By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
Securing the growth of any healthcare business requires a thorough plan and budget for your marketing. But we get it—many doctors, administrators, and executives are also searching for free, simple ways to reach a local audience.
Many of these free healthcare marketing opportunities will require time and commitment, but most are simply good business practice.
Remember, healthcare is a business like any other, and especially in this day and age, marketing is an investment in your ongoing well-being. Still, these 7 free (or mostly free) tips can help you supplement paid advertising with tried and true traditional (and less traditional) methods for success.
#1: Ask for Referrals
It’s one of the easiest strategies for boosting referrals. And yet, very few doctors and front desk staff are willing to simply ask satisfied patients for referrals.
If a patient is happy with your services, and you offer a gentle suggestion to leave a good word with friends and neighbors, most patients will happily oblige. And the worst that could happen? They don’t follow through.
You may want to write a script for your staff to use when dealing with a particularly positive patient. This allows for a simple strategy for following up, politely asking the patient to recommend you to family and friends.
#2: Try Facebook Live
We recently spoke with the communications team at VCU Health, which is doing amazing things with this unique platform. Not only are they seeing content engagement increase drastically—they also have the chance to educate the public of health concerns using Facebook Live. While this free advertising method may require a little investment in some quality filming equipment, the rest just requires preparation and healthcare expertise.
Thanks to Facebook’s “Friends and Family First” algorithm update, your followers are unlikely to see your posts very frequently, with some companies reporting reaching only 1% of followers with organic posts. That’s why we typically recommend a primarily paid social media strategy.
However, Facebook Live is an excellent free healthcare marketing tool to supplement your strategy. Facebook automatically updates your followers that a video is going live—almost like a free “boosted post!”
#3: Boost Your Earned Media Coverage
“Earned media” (unlike paid media) is media coverage you’ve earned through word-of-mouth. You earn media by getting mentioned or quoted in articles, contributing articles to thought leadership blogs and publications, or even appearing in television news interviews and features.
Today, boosting earned media is much easier with the help of social media—along with various other platforms like Medium that help you share your expertise. The more quality content you create about your specific area of expertise, the easier it is for you to convince others to share your brand.
Keep in mind that earning media is tough because you are not in control of the success of your content. Gaining recognition means maintaining relationships with other thought leaders or content producers and being particularly diligent on social media.
#4: Manage Your Online Reputation
What frustrates many doctors about online reviews is that what patients say is largely out of their control. And while this is mostly true, you can work to get ahead of those reviews with a response that shows you care about patient feedback.
Reach out to your reviewers on online review sites. Take the time to thank those with positive feedback and find ways to resolve issues (without violating HIPAA in regards to patient information, of course).
Another piece of advice? Actions speak louder than words. Simply responding to reviews is one thing but working to improve your office speaks volumes about your commitment to care.
#5: Optimize Your Website for SEO
“Search engine optimization” is the term used to describe practices that help boost your business in the search engine rankings. This organic (unpaid) strategy takes a long time to build up, and can be time-consuming and complicated—which is why most companies outsource this job.
However, the right strategy can allow you to rank near the top of the search engines (below the paid advertisements) without paying for space. While the list is much, much longer than this, some of key SEO tactics include:
- Using keywords appropriately and naturally throughout the text of your site
- Adding H1s and H2s to separate content
- Using title and image tags correctly
- Linking to pages throughout your site
- Getting backlinks to point to your site (from associations you belong to, organizations you donate to, colleagues you work with, earned media, and more)
- Updating outside directory listings (more on this below)
#6: Update Directory Listings
Your listings on outside directories are crucial to your business for a couple of reasons.
- Prospective patients searching through directories like Yelp can easily find you.
- Directories create backlinks that point back to your site and boost your presence in the search engines.
All your directory listings across all platforms should have the same information—spelled the exact same way, with the exact same formatting, every time. Popular platforms for listings include the following (and many more):
- Google My Business
- Bing Places for Business
- Apple Maps
- Industry-Specific Listings (many may require one-time or annual payments)
#7: Follow Up with Patients
The cost of new patient acquisition is typically much, much higher than the cost of keeping your existing patients. Calling or emailing patients with appointment reminders sends the message that you truly care about their health and keeps you at top of mind.
For specialties not likely to see return patients, reaching out to check on recovery or send a quick thank you note is not just common courtesy. It may also help patients remember they were considering recommending you to a friend or family member!
Remember, these strategies are supplementary to a successful marketing strategy if you plan to win more patients and grow revenues over time. Call 800-656-0907 to learn more about our true healthcare marketing partnerships.