Ryan Miller (guest blogger)
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5 Tips to Maintain Patient Momentum
Since reopening, many practices have been busier than anticipated seeing and treating patients. This is due to several factors: (1) honoring previously scheduled appointments that fell during shelter-in-place orders, (2) successfully completing virtual consultations that resulted in bookings, and (3) meeting general pent-up demand. While practices may be booked out in the coming weeks, such momentum is not guaranteed to continue into the fall or winter months.
Given the current reality — rising COVID-19 cases in certain portions of the country, high domestic unemployment, and increasing loss of benefits — practices must make an active effort to sustain their current new-patient momentum. Luckily, there are a few effective marketing tactics that practices can engage in to help keep their schedules robust.
Ways to Attract Patients
Below are five marketing tactics practices can invest their time and energy in to drive immediate patient demand. These tactics apply to both large and small practices and can help fill both near-term schedule gaps and possible future patient insufficiency. With that said, let us explore each tactic.
- Focus on getting more reviews. The first action most prospective patients take when choosing a potential provider is to conduct an online search and read reviews. Providers with numerous positive reviews are more likely to capture the attention and business of prospective patients. To generate more reviews, take a blended, multi-pronged approach that utilizes technology and personal engagement. Use software to send patients a friendly automated follow-up email or text-based message, reminding them that the practice would value a review of their experience. Respond to every review — whether it is positive or negative — with a personalized, HIPAA-compliant reply to demonstrate to those searching that the practice listens and cares about its patients.
- Mine your data. Try to re-engage those patients who got away. Those patients will include individuals who were on a recurring service or treatment schedule and prospects who contacted the practice within the past year or two but didn’t book a consultation or a treatment. To reconnect with those individuals, the practice will need to rely on its practice management software, where hopefully all patient data is stored whether a patient scheduled a consultation or just inquired with the practice (either through a call, an email, a website chat feature, a social media comment, etc.). From that data, identify those the practice can follow up with for re-engagement purposes. If the practice is struggling with the most appropriate message to re-engage patients and prospects, start by alerting them that the practice is open for business and has taken steps to ensure patient safety.
- Update follow-up protocols. To conduct effective follow-up, it is best to have clear, detailed protocols in place. These protocols should specify follow-up expectations (e.g., the number of times the practice will follow up with each inquiry type, the communication channels to use, and suggested messaging). Document the practice’s follow-up policies — whether they are brand new or updates to existing protocols — to foster team accountability and ensure consistency when team members follow up with prospects. For the practice’s established follow-up efforts to work, the team must record all inquiries, ideally in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. All this will help the practice be more successful in capturing the opportunities available in its market.
- Consider pay-for-performance campaigns. Besides reviews, another way to attract new patients online is with pay-for-click advertising — but it comes at a cost. Every year this form of marketing gets more expensive, as more advertisers vie for the top advertising slots on search result pages. To ensure the practice earns a return on its investment, conduct a predictive model in advance of carrying out a campaign. The model should include the following variables: (1) search volume data for specific keywords, (2) the average cost-per-click, (3) the percentage of those exposed to the practice’s ad who are likely to click, and (4) of those who click and go to the practice site, how many will call the office and ultimately schedule a consultation. These variables — provided by the search engine — will indicate whether the practice’s campaign will deliver positive returns before spending money on it. Usually, Google Ads pay-for-performance campaigns are most cost-effective when the practice can invest a minimum of $1,000 per month.
- Plan for seasonal promotions now. Given the current environment, more practices will be turning to digital means to carry out their end-of-year seasonal promotional campaigns. To stand out from the crowd, it is going to take a lot of preplanning. Elements such as delivery method, technical needs, and messaging will need to be decided and in place before launching the promotion to ensure its quality. While consumer-focused holidays such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas are months away, start planning promotional efforts now to reap the rewards later.
Plan Today for Tomorrow
Patients are always the lifeblood of practices; therefore, now more than ever, it is important to remember to never take them for granted. Implement the five marketing tactics covered in this post to keep a steady flow of patients coming through the practice. By taking proactive steps today, the practice is in better position for tomorrow.
LEARN MORE: View a recent BSM Connection webinar titled "Maintaining Your Momentum" to get additional insight on how to drive future patient demand.