HOW YOUR MEDICAL PRACTICE CAN APPEAL TO REFERRING OFFICES

While more and more patients are finding their way to your office via the web, getting patient referrals from other physicians is still very much imperative, if not vital. Time and time again, practices that engage in referral-based marketing have doubled and tripled their new patient numbers simply by picking up new referring offices. However, while new referral sources are the goal, we want to make sure we sustain those relationships to ensure a consistent flow of referrals. Below are 5 very basic and simple elements to keep in mind so that your practice is the most appealing choice when a referral is necessary.

  1. MAKE THE PROCESS EASY

It’s as simple as that. This is when the true colors about your internal structure will shine through. If an office calls to make a referral, is it tough to get in touch with someone? Are they constantly being put on hold? Does the patient have to wait 2 weeks to get an appointment? If the process is not easy, you can be sure that they will call another office next time they want to refer a patient. Make sure that your front line (reception) is where it needs to be: efficient, pleasant, thorough and organized.

  1. ALWAYS FOLLOW UP

Getting the referral is one thing, but it doesn’t end there. Referring physicians never like to be left in the dark. Sending consult notes right away are a must and will help you gain the appreciation of the referring physician. Further, if a patient cancels their appointment or doesn’t show up, it only helps to inform the referring office and keep them in the loop. What you are providing is a continuation of care so it’s necessary to keep communication lines open so all are on the same page. (And it wouldn’t hurt to send a thank you note either)

  1. KEEP THEM WELL-STOCKED

Want new referrals? Make sure to stay top-of-mind. Quite simply, make sure they have your information whether it’s a nice stack of business cards, referral cards, referral pads or insurance lists with all necessary information. When an office needs to make a referral, and your business cards and information are sitting right there, your chances of receiving that referral are much greater. Every so often, have someone (you or your staff) stop in and drop off more cards and information about your practice.

  1. BE GREAT AT WHAT YOU DO

Need we say more? Take care of your patients. Most likely, they will return to the referring physician for a follow up and give a report on their experience with you and your office. Good feedback makes the referring physician look good and feel comfortable about sending more patients your way.

  1. GIVE THEM SPECIAL TREATMENT

Great customer service always wins. Take care of your referring offices and let them know that you will always do what you can to be accommodating and to facilitate the referral process. Make them feel extra special and they will remember the ease of referring to your practice. By making room for a few emergency slots in your schedule, you can easily treat emergency referrals or just help a referring office by seeing an eager patient right away. Taking care of referring offices and doing what you can to make the process easier will do wonders for building a strong, sustained relationship.

By Katherine Lee

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5 TIPS FOR FINDING IDEAS FOR YOUR MEDICAL PRACTICE BLOG

By now, we all know how important it is to be blogging regularly and adding content to your medical practice website. Content is king as they say and adding (good) content consistently is paramount for your web-based marketing. However, if you’ve been blogging regularly, you are mostly likely no stranger to experiencing frequent mental blocks and wondering what you could possibly write about. Don’t worry – you are not alone and better yet, check out our 5 tips below for getting blog topic ideas.

  1. FAQ’s

Of all people, you are actually daily inundated with a plethora of potential blog topics. As you treat your patients day in and day out, think about the most frequently asked questions that they ask you. Remember, we want our blog topics to cover things that our potential patients always want to know so simply thinking about your patients’ top questions and concerns are a great place to start.

  1. SET UP GOOGLE ALERTS

Google alerts are email updates of articles on the web written about a topic or search term that you specify. This way, if you set up an alert for a condition you treat or a type of injury or disease you see in your practice, you’ll get a summary of articles on the web written about that topic. Alerts can help you get ideas about topics relevant to your practice that you may not have thought of. All you need is a Gmail account and you can easily set up several alerts at no cost.

  1. DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL

When trying to think of good topics to blog about, no need to try to reinvent the wheel here. Some of your best ideas will come forth as you peruse through other similar blogs. Check out what others in your field are writing about and see if there are any topics you forgot to discuss or any new ideas that come to mind. Just remember not to copy and paste. You can always discuss a similar topic on your blog but your content must be original and unique.

