By Greg Ashbaugh
There’s a trap waiting for you in the world of marketing. And the more capable you are as a doctor, the more likely you’ll spring it.
Why patients don’t care…
You’re a talented, personable and board-certified surgeon with a beautiful office in a great location. You have an exceptional team of nurses and staff. You possess all the right ingredients to create a thriving practice. Marketing should be easy. All you need to do is tell prospective patients about your fabulous amenities and accomplishments, and they should come rushing through your door.
Right? Wrong. Patients only care about you in the context of their own needs. Your new VeinMaster 3000—the high-tech hardware in the corner—doesn’t matter to them.
What they value and appreciate is the reduced pain, shorter procedure time, and the better results that it provides. Your ability to identify embryos with the proper morphology during in vitro fertilization (IVF) doesn’t matter unless the patient understands how your expertise translates to improved outcomes.
In short, when marketing your practice, you need to view yourself as a means to an end—that’s how patients view you. And in order to appeal to them, that’s the mindset you must adopt.
Here are some common examples of this principle in the context of design, search engine marketing (SEM), and copywriting—all pillars of any marketing plan worth its salt.
Mirror, mirror on the wall show the future to them all.
Here’s an all-too-common mistake that I see doctors make:
“A patient is on my website, so they must want to see what I’m all about! That means I should slap a big, beautiful picture of my team at the top of my home page.”
Remember, as a patient, I’m not looking for a team of medical professionals—I’m looking for results. Whether it’s losing weight or playing golf again, my needs are at the front of my mind. If it’s a team of medical professionals who can give me the results I seek, that’s great. But I care more about the destination than the journey.
It’s self-evident that your marketing materials should be visually appealing to your target audience. Typically, this means holding up a mirror and displaying the life they could be living with your expert help. If someone is in the market for fertility therapy, they’re going to want to see babies. If they’re having joint pain, they’re looking for activity and comfort. Show them the future and trust that their own desire will keep them engaged.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Your professional reputation won’t overcome poor keyword selection.
One of the most significant inventions in marketing history, SEM allows you to advertise to patients who are actively seeking your service through online search. What could be better?
Even if you’re not familiar with Google AdWords, you’ve undoubtedly seen the green (formerly yellow) “Ad” icons next to the results at the top and/or bottom of a Google search. Google chooses who appears in these paid slots using the keywords the advertiser pays for and the words the searcher uses. The trick to selecting keywords is pinpointing what will appeal to patients who are actually looking to purchase your product or service.
As tempting as it may be to purchase a keyword like “knee pain” with the hope of putting yourself in front of patients with a symptom you happen to treat, remember to put yourself in the mind of the prospective patient. If I’m searching for knee pain, I’m probably looking for home remedies. Or I’m researching the causes of knee pain so I can stop hurting myself. But no matter how decorated or experienced you are as a doctor, I’m probably not looking for an orthopaedic surgeon at this instant.
So stop wasting your money on these keywords. Don’t depend on the weight of your name or credentials to carry your marketing through ill-advised territory. Instead, focus on keywords that you know will connect with people who are actively seeking your service. Look through the eyes of the patients you want to attract and let that dictate your SEM efforts.
Where hand-holding is the name of the game.
Back to the VeinMaster 3000. You, of course, should mention the technology or service by name. Also, explain the procedure process. Patients care about these things. Plus, it’s difficult to explain how a service will benefit a patient if they don’t understand the value.
Most people know the difference between features and benefits. Both are necessary for marketing, but even if each appears in your messaging, you’re not finished. For example, here are some general features and benefits of the VeinMaster 3000:
New ablation method Better results
Small instruments Less pain
Low cost Save money
Good copywriting builds a seamless cause-effect relationship between a feature and its benefit. The patient needs to understand not just that the VeinMaster 3000’s new ablation method leads to better results, but how this method works better than other techniques to provide improved results.
Furthermore, your fellowship training doesn’t impact the patient until you explain how it’s paramount to providing the top-notch quality the patient desires. You must fill these gaps and don’t assume that excellence is self-evident.
The real trick is building bridges between features and benefits without sounding like a pitchman. Generally speaking, mention benefits that you can prove and explain. A well thought out explanation of how a particular service provides a benefit will have a greater impact on the patient than a stream of general claims.
There’s no choice here.
The patient is the center of your marketing efforts. People aren’t seeking out an orthopaedic surgeon. They’re looking for better knee functionality. You’re the means by which patients can achieve this end. If you choose to orient your marketing around yourself, you’ll never produce a message that resonates with the goals of your prospective patients.