NAVIGATING THE NEW NORMAL: 5 Places to Put your Practice Marketing Dollars in 2021
Medical marketing gurus Ashley Ulrich and Dr. Rick Thompson examine marketing strategies for medical practices in 2021.
What a year… right?
Welcome to 2021. Whatever happened last year, the goal for this year is to grow your practice.
COVID19 has brought much uncertainly into our communities, leaving many medical practices questioning what marketing plans to make for 2021. Although you may need to adjust some of your efforts, now is not the time to turn off your marketing activities. Continuing to build brand awareness and cultivating and maintaining your referral network are ongoing, no matter what. The drum beats on! It is essential to stay top-of-mind, take advantage of the opportunity to effectively position your medical practice or facility for the future and redirect your spending to best support your patients—current and future. Bottom line – need for quality healthcare isn’t going anywhere. It’s just that patients are more savvy and selective than ever.
2021 healthcare marketing is all about meeting the needs of your patients, potential patients and referral sources and adapting your previous marketing strategies for this ‘new normal’. In order to get the most out of your investment, attract new patients and re-engage old ones, you are going to have to be more innovative, more authentic and more authoritative.
With that in mind, here are a few areas to think about as you look into 2021
- Long-term growth strategies
- Brand reputation
- Brand awareness
- Communication and public relations
- Patient education
And then, revisit the fundamental ways to market a medical practice or facility
- Digital marketing/social media
- Traditional Advertising
- Referral Marketing
- Media/Public Relations
- Reputation Management
All of these ‘WHATS’ and ‘HOWS’ are important on some level to medical practices of all shapes and sizes. Marketing is as important as ever as medical practices must rethink existing, and evaluate new, strategies to grow in a world that is much different today than it was a year ago. Staying top-of-mind with patients and referral sources with any or all of the above fundamental marketing strategies, with a consistent and frequent message, is essential. To keep your medical practice thriving into the future, you MUST invest in your brand. Tell them what you do, show them why you do it and cultivate trust by increasing your visibility.
1. Remember That Communication Is Essential
Patients want to know how to seek care and how do it safely. Referral sources (other medical providers, community businesses, etc) want facts. Building trust with them and nurturing those relationships will be absolutely paramount to how your practice fares in 2021 and for years to come. Think of these challenging times as a tremendous brand-building opportunity. Ensure your communication is compassionate, useful and trustworthy. Work with a partner that helps you to provide content to your patients and referrers that is source verified, factual and relevant. Building rapport and trust through strong communication will serve your practice well into the future.
2. Stay Engaged in Your Community
Utilizing a Physician Liaison, a representative that can help build these referral relationships on your behalf, can be highly effective – no matter what the environment. Other doctors, nurses and patients have choices, and referral habits can change. Staying top-of-mind and cultivating and maintaining trust and rapport in your community is one of the best long-term marketing strategies out there for medical practices.
In addition to reaching referral sources where they are at, this is a great time to build goodwill in your community. Patients want to go to a practice that they see contributing to the community around them. Referring physicians and their nursing staff want to see you active in the community, perhaps by donating time, food, money or volunteer hours. Writing a column in a local new publication or doing a brief interview on a local TV station are also great and effective ways for an exposure opportunity for your practice. Anything to build awareness of your practice and providers within your community is a great way to stay top-of-mind!
3. Embrace High-Value Social Media
As with every other industry, social media content marketing has become one of the most powerful strategies for healthcare marketing as well. It is imperative to keep your patients engaged with your brand online. Social media, especially Facebook (for the sheer volume of users), is an important channel to keep you top-of-mind in your community. It serves to build your authority further in the eyes of current and potential patients – they get to know you and trust you. Focusing your message on your commitment to the health and safety of your community will continue to reconfirm your value to them.