  1. SPEAK TO YOUR IDEAL PATIENT

Another great way to come up with blog topics is to discuss things that your ideal patient would be interested in. Do you have a specialty you like to focus on? A specific population? A new medical device you want to promote? Blogging to your ideal patient not only helps link you to those keywords but also helps your ideal patient find you more easily on the web. Remember, educating about a certain topic helps represent you as the expert.

  1. KEEP A LIST

Thinking of blog ideas on the spot can be tough, however, most of us will have ideas pop up at random times which we so easily forget about when we need them. Simple solution – keep a list. Keep a running list of ideas you’d like to write about. Whether something comes to mind out of the blue or if other topics come up as you browse through other websites, jot down your ideas. Even if you don’t end up using them, they can still help to spark new trains of thought.

By Chad Schwarz

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4 IDEAS FOR MAINTAINING & BUILDING REFERRAL RELATIONSHIPS

We can’t emphasize enough how much success our clients get from building relationships through referral-based marketing. Whether it’s an existing staff member, marketing representative or themselves, getting out there and meeting potential referring offices has shown stellar results and helped many practices drastically increase their new patient numbers. Like other things, it does take time and can sometimes be a dreaded task, but referral-based marketing is something that most definitely should not be ignored. Whether you’re going out for the first time or you just haven’t been out in a while, read below for some ideas for connecting with potential referring offices.

1. LUNCH & LEARNS

An oldie but goodie. Schedule a lunch with a potential referring office and get a chance to meet their TEAM, chat with the physicians and even give a brief presentation about how your practice can help provide comprehensive care to their patients. Already did a lunch with them in the past? How about doing another? Lunch is simply a means to get in the door and build relationships. If the office has already referred in the past, it can’t hurt to say thanks and strengthen the relationship.

2. INSURANCE LIST

Don’t show up empty handed. Remember that a simple insurance list can be a powerful tool to help the referral process. Include all your practice information as well as your Tax ID and NPI #’s and any other information that will make for an easy referral process. Make sure it looks nice, is easy to read, and for an added touch, laminating the list will encourage offices to pin it up next to the phone.

3. STOP IN FOR A FOLLOW UP

Whether it’s an office that has referred in the past or a brand new office, stop in immediately after they send over a referral. No need to do this each and every time, but stopping in to follow up can be a great excuse to get you in the door, say thanks, and drop off more business cards and an insurance list. Sending a staff member? Send them with a hand-written thank you note for an added touch or mention that you happen to be in the area and figured you’d hand deliver a consult note. Stopping in for a visit can keep your practice top of mind and is a nice personal touch to show your gratitude and attention to their needs.

4. DON’T BE A STRANGER

Again, persistence is key with referral-based marketing. The more they are thinking about your practice, the more they’ll think of you come referral time. Make sure to consistently stop in and say hello. Even if not often, make sure you don’t go for months at a time where you don’t stop in. This could very well open up an opportunity for another practice to get in there. Drop in for a brief visit to say hello, say thanks, chitchat with the staff, or drop off some afternoon coffee and munchkins. Just remember to leave some more cards and insurance lists!

By Chad Schwarz

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MEDICAL PRACTICE WEBSITES: YOUR CONTENT

Last time we discussed your medical practice homepage, but now that we’ve got that covered, let’s talk about content. Now that your homepage is all set, we need to think about adding value to your website. Search engines don’t care about how much information you initially put up on your site. They want to see that you are continuously adding rich content that is useful and relevant to your visitors. Whether you are trying to develop your own educational library of resources or just posting to your blog, let’s take a look at the basic but important elements we so often forget.

1. DON’T OVERTHINK IT

Creating a whole bunch of content is overwhelming and time consuming, yes, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Start small but be consistent – something is better than nothing. And no need to stress about what to write about. We are not going for the Nobel Prize here but we do want to make sure our content is valuable to our readers. Search engines want to provide the reader with great content that satisfies what they were looking for. A great place to start is to write about what your patients always want to know.

2. KEEP IT AT JUST THE RIGHT LENGTH

What length is that? It depends. What we will say is this; remember that search engines crawl your site with the reader’s best interest in mind. Think first of the value of your content to the reader and create it with that in mind. Trying to write content solely for SEO can leave you writing snippets that are too short or long, wordy, boring paragraphs. When you’re aiming for value, your content can be long or short and will serve your readers, which will in turn satisfy the search engines.

