Over the last two decades, the marketing landscape has shifted markedly from a focus on print – magazine and newspaper advertising – to having an increasing online focus. The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns, and the increasing tendency for people to work from home, have pushed Australians online en-masse. Things previously done in person have increasingly moved online; from collaboration to shopping and entertainment. Healthcare has not been exempt from this. MyHealth1st research indicates that 90% of patients prefer to book healthcare appointments online, and 55% of appointments are booked after hours. If you don’t have an online presence, you are missing out.
As of April 2020, according to the MABEL (Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life) COVID-19 Short Online Survey, 36% of all medical appointments by general practitioners (GPs) and non-GP specialists in Australia were being conducted via telehealth. While this doesn’t mean every practice has to use telehealth, it does show how much the digital medical landscape has changed in a very short time. The changes we’re currently experiencing were expected to come slowly, over a decade or more, but COVID-19 has accelerated the pace, compressing a decade of incremental change into a tumultuous five months. Given the pandemic is likely to last at least another 12 months, this will continue apace.
Trying to attract patients using methods that may have been effective before the pandemic is a recipe for throwing money away with few results. With more and more people turning to online sources for work, shopping and services, practice owners and practitioners alike need to know how to engage with these people. They need to become digital marketing experts.
So how do you go about transitioning from a traditional marketing and engagement model to a digital led business? One of the first things any practice looking to engage online needs to do, is audit their existing digital presence.
DO YOU HAVE A DIGITAL PRESENCE?
Having a digital presence doesn’t simply mean having a website. It means having a diversified and relevant digital presence capable of generating traffic and converting that traffic into bookings. Having an active digital presence on a number of platforms, such as your own blog, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn is good, but if that presence doesn’t enable people to easily make a booking, it may be meaningless.
Digital marketing agency Portent found, through a study they conducted in 2019, that the first five seconds of page load time has the highest impact on conversion rates. If a potential patient can’t see a reason to book an appointment with you, as well as an easy and quick way to book said appointment within the first few seconds on your site, blog or social media post, the likelihood of them becoming your patient is significantly reduced.
Making sure your digital presence is targeted towards your specific market is also very important. If your target market is younger, focusing on social media may be advantageous. If you’re wanting a lowcost marketing solution, content marketing through blog posts may be the way to go.
One of the best ways to ensure you are reaching your market is to gain access to an established digital marketplace, such as MyHealth1st.com.au. Our marketplace gives you access to hundreds of thousands of people who are already actively searching for and booking optical appointments digitally.
IS YOUR WEBSITE TRULY MOBILE-FRIENDLY?
Having a website that is ‘optimised’ to be viewed on mobile is essential to connect with people online. As of 2017, over 57% of all online browsing was done on a mobile device. That number has undoubtedly risen since. According to the Deloitte 2019 Mobile Consumer Survey, 91% of the Australian public have a smartphone.
If your site isn’t optimised to be viewed on a mobile phone, you risk missing out on over half of all search traffic.
IS YOUR WEBSITE OPTIMISED FOR SEO?
World-wide, there are around 7.2 billion Google searches performed every day, and from those searches, the vast majority of traffic is delivered to links found on the first page of the search. Having your practice on the first page of Google is the single best way to get traffic to your site and to get bookings, but this can be extremely hard to achieve.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) takes time, patience and excellent targeting, but even if you can’t make the front page of Google, SEO will still make a marked difference to both your traffic and marketing. When people search for healthcare, they often use search terms like “optometrist near me” or “optometrist in (location)”. Making sure your site is optimised for specific search results like this can help make it much easier to find.
CONTENT THAT’S CLEAR AND UNIQUE
Is the content on your website clear enough for a patient to easily find the information they are looking for?
If your landing page is confusing, it will not help patients or customers easily find what they are looking for. Not only will potential patients be more likely to look elsewhere for their eye health needs, but your site may be penalised by Google. This means your website will rank lower in searches and any Google Ads you have invested in will be less likely to appear above relevant searches.
As well as being clear, your website needs to make you stand out from the practice down the street.
What is your unique selling point? Is it a value proposition, a friendly approach, a deep understanding of the local community? Identifying what makes your practice unique can help separate your practice and website from others, making it more appealing to both new and old visitors, as well as more likely to be remembered.
