communications

Four cost effective marketing strategies to attract and engage more patients

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One of the key questions that marketing departments ask themselves is: how can I improve patient acquisition and retention? While there are many flashy and expensive ways to get the attention of patients such as radio ads, TV commercials, etc., not every healthcare organization has a large marketing budget but is tasked with bringing in as many patients as possible. Your organization is doing great things to help patients live healthier lives such as online scheduling, telemedicine, etc., but it’s challenging to get this message across.

Below are some cost effective ways that you can improve your patient acquisition and retention strategies while not breaking the bank.

#1: Utilize all the Google products you can for your organization.
Google has many products that you can do for free or for a decent fee. Since it’s the number one search engine, you are bound to get more bang for your buck. 

AdWords: Set up AdWords campaigns to increase the attention capture of the patient since Google is most likely where they will go first when searching for a physician or specialty. Below are some pointers to better refine your AdWords campaigns.

  • Search network only: Allow for the campaigns to be set up for only search. 
  • Location: Set location for the region of your entire health system vs. the entire United States. There may be similar names and keywords for a region that does not pertain to your health system.
  • Display ads: Enable display ads after the AdWords campaign is set up. The Cost-Per-Click (CPC) is far less and the display ad content can easily and automatically be generated from the branding from your website. To enable the display ads, go to Tools > Display Planner.
  • Ad extensions: Enable ad extensions to fit more content into your ad. General ad extensions allow you to add links below the three lines of text allowed by a simple AdWord ad. We suggest you look at all options that make sense for your health system. To enable these extensions, go to Ad Extensions > Dropdown that begins with “View” right below the Ad Groups tab.
  • Callout extensions: These are unique selling points about your health system. Include “Book Online Now” or “Set up your televisit” as one of these selling points.
  • Structured snippet extensions: These are specifics about the services your health system offers. Include “Find Specialty Doctors” and “Book an Appointment” as a couple of these services.
  • Location extension: These allow for specific locations to be showcased within your ad.
  • Conversion code: Have your webmaster paste the conversion code generated in AdWords to your website to monitor conversions. You should have this coded to the “Book an appointment” button on your website.

Google My Business Page: Create a Google My Business page to help improve the success of patients finding your health system, providers and practices when searching on Google. The entire process takes approximately five minutes to set up, and three to five business days to verify the listing. This is a free service from Google. As part of the setup, we recommend that you add images of your brand and providers to populate the photo section. 

#2: Develop ongoing engaging content across your social media channels.
You probably are already running ads and sponsored updates on all social media channels. This is great but how effective are they in causing a consumer to click to learn more? Develop your social media channels into the best curation of content. Below are some ideas on how to create a go to for information channel.

Your blog: If you aren’t doing a blog, you are missing out. Creating a 500 to 700 word blog is a piece of content that can have a lot of legs and can be spread everywhere. Use (and reuse) your blogs throughout the year. If you want to promote your blogs on Facebook, make sure you sponsor it. Facebook’s news feed algorithm will force the status update to lose prioritization in the news feed if you link to an external website such as your blog.b

Events: Another great promotion idea for engagement is not only to promote your events but other events within the community. Promoting a local farmer’s market or blood bank locations are ideas that will attract patients to not only the event but to your brand as being the promoter of this event even though it’s not being held by your organization.

#3: Be consist with your email communications.
Let’s face it: email campaigns can take some work. However, there are ways to use and reuse existing content in campaigns that run automatically on their own for 4 to 6 weeks. A marketing automation tool such as Pardot or MailChimp can make all email communications automatic. Here are our favorite ways to keep our audience engaged with important content.

Drip campaigns: Creating a drip campaign can take time but all that time is front loaded. Yes, you have to develop a series of emails prior to launching the campaign but once the content is created, you can have the campaign run for several weeks or months. How does it work? A drip campaign is an email campaign that automatically sends emails based on the activity of the recipient. Basically, it’s based on whether the recipient did or did not open the email. For example, if an email reminding patients to come in for a flu shot is ignored (i.e. not opened), the drip campaign will trigger another email about a recent blog that showed the top 5 ways to avoid a cold this season. Perhaps the patient already received a flu shot prior to the flu shot email so there was no interest in opening the email but will open the second email about avoiding a cold. Set that cadence so that the next email doesn’t go out until a week after the prior email was either opened or unopened.

