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Marketing Tips to Attract More Patients to Your Practice

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Before turning on my laptop to put this article together, I went back to reading one of my favorite books on behavioral economics. It’s Dan Ariely’s bestseller, the sly and lucid “Predictably Irrational”. While this is not to argue about the flaws of traditional economics’ theories, I tried to distillate some of the ideas on the book and apply them to the healthcare industry. Let’s face it; it’s a stiff competition out there, one that is squeezing every bit of profit. Having the right marketing tools, strategizing, and using out-of-the-box marketing techniques are the only way to go. Let’s see how this works.

The Power of the F Word – FREE!

If you’ve ever worked in advertising, you’ll know the power of the four-letter-F-word Free. Free samples, free trials, buy one-get one free have an irresistible pull.

The thought of getting something for nothing is what makes people line up. To avoid spending a couple of bucks, (and the pain of being a couple bucks poorer), thousands of shoppers lined up for over two hours when Krispy Kreme launched in Cardiff, Wales, and for what: free donuts. Free fried dough with lots of sugar that makes your stomach hate you for about an hour or so. I am none the wiser, for I recall being caught in a very stupid sale, simply because there were free socks. The irresistible “free” (not the socks, I hope) dragged me into trading off a couple of hundred dollars I did really need against athletic shoes I didn’t need at all … And I’m pretty sure that’s a random example.

 

In “Predictably Irrational”, Dan Ariely describes a study of people’s reactions (and overreactions) to two different products: Hershey’s kisses and Lindt truffles. Under normal circumstances, the Hershey’s kisses are already significantly cheaper than Lindt truffles and, let’s admit it, not even nearly as delicious. When both products where discounted by the same amount of money, most people went for the Lindt truffles (First experiment: 16 cents per Lindt truffle, 2 cents per Hershey’s kiss. Second experiment: 15 cents per Lindt, 1 cent per Hershey’s kiss).

However, when asked to choose between a free Hershey’s kiss and a 14-cents-Lindt candy (knowing that the normal unit price of the Lindt candy is about 50 cents) most people went for the free product. Irrational, isn’t it? The laws of traditional economics would predict the opposite, since buyers are rational individuals. Yet, zero is a different subject. Free is a different place. It’s not just a discount; it’s an irresistible human magnet.

Let’s apply this to a medical practice: Getting 40% off your first bill is great. Getting a FREE medical exam with your first visit? Irresistible. And it starts right in your website, where patients are likely to pay you a virtual visit before making it to the practice.

The Right Content For the Right Audience

Undeniably, today’s patients largely rely on the Web for personal health information. We all heard of stories where a small pimple turns into panic after reading some blog that suggests it might be a rare self-immune disease. In fact, patients now expect a high level of interaction from their clinician even (or should I say especially) on the Internet. It’s an age of Tweets and Facebook posts. We are surrounded by information. That’s why —as entitled as humans tend to be —we expect a privileged approach, a customized one. We expect a personal relationship with our healthcare provider.

In the light of this, the medical practice’s website is paramount. And I’m not talking about a static one with some general marketing content about how awesome the premises are or how qualified the staff is. Patients expect a lively and interactive website. They expect a vibrant blog with integrated social sharing and a dedicated section for comments and social exchange.

Embracing social media—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging—is the most important component of one’s Internet marketing strategy. In fact, blogging is not that hard nor is it time consuming or costly. Most website platforms already integrate blogging and all you need is to put in some good effort and invest some time into publishing unique, informative, top-notch quality content.

Here again, it’s free advice through hard learned wisdom and expertise that would create more than market dynamics between prospective patients and medical practices: it’s free advice given for the community. It’s about the general wellness of the neighborhood; it’s more than just business.

Typical blog content would be weight loss, healthy eating, menopause and STDs. But great content would concern advice to run regular health checks, since most of our health problems could be cured in a more effective manner if detected and acted upon on time. Let’s talk about new procedures to detect early cancer cells, unique ways to avoid high blood pressure, or new in-office procedures for permanent contraception. It’s about original content; one that’s informative with no marketing inferred.

The extra mile would be a monthly newsletter, a referral program, and an assistant web bot that takes on appointments and guides prospective patients throughout the process.

Then ... Gather Feedback and Reviews

Asking for referrals and reviews is as important as the website itself. Undeniably, reviews drive the doubtful patient, as much as word of mouth spreads gossip alongside information.

I learned about a nearly scientific approach to selling that was developed by French marketing experts Georges Krycève and Michel Desmarest, called MCAV (for Marketing Créatique Appliqué à la Vente or Creatic Marketing Applied to Sales).

I found it interesting that according to the method, buyers fall into exactly seven different categories. From the “low-price-for-life”, to the “ I-hate-mainstream”, what caught my attention is the 4th category, most likely to appear where social interactions are involved. It’s when we end up paying more for the “brand” or that one “seller” we got used to. It’s a strong bond that evolves over time, and over-shadows the sharp edges of market dynamics: a 4 doesn’t simply pay hard earned money to get a service. It’s a lot fuzzier, a lot warmer than just a business transaction. It’s very human in nature. In my case, I’m a solid 4 when it comes to restaurants: whenever I don’t feel like cooking, I go to the same place mostly because the manager treats me like family (and because I have a thing for Pad Thai, for the playful roasted peanuts on top, and the perky bean sprouts). Interestingly, at least once, I brought most of my friends, ALL my dates, and my family members that happen to visit me.

 

Getting to the bottom of things, we should recognize the power of referrals. Sending follow-up emails to thank patients and ask them to leave a word on the blog section, or giving free gifts for reviews are an effective way to go.

 

Pictures: Unsplash if not mentioned

Tags: Healthcare, Marketing Tips

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