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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How Your Practice Can Benefit from Public Relations

When it comes to marketing our medical practices, we usually invest most of our time and money into the big marketing strategies like referral-based marketing and web-based marketing. We dole out monthly payments to keep our online ad campaigns running and are busy on social media. And while all of this is important, there is one area that we often overlook – public relations.

 What is public relations?

 Simply put, public relations uses various mediums to build up and maintain the public’s view or image of a company or organization.  Unlike paid advertisements where any company can pay to send any message directly to the consumer, public relations uses stories or newsworthy events about a company in an effort to invoke a desired opinion from the public. Types of mediums can include press releases, radio and TV interviews, news stories and more.

What are the benefits?

 Public relations has a few major benefits that are worth noting. Again, because anyone can use paid advertisements to market themselves, public relations offers a type of marketing that brings a certain level of credibility and trust that advertisements lack. When the media is the one telling the story, you and your practice are positioned to be the leaders in your industry and the perception is that you were featured for a reason. Also, public relations is usually less expensive than traditional advertisements and can even be free. As reporters are always looking to fill space, they are often willing to give free publicity in exchange for compelling and relevant stories. Topics of interest can include new cutting-edge treatments, ancillary services, new technologies, announcement of a new physician or location, stories about community involvement or charitable events and even just expertise on relevant health issues.

How to do it?

Once you have your topic, the easiest way is to develop a press release to submit to reporters. Make sure to be concise, write in the 3rd person, and just include the main facts. Your goal is to write in a journalistic style and pique the reporters’ interest so they can create the story around it. Contact local publications and start to build a press list to whom you can send your press releases to. It takes time to build a press list so just be patient and contact different publications you are interested in. It’s also important to make sure what you send gets into the right hands. Look on the publication websites or call to try and get contact information for the appropriate people. For instance, there might be a community editor for local news or a health editor for health news. You can also opt to use a PR company that will help you get editorial coverage for a fee. Lastly, make sure to maximize your press releases by also utilizing other platforms. In addition to standard media, make sure to also promote your stories within your blogs, newsletters and of course on all your social media networks.

By Chad Schwarz

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A Review of Online Reviews

In the world of web-based marketing, we all know the power that online reviews hold over small businesses and maybe even more so for medical practices. As the masses become rapidly more reliant and attached to all the fancy devices available, search engines want to make sure that they can provide users with reputable results. In addition to online visibility, reviews are also critical when prospective patients are deciding on actually making an appointment or not. In the world of web, a key player in determining which businesses are reputable is by seeing what their customers have to say about them. Which brings us to the challenge search engines face: making sure reviews are authentic.

Search engines are smart. While we will never know what their exact algorithms are, and even though they too can make mistakes, the lesson here is to not try to take shortcuts or outsmart them. Posting false reviews or providing incentives to customers to leave a review has become a very serious issue that has led some to large fines and even jail time.

So then, what is okay and what is not? Ideally, they would like patients to leave a review on their own accord either on their mobile device at the location or elsewhere after their visit. Asking for reviews is okay but we have to be careful not to cross over into the “soliciting” zone.  Google’s own take on this is somewhat vague, however there are a few main things to keep in mind when trying to obtain reviews from patients. Let’s take a look at the DOs and DON’Ts of reviews.

DON’Ts

  • DON’T leave a review for your own practice (hopefully obvious)
  • DON’T have employees/affiliated individuals leave you reviews
  • DON’T leave negative reviews for a competitor
  • DON’T post any fake reviews
  • DON’T digitize or try to transfer or copy reviews obtained elsewhere
  • DON’T ask for reviews in waves as this can be considered “suspect behavior”
  • DON’T post reviews on behalf of others for any reason
  • DON’T have a review station in your practice or let patients leave reviews using a computer on premise
  • DON’T ask for “positive” or other specific types of reviews
  • DON’T offer incentives such as money, discounts or products to reviewers

DOs

  • DO ask ALL your patients to leave you a review (don’t only single out “happy” patients)
  • DO let your entire staff know the importance of reviews and put protocols in place to obtain them
  • DO remind and encourage your patients to leave you a review via email (preferably right after their appointment)
  • DO create printed cards or other materials to instruct your patients on how to leave you a review
  • DO take a look at your reviews and respond. You don’t need to respond to every review or only to negative ones. When responding, thank your reviewers and address any concerns/issues while keeping it short and being courteous. Remember, your responses are visible to all and you want to address concerns professionally and never want to be defensive or argumentative in ANY way.

