Let’s cut straight to the chase: You need a practice website, and–in order for that website to drive new-patient generation–people have to like it.
But the hurdles involved with creating a website that works can be daunting, and especially overwhelming for someone who doesn’t write marketing content or design websites for a living. That’s (probably) you.
Since this is an unavoidable need in the 21st century business model, however, you can’t let your uncertainty stop you: You have to do it, and you have to do it right.
Let’s face the obstacles head-on. First, I’m going to break down the bumps you’ll face along the road of website management.
Then, of course, I’ll give you simple tricks on how you can dodge them.
We’re picky. You have to captivate us. Entertain us. Assuming we like what we see when we first land on a page, the content on the page then has to keep our attention.
Browsers want quick results, and they don’t want to think or try that hard to get them. If your site is difficult to read, understand, or navigate, they’ll go somewhere else before you can say “bifurcation.”
Search engines (like Google, Bing, etc.) are getting smarter, and they rate your site on how pleased your browsers seem to be when they visit your page. The more ‘popular’ the search engine think you are, the higher up on the list your website will appear.
For example: If a patient types in, “doctor in Milwaukee”, the search engine they are using will decide if your page should pop up first, second, or 37th. If Google sees that people land on your website and then leave immediately, it sees your page as less valuable than if people stick around for a few minutes.
...not creating and managing websites. The frustrating aspect of this obstacle is pretty obvious.
Don’t fret. Stick to a few simple guidelines (14 rules, to be precise), and those judgemental search engines will give you the cred–and the page ranking–you deserve.
Below are some basic rules to follow when creating a website that will win the hearts of search engines and prospective patients alike. The rules are made up of 3 main concepts:
Grab Their Attention
Don’t Make Them Work for It
Give Them What They Want
*Note that, even if you have a web specialist create the site for you, these rules can be used as a checklist when evaluating the quality of what you’ve been given.
Have you been using automated surveys to evaluate your patient satisfaction, or are you still a survey skeptic? Are you not yet convinced that patient surveys and the feedback you get from them are effective, reliable, or even useful? Do you feel like they are too time-consuming to be worth the hassle?
Some concerns about surveys may be legitimate, but there are tricks that will make patient surveys as simple as they are valuable.
It goes without saying that asking someone for their opinion shows, at the very least, that you care about what they think. Reaching out to your patients to get feedback on their experience in your office shows them–and the community–that you’re interested in quality-of-care as well as your patients as individuals. It also demonstrates that you are continually looking for ways to improve your practice and the patient experience you provide.
In order to retain your patients and consistently acquire new ones, it is critical to make sure your patients feel appreciated and satisfied. The best way to ensure the highest level of patient satisfaction is to ask questions.
You likely understand that the feedback you get from surveys is just a glimpse at how your patients feel about you and your staff. What you do with that feedback is what will have the biggest impact on your practice. Use the feedback to:
Although your goals and improvements stem from the ways your practice can stand to improve, don’t forget to celebrate success along the way! While your improvement projects will focus on areas of weakness, make sure you also celebrate the ways your team members go above and beyond the call of duty. Perhaps you could incorporate special staff recognition awards, or even highlight your small but significant successes in your quarterly newsletter for your patients to see and acknowledge.
Here are 3 simple tricks to maximize the effectiveness of your patient surveys and bring your practice to new heights:
Last Monday, we started discussing how to handle those oh-so-sensitive disgruntled patients when they’ve taken their complaints to the field: that is, on social media.
Everyone can see how you’re handling it, and your approach can mean the difference between terrible publicity and an excellent marketing opportunity.
We pick back up with…
I know, I know; this is the scary part. What do you say? How do you word it? What should you definitely NOT say?
Here are a few tips for what to say–or not say–in your public apology.
Remember: If all else fails, just be sincere.
Marketing is about more than perfectly placed advertisements. It consists of more than simply strategic SEO. Maintaining an online presence involves a hefty amount of back-and-forth, and a disgruntled patient just happens to be one of these occasions.
An unhappy patient can be typing up a storm on a site of their choosing before they even get to their car, venting their opinion to anyone that happens upon it.
One ticked-off patient isn’t your biggest problem, in this situation. Unaddressed, just a few marked words can wreak havoc on your online reputation.
