Are you struggling to grow your patient population? Don’t worry. If I’ve learned anything from my experience in digital marketing, it’s that there are plenty of creative, simple tricks to boost your exposure. You just need to prioritize the right strategies.
You have plenty of options for ways to reach and engage new patients while getting your current patients to stick around as well. Here are five easy, inexpensive ways you can attract a larger patient population.
- Make Sure You’re Listed Online
In an era where so many buying decisions are based on online research, being listed online is crucial to reaching a larger patient population. It’s not difficult either. I’m not talking about building a practice website (though you really should have one if you can afford it). You just need to get listed in a few of the major online doctor directories (more on that below). Make sure your practice is on google maps too.
As long as you know where you want patients to find you, simply submit your business information to those directories, and be sure the information is displayed correctly.
This information may include:
- Name of your practice and/or physician(s)
- Phone number
- Contact email
- Office hours
- Types of insurance accepted
- Certain directories may ask for other types of information as well.
Now where can you list your practice to best reach patients? Here are a few of the big ones:
- WebMD Physician Directory
- DoctorFinder (American Medical Association)
- Find A Doctor
In addition to these national online listings, make sure your practice is included in any local physician listings specific to your area as well.
- Target Your Audience and Efforts to Reach Them
Your efforts to grow a patient population won’t work if you don’t have a specific target audience in mind. By casting too wide a net, you risk not connecting with anyone because you can’t personalize the message enough. If you focus specifically on, say, seniors or Millennials, you’ll have a clearer picture of the main problems, needs, and services that group cares about. You’ll have better luck attracting those specific patients to your practice.
Still not sure how to get started? Here are a few examples. If you’re targeting seniors, coordinate with retirement homes and the AARP by hosting informational events and handing out pamphlets with information about your practice. If you’re targeting Millennials, you may want to work with universities or young professionals organizations in your area. You should also really focus on building your online reputation and advertising your awesome patient portal or online appointment schedule. Those things are important to a Millennial patient population.
What’s most important is determining when and where your target audience finds their doctors and to concentrate your efforts there.
- Email Newsletter
Companies and news outlets use email newsletters on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to reach and engage their readers and customers, so why shouldn’t you? From your email newsletter, patients can learn more about your practice, events, specials, changes, and any other news or content you think your patients would benefit from knowing about.
You might be wondering how a newsletter like this can grow your practice. Afterall, if you’re sending out a newsletter to people, they’re already a patient in your system. But just because you have a patient’s email, doesn’t mean they’re an engaged and active patient. Sending out a seasonal newsletter to remind inactive patients to get their flu shots, or talk about the importance of health screenings can bring more of those patients in and fill up your appointment books. A newsletter is also a great way to advertise a referral program to current patients and encourage them to forward the note to their friends.
You can send out a newsletter as often as you want, though I’d recommend monthly and/or when a major announcement comes up. You don’t want to clog your patients’ inboxes and end up in the Spam folder!
- Online Content—Create or Curate?
One thing most marketers can agree on is that online content should be an integral aspect to any online marketing strategy. What they don’t always agree on is how exactly to go about doing it. So you have to ask yourself: Create or curate?
Personally, I usually recommend content curation to online beginners. Instead of spending hours creating the perfect blog post, you could spend a fraction of the time finding (ie “curating”) news or lifestyle articles that are relevant and helpful to your target market. These could be:
- Generalized (5 Tips to Avoid the Flu This Season)
- Targeted at a certain demographic (5 Senior-friendly Aerobic Workouts)
- Targeted at your local patient population (10 Healthy Restaurants to Try in __Your City__).
Who doesn’t love a great list about living a healthier life? Select and share these articles, and you’ll have a wealth of useful content you’ve curated for your current and potential patients.
You can post these articles on your practice website, in your patient portal, on your social media channels, in your email newsletter, or wherever else your patients and potential leads will come across them.
Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t create your own content, as this can be a powerful way to demonstrate your expertise and make you a trusted resource for your patients. But I think the best use of your limited time would be to share good curated content rather than trying to add content creation to your extensive to-do list.
- Social Media Strategy
Many physicians ask me if social media is worth pursuing to build their patient population. My answer is generally yes. But I always insist that they have a solid social media plan from the start.
Some physicians or practice managers leap into social media headfirst without a plan and find themselves hearing crickets. Devise a strategy for where, when, and how to engage patients as well as what content to engage them with. Here’s a helpful article written by a physician on how she got started on social media.
Part of this strategy means understanding what should and should not be shared on social media. Personal life events, for example, should be kept on your personal social media profiles, unless they directly affect how you provide care to your patients or improve their lives. News, events, and specials for your practice, particularly those valuable to patients, are great things to share. Curated and created content should be a primary component of social media networking as well. Your language should be friendly and approachable but professional at the same time.
There’s also the question of which social channel is best for engaging your patients. While this may vary depending on your target audience, I find physicians have the best results on Facebook. I know many physicians are also on Twitter, though I’m not sure if Twitter is quite as successful as Facebook.
Having a LinkedIn profile is helpful as well, but more as a professional resource for you; you won’t find many patients engaging with you on Linkedin. Your patients are likely not going on LinkedIn to find a doctor.
Once this strategy is in place, ensure that all employees with access to social media understand the strategy, what type of content you want shared, and what type of language is and is not appropriate. Make sure to set those ground rules.
Building a healthcare practice doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. To maximize your results with simple and cost-effective strategies, follow these five tips. You’ll likely see growth in your patient population and your practice’s connection to the community.