Everyone has a Facebook account they use to keep in touch with families and friends.
But should you use it professionally?
You’re still unsure. Rightfully skeptical.
But today, marketing is essential for physicians. And not because Facebook or Twitter are “popular”. Those are just tools, and trends come and go.
You need to adopt social media because the way people buy – and how they choose physicians they want – has changed forever.
Here’s why marketing for doctors is now a necessary evil.
Buying a Car in the Information Age
Think about the last car you bought.
Chances are, you didn’t just wander up to a random, local car dealer and purchase the first car on the lot.
You probably went to Google and searched for the type of car you want. Then you may have checked out the reviews of some local dealerships, just to make sure you wouldn’t get screwed.
Or maybe you asked your friends for recommendations. Where did they go, and what were their experiences?
You’re a savvy shopper, so you’re going to actively research everything. And before you even step foot on the dealership, you will know the Kelly Blue Book value of the car, the dealer’s gross profit on each vehicle sold, and past customer reviews of the individual salespeople themselves.
Well guess what…
That’s exactly how people find doctors today.
The Zero Moment of Truth
Patient’s today actively research for the best doctor in their area.
Google calls this the “Zero Moment of Truth“. And it’s a crucial concept in today’s marketing environment.
It’s about learning how to position yourself and win consumer’s trust (when they’re just as informed as you are).
Because “marketing” today isn’t an isolated part of your clinic, or “handled” by someone else. It’s your entire patient-facing operation, and the way you conduct your practice.
A Lesson from Childbirth
Expecting your first child is a daunting occasion.
Pregnancy is the 12th most stressful event in your life, according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.
So it may be exciting, but it’s also psychologically challenging and expensive.
I learned this first hand just a few months ago.
Like most expectant or new parents, my wife and I wanted to move out of the city to raise our child. But unfortunately, that also meant finding a new doctor.
My wife got a referral to a new practice and doctor through a trusted friend, so we decided to try it out.
However after a few visits, my wife began to worry. The doctor’s bedside manner wasn’t warm, their office’s follow-up was lackadaisical at best, and there were obvious signs of practicing defensive medicine.
So we got fed up, and started looking for a new doctor.
We’re fortunate enough to live in a place with several top hospitals within a short drive. And our insurance is good, so we could have delivered virtually anywhere we wanted.
But this time, our search process was different.
Instead of relying on one person’s referral, we looked at aggregate peer-to-peer reviews on Yelp (and other online services), to determine which hospitals we liked best. We also were able to see real reviews of each individual doctor in the practice or clinic.
Then my wife made some appointments, and interviewed a few different doctors to make sure she felt confident this time around.
After a few weeks, we lined up a new doctor and everything went perfectly.
All because we shopped around for the perfect situation.
The “Consumerization of Healthcare” Continues
In the mid-nineties, AOL spammed everyone’s mailboxes with free offers, and their service grew into the millions overnight.
Since then, there have been a few reincarnations of popular “social networking” platforms, but the point is always the same. New tools and technology that make it easier to connect and interact.
And it’s been one of the driving forces behind the consumerization of healthcare.
Zagat, the world famous rating service for restaurants and hotels, was recently purchased by Google (and integrated with their social network, Google+).
And Zagat’s scope is expanding to provide a platform for patients to share their experiences with individual doctors within a network. According to Rheumatologist.org,
“Wellpoint and Anthem BlueCross BlueShield members now have the opportunity to rate their physicians in the areas of trust, communication, availability, and office environment”.
One of the unique aspects of Zagat is that they use a total quality score based on different individual metrics. So again, according to Rheumatologist.org,
“Under the Zagat rating system, a physician who has a high rate of medical errors but a wonderful bedside manner and a beautiful waiting room can receive a higher rating than a physician with a better professional record but who has trouble communicating with his or her patients or has an outdated waiting room”.
So that all-important rating, the one prospective patients (like my wife and I) are using to decide between doctors, may have little to do with your actual professional record.
And it might have more to do with… marketing.
Why Marketing for Doctors is Essential for Every Practice and Physician
Today, patients don’t wait around to be told what physicians they can or can’t visit.
And that’s a good thing. Because smart, affluent people are the ones who spend money, and become loyal to you for years.
These people aren’t stuck with whatever local doctor fits in their plan, and they’re not looking for the best bargain.
They take the time to research their options, and make sure they’re getting the best physician possible for their family (and themselves).
They’re searching for you in Google, reading reviews on Yelp, and asking their friends on Facebook.
Your website and customer reviews are going to be the first touch they have with your practice.
And if you don’t have a presence or aren’t easy to find within a few short minutes, then these people will just move on to the next doctor.
In 2010, the average cost of a normal, uncomplicated birth in California was $22,311 (and counting).
That’s a significant amount.
But what about the second and third child? And what if we need an emergency room, cesarean section, or have some other special case?
In marketing terms, the lifetime value of a customer could easily be several hundred thousand dollars per patient for both the doctor and the hospital.
So reaching these people, building trust, and retaining them for years is the best strategy you have for a better career, and stable cash-flow.
Which means marketing — and social media — is a necessary evil for every doctor and practice.
- The Key to Staying Ahead of the Healthcare “Consumerization” Curve
- 3 Ways Busy Physicians Can Keep Up with Social Media
- How You Can Turn Strangers into Loyal Patients with Online Medical Marketing
- 3 Healthcare Social Media Tips Your “Expert” Won’t Tell You
- 7 Ways a Radiologist Saved $1.4 Million for Retirement in 8 Years