Unless, that is, you know how to handle them.
Apologizing isn’t always pleasant, but showing penitence via social media can be especially difficult. I know, because I’ve had to do it. You don’t want to seem defensive, but you don’t want to admit guilt. You don’t want to argue, but you are just so angry.
Online complaints will impact your ability to market your practice, but the effect doesn’t have to be negative. Here are a couple of reasons you have to buck up, swallow your pride, and humbly address the complaint anyway.
If you leave negative reviews or posts alone, it leads viewers to assume that you don’t care. You don’t care enough to respond, so you certainly don’t care enough to fix it. Studies show that 4 out of 5 consumers will revise their purchasing decision after looking at reviews, so it’s important to convey the right message by taking online complaints seriously.
You can use them to your advantage.
Sure, negative reviews can carry a big punch. But! What can carry an even bigger punch is a review that has been properly responded to. In fact, consumers are more likely to choose a service that has had negative reviews than they are to select one with a perfect score.
Responding to negative reviews shows that, not only are you paying attention, but you care enough to change. This small act tells prospects that you are a provider that is truly invested in your patients’ happiness.
Social media apologies are a delicate art.
Social media apologies can be made much simpler, less frightening, and more effective when you use the right techniques. Whether you have to use them only once in your lifetime or on a few dozen occasions, taking a quick lesson will serve you well.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
It may seem counterproductive to sit back and allow people to badmouth you, but keep in mind that people expect bad reviews. A business that has only positive reviews looks suspect: Are they deleting posts? Are they real reviews?
Don’t wake the beast.
When a bad review pops up, having it removed is one of the worst things you can do. Disgruntled patients are already on edge, and the best way to make them even more ticked off is to try and silence them.
Make a public apology
When you make a social media apology, it’s important to make sure that as many viewers see it as possible. Responding privately destroys the ability to use the negative comment as positive PR.
If you’re apologizing on Twitter, put the patient’s username AFTER your first word, (i.e., Thank you for your feedback, @exampleusername. We….) so that the most people see your response as possible.
On Facebook, be sure to tag the user to increase visibility.
Know your limits.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter demand that you speak concisely and convincingly. Twitter won’t let you post extra characters, but even Facebook will limit the amount that people see. You want viewers to see the important part right away, so omit unnecessary words and let the patient know that you’ll be reaching out to them privately.
If you aren’t the kind of person who likes to talk up their own success, here’s a bit of incentive to spread the word about the solutions you’ve found with Solutionreach: Solutionreach Referral Rewards.
Here’s why you should start gabbing:
Solutionreach will pay you $500 every time you refer someone to Solutionreach.
It gets better. Your 10th referral is worth $2000.
So…if you refer 10 people, you’ve just made $6500.
So go on. Let us pay you to tell your friends why you love Solutionreach.
Talk about how Solutionreach will keep their schedule full, put an end to infuriating no-shows, and streamline their practice productivity.
Tell them about our huge library of pre-written newsletter articles and professionally designed templates.
Spread the word about our new patient-facing mobile application that improves collections and makes it simple to stay connected with your patients.
And definitely let them know that every service we offer is included: unlimited messaging, emails, voice calls, a patient portal… you name it.
Slacktivism or genius marketing? Does ‘liking’, ‘tweeting’ or ‘sharing’ really demonstrate true interest in supporting a worthy cause?
Regardless of your opinion, statistics show that these actions, along with the healthy competitiveness of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, ignited enough curiosity about the off-the-wall worldwide idea to inspire further action.
The results couldn’t be disputed: 2.4 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos, 28 million likes, and over $100 million later, the goal to raise awareness about a disease that—in the last 75 years—hadn’t seen a cure or any real advancements, was achieved.
“One of the reasons social media is an integral part of many people’s lives is that it allows people to participate and feel connected. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge appealed to so many because it engaged and connected people. In a social media culture obsessed with selfies, contributing content on the internet, and making connections online, engaging in a challenge for a cause seems natural.”
Read here to find out why utilizing social media to promote a cause works and some tips and strategies you can implement to get the word out about what you are passionate about.
Just when we think we have a handle on Facebook’s latest changes, they decide to change things up again. In the typical fashion, it’s time for another switch: Come January, 2015, reaching people who have ‘liked’ your Facebook page will get even more difficult.
