10 Ways to Destroy Spine Practice Marketing


This article was written by Dick Pepper, a medical marketing specialist who blogs at VoxMD.com and can be reached at dick .pepper@voxmd.com.

The world is changing rapidly, and your practice marketing has to keep up. If you don't continue to assess the value of your marketing investment, don't be surprised if you see fewer patients. Here are 10 ways you can fail. As always, invest in a medical marketing specialist to drive your marketing strategy for measurable results, or to work with your existing marketing staff to keep them on top of today's trends and technologies. For more information or recommendations, contact info@voxmd.com. 1.    Keep doing everything the same. The '80s called. They want their marketing strategy back. If you're still focusing your attention on the same marketing channels and marketing mix that you had 10 years ago, you are doomed. The world has moved into completely different channels of communication and it isn't just "young" people, whoever they are. We all get our information from a much larger variety of sources and, consequently, spend far less time on older sources. Forget the bus kiosk, please. Look hard at the online and offline channels you use to market your practice — can you validate how many people see these? Ask for proof!

2.    Spend more money on marketing. It's the other side of the marketing mix. Investing in other channels such as your website, social media and mobile does NOT mean more money. In fact, it should cost you less because you will CUT the expenditure on outdated, overpriced marketing channels. Check the price of your newspaper ads compared to an AdWord campaign, expansion of your website, or videos for YouTube. It's absurd to continue to pour money down the old media rathole. Make a hard and fast rule: you will not increase the marketing budget. Instead, reallocate to resources that SHOW value and drive patients to the door. Demand results or cut the vendors off.

3.    Don't upgrade or build your website. If you don't have a website by now, stop reading this article. I have to assume you are retiring or have won the lottery. The web is the number one source of information for all of your patients, period. If you are doing any marketing at all, it likely has your website address. Does it answer their questions about conditions and treatments? Does it have something about you other than a dry CV and a laundry list of whitepapers you wrote? Does it give value? And, of course, is it optimized for search?

4.    Don't start (or actually use) a blog. I've seen countless websites that have a "News" section with two- and three-year-old posts. Adding a blog to your site couldn't be easier (and may already be there). Writing the content is another story (and the subject of another article from me). Use content curation as a means to get content together. It's simple: set up a search page on Google News, find something interesting, and post a link to it with your comments. You've now provided value. Also solicit medical device companies for content you can use. Make comments and link to animations, videos, etc., that you've found. There is a world of content out there, but you don't have to write it. Having said this, your own content in your own words counts on search engines a lot more. A blog that has some frequency of posts will make your site rise higher in keyword searches.

5.    Don't worry about mobile phones. I counted the number of people with iPads and phones at the airport. More than half of the 100 people waiting for the plane were busy with their devices. The number of laptops in use? Two. Research shows the meteoric rise in mobile devices. You probably have one. Look at your website on the phone. If it's tiny and has holes where those snappy Flash graphics used to be, then you need to worry. Your website should show up in a mobile-friendly format. This guarantees usage. If you have an iPad, check your site on that. If your site isn't built to adapt to different size formats, you'll see a squished version. Android-based tablets, by the way, do not do true tablet scaling. They simply upsize mobile, so same story as your phone.

6.    Do more television advertising. Consider this: over 46 percent of televisions have a DVR. You're probably one of them. Do you watch the ads on your recorded shows? No, you don't. Seen the cute ads about the Hopper? It hops over commercials. Television advertising is the fastest dropping channel in terms of audience reach. This, coupled with the outrageous costs for a 30-second spot in a prime viewing time makes this the least valuable thing you can do. However, if there is a television show in your town like BestDocsNetwork.com, that can be a much more sensible investment. These shows feature doctors every week, with repeat viewings, at a much lower cost than an ad, with much richer stories and reach. They also post your segment in local and national video directories. Learn more at http://bestdocsnetwork.com.

7.    Don't use social media. This is a source of fear for many doctors, but it shouldn't be. It's a great way to extend your reach, but don't do this if you have nothing to offer. Remember that blog we talked about earlier? Post on social media and link to that. Now you have a social media strategy that gives your patients value. Social media costs you nothing but time, but it should be time well spent and providing value. I've seen far too many humorous postings and pictures of lunch on practice Facebook pages. That's not value, my friends.

8.    Don't worry about your reputation. Google yourself and you'll likely see those stars that are popping up under HealthGrades, Ucompare, and other physician directory sites. They reflect the opinions of whoever decided to rate you, for better or worse. You need to start asking your patients to rate you on these sites. They matter more and more every day and are perceived to be quality. Check sites like Yelp and other free directories. Do NOT spend money on a paid version of Reputation.com or other reputation "management" sites. They do not provide the value you think they do. The free version is great, and gives you a heads up on a situation, but the easiest way is to Google yourself and check yourself on Bing. That's what 90 percent of all people looking you up will see. It's easy to fix. Check with your medical marketing specialist for more information.

9.    Ignore your referring doctors. This is likely your primary source of income. When was the last time you saw them? Send them an email, as well as their nurses and referral coordinators, and let them know about your new website, blog, social media, etc., and how it can bring value to their patients and staff. Send them a quarterly newsletter with some of your best blog posts. Use MailChimp for free email up to 12,000 recipients. If you don't have a referral marketing specialist, look at hiring a third party, rather than a company seeking to train you. "There are many companies who offer to train your staff on referral marketing in two days, but if it were that simple there would be far fewer companies offering referral marketing services," says Chris Ives of Ives Services.

10.    Do everything yourself to save money. We've talked about a lot of strategies that you might consider. But if you attempt to do it yourself, with all that leisure time you have, you'll spend far more time than you should to get a high-performing online, interactive strategy. As part of your budget re-alignment, factor in some consultation and work by medical marketing specialists to help you develop an effective, measurable campaign. If you're fortunate enough to have a marketing person, have them put together plans and then vet it with an outside consultant.

Realize that marketing, referrals, and reputation management is becoming increasingly important to your success as a practice. It doesn't have to cause an increase in budget. Today's communication channels are far more cost effective, long lasting, and build upon one another. Find out how your practice looks: send an email to info@voxmd.com for a free video web assessment to see how your brand looks to your patients.

More Articles on Spine Surgeons:

5 Spine Surgeons on Practicing Defensive Medicine

7 Biggest Factors Impacting Spine Research & Innovation

5 Tips to Market Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Practices

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