3. DON’T FORGET ABOUT STRATEGY

And no, we’re not talking about complex SEO strategies here but more so mindfulness. When writing content, remember to always include important keywords like your specialty, practice name, areas of expertise and location. Keywords are important, yet, remember we want to include them – not build our content around them. Also, no need for fanciness here. Keep your language simple (layman’s terms) and easy to comprehend. Your readers are looking for information that is helpful, not so much information that is impressive.

Writing content for your site takes time but is an absolutely powerful tool to get noticed on the web. Best of all, it’s easy to do and it costs you nothing. Writing code and even making your website look nice might be out of your realm, but adding valuable content that is relevant to your specialty is your area of expertise – take advantage of it!

By Katherine Lee

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MEDICAL PRACTICE WEBSITES: YOUR HOMEPAGE

The first impression, as we know, is everything. This goes for your website as well. When it comes to your website, your homepage is really what is going to leave a good or bad impression on the visitor and will likely determine whether they continue to browse or look for another physician’s website. Below are some effective tools to consider for your website’s homepage.

LOOKS

Aesthetics can really make or break the type of impression you give to your visitors. Make sure to keep it clean, attractive, simple, and user-friendly. Be careful with excessive dark or bright color schemes and select a font size that is easy to read. Also, make sure to include photos and videos to help create a simple but engaging layout.

EASY ACCESS

Your visitors are there for a reason. Think about your ideal patient’s needs and concerns and make it easily accessible for them. Prioritize the information you want to display and make sure it’s bold and is easy to navigate to. For important pages you want to emphasize, allow visitors to access this information in multiple places: menu buttons, within text, within sidebars.

STICK TO THE BASICS

When creating content for your website, especially the homepage, make sure your visitors will not only find what they were looking for, but also that they understand it. Use basic language and layman’s terms when sharing info about your practice and your expertise. Keep it simple and avoid having a homepage that is either too bare or overloaded with too much information.

CALL TO ACTION

Including a call to action is a critical piece of all types of marketing. We want to engage our potential patients and encourage them to make an appointment, call us with any questions, sign up for our newsletter, or schedule a free consultation. A call to action is an important way to get the patients through the door. It can lead to an immediate conversion, or, by obtaining their contact information, you can stay in constant communication to make sure your practice is top of mind when they do have a need to come in.

By Chad Schwarz

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5 Tips and Ideas for Creating Great Content

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 10.38.04 PMContent is KING – we know this. So, now that we’re all scurrying around to try and consistently create that content, it might be safe to say that the quality of the content might have started to suffer. While adding content is certainly important, it’s just as important to make sure the content we add offers real value. If anything, Google and the other search engines are leaning more and more towards content value and not just on the amount of content. However, writing those blogs and blasting out those newsletters can certainly start to get repetitive and draining. Check out our 5 tips below for putting the value factor back into your content.

1. JAZZ IT UP

Quite simply, if you’re content is getting boring, jazz it up with some quality media. People don’t want to just stare at text – so upload a quick video. If you can’t embed the video, include a hyperlinked screenshot.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 10.24.40 PM

Also, use pictures! And yes, while many of us include a picture, why stop there? Include relevant photos as needed. But please, invest in some high quality photos. There’s no bigger turn off than coming across content with dark or blurry images. You might get noticed – but not in the right way.

2. BE PERSONAL

Yes, you want to write about content that is relevant to your specialty, but you are still a person. Don’t be afraid to add in a snippet about your personal life, hobbies, experiences etc. And hey, even throw a (high quality) photo in there. People will connect with you even further and feel like they are getting to know you. Trust is a major factor when choosing a physician so sharing a bit about you the person (not just the physician) will engage readers. Just of course make sure to keep it light and steer clear of controversial matters – we don’t want to push any potential patients away.

3. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

Often times we’re so stuck on what to write about and the other logistics of the content, but don’t let it get you off focus. Ideally, content would be great if added consistently and regularly, but not if your end result is not your best work. It’s better to skip a week or two and post valuable content when you have it. We also get stuck on the length of the content. It’s too short. It’s too long. Let’s remind ourselves of the main goal of the search engines – to provide users with the best results. Don’t be scared to add content that is valuable but brief. And similarly, the same is true for valuable content that is longer. Some of the most useful search results I’ve come across were longer articles or blogs that provided just the info I was looking for and in great detail.