Before I explain the changes, let’s make sure you understand the FB lingo:
Engagement: In the Facebook world, ‘engagement’ refers to how people are interacting with the posts they see from you. ‘Liking’ your post, commenting on your post, sharing your post, or clicking on your link all qualify as ‘engaging’ with you.
Reach: When I refer to the ‘reach’ of your posts, I mean how many people actually see your post. Due to the way that Facebook determines what we see in our news feeds, not everyone who has ‘liked’ your page will see whatever you post.
Organic Posts: If you are just writing on your Facebook page and not paying to promote an ad, it is considered ‘organic.’
Facebook Ads: You can create an ad for Facebook that will increase your post’s visibility. When you use the Facebook Ads creation tool, you can include images, links, and a limited amount of text. You can even include tracking links to see how many people are going to your website. When you create an ad, you set a budget and Facebook stops promoting your ad when your budget has been exhausted. You are also able to set parameters for your audience based on quite a few criteria, so that you make sure you’re maximizing the success of your promoted post.
You may see Facebook ask you if you want to ‘boost’ or ‘promote’ a post you have already put on your Facebook page. Boosting a post is basically like creating an ad, without using the Ad creation tool.
Facebook is already pretty picky about how many of your organic posts will show up in the newsfeed for people who’ve liked your page. Typical reach is about 6%, but it can be much lower if no one is engaging with what you are posting.
Facebook surveyed their users and found that we are much more interested in ‘story’ type posts than promotional ones (go figure.) Because of this new insight, they will now be cracking down on organic posts that they consider ‘too promotional.’
In case you skimmed that last part, here is an important thing to remember: the new regulations only apply to organic posts. If you’re paying to promote your posts, they won’t be affected.
I’ve always told practices that the best way to use your Facebook is to connect with patients on a personal level. Fortunately, if you’re using Facebook the way you should be using Facebook, you’re not the type of small business owner that will be overly affected. Still, it’s important to know what is happening in Facebook land.
As you (hopefully) know, social media is a very valuable tool for engaging your patients. Since the majority of people connect with each other through sites like Facebook, finding and interacting with your patients on these sites is a smart idea. The more connected they are to you, the more likely they will be to stay active/current with their visits and the less likely they will be to switch to a new provider when the opportunity presents itself.
Plus, Facebook can be a great tool for marketing your practice.
If you don’t pay attention to the success of your Facebook posts, you are missing an enormous opportunity to maintain and grow an active, loyal patient base.
So you need to crack down on how promotional your posts are. Here are the qualities that Facebook has deemed too salesy.
(click Read More to keep reading)
I recently spent some time with a practice that was failing. Really, truly failing.
The failure had come as a shock to the doctor; his practice had been remarkably profitable for nearly 25 years. He was deeply loved by his patients. He had excellent bedside manner. He took great care to spend time getting to know and engage with his patients while they were in the office. He sent out Christmas and birthday cards.
The problem wasn’t that he was losing loyalty from the patients he already had. It boiled down to this: As normal attrition started to decrease his existing patient base, he wasn’t generating enough new ones to make up the difference.
As a result, (and right as he was approaching retirement age, no less), his practice was suffering so severely that he had to work harder than ever just to keep it afloat. Not only could he not retire, he was forced to foreclose on his home because all of his money was going into the practice.
So why had this previously successful practice suddenly become so desperate for a solution to getting new patients in the door?
I’ll give you a hint: It’s the same thing that has quite literally transformed the way we spend our days over the last decade. To steal a phrase from this doctor… His practice wasn’t showing up ‘on the line.’
That is, he had absolutely no web presence.
Let’s look at how you used to generate new patients.
Maybe you sent out a quarterly mailer or even sprung for a bigger section in the Yellow Pages. Regardless, you relied on word-of-mouth and referrals to keep new patients walking in the door.
But business has changed. If you sit around hoping that your patients will tell their friends and then those friends will keep your phone ringing, you’re going to see the same sort of attrition to your patient base that the practice I was working with had been suffering from.
