Take Bold Branding and Marketing Steps

These are interesting and challenging times in healthcare — and healthcare marketing.

In the midst of all these changes, some things remain the same. You still have to maintain profitability for your practice. At its most basic, this means keeping a high flow of patients through the lobby. To do that, you and your physicians are establishing and nurturing relationships with referring physicians, insurance companies and government regulators — not to mention patients — all at the same time. It’s a juggling act that 
never ends.

Now more than ever, you’re having to look at everything under the Return-on-Investment (ROI) microscope. Branding and marketing are no different. With careful planning and execution, a branding and marketing program can positively affect the bottom line.

Guiding patients
As patients have to make more healthcare decisions, some will undoubtedly become overwhelmed by information and choices.
The easier you make it for them to navigate the emerging healthcare landscape, the more loyalty they will show during and after this seismic shift to more consumer-driven healthcare.

In your marketing efforts, you must:

  • Keep actionable and essential information at the forefront. Make it as simple as possible for your patients to understand what’s important.
  • Track feedback and ongoing support, not just to demonstrate regulatory compliance, but, more importantly to show success 
to your patients.
  • Be intentional with your coordination of care — no one product or service you’re providing is an island.

If you would like to learn more, request our healthcare marketing e-book here.

Online Reputation Cultivation

Online reviews of healthcare providers are becoming more prevalent — and raising concern among physicians, practice managers and marketers alike. Any patient with access to the web can write reviews and affect online ratings of your providers. The number of review sites is growing. And the unfortunate fact is it’s often the most unsatisfied patient who makes the effort to write reviews of your physicians and your practice.

Consumer review websites such as HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com and Yelp.com are among the busiest, and dozens of other physician-specific ratings sites are growing rapidly and place high within search engine results. This means when your potential patients search the web for your physicians or your practice they may find negative reviews made by other patients.

It is essential to be aware of what’s being said about your practice as quickly as possible, both positive and negative. While you can’t have negative reviews changed or deleted (unless they are grossly untrue or unnecessarily inflammatory), you can act to promote positive
patient experiences.

Our healthcare clients often come to us with the dilemma of how to combat a few incendiary online reviews — and to cultivate more positive ones. First, we develop a program to review and monitor what’s being said. Then, we create a system to amplify positive experiences from the often-silent majority of satisfied patients.

On the web and during the office visit, we begin to ask patients very directly if they would be willing to leave positive feedback about their experience with the practice. Together, we always uncover a ton of positive feedback, some of which is from patients willing to further relate their story on the practice’s website in the form of testimonials. Any negative feedback is routed to appropriate managers within the practice, who can quickly contact patients and work to resolve issues. It’s a win-win scenario for the practice and the patient.

We know that every practice is unique and faces unique challenges, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to cultivating your online reputation. However, we’ve learned that taking the time to establish and maintain a program that monitors online reviews while proactively seeking and amplifying positive feedback, we can support a practice’s overall brand by sharing positive patient experiences. This also formalizes a system for staff to directly address an unhappy patient before they go online to vent.

If you would like to learn more, request our healthcare marketing e-book here.

Why Healthcare Providers Need to be Content Creators

With the abundance of online information — and more recently the overwhelming popularity of social media — there is an expectation of readily-available, reliable and accurate information. In the healthcare world, patients expect to have ready access to information from resources including their care providers, WebMD and popular media, as well as from their friends and acquaintances via social media.

Thanks to the Internet, the line between “shopping” and “researching” is forever blurred.
Your patients have the ability to “shop” for healthcare day or night, at the computer, with help from their online friends. This is the new normal. There’s no going back. It’s important to accept this reality so you can work to meet patients and potential patients where they are online and foster a dialog whenever possible.

How do you do this? Content.
By creating content that reflects your practice’s expertise, demonstrates value to the potential patient, and helps sustain that dialogue with current patients, you can grow loyalty and increase the likelihood of patients recommending your practice to others.

To demonstrate your expertise and passion to pass it along, you need to constantly create and share relevant information. By instituting a content creation program, your practice can:

  • Demonstrate value to patients and their families.
  • Position yourself as thought leaders.
  • Get found by web search engines.

All content is not created equal.
And that’s not a bad thing. The good news is that your practice’s content can be used in so many different ways — think websites, blogs, social media — that you can begin to triage content to the best possible outlet for your audiences.

Some things are newsworthy. Suppose one of your docs just received a prestigious award from his peers. You’ll want to blast this news out everywhere, in press releases, on your blog, on your website, and on all the social media outlets.

Other content is noteworthy. Eight of your staff members formed a team and participated in a walk that raised money for a worthy cause. This type of information is ripe for your Facebook page and perhaps the blog portion of your website.

The best content is pure gold. Your hotshot new doc just handed you an original article that she wrote, offering tips for patients that are relevant, practical and timely. This type of content gets featured everywhere as well. And this is the type of content our clients find attracts huge amounts of website traffic.

“But who has the time?” you protest. Not all content you use in social media and other outlets has to be “made-from-scratch” creations. Curating relevant information for your patients and potential patients on your website is another way to demonstrate value. By locating, reposting and linking to relevant content from other reliable sources, you can position your practice as a go-to resource. For example: a new study shows the connection between running on asphalt and high ankle injuries. Share an excerpt and a link to the online study through your communications channels and it will be appreciated.