4. DITCH THE OLD LOOK

Very simply, change how your content looks. People have a hard time focusing on paragraphs of straight text.

  • Keep their attention by making it easy on the eyes by using bullets, large headers, and different layouts.
  • Keep it fresh.

The same is also true for your newsletter. (Maybe it’s time for a new template?)

5. BE A COPYCAT

Ok, don’t copy content – we all know that’s only going to hurt us, however, check out other practice or business blogs and newsletters. Subscribe to see what others are doing and it will most certainly give you new ideas or insights about what to write about and how to do it. There are a lot of talented people out there and there’s no law against browsing around to get the creative juices flowing for your own content. Pay attention to what you like as a reader and what appeals to you aesthetically. It might be the perfect time for a new look, a new tone of voice, and a new approach.

By Chad Schwarz

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5 Things Successful Medical Practice Owners Do

  1. SLEEP.

I know, most of us think, “Yeah, yeah” and we push the limits because who has time to have a healthy sleep schedule? However, don’t overlook the incredible importance of sleep. And not only quantity, but the quality and regularity too. In order for our bodies and minds to be at their sharpest, we need good quality sleep that follows a consistent schedule. Getting the sleep we need along with staying on top of our overall health is something we all already know is paramount to our success so it’s time to start taking it seriously.

  1. PLAN. PLAN. PLAN SOME MORE.

Another tip that we already know. But are we doing it? There’s a reason why the most successful individuals before us and are among us now all make sure that regular planning is a non-negotiable part of their strategy. Write down long-term visions and goals as well as short-term and immediate ones. And after you do that, review them and edit them again and again and again. The best thing you can do for yourself and your medical practice is to set aside a block of uninterrupted time before each day to plan. Prioritize immediate goals and jot down each and every step necessary to complete them. Long-term goals or ideas should be included on a “Future Goals” list until you can devote more time and thought to them. Planning is critical for organization and getting things done. It provides structure for your vision and is your roadmap to success and growth. No more wasting time, energy, resources and morale on driving blind.

  1. MEET REGULARLY.

Regular team meetings are simply a must for leading a successful team of employees. Now that you’ll be planning each day, make sure to carve out that consistent time each week/month where everyone will be gathering to discuss the items that you’ve also planned out in advance. Meetings are not only a good way to keep everyone informed, but also to tap into how your staff and your business is doing. Here you can identify areas that need attention and make sure everyone is on the same page. Engage your team and ask for their input, suggestions and ideas and actually LISTEN to them. They will know first hand what needs improvement and will usually offer great suggestions on how to do so. Encourage your team to share in building the practice and let them share in the success as well through incentives and bonuses. And last but not least, thank them. Employees who are acknowledged and appreciated will be that much more motivated and will take a genuine interest in the success of the practice.

  1. DELEGATE.

One of the most difficult things for business owners to do is to STOP doing everything themselves. Or if not everything, much, much more than they should be doing or simply doing too much of the wrong tasks – too much working IN your practice instead of working ON your practice. Your role is to stay on top of how the practice is doing, manage your team, and direct the practice to attain new goals. Truth is, most physicians are juggling this along with many other tasks that can be easily handled by someone else. Delegate your work and be sure to only take on tasks that you and only you can accomplish. Everything else should be handed off to allow you more time to focus on your role, work ON your practice and free up some personal time. Unplug (literally) from your work and spend time with family, friends and on YOURSELF. After all, you need to take care of YOURSELF so that you are actually able to lead your practice successfully. You can’t get to the latter by skipping out on the former.

  1. GET THINGS DONE.

Identifying goals, problems and solutions will go wasted without any action taken afterwards. Most physicians are readily aware of more than enough areas that need improvement but just remain frozen solid with fear, anxiety, and procrastination. Now is the time to act. How will waiting benefit you? Truth is, waiting is most likely hurting you and in a big way. Don’t underestimate how a lack of action can set your practice back in more ways than one and don’t let financial worries outweigh the potential for future return and growth. Start with the items that will have the most impact and put one foot in front of the other. Hire those additional staff members. Start those marketing initiatives. Let go of the underachieving employee. Make those structural and organizational changes. Purchase that new equipment. Create those new protocols. Just remember – prioritize wisely and make sure not to get overwhelmed and overly aggressive. Building a successful practice doesn’t happen in one swoop.

