Going back a decade or so, your clinic could rely on outdoor advertising and word-of-mouth to secure a steady supply of patients. It was sufficient to do your duty and fulfil your patients’ expectations. Today, the story is different: your clinic needs to be not only but good, but well-known too.
The sheer variety of advertising channels out there is enough to make your head spin. That’s before you’ve even had the chance to work out which channels are most effective! Let’s take a look at which patient acquisition channels are worth using for your clinic.
How to Promote Your Clinic - Starting Strategy
The first step of promoting any business regardless of industry is to develop a marketing strategy. Having a roadmap allows you to predict the effectiveness of different advertising channels and understand which ones are worth trying from the beginning, which should be used later, and which should not be used at all.
To prepare your marketing strategy, you will need to accomplish the following:
- Define realistic, quantifiable goals, i.e. those that can be measured, such as to increase the average revenue per appointment by 20% over 6 months;
- Segment your target audience and describe the typical patient for each segment;
- Analyse your competitors, both their strengths and weaknesses;
- Carry out an audit of your current website (if you have one);
- Describe your clinic’s unique selling point (USP);
- Work on a description of your services;
- Carry out an assessment of your clinic’s online reputation;
- Limit your promotional activity to a particular geography/locality;
- Define your advertising channels;
- Formulate a sales plan, and
- Outline key performance indicators (KPI) for each advertising channel.
This list may change somewhat depending on your objectives and what your clinic can provide its patients. In any case, developing a strategy takes a lot of time. Even if you are just planning to open a clinic, you should still jot down some ideas for each point although you may not want to delve too deeply to start with. Analyse your 5 closest competitors and get to grips with 4-5 of the most popular advertising tools for now. You’ll always be able to add to them later.
You can organise and analyse indicators with the help of the right practice management system. Make sure that your colleagues add information about their workload and the services they have rendered in a timely fashion. With this information to hand, you will be able to examine a full range of statistics on your clinic’s activities. You can use this as the basis for your new marketing strategy or to tweak your existing approach.
Don’t Neglect Your Clinic Website
Your website is arguably the main tool you have in your arsenal to attract patients to your clinic. An estimated 7 percent of Google's daily searches are health-related, according to Google Health Vice President David Feinberg, MD, The Telegraph reports. Google's total daily health-related searches amount to 70,000 each minute, according to the report. Of these, 16% were direct searches for medical clinics and doctors, with 5% and 6% of queries being for procedures and diagnostic tests respectively. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that this volume is going to do anything but increase over time.
Let’s take a look at what your clinic’s website must have:
- Modern, user-friendly design
- Well-designed homepage
- Clearly understandable and useful content
- Flexible and reliable content management software (CMS)
- Mobile version
- Search engine optimised (SEO)
Think of your website as your online reception desk. It’s the very first thing a visitor will see so it’s vital that you communicate what you are great at and what your existing patients love about your clinic. You could remark on anything from your convenience and politeness to your individualised and professional approach.
Promoting Your Clinic on Search Engines
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the most effective advertising channels in healthcare and the most suitable for long-term strategies. Unlike context ads, SEO does not generate interest immediately but it does give you a steady stream of visitors to your site even if you halt your promotional activities for whatever reason.
To start with, you’ll need a semantic core, a list of keywords that people will use to find your site and navigate its pages. You can choose keywords like [medical service] + [town/city] or [medical speciality] + [city] as well as secondary keywords such as symptoms of a disease. For example, [symptom] + “treat”, [disease] + “treat”. The point is that people don’t always know what kind of doctor can solve their problems. If they do happen to know, then they usually search for the name of a clinic or doctor.
It would be a good idea to utilise queries from visitors at different stages of the sales funnel. You can attract warm leads to pages that use commercial (“price”, “cost”, “cheap”, etc.) and transactional words (those that indicate the visitors intent to purchase or order). You will attract those people who have a problem but are not ready to book an appointment by providing the information they are looking for. In short, the content of each web page should be different, depending on the particular segment of your target audience that you are trying to attract.
- For commercial queries
These web pages should contain exhaustive information about your services, quality guarantee, patient reviews, contact details, online booking and callback request forms.
- For transactional queries
Here you must display your prices and ideally they should be competitive. You should also include detailed descriptions, guarantees of your quality of care, patient reviews, online booking forms, step-by-step guides to booking and treatment, your address and travel directions.
- For knowledge-seeking queries
These pages should contain expertly written materials with clearly stated sources and reliable quantitative data, all laid out in a way that is easy to understand for any visitor. The text should not contain any aggressive calls to action.
In order to select the keywords for each page of your website, you need to start with the following typical phrases:
- Names of services, e.g. “teeth whitening”, “pelvic ultrasound”, etc.
