Whether you're looking for an authentic Japanese restaurant, a place to get that fender-bender fixed, or new hair salon, the first thing you do is google it. These days, we start with an online search for anything and everything. In fact, this habit has become so pervasive that Merriam-Webster actually added the word ‘google’ to the dictionary as a verb in 2006.
So it is no surprise that when consumers are looking for a doctor, they are increasingly turning to search engines and online sources. Although patients are increasingly using online tools to find providers, a survey conducted by BCG found that word of mouth is still the number one method for finding a doctor. If this sounds like conflicting information, you're not alone. The truth? Patients — just like consumers — take winding journeys to find you. A patient's journey to choosing you as their physician is not a straightforward path.
Patients research providers extensively — both online and offline — because the financial and clinical consequences can be significant. As BCG's survey showed, patients turn to many sources, including friends, family, review sites such as Yelp and Zocdoc, quality scoring sites such as CMS, and even traditional advertising. Where among these sources can you be found?
Word-of-mouth referrals must be earned, but there are actions you can take to earn them. Word-of-mouth marketing happens when you have inspired your patients to tell their friends and family about your practice.
In order for your patients to become brand ambassadors, you must first exceed their expectations. What is it that you do exceptionally well, to the point that you inspire your patients to tell others about it? Do you provide a seamless, online booking process? Do you allow patients to make same-day appointments? Does your waiting area offer free Wi-Fi and coconut water? In other words, what is your brand?
No matter the type of patients you're trying to attract, they are looking for you online. Despite some demographic differences, Yelp reports that users are fairly evenly distributed across the three age categories they record. Online reviews are not just used by millennials and Gen Z.
Brookings conducted a survey that shows patients put more trust in online reviews than in government ratings when it comes to choosing a physician. What's more, patients care just as much about non-clinical aspects as they do about clinical aspects of a practice.
As patients increasingly turn to and trust online reviews, it's important for you to actively manage your presence across sites like Yelp and Zocdoc. If you can't find your practice, your patients can't either, so make sure you are a verified business with current contact information to give your practice more legitimacy online. If patients aren't impressed online, they're not going to bother making an appointment. Practice marketing services can help you make sure you put your best foot forward online.
Advertising is an important part of any patient acquisition strategy. If consumers have never heard of you, how are they going to make an appointment with you?
Patients are online - so you should be, too. If you don't already have one, create a website for your practice, so that consumers can learn about you and the care you provide. Advertising on online channels, such as search engine marketing and social media, are great ways to get potential patients to notice your practice.
But it's also important to recognize that your patients may be found through other channels, too. For example, maybe there is a widely read publication your Medicare patients love, or a YouTube channel your Gen Z patients watch. Take the time to understand where your consumers are reading, listening, and watching other content and meet them there.
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