One simple way to make your practice unique is to personalise it. Using pictures of staff instead of company logos is a simple way to give a human face to a business that some may find daunting.
OFFER ONLINE APPOINTMENTS
If someone searches online for an optometrist, browses reviews, looks at your homepage and likes what they see, they are likely to book an appointment – if they can do it easily and on the spot.
The majority of medical appointments in Australia are booked after hours, so having an option on your site for new patients or customers to book online saves them the hassle of waiting until business hours to call. It also saves your front desk from fielding the call and your practice from missing a consult that is likely to go to another practice offering online bookings.
Having online bookings isn’t the beall- and-end-all. Letting your new and existing patients, or those that may have found your practice through legacy know online booking is readily available, is key. Having multiple online booking buttons throughout your website increases your chance of converting a browser to a booking. Informing existing patients that online booking is available via bulk emails or SMS, and even changing your on-hold recording to let patients who have called know they can easily book online, can also help increase bookings.
ALIGN YOUR IN-PRACTICE EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR DIGITAL EXPERIENCE
If your website is messy and perfunctory, people are unlikely to book an appointment and so will never experience your in-practice offering. If your website doesn’t reflect the reality of your practice, it is unlikely to appeal to the patients you want.
ACTIVELY ENGAGE WITH PATIENTS
Engaging with your community is an excellent way to keep your practice at the forefront when people are looking to book appointments. Engaging in-person is great, but with social distancing in effect and lockdowns in some areas, engaging with communities through social media is much safer, not to mention more effective.
Do you have a social media plan for your practice? Are you planning on using it to promote content hosted on your practice website? Are you planning to use it to interact directly with the community, to answer questions and offer advice? Are you planning to advertise?
Are you looking to leverage a single social media platform like Facebook or Instagram, or would you prefer to diversify your presence?
THE COST OF CONVERSION
Do you know the average cost per conversion of your existing marketing plan? Cost per conversion is how much a single new appointment costs to acquire and is a vital statistic when it comes to marketing through Google Ads and social media. Without knowing how much you can safely spend to acquire a new patient, Google and social media ads can become an infinitely deep well that will never grant wishes – no matter how much money you throw down it.
In addition to knowing the cost of a conversion, practices also need to understand their potential return on investment (ROI) – how many new patients they are likely to attract for their marketing spend. Obviously the amount spent should not exceed the amount gained through new bookings, but how do you best optimise your ads and spend to ensure your ROI is healthy?
AGILITY IS KEY
If something doesn’t work the first time, doing it over and over again isn’t likely to elicit different results. Knowing when to change tack and try something different to meet the requirements of the community you are servicing, or to adapt to new situations such as social distancing, lockdowns or potential fears of contracting COVID-19, is vitally important.
That said, marketing is a long term, active investment. Some marketing campaigns may take time to have effect, while others are worth short term testing to discover what works and what doesn’t.
ATTRACT REPEAT VISITS
Attracting new patients to your practice is all well and good, but if your patients aren’t returning, is your practice really growing? The average practice only has a 20% recall success rate, meaning you’ll need to replace 80% of your bookings with new patients each year.
Do you keep track of the number of patients that rebook with your practice? How are you trying to recall them? Are you sending letters, making calls, using SMS or email? How often are you contacting them? If you’re only making contact when private health insurance cover is about to run out for the year then you may come across as mercenary. If you’re making contact too often, you might be considered spam.
While electronic recalls are more cost and time effective than making calls or sending letters (as well as being more likely to be opened and read), working out frequency, content and style is vital to the success of any recall campaign.
How you engage with patients and improve the existing patient experience can markedly affect the flow of patients, both new and old, to your practice. Every patient who walks in the door and has a good experience is a potential future patient as well as a potential referrer who will recommend your practice to others.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE MARKETPLACE?
Readying your practice for life in an increasingly digital world may seem like a daunting task, but you don’t have to go it alone. Seek the advice from experts to ensure the time and money you spend yields a positive return on investment.
Will Williams is the Marketing Director at MyHealth1st. MyHealth1st has the tools and expertise to help your practice leverage the power of the Internet to expand its reach and connect with new and existing patients.
Visit MyHealth1st to schedule a call and find out more.