- Names of services and geographic location, e.g. “braces” + “Birmingham” or “slipped disc treatment” + “Manchester”
- Medical specialities and geographic location, e.g. “orthopaedics” + “London”
- Synonyms and similar phrases, e.g. “GP clinic”, “GP surgery”, “General Practice”, etc.
- Names of services/medical specialities and types of services, e.g. “dentistry for children” or “rhinoplasty for men”
- Knowledge-seeking queries, e.g. “how to choose a psychologist”, “how to treat scoliosis”, “ways to treat an overbite”
For any business, SEO involves a multitude of activities that include websites, webmasters and third-party platforms. As such all of the above is crucial to the growth of your business. However, there is a distinction to be made between promoting a clinic with SEO and doing so in other fields. In healthcare, you must make sure that you follow a stricter set of rules when you decide how to advertise, whether those rules be moral or legislative in nature.The demands that different search engines place on websites may vary but let’s first focus on Google as the runaway market leader at this point in time. Google pays attention to the overall quality of sites, links and how well the purpose of a given page (page intent) matches the intent of a visitor. For example, if a page is optimised for a commercial query, the visitor expects to see commercial information there, i.e. pricing, conditions of purchase and so on.
Other search engines place more weight on the quality of your content and the extent to which it answers the visitor’s queries, including the structure of the content as well as commercial factors. As it applies to your clinic’s website, this means price lists, online booking forms, callback request forms, photos and descriptions of your clinic team members.
Writing a Blog for Your Clinic Website
If you analyse the sites of your most successful competitors, you will probably have noticed that most of them have a section for written articles. There’s a good reason for this.
Having a blog on your site performs many functions, the most crucial of which are:
- Widening your funnel — articles will respond to knowledge-seeking queries and attract the corresponding visitors who are not yet prepared to make a booking but do want answers to their problems which you can solve
- Improving the brand awareness and visibility of your clinic
- Increasing your patient list
- Boosting your expertise in the eyes of your patients (existing and potential)
- Raising awareness of new technology, medical materials and services
- Helping patients to make decisions
Your clinic’s blog will be effective if you comply with the following important conditions:
- When researching for articles, gather search queries that are linked to the service your clinic provides. It’s not worth writing articles on “how to whiten your teeth at home” or “how to remove warts with vinegar” and suchlike.
- Don’t write articles on equipment and technology that you don’t use or on services you don’t provide. If you do so, you run the risk of losing the trust of existing patients as they will start to view your content as untrustworthy.
- Add links to commercial sections of your website if they relate to the topic of the article.
To ensure that healthcare and medical articles increase the reader’s trust in your clinic, you need to attract a well-known specialist to write for you. You could ask a doctor from your clinic to put something together and then send it to an editor for improvements. Alternatively, you could hire a copywriter and then ask one of your doctors to critique the final result.
Read more: How to Attract More Patients to Your Clinic
A properly configured ad placed in search engines will bring you patients as soon as it is published. The exact ads shown depend on the keywords entered by the internet user. In context advertising, we work with the hottest topics and thus the very people who are searching for the services you offer. While optimising your ad campaign, it’s vital that you remove ineffective ads and disable unprofitable campaigns.
Advertising with Google Ads
Officially, Google Ads forbids the promotion of medical services but you can work your way around this with creative word usage:
- Injections, vaccines
You can point out your clinic’s name, specialities, current discounts and emphasise the experience of your doctors.
Medical sites can be advertised via Google Ads on search results pages and in context media networks, i.e. on Google partner platforms and Google services. However, it is not permitted to post remarketing and ads in Gmail, nor to target ads according to interests, similar audiences, demographic or geographic criteria if you are using the following topics:
- Health issues (treatment of disease, chronic illness, disability, plastic surgery)
- Attracting volunteers for participation in clinical trials
- Prescription-only medication
- Delicate topics which remind users of their problems and life issues, e.g. their weight or appearance
It probably goes without saying, but try to avoid nudity in any images you use. If you have to use such images, make sure you include a disclaimer on your site.
How to Stay within Your Marketing Budget
To make the most out of your promotional opportunities, it’s important to keep an eye on your budget at all times. You need to be doing everything you can to stay cost-effective.
Here are some pointers to get you on the right track:
- Unlike other services you can book online, medical services are typically confined to a physical space. Patients don’t tend to want to travel far for the sake of visiting your clinic, so make sure you use geo-targeting specifically to attract local patients.
- Services like pregnancy and sports ultrasound are very competitive and usually have a low conversion rate which eats into your budget. Use your website to focus on services which have a lower level of competition.
- Include at least your town and county in your advertising text, if not your exact address.
- If you are working at the low to average price range in your speciality, display prices in your ads.
In this first part of “Patient Acquisition: The Best Tools to Attract Patients to Your Clinic”, we have focused on the importance of developing a marketing strategy and how to build your website so patients can easily find it online. In the second and final part, we will look into working with reviews, social media and the peculiarities of targeted advertising in healthcare.
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