By Chad Schwarz

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Is Your Google+ Page Set Up Properly?

By now I hope we can all agree that claiming and optimizing your practice Google+ page is a must. Like all local listings, it is absolutely imperative that you claim your Google+ listing and go through the appropriate verification process. If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll be well aware of how to claim your Google listing. Remember, Google is a bit different in that you create your listings through Google+.

As a brief review, you’ll want to log in first to your personal Gmail account, access your personal Google+ by clicking the +YourName link at the top-right and then click on “Pages” from the drop-down menu. From here, you can create your practice business page.

Many of you have already created and optimized your pages for your practices. However, below are two important pointers that are important to keep in mind when considering your local web-presence.

  1. Multiple Locations – If you have several practices in several locations, you’ll want to create individual G+ business pages for each physical address. Unfortunately, Google does not allow 2 separate business to verify one address so if you are leasing or sharing space with another practice, only one business will be able to verify that address.
  2. Multiple Physicians – While many of us have listings for our practices, it is just as important to create additional Google+ business pages to represent each of the physicians who practice at a certain location. Even if there is one physician, you’ll want to create a main G+ practice page and an additional page with the physician’s name. You can opt to create a page strictly using the name such as “Dr. Robert Smith” or you can merge it with the practice name such as “First Choice Medical – Dr. Robert Smith.” The only exception would be if the practice name contains the name of the sole physician in which case, only one G+ practice page is necessary.

The world of web-based marketing is ever changing so it’s important to stay on top of what the search engines are looking for. Claiming your listings and claiming them correctly is of absolute importance and will help your practice stay ahead of the game.

By Chad Schwarz

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Email Marketing: Effective and Inexpensive

When trying to tackle our medical marketing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different ways to market our medical practices.  It can also, of course, get very expensive. The important thing is not to get so overwhelmed that we don’t end up doing much marketing at all. In the midst of planning out all your marketing campaigns and goals for the year, email marketing is a very quick, simple and inexpensive internal marketing tool that we can use to reach our patients. A quick email with a good subject line will get across any news or information to your patients while keeping your practice and services at the top of their minds. Below are 4 simple and effective ideas for different email marketing recall campaigns that your practice can start using today.

  1. Birthday e-cards – You have the patient info you need – all you need to do is utilize it. Work with your TEAM or a database marketing company to send out an e-card to patients on their birthday. A very simple tool that is surprisingly powerful.
  2. Holiday e-cards – Sending out a quick holiday e-card is one of the easiest ways to send out a mass blast to your entire patient database. This is a great way to wish them a happy holiday while reminding them about your practice. Don’t be shy about including the smaller holidays. Sending out a card on the less popular holidays can really make your card and your practice stand out.
  3. Announcements – Make use of your precious email database that you have and be sure to communicate with your patients. There are several ways that you can reach out via email that your patients will find helpful and tasteful. Send out news or announcements about the physician, a TEAM member, or even the practice itself. Sharing with your patients will help build trust and relationships and can also be very helpful to them.
  4. e-newsletters – While announcements can be sporadic and spontaneous, e-newsletters should be consistent whether they are monthly or quarterly. This is a great way to get different pieces of content together in one. You can include blog content, news about the practice or TEAM, helpful articles related to your specialty, articles on trending issues, and even material that is fun and light. You’ll be surprised at the great response you’ll get and you can even print them out and display them in your waiting room.

