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Feature Article

How Local Digital Marketing Can Increase Wound Clinic Referrals

Your wound clinic can increase referrals with an effective local digital marketing campaign. This author reviews some basic principles of effective marketing, including optimizing social media use, local search engine optimization and local paid search.

Marketing is getting the right message to the right person at the right time. People are spending more time on mobile devices than ever before. It is said the average American sees up to 10,000 impressions every day. To reach potential customers, physicians need to be able to cut through the digital noise with well-designed ads that message appropriately. Campaigns can be set up to target the right audience and send the messaging at the most appropriate time to maximize conversion rate and convert the lead to a new customer.

The average budget on marketing is now 9% in the healthcare industry. The percentage of overall ad budget spent on digital marketing is increasing each year, and is projected to reach 45% of overall marketing budget in 2020.

Marketing is evolving, and more shoppers are now researching and getting information online prior to any purchase decision. Current statistics suggest more than one-third of patients will now research a physician online before scheduling an appointment. The new marketing and sales “funnel” shows that up to 70% of today’s buyer’s journey is done solely online. It is therefore more important than ever to have a digital marketing strategy to reach these shoppers while they are online researching information, in order to increase awareness of your services, maintain or increase interest in your services, and create a desire for patients to take action to contact your practice.

Developing a Reputation Management Strategy

An online reputation is often a touchy subject for clinicians. Up to 78% of doctors have expressed that online reviews cause stress. In previous decades, physicians built their practices through word of mouth referrals. The reality is that online ratings and reviews for physicians and hospitals are increasing. In response, all physicians should have a proactive reputation management strategy. A reputation management strategy not only helps you respond to any negative reviews appropriately, but also includes a digital strategy to get satisfied patients to post online reviews regularly and showcase the practice as a best choice for potential patients. Without a proactive strategy, you risk that only the occasional disgruntled patient will end up leaving a review. More reviews will improve your local search results. 

Increase reviews by emailing patients after their visit to solicit feedback. Digitally push reviews out to Yelp, Google My Business (GMB), and Facebook. Better yet, put a sign by the door to scan a QR code and leave a review on the spot when they check out. Your office personnel can help make this happen. Driving more reviews is a very proactive way to get more satisfied patients to leave reviews and lead to better overall ratings.

What You Should Know About Local Paid Search (aka Geofencing)

Current research shows approximately 50% of mobile queries have a local intent, and up to 90% of queries take action as a result. Sticking with marketing principles, it certainly makes sense to spend your marketing dollars targeting patients who are actively looking for help with the medical conditions you treat, and who also live within reasonable driving distance. They are much more likely to become your patients. Therefore, you need an effective local paid search campaign to drive new patients to your door. Effective campaigns actually track phone calls to the clinic or hospital on separate lines, so you can measure the return on investment and continually tweak the campaign for maximal effectiveness. 

You should set a budget and have professional and detailed research keyword assessments done. Keywords are competitively priced, and you want to develop a strategy in which your ads are near the top of the page and result in increased referrals for business. Research competitors in your market and other successful markets for the best results and best return on investment.

Role of Social Media and Content Marketing

Medical professionals often underestimate the benefit of engaging with their practice on social media and its ability to lead to referrals. The use of content marketing (give educational information in exchange for a lead) should be a strong consideration for a practice that wants to increase traffic to its door. Potential patients are usually willing to give you their contact information in exchange for engaging and relative information. Sometimes the information is general medical advice on a condition or procedure. Examples of effective content marketing content includes e-books, blogs, white papers, and short informative video segments. Websites should be designed with specific landing pages that clients are sent to once they click on content. Never send clients to the front page of the website. 

Practices are strongly recommended to use a digital agency to develop the content. There are only so many hours in the day, and reputable agencies have professional medical content writers who create content calendars, create the content, and push the content at regular intervals into multiple social channels, using highly effective software tools. Social links back to your website increase your organic search results with Google, and are important in competitive markets.

Now that we have some basics down, the steps to increase your clinic referrals include website optimization, local search engine optimization (SEO), and local paid search. Good local SEO starts with strategy. Once you have local SEO optimized, then you can add local paid search to capture patients when they are looking for services. Following these steps has a very high overall return on the investment for medical practices.

Optimizing Local SEO 

Your clinic should optimize local SEO so it shows up on local listings when patients are researching medical conditions online and looking for care.

1. Look at local competition and use top expert to do a competitive analysis of their websites using the latest industry tools.

2. On-page optimization is crucial. Your website must be optimized with proper keyword association or search engines will not make the connection. Include image optimization, proper meta tags, even use same images as in the Google My Business (GMB) listing. Ensure all internal website links are strong. Local schema must be optimized and technical optimization (updated sitemap) must also be done. Analytics must be correctly installed and optimized with filters and goals. Short videos (approximately 60–90 seconds) to introduce physicians should be considered. Studies show clear benefits of videos, and these can help potential patients emotionally connect with their provider and increase referrals to your clinic.

3. Next is off-page optimization. Use a proper and complete GMB listing, local citation, name address phone (NAP) audit and correction, and off-site signals. Your GMB listing must be 100% complete to benefit. Update NAP on all local listings. Software tools such as Yext or Synup will update your NAP consistently across as many as 50 different internet listings. Consistent NAP lists increase organic search results with Google.

4. Social channels—such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—should always be claimed, even if you are not pushing out content to them actively. Link social channels to your website and optimize the social channels. Posting content through GMB publishes events and services directly to your Google Search and Maps and increases your listing presence.

5. Feed the channel. Create content for your wound center with blogs, articles, social, video, PowerPoint, and white papers.

Taking Advantage of Local Paid Search

Now, that you have optimized organic SEO (unpaid search results locally for your services), you can use local paid search to market your clinic and rise to the top of the list when users are searching locally for help. Remember, as many as 90% of local queries result in action, so you are using your organic local SEO and paid search so you can be listed up to three times on the front page during searches: local listings, organic search results below the local listings and at the top by strategically placed paid search ads.

Implement these strategies properly, and you will see a significant increase in referrals to your clinic. 

Wade Farrow is a digital strategist focused on the wound care and lymphedema markets. Contact him at wade@medicalmarketingwsi.com if you would like help marketing your clinic or product.

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Wade Farrow, MD, CWSP
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