Orthopaedic Marketing Tactics to Avoid (Until You’ve Mastered Digital)

We often talk about the marketing tactics we recommend for orthopaedic practices, but we also want to discuss some of the strategies we don’t recommend.

A lot of the more “traditional” forms of marketing for orthopaedic practices have revolved around advertising offline. However, offline marketing can be very costly, and it’s difficult to determine your return on investment. Furthermore, many patients are tuning out or ignoring these types of advertisements, so you may be paying for marketing that patients aren’t even paying attention to. Much as technology has evolved over time, your practice’s marketing strategy needs to evolve to keep up with the times.

That isn’t to say that your practice should never try these tactics, but they are very low on our list due to the high cost and difficult-to-track return on investment (ROI). We only recommend trying these tactics if your practice has remaining budget after implementing online marketing tactics.


Billboard costs can vary depending on your location and how many billboards you want to run. However, billboards are likely to cost you several hundred, if not several thousand dollars each month. It’s also very difficult to determine how many people saw your billboard, let alone the ROI of the effort. Billboard companies may be able to give you an estimate of how many people drive by your billboards, but that doesn’t tell you whether or not those people were paying attention.

You could ask each and every patient if they found you through your billboards, but that can get very tedious with all of the other questions your patients need to answer for an office visit. Even if patients did first hear of your practice via your billboards, they are likely to go online to do a bit more research before making an appointment.

TV Ads

TV ads are the most expensive of the traditional offline marketing tactics for orthopaedic practices. To get professional-looking ads, you’ll have to hire a crew to film and direct the commercial, and possibly hire someone to write scripts for those who are speaking. Logistically, it can be difficult to get the whole thing filmed in one day with the busy schedule most orthopaedic practices have. Once the commercial is filmed and edited, you’ll then have to pay (likely on a monthly basis) to have the ads run on TV.

From an ROI perspective, your advertising agency may be able to get you data on how many people were watching when your commercials ran, but it’s difficult to track that down to patient appointments. Furthermore, those numbers don’t tell you if viewers were actually paying attention to those commercials. The popularity of streaming services and DVRs has made it easy for people to fast-forward through commercials, or avoid them altogether. And, even when people do watch television live, there’s no guarantee that they didn’t run to the kitchen for a snack over the commercial break.

Print Ads

Depending on where you run ads, print ads can potentially be the lowest-cost of the traditional orthopaedic practice advertising tactics. With that said, it is still difficult to determine the ROI of your efforts unless you ask each patient specific questions about how they found you. While the publication should be able to give you numbers on their subscribers or distribution, they can’t tell you how many people actually looked at the ads. Think about your own habits when reading a newspaper or magazine–how often do you pay close attention to the ads?

Tracking ROI in Offline Channels

If your practice does want to move forward with marketing via billboards, commercials, and print ads, there are a couple of things you can do to get a better sense of ROI in offline channels.

  • Dedicated URLs – You can work with your web provider to set up a dedicated URL to use in offline advertising campaigns that will automatically redirect to your website. You can then use analytics to determine pageviews for that URL. By only using the URL in your billboards, print ads, or TV commercials, you can deduce that those visitors found you via your offline ads.
  • Dedicated tracking phone numbers – You can use call tracking numbers for your offline ads, as well. You would set up a dedicated number for your ad campaign, so that any calls to that number would be attributed to the campaign.

Whether you use dedicated URLs, tracking phone numbers, or both, we recommend that you use a different URL/phone number for each ad medium. If you’re running ads in multiple publications, you may even want to set up different numbers/URLs for each so that you can see which publication has been most effective in driving traffic.

Another caveat to this type of tracking is that it likely won’t give you the full picture. If people see your ad on a billboard, on TV, or in a magazine, they may not go to your website or call you right away. If they didn’t take down your tracking phone number or dedicated URL from the ad, they might just end up searching for you online to find out how to contact you. In those cases, you’d have no way of definitively tracking those leads back to your offline ads.

Spend Your Practice’s Marketing Budget Wisely

While the marketing tactics discussed in this post have traditionally been the go-to marketing channels for orthopaedic practices, patient behavior is shifting, and it’s important to keep up with those changes so that you don’t fall behind. More and more patients are turning to online sources to do research before booking an appointment.

It’s also much easier to determine the true effectiveness and ROI of online marketing channels. The right tracking methods take a lot of the guesswork and uncertainty out of the equation. While none of the current tracking methods are 100% accurate, online tools give you much more data to work with than traditional advertising methods.

We’re not saying that traditional advertising methods are completely ineffective, but we do believe that you should allocate more budget toward the marketing efforts you can thoroughly measure and prove. If you have the budget, then sure, go ahead and do it all. We just recommend that you focus on your online presence first, and then have any traditional advertising methods come second.

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