Do you think that coming up with the content for a series of emails is too much work? Check out these recommendations for easily creating a series of emails with easy and replicable content for a drip campaign:

  • Use and reuse your blog content. Each blog can be its own email. After 6 blogs, you have a drip campaign.
  • Find healthy recipes and at-home workouts on Pinterest. You can easily write a summary paragraph, use a picture (either your own or from the webpage) and link to a recipe and/or at-home workout to promote wellness. After 3 recipes and 3 workouts, you have a drip campaign.
  • Ask a doctor for the best tip they give patients. After 6 doctors’ tips, you have a drip campaign.

#4: Conduct contests for patients.
Some health systems do a good job of developing campaigns on patient stories and promoting those campaigns across many verticals such as radio, television, social media, etc. Highlighting patients is a good engagement strategy because patients will relate to one another and it shows that your organization cares about its patients. Also, they will promote themselves if highlighted or showcased in a public setting. 

By holding contests, you will be able to glean a ton of content that was created by your patients. Not sure what to do a contest on? Below are some recommendations on contest ideas and incentives:

  • Ask a series of questions about the care they received, a doctor that helped them and how your organization changed their life in a small or large way.
  • Ask patients for tips and/or ways they are preventing injuries and illness.
  • Survey patients for things they want to see at your organization that don’t currently exist such as online scheduling for urgent care.

While there is a lot of noise out in the world in the form of information overload, it doesn’t hurt to do these cost effective marketing strategies to further promote your brand and wellness.

Post-booking blues: How an OAS should promote your brand after each booking

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If you’re thinking about implementing an online appointment scheduling (OAS) solution – or switching your OAS partner – one of the questions you may have is, “Can an OAS help promote and protect my brand after a patient has booked an appointment?” We think that’s a great question, and we’re here to answer it. This is part two in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. You can find part one here.

Fiction: An OAS has no impact on my brand once an appointment is booked. 

Fact: Remember in part one when we said that not all OAS solutions work the same way? Yeah, that’s the theme of this series, so we’re going to keep reminding you of that fun fact. At DocASAP, we feel that ongoing engagement with your patient is one of, if not the most, important aspects of online scheduling. Keeping your patients informed has a huge impact on brand perception, but you won’t get it from all OAS vendors. 

Think about it. We know ongoing engagement is positive from our own experience. No one likes to wonder if an appointment is actually confirmed or if the time you took off work for this appointment will be worth it. But we also have data to back it up. 

Using an OAS is actually proven to reduce the number of no shows and improve overall patient retention. Therefore, when looking at an OAS partner, consider one that offers these brand-supporting ongoing engagement features.  

  1. Notifications via email or text: This is a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s also important to allow the patient to be able to choose their preferred notification channel. When you interact with patients on their preferred devices, they are happier and say nice things on social networks about your brand.
  2. Ability to cancel or reschedule from email or text reminders: It’s common for patients to forget about an upcoming appointment. While reminders are helpful, patients often get these on-the-go. So why not let them cancel or reschedule directly from the text or email with just a few clicks? Having to call or log onto a website later often leads to no shows, but also makes it difficult for patients to interact which can be damaging for your brand. 
  3. Post-appointment care-driven reminders: With everything on our minds, patients don’t always think about preventative or post- care. However, a good OAS can remind patients of important actions that help them manage their health in an ongoing manner. Non-appointment related updates can help remind patients of the value of your brand, and help patients feel as if you are helping them stay on top of their health needs.
  4. Referral management: Telling a patient they need to see a different physician can be frustrating, especially if the patient also has to deal with booking another appointment. However, you can reduce frustration when your OAS has a built-in referral management solution that allows you to directly schedule an appointment online for a patient with the physician you’re referring to. This closed loop scheduling also keeps the patient within your network which is key to patient retention and brand loyalty.

There you have it. A good OAS shouldn’t drop engagement activities with patients after an appointment is booked. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients.