By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
If this blog post had sound effects, you would hear a painful and protracted “Arrrrrghhhh!” It would represent the classic mistake of a neophyte healthcare advertiser who is murdering their advertising budget and their new business opportunity.
So, exactly what’s wrong here? Blame is heaped on the ad campaign—which, by the way, is actually working. The phone is ringing and new prospects are calling, but that response isn’t converting to new patient appointments. (Arrrrrghhhh.)
So, exactly WHY is this medical practice advertising effort wasted…money squandered…and prospects lost? It’s Elementary Advertising 101. Blaming advertising is the most common, but misguided and incorrect scapegoat. We address this critical issue in our Healthcare Marketing Seminar and it’s worth repeating for the unaware.
Typically, this business has never advertised before, and an inexhaustible supply of finger-pointing blame abounds:
- “Advertising never works…”
- “I don’t have time/need/interest…”
- “Something’s wrong when you have to advertise…”
- “These are ‘shopper’ calls…”
- “These are the wrong kind of patients…”
- “We shouldn’t have to advertise…”
Here’s the real answer…
The advertising campaign is not to blame at all. In fact, the real barrier to success is that the practice was unprepared to handle the inbound response from advertising. Here’s what to do instead:
Install a totally different mindset. A medical practice that is not used to advertising isn’t aware of—or prepared for—the significant difference between an advertising response inquiry and a routine (non-ad) phone call. A routine caller is likely someone related to the practice, an existing patient or someone referred by a patient or a physician. These callers have made the decision to call for an appointment, but there is no commitment.
The phone answering staff (primary, secondary, backup) needs to understand that advertising-inspired callers are not sold. They are completely different, and nearly opposite of the routine caller. There is no established relationship or allegiance to the practice. Ad respondents have some degree of interest, but they are uncommitted and unconnected prospects. (Maybe just “suspects.”)
When your front desk staff isn’t trained, advertising opportunity is dead before you begin. These are different kinds of prospect callers. The front desk (everyone who answers the phone) must be prepared to (a) identify an inbound advertising response call, and (b) understand that the caller, who may be curious, is not yet committed to a decision and needs to be convinced and appointed.
And what to do instead…
Answer the phone immediately. Inbound callers have zero tolerance for a busy signal or endless, unanswered, ringing. When advertising inspires a phone call to the practice, the level of interest fades quickly if their call isn’t answered quickly.
Provide a convenient appointment. Proper training educates the staff to guide the caller to an in-office appointment. This needs to be early and convenient to the caller’s schedule. Prospects are not interested in waiting days or weeks…they go elsewhere or lose interest completely.
Proper preparation for ad-driven patients requires a culture change. Your practice has almost no credibility with prospective patients from external, offline advertising. And prospective patients from online advertising have other options instantly available with a nano-second click.
Elective care providers are faced with potentially more demanding customers who are bombarded with competitive advertising offers and enticements. If any of this sounds familiar, please connect with us today. We can help stop the financial bleeding, provide insightful training and grow your market share.