By Chad Schwarz

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Is Your NAP Helping or Hurting Your Local Ranking?

WHAT IS MY NAP?

NAP is an acronym that stands for name, address, and phone number and refers to your basic business information that appears online whether it be on your website, other websites, local listings, social media, etc. Of course, this also includes your business website address. Essentially, your NAP is the basic info that you provide online to potential customers.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

When it comes to local search, there are a few major factors that have a large impact on how your business ranks in local search results and one of these major factors is your NAP consistency. Search engines scour the web to check your citations and evaluate them with many algorithms in order to determine the legitimacy and validity of your business and ultimately, your online authority. A citation is anywhere that your business information can be found online – whether or not you put it there. This includes but is not limited to your website, local directories, local search listings, social media, blogs, other websites and more. Essentially, search engines will take note of all your business citations and determine if your business is legitimate and worthy of displaying it on search engine result pages. One of the ways they determine this is by the level of your NAP consistency across all citations.

Now when we say consistent, we mean absolutely exact and identical. Search engines are meticulous and we need to be as well. The slightest variations in your NAP can reduce the level of confidence that search engines will have in your business and can be detrimental to your local ranking. Make sure ALL information is the same all over the web. This includes whether or not you include ‘Inc.’ or whether or not you decide to display it as ‘Incorporated.’ Do some of your listings display ‘Ave.’ while others display ‘Avenue?’ Again, we are talking absolutely identical. NAP consistency matters a great deal – and the solution is simple and best of all, free.

HOW DO I CHECK MY NAP CONSISTENCY?

Since we are checking each of our business citations, a simple way to check your NAP consistency would be to do a Google search for your business. Any and every result that lists your business should display accurate and consistent information. In addition, MOZ Local offers a great tool that checks your listings across the web so you can see your inconsistent, incomplete and duplicate listings. To use the MOZ Local tool, click here. Once you find the inconsistent listings, create a free account if necessary to edit the information. Once your listings are consistent across the board, remember that the more citations you have, the better. Make sure your business info appears on all the major local search engines and other local directories. Along with consistency, the amount of citations listed for your business and their thoroughness only helps to strengthen your online authority.

By Chad Schwarz

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4 Strategies to Increase Referrals to Your Medical Practice

For any small business, but especially in the world of medicine, referral-based patients can make up a significant amount, if not the majority of your business. As most of us are caught up with where to allocate our marketing dollars and how to directly attract potential new patients, it’s important not to overlook the power of methods that might be a little more “old school” such as referral-based business. Sounds simple enough but the truth of the matter is that most practices are not gaining the full benefits of referral-based business because they neglect to do a few very simple things. Below we’ll discuss 4 strategies that you can implement in your medical practice today to maximize referrals from physicians, existing patients or any of your other personal connections.

Strategy #1: Practice Excellence

I know, it seems obvious, but let’s re-visit this. One of the greatest things you can do for your practice and simultaneously your patients is to actually provide the most excellent experience and care. Make visits to your office different and more memorable than other doctor visits. All it takes is that extra attention to detail and effort to make sure patients’ needs are not only met, but exceeded, and patients will be quick to spread the news. From the small things like being offered coffee or tea or interacting with warm and sincere staff members to an attentive doctor that listens and even follows up personally after a surgery, patients will naturally share their experience with their circle of friends/family and emphasize all the ways their expectations were exceeded. Seeing a doctor can be a vulnerable and anxious experience, which is all the more reason that patients who have a positive experience will be more than eager to let others know.