Referrals have always been the most powerful form of new business, but they now come with a caveat: We don’t just take our neighbor’s word for it. They tell us how great their doctor is, give us the phone number, and we say we will call. But do we? Not until we Google them. Even the internet dummies are smart enough to know that they need to do a few searches before making a decision.
Basically, if prospective patients don’t find anything when they google the name of you or your practice, they aren’t going to schedule an appointment even if you come highly recommended.
How are prospective patients that haven’t been given a referral finding a provider?
With a few clicks of the keyboard, or even just a voice request to Google or Siri, they are jumping online and searching for a provider in their area.
In fact, the importance of an online presence has increased greatly just in the last year. A recent study from Opticall analyzed data regarding the sources of new appointments from January to December in 2013. ‘Internet Sources’ was just as strong of a lead motivator as ‘word of mouth/referral.’
‘Cyber-stalking’ providers isn’t just about doing our due-diligence. We simply don’t find things the way we used to anymore: We don’t use phone books, we don’t just pop into the practice on the corner, and we don’t pay attention to the junk mail solicitations (which, let’s face it, is what your mailers would be considered.)
We use technology to look up and evaluate our options.
So how are they going to find you, if you aren’t showing up the only place they look?
This was the problem for the office I started working with: Patients weren’t finding his practice when they looked online, even if they already knew his name.
When I told him that this was the problem, his shoulders slumped. He isn’t the youngest doc on the block. He could barely figure out how to perform his own search result, let alone comprehend how to make his name show up on other people’s searches.
Fortunately, I told him, getting your name on the web isn’t really that big of a deal.
There are a lot of small steps you can take, but we started with the basics. After just a few hours, he had created his own little place on the web. Within the month, he began generating new patients—some from referrals that checked out his practice website before calling, and some that were just the stray patient that needed a doctor and called on good ‘ol Google.
I’ll discuss the following tips in more detail one at a time in my Marketing Monday tips, but even this high level overview can give you the direction you need to get off and rolling.
I’d venture to tell you that, even if you do show up online, you will still benefit by revisiting and improving your online strategy every once in a while. This is a good time to start.
Do a good search for providers in your area. If you’re a dentist, try something like “best dentist in chicago” or “great ohio dentist.” If you aren’t someone that performs many google searches, ask people around you what they would search for if they were looking for a provider and then use that phrase.
Where do you show up? Do you show up?
Carpool, parent volunteer time, soccer games, dance classes, boy scouts, late night runs for those last minute school project items (this happens WAY more than it should)... It’s hard not to want to pull your hair out just thinking about it!
Time is scarce and sanity can become limited on occasion, affecting our ability to keep up with what should probably be a lot higher on our priority list: Our health. Keeping track of when our kids, (or ourselves, for that matter) are due for regular continuing care appointments can often fall to the back of our minds.
Unfortunately, the feeling that there is too little time in the day is not an uncommon one; it’s likely that your patients suffer from it, too. With the technological advances that have been made in the healthcare industry, there is almost no excuse for forgetting to schedule or showing up for your family’s upcoming healthcare appointments.
If you had 3 wishes for your practice, what would they be?
You can probably think of more than 3 things you wish you could change or improve about your practice, but—in case nothing comes immediately to mind—let us make a couple guesses:
Wish #1: Increase my revenue!
No hesitation on this one. Everyone wants mo’ money!
Sure, everyone would like to see an increase in revenue within their practice. But what does it take to achieve this goal? You got it: keeping your schedule full.
Having a full schedule is a good feeling. Unfortunately, life happens and last minute openings will occur. A patient’s memory may fail them, a family emergency may arise, or an appointment may just simply need to be rescheduled. There’s not much you can do about a no-show, but trying to fill a last minute cancellation can be just as stressful.
Stay tuned—we have a solution!
Wish #2: Save me time (and effort!)
How about filling those empty appointment slots, so you can stop wasting time (and losing revenue) on last minute cancellations…without having to frantically call every patient on your wait list?
You know the drill; a patient calls to cancel the day of their appointment, maybe less than an hour before they were scheduled. What do you do now? If you’re like many practices, you grab your wait list, pick up the phone, and begin calling patient after patient until you (hopefully) fill the empty slot before that appointment time has passed. If the appointment is 30 minutes or an hour from now, you may need a little luck to fill it in time.
Keep reading—your wishes will soon be granted!