How Texas Back Institute is revamping referral relationships, marketing strategies during the pandemic

Practice Management

Texas Back Institute in Plano has evolved to the economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to revamp its sales and marketing strategies and strengthen referral relationships.

After effectively sticking a zero-spend on its marketing efforts in March, the practice had to seek new ways to engage with patients and build business in a changing market.

"The world around us is constantly changing and we have the privilege of changing with it to strengthen referral relationships and reach new audiences," said Cheryl Zapata, chief development officer at Texas Back Institute. 

"Plans that were successfully implemented just months ago have had to be completely revamped and, in some cases, discontinued," said Ms. Zapata. "We've created new sales and marketing plans to be competitive in today's complex world."

The sales team, which typically visits referring providers in person, presented physicians with a list of their top 30 providers, encouraging them to call them directly or set up Zoom meetings.

Since then, the physicians have taken a more leading role in connecting with referring providers, leveraging social networking platforms to develop relationships and doubling down on more traditional ways of communicating such as email and text.

Physicians have also been participating in the practice's marketing efforts, brainstorming ideas for social media platforms and drumming up ways to reach audiences that have been spending more time at home during the healthcare crisis. 

Such plans have included internet memes, photos and a more lighthearted approach to in-house video content, including a "#stayathome" series showing how physicians were spending their time during lockdown.

After terminating its search engine marketing campaign in March, the practice looked to bolster its search engine optimization strategy to attract more visitors online. 

"We strengthened our authentic digital marketing by creating additional content for our web pages and blogs containing target keywords," Ms. Zapata said. "Knowing we were moving to an environment which would largely be telemedicine, much of the new content surrounded keywords which would support that."

The marketing team changed keywords to reflect what is happening in the marketplace and wrote back-end SEO for those keywords. 

"'Telemedicine' and variations of that are huge," Ms. Zapata said. "That's not something we traditionally focused on in the past, so now we're in a position where we have to be very aggressive about how we market it." 

"We pulled a bunch of URLs that were specific to telemedicine in spine and started pointing those to our primary website, so people looking those keywords up ['telemedicine spine', 'telespine doc', etc.] would be navigated directly to our website."

The revamped marketing strategy has been a hit, but the reaction to the practice's new light-hearted approach to video content has been even more impressive.

After some debate, the team created a video that expressed concern for patient safety during the pandemic, but with a more jovial approach than previous videos. It received a particularly impressive reaction online.

Since January, Texas Back Institute's video content racked up almost 200,000 views on social media platforms. The heightened viewership figures are down to people spending more time on social media platforms while staying at home, Ms. Zapata said.

"Don't be afraid to follow the trends," she said. "In medicine, we need to be professional. But when you're dealing with social networking, there needs to be a balance between medicine and what's going on in social networking. 

"Just like any field, you have to understand the trends, and how to appropriately play in those trends, so that your marketing also makes sense." 

The new-look video content has added another dimension to the practice's marketing game plan, with patients seeming to enjoy a more jovial side of their physicians at a time when the news is dominated by COVID-19.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Ms. Zapata said. "The way people are responding to video content right now is extraordinary. If practices were to focus on one thing to really drive patient volume, I would say focus on your video."

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