Right now, social media is one of your most important practice tools. If you have “dabbled” in the past and have lacked in consistency and frequency, now is the time to change that. Guide your budget towards social media and providing high-value information. Spend the time and money on this low-cost strategy that yields huge ROI quickly. If you are medical practice that is relying on its website and doesn’t have a strong social presence, it’s never too late.
Think about the kind of information that patients need right now, 2021, and that only you as a medical authority can provide. Patients appreciate rich, high-value content that helps them look after themselves and their families. And remember to provide social media content that is true to the quality of the in-person experience at your practice. Show not just what you do, but also who you are. Sharing valuable content will not only educate your patients and referral sources, but it also creates trust in your practice and its providers.
Lastly, remember that – through social media – you have the power to be a beacon of hope for your community by connecting them to the lighthearted and happy news they’re looking for.
- Use social media to highlight positive stories about your staff and patients.
- Utilize content and stories from your community that give people hope.
- Identify community partnerships that allow you to give back, support social causes and strengthen your community footprint. This will help boost your internal team’s morale to create positive change while strengthening your own community footprint.
4. Stay Tuned into Your Practice Reputation Management
Reputation Management – which covers digital reviews, social media engagement, service quality, and more – is imperative. Period. Consider these statistics:
- 94% of healthcare patients use online reviews to evaluate providers. Reading online patient reviews is an easy first step for your audience to get a feel for your practice (Source: Software Advice).
- 84% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Having a strong review management strategy is crucial for acquiring new patients (Source: Inc.)
- 81% of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience. To maintain positive reviews, encourage satisfied patients to leave reviews and mend relationships with dissatisfied patients
Even if your referral network is strong, potential patients will still look you up online. Monitoring Google, Facebook, Healthgrades and other channels for reviews (or posts) is essential. Negative reviews can hurt your practice substantially. Most every provider and practice at some point is going to receive a negative review, regardless of whether it was accurate. There are ways to help boost reputation to ensure that negative reviews are overlooked by the strong positive feedback left. A few strategies to implement:
- Stay on top of reviews (both negative AND positive) and respond immediately.
- Ask satisfied patients for feedback and/or survey patients after visits to build and maintain trust and rapport.
- Showcase testimonials on social media to positively impact your brand’s visibility and digital reputation.
5. Trust the advice of experts
Knowing how to best promote your practice to patients and other medical providers is a big task. The more well-known you are in your community (and online!), the greater your opportunity for referrals from other medical providers and new patients in general. No time for this? Outsource your marketing (community outreach, social media, advertising) to a medically-specific healthcare marketing firm and keep your sights set on providing the best patient care possible. Having the added hurdle of a marketing partner with a learning curve about what matters to your patients, slows down your practice at a time when reaction time is critical. Hire help that understands how medical practices function and how to build patient pipelines that ensure long term success.
Who do you think will be in a stronger positon as the crisis lifts – a medical practice that has stopped or limited marketing efforts during the crisis? Or one that’s been consistently engaging and informing their patients and referral sources? Marketing during challenging times builds patient and referrer confidence in your practice and providers and keeps you top-of-mind. And, when other practices cut marketing budgets and go quiet, this creates a huge opportunity for the ones still connecting with their communities to rapidly grow brand loyalty, awareness and help keep you in front of patients who need immediate care, as well as those who will eventually pick up the phone to make an appointment to see you.
To that end, communication will be essential to connecting patients with the care they need. Isn’t that what healthcare marketing is all about? Practices that can adapt to changing circumstances and connect with patients in a way that brings value to their journey, will do wonders for their brand.
The world as we know it is guaranteed to continue to change, but patients still want the same things they always have: to find a healthcare provider who’s knowledgeable, genuinely helpful and produces great results. Realize that right now is a great time to try something new. Be bold in your marketing efforts. Practices that effectively implement these healthcare marketing trends in 2021 will be ahead of the curve and cultivate brand awareness needed to support their businesses into the future.
Are you ready to get your healthcare marketing efforts up to speed? We look forward to helping you get through 2021 and look to better times ahead!
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