Marketing is cyclical. It encompasses everything from the advertising, media relations, referral marketing and social media marketing that you do to attract patients to your practice or medical center to the communications used to retain them and nurture them to become raving fans and valuable referral sources themselves. Simply put, marketing doesn’t stop once you acquire a new patient and a big part of that is focusing on the patient experience. So, I ask: Is the patient experience part of your healthcare marketing strategy?
How to use marketing to attract new patients
Marketing the patient experience begins well before someone becomes an actual patient of your practice. Letting prospective patients know what they can expect if they visit your practice is an active part of the “buyer’s” awareness and consideration stages. This is a time when you want to anticipate and proactively answer the questions that people typically have when they are evaluating a provider or practice.
While the communication channels employed will vary widely by practice and medical center – and can encompass everything from direct mail to email marketing to referral marketing and everything in between – the focus should always be on the value to the patient. For example:
- Does your mammography practice use a state-of-the-art technology not available at other practices in the county/region?
- Are you part of a network that offers patients easy access to other providers?
- Are you the first, the only…you get the idea (word to the wise: if you’re going to use superlatives in your marketing, be absolutely certain this information is accurate and up-to-date.)
- What makes your in-office experience different from what is offered by other providers?
- What education can you provide through thought leadership (e.g. blog posts, e-newsletter articles) that can help to build trust in your expertise?
- Do you have work stations with Wi-Fi in your waiting room so people can do business while they wait?
- Do you specialize in serving a specific audience or need that was previously unmet in the market?
Surveys from Software Advice found more than 77 percent of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. Further, 41 percent of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility according to a survey conducted by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group. So, when developing a strategy for marketing the patient experience to prospective patients, consider how online reviews, including social media reviews, can be used to help generate new patients (leads).
How to use marketing for patient retention
Once a new patient makes an appointment with your practice, it’s imperative that their in-office experience matches what you touted in your acquisition marketing. This is where traditional marketing, online marketing and face-to-face marketing collide. From your receptionist to your nurses to the in-office environment and the educational materials available for patients to peruse while they wait, it is imperative that your tone and messaging are consistent with the image you have portrayed in your marketing.
The in-office experience is a critical component of patient retention, as are any follow-up communications between your practice and its patients. Retention marketing may entail monthly e-newsletters highlighting health and wellness trends, relevant research and practice events. It may also entail encouraging people to write online reviews based on their experience. A word of caution – keep a close eye on online reviews for your brand as you will want to be responsive to any negative commentary.
There is also an opportunity to leverage patient testimonials and success stories across everything from advertising to social media marketing as part of your patient retention strategy.
How to use marketing to generate patient referrals
Who better to refer new patients to your practice than your happiest customers? Referral marketing is an important strategy for growing one’s patient base and practice. And, generating quality referrals relies on delivering an outstanding patient experience.
Referral marketing is often directed to like-minded providers as well as current patients. To be effective, it ensures your referral sources (i.e. brand ambassadors) have a consistent message in their communications to prospective patients. For referring physician practices, this may entail having educational meetings with the team as well as providing materials that they can pass along to their patients, as appropriate. From a patient perspective, this may entail encouraging people to “refer a friend,” a call-to-action that can be peppered throughout social media updates and email marketing, as well as posted throughout the office and even included in the footer of appointment cards and invoices. The key is consistency.
When marketing the patient experience as a tool to attract and retain patients, it is important to put transparency at the forefront and manage audiences’ expectations. Patients whose expectations are met – or exceeded – can be cultivated into brand ambassadors and ultimately play a positive and significant role in your practice or medical center’s growth strategy.
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