While it’s important to market your practice to potential new patients, don’t forget about the very valuable advantage you already have with your existing patients.  Use your database and with just a few simple e-taps on the shoulder, you’ll be surprised to see the return you’ll get on just a small and simple investment.

By Chad Schwarz

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Don’t Let Your Front Office Neglect This Critical Step

Each and every day, your front office is working hard to manage a variety of things while handling what’s usually a heavy influx of phone calls.  Sure, we are all aware of simple pointers for answering phones such as being friendly, informative and just making sure the phones are answered at all.  However, one of the most commonly neglected areas of internal marketing is developing protocols for even the simplest of tasks to ensure the highest quality service that will make or break the success of your practice.  You may have discussed having a pleasant demeanor or making sure all calls are returned as quickly as possible, but has your front office been trained for the type of call that comes in? While most calls are standard such as making follow up appointments and answering insurance questions, it’s essential that you train your TEAM on how to appropriately handle calls from potential patients in order to convert them to actual patients. Let’s take a look at 3 important points that will help your front office accomplish this goal.

  1. WHO?  - It’s important to keep in mind that these types of callers most likely came across your practice by means of researching your specialty or by marketing initiatives and campaigns you put in place.  This means that they are still uncertain and are skeptical about your services and are seeking some sort of validation.  Therefore, it’s critical we keep this in mind so that we can be better equipped at how we handle these calls.  They tend to be more hesitant and they are looking to be reassured. Thus, training your TEAM to offer that reassurance will largely impact whether or not you can convert them to a patient.
  2. WHAT? – This leads us to our next point – what is our objective? Again, our objective is to secure their first appointment. With all your marketing efforts, be it referral-based, web-based or external, our main objective is always to get those new patient appointments otherwise we have wasted a lot of time and money. Make sure your TEAM is aware of this and how important it is to “close the deal” and get the new patients into the schedule.
  3. HOW? – Again, it’s important to remember whom you are dealing with here. These callers are unsure and have not made up their minds about you just yet. For this reason, train your front office to handle these calls in a welcoming manner. Make sure they know how to quickly build rapport, successfully inform these types of patients and make them feel reassured while not rushing the call. Also, it’s important that your front office knows how to control the phone call and lead the conversation by asking appropriate questions and then following up with future appointment times. The schedule should accommodate new patients and callers should feel that the phone call was helpful and put their minds at ease.

By simply training your front office on how to answer these calls, you can make sure to maximize your marketing efforts by capturing those who have enough interest to call your office and securing that new patient appointment.

By Chad Schwarz

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Three Ways To Make Your Blog More Interesting

From celebrity-seeking Perez Hilton to the current-events-centered Huffington Post to everyday folks writing about parenthood, blogs have become engrained in our online culture.

Anyone can be a blogger, and for physicians, posting new blogs to your clinic’s website is an essential part of web-based marketing. Not only do blogs share information about your skills and areas of expertise, they’re also an effective way to educate patients and get your practice’s name to pop up during a Google search.

A weekly blog is a simple way to make sure the content on your website and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is fresh. But let’s face it – being a physician is not the same as being a blogger. For many people, thinking of new topics to write about each week can be daunting.

As you sit down to post, keep these three tips in mind for making sure your blog isn’t boring.

1.   Although blogs are an excellent way to get your practice’s name to climb higher during online searches, this isn’t the only reason to blog. The content you include in your blogs can educate potential patients who might be seeking a doctor. Also, keep in mind that while you’re an expert in your field, it is unlikely that the people reading your blog will have a substantial amount of knowledge on the subject of medicine. Be sure to use simple language on your posts that anyone can understand. You don’t want your blog to sound like a textbook. Otherwise, people will stop reading.

 

2.   Include hyperlinks. Not only does this score points with Google, but it can lead to more hits on other pages of your website. Let’s say you’re writing a post and you mention your name or the name of your practice, you can hyperlink to your bio on your website or your “about us” page. These are pages that might get overlooked otherwise. Hyperlinks can also direct readers to pages of the site where they can learn more about a specific problem they may have, or it can send them to your site’s online appointment booking page (assuming you have one,) which might prompt someone to book a time to come into your office.

