It’s evident that medical practices have responded to marketplace demand and now recognise the necessity of marketing their medical business.
However, there are a number of mistakes that are made by medical businesses when undertaking DIY marketing. Here are some of the most common errors that can result in a negative impact on your business, and solutions on what to do to change for better marketing outcomes in 2021:
1. Ad-hoc piecemeal marketing
This is a term used for marketing or advertising activities that are based on single events. This is a quite common mistake and is often the result of a practice’s movement into a new service provision and wanting to launch their offering, or a response to advertisers offering distress rates.
Pitfalls: The marketing communications have no strategic plan that has considered overall goals and key messages, is not usually directed to the correct target market but adopts a “shotgun” approach, and doesn’t include tracking of results to measure return on investment (ROI).
Solution: Analysis before action. Development of a comprehensive strategic marketing that examines the current business, identifies the strategic marketing plan goals, and details customised solutions for the achievement of those goals using integrated marketing outreach methods (i.e. digital, industry gold-standard activities, traditional.)
2. Poor brand experience
Your brand is the first introduction to your practice. Branding not only includes the design of a professional logo but considers the patient (or referrer) journey. Your brand is based on all interactions experienced with your practice on each step of the pathway.
Pitfalls: Like all businesses, medical businesses can be detrimentally affected by brand perception. Poorly executed logos and overall bad brand experiences can negatively impact on your patient’s engagement with your medical business, attract bad reviews and marketplace comments, and damage new patient acquisition.
Solution: Professionally designed brand. Impartial examination and review of patient experience. Customised solutions or staff training based on needs.
3. Poor digital presence – a) website
The cornerstone of a business’s digital presence is their website. Unfortunately, this a DIY pitfall for many medical businesses. In some instances, medical businesses have engaged a professional website designer but they have not used a company accustomed to medical industry standards and guidelines and can be in breach of APHRA and legal requirements, or alternatively when using medical website developers, their website includes duplicated content from other medical sites and is seen by Google as having “plagiarised content.”
Some common mistakes that occur include:
Pitfalls: DIY or poorly designed medical websites don’t take into account consideration of the patient journey, miss the opportunity to highlight and introduce the practice and the practice team, don’t have unique information, and don’t address key factors that lead a visitor on the next step, with the ultimate goal of converting them to a patient.
Solution: Your website is your digital practice and it should reflect that by using customised content and imagery. It should highlight your key areas of interest and expertise and be an integral key part of the patient pathway and experience of your practice.
4. Poor digital presence - b) social media
Social media is a two-way communication tool and needs to be used regularly to effectively share relevant and interesting content with your followers. Mistakes that regularly occur in medical businesses social media engagement are not having a professionally designed profile, and a “set and forget” approach i.e. seldom posting content and not engaging.
Pitfalls: A DIY page and lack of interaction is damaging for the brand as the inactivity shows a lack of interest and engagement. Also, sharing content inconsistently or content that is not engaging will lose followers and not improve the online presence of the brand.
Solution: Don’t start a social media program unless you are prepared to invest time in it. Social media is enormously powerful but it does take ongoing attention. Choose an internal resource within your practice and have them trained in professional social media management (best option) or out-source to social media specialists (more expensive solution.)
5. Poor digital presence - c) not responding to online reviews
If your practice has an online presence it should also have a Google listing and may also be included in other directory listings with reviews (i.e. Rate MDs). Ignoring and not replying to reviews is a common error made by medical practices.
Pitfalls: Ignoring and not responding to patient reviews that are good, bad, or ugly damages your brand and your online presence by demonstrating a lack of interest. All reviews, whether negative or positive need to be replied to with diplomacy and tact. If the reviewer is giving details of their condition or other details that impact on their privacy, you need to respond immediately by advising they should contact your practice for a personal discussion and take the information offline so their privacy is not compromised. It is important with negative reviews not to argue or reply negatively. This will only inflame the correspondent.
Solution: Designate a senior person within the practice to regularly assess and respond to reviews. Have guidelines in place for them to follow that addresses privacy breaches as well as suitable responses to negative and positive reviews. Include KPI’s that are based around timeliness and appropriateness of responses.
6. Using the right language. Who is your audience?
With all medical businesses there are usually multiple different audiences we are speaking to. For medical specialists, this is usually GPs and the public – sometimes allied health and other specialists. For all GPs and some specialists, the public audience can cover wide demographics of age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic factors. However, we often see marketing communications that are designed as a “one size fits all” approach that doesn’t address key messages for each audience or have a suitable hierarchy of information. In the case of specialists, much of the marketing designed to talk to patients through digital outreach is often over clinical, for GPs the marketing material is often very “call to action” (i.e. make an appointment), and doesn’t give the visitor information on the practice, or information and reassurance about the service providers.
Pitfalls: Lack of information, overly clinical information that is addressed to the layperson, or too basic information for other clinicians creates confusion – not clarity, and will not result in engagement or trust which is the goal of your marketing outreach.
Solution: Develop a marketing strategy that analyses and identifies each of your target audiences and addresses these through integrated outreach. Have separate marketing outreach solutions appropriate to each audience.