies, survey data and stories to pitch.
In fact, 70 percent of reporters use press releases to get supporting facts and 66 percent use them for interesting story angles, a Business Wire Media survey found.
Not only do trade outlets and business journals need these types of stories to keep their readers up-to-date on industry happenings, but simply distributing a press release is good for SEO and brand awareness. Although you certainly don’t want to inundate the media with tons of emails, you should aim to send a press release at least once a month.
But what if you don’t have anything “new” or news-worthy to write a press release about? No problem. Here are 10 questions your team should be asking to uncover new ideas.
1. Has your company hired a new C-level executive, recruited a new employee from a competitor or promoted a key player?
2. Have you seen an increase in your quarterly sales or a surge in stock value?
3. Will you roll out a new product or service?
4. Have you expanded into a new market, merged or acquired another business?
5. Have a forged a strategic partnership?
6. Have you implemented a new way to reduce costs, improve customer retention or increase ROI?
7. Is your company hosting an event or attending a conference or trade show?
8. Do you have a new spokesperson or are you partnering with a celebrity for a new campaign?
9. Has your company earned a ranking or special recognition?
10. Have you teamed up with a non-profit or are you participating in a charity event?