3.   Mentioning pop culture or a current event in the news increases the likelihood that your blog will pop up during an online search. Just be sure to make an easy transition between the event you are writing about and the topic of the blog. Look for ways to tie in the topic of your blog to a current event. Let’s say you want to blog about common sports injuries – you could do so by starting your blog by mentioning an athlete  who suffered an injury during this month’s Winter Olympics.

One of the great things about blogs is that they allow you to be a little creative while spreading the word about your practice. We hope you find these tips helpful as you navigate the world of the web.

 

By Chad Schwarz

 

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Tips On Putting Together the Perfect Presentation

An important part of referral-based marketing involves scheduling and attending lunch-and-learns with fellow physicians who potentially could send patients to your office.

For the most part, these meetings should be casual, informal gatherings where you talk about your practice as much as you get to know each other as fellow humans. After all, the doctors you’re meeting are on their lunch break – it’s their time to relax, unwind and enjoy a meal.

Still, it’s a good idea to head into a lunch and learn fully prepared with a presentation you can use if it feels right. Starting up a PowerPoint presentation can be a great way to highlight certain aspects of your practice and really show how your office can help patients.

Of course, heading into a lunch-and-learn with a presentation means taking time beforehand to put one – or several – different versions together.

It’s a good idea to compile a few different versions of a presentation that are geared toward specific audiences. The presentation you give to a pediatrician will likely be different than one you give to an internal medicine doctor who mainly sees elderly patients. You can also have a general presentation that can be used with any audience.

When putting these together, think about what makes your practice stand out and be sure to highlight those things in your presentation. These lectures should educate doctors and their staff with general information about your practice, outline some of the conditions you commonly treat, explain how you treat these conditions and describe any innovative services, treatments or technology in your clinic. Let’s say you have a new or unique piece of equipment that others in your field don’t offer – be sure to point that out – as well as it’s success rate. The more detailed you can be, the better. Keep in mind your presentations should include useful information, as well as pictures – and try keeping it interesting. You don’t want your audience to get bored.

In addition, an in-depth presentation can also help grow your practice in specific areas – let’s say you want to focus on seeing more diabetic patients or build up your toenail laser treatment practice. You can put together a presentation that focuses specifically on these areas.

The opportunities are endless, and we wish you luck with your efforts to educate others about your practice!

By Chad Schwarz

 

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Three Tips For Keeping an Active Social Media Presence

Those who spend time on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites may have friends they follow who seem to post countless times during the day.

But when it comes to your practice, where do you draw the line between posting enough to educate people, and posting so much that it gets annoying?

When it comes to web-based marketing, social media can’t be ignored. But the good news is that you don’t have to spend hours online to maintain a good social media presence.

Here are three ways to make sure your practice is active online:

  • Blogging. This is a great way to educate people online about your practice. It can also encourage readers to add comments and possibly create an interactive dialogue online. Adding a 300 to 400 word blog once a week keeps your site fresh and is a great way to update your social media presence.
  • RSS feeds. By setting up an RSS Feed, every blog post will automatically feed out to your Facebook page in addition to your Twitter feed. In essence, when you post a blog, you’re also posting to Facebook and Twitter at the same time.
  • Hootsuite.com. Signing up with this site (and it’s free to do so,) allows you to register all your social media accounts (think Facebook, Twitter and Google+) By logging on to Hootsuite, you can write one post and send it out to any or all of your social media sites. You can even schedule posts in advance, meaning you can log on once a week, schedule a few posts and be done. It’s a time-saving, easy way to minimize your time and maximize your online presence. A good target to aim for is three posts per week. These posts can be related to your practice (such as events or specials happening in your office,) or topics not related to medicine, such as news about national events related to your field, or news about happenings in your community.

Even though manning social media may seem intimidating, it’s easy to keep up your practice’s presence. Good luck with all your social media efforts and remember to stay active!

By Chad Schwarz

 

 

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