As for your original content, plan ahead to ensure it works hardest for you. Once created, content can be purposed and repurposed for a variety of needs, offering a great deal of economy and efficiency. Some content just comes along, like awards or charity walks. You just need to watch for it, recognize it, and deploy it on the best possible communication channel. Other, more original content can be planned for by creating a simple content calendar. By developing a calendar ahead of time, you’ll allow your busy providers the opportunity to think about their contributions — and seek outside help in articulating these ideas as needed — and still meet deadline.

If you would like to learn more, request our healthcare marketing e-book here.

Social media and the independent healthcare practice

“We have to be on Facebook—like right now! (Don’t we?)”

In our conversations with healthcare practices, the subject of social media inevitably comes up: “Do you think we should be on social media? Do we need a Facebook page or Twitter account?” No matter the practice or specialty, our answer is always the same:

“It depends!”

The longer answer
Many people feel that having a social media presence is mandatory for their practice. Realistically, there are a few practical questions that need to be answered. The first relates directly to your practice specialty and its type and frequency of patient interaction.

How often do your providers see their patients, and why? This can directly affect any social media plan. Patient populations that are being treated for an ongoing condition like allergies or diabetes could benefit from tips, advice or links to outside resources to educate and support them between visits. One of our clients, Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, shares pollen counts and forecasts during allergy season via Twitter and Facebook. This helps in their treatment plan, and builds loyalty and potential referrals to friends and family.

By contrast, if patient interaction is more “one-and-done” in nature (think emergency surgery), there may be no compelling reason for an ongoing dialog in social media channels. You could find your practice in the position of struggling to find something to say, then wondering if anyone is listening.

Does your practice offer ancillary services? Showcasing these highly-profitable offerings on social media is a friendly way to make existing
and potential patients aware of additional services or products they may find beneficial.

Does your staff take part in cancer walks, or run in 10Ks, collect and donate school supplies, or speak to students about the importance of exercise or proper nutrition? Another strong argument in favor of social media is to utilize it as a forum to share your staff’s community involvement and outreach. A few photos and a line or two about the experience would be perfect on Facebook or Instagram.

The social media prescription
Planning is always a key to success. For any social media presence to grow and flourish, it needs proper care and feeding. Content needs to be developed and shared on a consistent basis to gain and hold the attention of your audience. Comments must be acknowledged and opportunities for positive dialog must be cultivated.

  • Develop an editorial calendar
  • Identify topics of interest for your audience and designate who will be responsible for gathering information and/or writing the content
  • Plan ahead to share practice involvement with health fairs or community events, or providers appearing on television news, or as panelists on NPR, etc.
  • Develop a policy on dealing with critical posts or comments from outside your practice. The potential for dialog in social media is a double-edge sword. Followers like the idea of accessibility and immediacy that social media provides, but your practice must protect against unreasonable or vitriolic attacks.
  • Make sure that multiple people — inside and/or outside of your practice — are monitoring your social media channels.

Execution is key
Second to having a plan is having dedicated resources to implement that plan. Do you have someone within the walls of your organization that can take the lead in your social media efforts? Does he or she have strong writing skills? Can he or she strike the proper tone and personality that best represent your practice in the social media space? Is he or she responsive and diplomatic when confronted by a criticism or complaint? Do you need outside help to assist your staff? These are important executional questions that need to be answered as well.

If you would like to learn more, request our healthcare marketing e-book here.

Go Big or Go Home: OrthoCarolina Airport Graphics

One of the many reasons we love working with Blair Primis and the marketing team at OrthoCarolina is that they are always looking for new and interesting ways to build their brand. One perfect example is their most recent branding campaign at CLT. We had the distinct pleasure of brainstorming and designing giant wall graphics, moving sidewalk graphics and rotunda graphics. The biggest challenge by far were the graphics for the moving sidewalks. How in the heck do we cover three different walks, one that was a whopping 206’9″? As we were first designing concepts, we shied away from using OrthoCarolina’s orange as the main color, as we were afraid it would be too bold. But after considering the context of the airport—which can be a bit drab—we decided to swing for the fence. Our absolute favorite of the three (see image above) features silhouettes of travelers: some are pulling suitcases behind them, one is a basketball player— there’s even one of a man on bended knee proposing to his girlfriend!

Mark and I recently got to accompany the OC team to see the tactics live at the airport. We knew from the dimensions provided on the spec sheets that they’d be big, but NOTHING could prepare us for how awesome they looked in the actual space. So FUN! We can’t wait to see what the next creative challenge brings!

Click each image to expand in new window.

 

Four Questions We Ask Charlotte-Area Healthcare Professionals About Marketing

We have the good fortune of speaking with many practice managers and marketing pros for Charlotte area healthcare practices.  We like to kick off those conversations with four questions:

  • How are you sharing the compelling story of your practice’s expertise with potential patients and referring physicians?
  • Would you appreciate help articulating your practice’s unique brand positioning and key messages?
  • Do you have a solid plan to maximize your marketing spending and show a return on investment to your practice?
  • When was the last time you were able to pause and take a strategic look at your efforts?

The answers to these questions inevitably lead to conversations that help us understand where they are with branding and marketing.  In turn, it helps us develop plans that can help.

With some clients, like OrthoCarolina, we bring our skills and experience and work as an extension of their internal marketing team. With others without marketing staff such as Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we act as their on-call marketing department, providing comprehensive marketing strategy and support.