Ask a clinical administrator how they plan on growing their business in the near future, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear them talk about new patient acquisition. Who they want to target, how they’ll target them, the marketing dollars they’re going to spend on an open house or digital outreach efforts. The fact is, the viability of a group practice is largely determined by its ability to acquire new patients; not only that, but knowing a new patient chose your practice over the one down the street can be thrilling. Growing patient volume is a solid indication your practice is headed in the right direction, if not already successful.
However, acquiring new patients is time-consuming and expensive; in fact, it’s anywhere from four to ten times costlier to acquire a new patient than to retain one you already have. Patient acquisition can also be unpredictable, as you don’t always know exactly who you should be marketing to and what those faceless future patients need from you.
The way to mitigate these pitfalls of marketing to new patients is through referrals. Your current patients can be your best source of new business, and it’s up to you to nurture that referral source and make it as profitable as possible for your practice. The question is, how do you turn your patients into passionate ambassadors for your brand?
Make the Patient Experience Remarkable
There are lots of qualified medical professionals out there who can do a serviceable job, but people don’t tell their friends about lukewarm experiences. They’ll only want to share experiences that were memorable in some way (that goes for both negative and positive experiences, by the way). Differentiate your practice by offering services patients can’t get anywhere else by considering the following:
Welcome new patients with a letter and small (branded, of course!) token of appreciation
Make scheduling easier through an online patient portal
Send patients appointment reminders via their preferred communication method
Create a care package for patients undergoing special appointments or procedures—for example, a prenatal package for newly expectant mothers
Set up a play area in your waiting area for patients’ children to alleviate the stress of entertaining kids in a confined public space
Survey patients for feedback, and more importantly, follow through on their suggestions
These are just a few ideas for designing a remarkable patient experience. Depending on your customer base, the options are vast; all it takes is understanding your patients, then employing a little creativity.
Help Your Patients Help You
If you want your patients to act as evangelists for your brand, you have to give them an avenue, and online ratings are an ideal medium to spread word-of-mouth from your loyal patients to potential prospects. Online reputation management tools have become standard in the industry; there are over 70 online review sites for healthcare providers, and in 2014 about 61% of patients used these sites to choose their doctor (and that stat is only rising). Reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp, and other review sites are a great way for future customers to find you, and you should be monitoring those reviews so you can respond to them appropriately. However, you can go a step further and ask satisfied patients to review your service before they leave their appointment. Consider having an iPad at the reception desk so happy patients can quickly review your practice while their great experience is still fresh in their minds.
In addition to reviews, you should also afford your patients the opportunity to interact with your practice in ways that are convenient to them, specifically using social meda. Though the particulars of this strategy vary depending on your typical patient demographic, a good place to start is by having social media accounts (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) for your practice that are visually unified and consistent in terms of branding. These accounts should be accessible via your website, which should also be a place patients and consumers can interact with your practice in a low-pressure, educational environment. Your site acts as a digital storefront for your practice, so be sure to give it the attention it deserves. Your website should be a reflection of your brand’s values, and reflect your practice and its physicians well.
An attractive and useful website that has resources for patients—both current and potential—can be a very effective tool for acquisition if it’s integrated with your social media accounts. As an added bonus, analytics from social media and digital marketing efforts give you excellent insight into your target market.
This is not all to say that new patient acquisition should all be done through referrals. There’s still plenty of room for more traditional methods of reaching new market segments. However, putting your current patients to work as ambassadors for your brand is a cost-effective and measurable way to generate quality leads who you can, in turn, make into happy patients themselves.
There’s a lot more to be said about how to develop the right relationships to support your practice’s growth, and you can find that and more in the Resources section at Marketware.com.