Strategy #2: Define Your Ideal Patient

Sure, we all want referrals to come our way, but defining who our ideal patient would be and then communicating that to referral sources can be much more effective. Identifying your ideal patient will not only help you see more of the patients who you benefit from the most, but it will also help you describe ideal referrals to potential referral sources. If referral sources are unclear about what you specialize in or services you provide, it will be that much more challenging to make the connection that someone in their network could benefit from what you offer. You can also inadvertently communicate this by creating an emphasis on certain niches of your specialty. If your ideal patient suffers from a certain condition or could benefit from a specific device or treatment plan you offer, make sure to align yourself as the expert by constantly educating and communicating with others on such topics. Share your content with other physicians, existing patients and your community by using email campaigns, blogs, newsletters, social media and even local publications or presentations.

Strategy #3: Ask and You Shall Receive

Want more referrals? Ask for them! It’s understandable that many physicians feel that asking is uncomfortable or even distasteful, but the reality is that there are appropriate and non-invasive ways of doing so, and the physicians that are asking are reaping all the benefits. Many times people simply are unaware that you would need, benefit from, or even accept referrals. Further, satisfied patients are willing and wanting to return the favor. Include a statement about appreciating referrals in your practice material such as on business cards, appointment cards, email signatures and any email campaigns. When face-to-face with a patient, the best time to ask for a referral is after you receive a compliment or after your patient thanks you. Think about what you’d say in advance so that you are prepared in this situation. Thank them for their kind words and let them know that patient satisfaction is of utmost importance to you and if they know of anyone who would benefit from any of your services, you’d appreciate any referrals.

Strategy #4: Give Thanks

Upon receiving a referral, make sure to acknowledge it by appropriately thanking your referral source. A short, hand-written note to a patient or referring physician can go a long way in expressing your gratitude and could also help in achieving continued support and referrals. For referring physicians who send several referrals, make sure to thank them appropriately by means of holiday gifts or even treating them to a nice dinner. Remember that referrals are most effectively achieved from good relationships whether it’s a satisfied patient that already has trust in what you do or a referring physician that you’ve built a good rapport with.

Incorporating these strategies can be extremely powerful and effective in maximizing your efforts and boosting your referrals. With very little time and cost involved, you can implement these minor strategies to bring about major results. Of course, while taking these steps to increase patient referrals, remember that the most important focus and the easiest way to more referrals is to simply offer patients exceptional service and care.

By Chad Schwarz

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5 Ways to Maximize Your Content

Over and over, we hear how “Content is King” when it comes to marketing your medical practice on the web.  And it is. In continued efforts to provide users with only the best results, search engines are really cracking down and penalizing websites for using black hat practices to get rankings and now, more than ever, creating valuable, relevant content for the user is of highest priority. While it’s important to consistently add content to your website, it’s just as important to add valuable content. Make sure to write about topics that are relevant and that will appeal to potential patients. Will they find your content helpful? Interesting? Will they find what they were looking for? Make sure to speak in a language that your users will understand and think about what it is they are searching. If readers are not engaged or finding information easily, they’ll be browsing through your competitor’s website within seconds.

Ok, so now you’ve created valuable content. Now what? Creating content is only the first step. Now we want to make sure we are maximizing its uses. Below are 5 ways to use your content to get the most value and visibility.

  1. BLOG – The first thing you should do with your content is to put it on your website. You can post it as an individual page or an article, but the easiest way is to use it as a blog post. Adding valuable content consistently to your site is of key importance and very much why we hear about this “content” and how it is “king.”
  2. BE SOCIAL – Why? Because by now you should know it’s important! Post your content on all your social media platforms. Not only will search engines notice your activity, your content can achieve tremendous visibility via social media networks and increase traffic to your site and eventually to your office.
  3. e-COMMUNICATE – Or in other words, email! Emailing current and potential patients is a powerful tool and is extremely easy and involves little to no cost. Make sure to continuously grow your e-mail database and after you’ve created your content, blast it out to your database either on its own or as a practice newsletter.
  4. SPREAD THE NEWS – Or better yet, make it the news. Send out your content to your press contacts. Be it local publications or national, tell the press about your expertise, the latest news or technology in your field or what you are doing in your practice and community. You never know who might be looking for just this sort of story to publish all the while giving you free publicity.
  5. FILE, PRINT – You took the time to create all this content, so let’s make the most of it. Print out your content and display it in your waiting room for patients to browse through. This is a great way to highlight other areas of your expertise and provide information that is helpful to your patients and possibly their friends or family members that could use that information.

By Chad Schwarz

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