As competition for patients increases, practices have to be ready to reevaluate their marketing strategies. Michael and Scott discuss ways to combine the value of speaking engagements with advertising efforts. They review the need to have a stellar intake system for new patients, and they share some pitfalls to avoid for practices’ ad campaigns.
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Announcer: It’s time to think differently about healthcare, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone, and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology it can be easy to forget that healthcare is still all about humans, and many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell. Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together and hear some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your Paradigm Shift.
Michael: Welcome the Paradigm Shift of Healthcare and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts, here today with my cohost Scott Zeitzer. This show is focused on the many ways that healthcare is changing and how the consumerization of healthcare is affecting practices. We talk about this topic on a regular basis at p3practicemarketing.com and we’d invite you to be a part of that conversation there.
Today’s episode is entitled “Showing Up Everywhere and Welcoming Your Guests.” This episode in particular is based on a lot of conversations we’ve been having with clients and with partners over the past month or two. And the process of getting the word out there about your practice and getting the right patients in the door, that whole process is changing. I mean, even before, I’d say independent of all the things that are happening around COVID-19, there’s just a lot of other factors that are going into this process that make things different.
So this is just a chance to step back, try to summarize some of these experiences that we’ve been sharing with customers and partners. Let’s start off by talking about practices that are having to find that right line between quantity and quality of patients.
Scott: Yeah, it’s interesting. I had this conversation, as you mentioned quite a bit, when you get to quality, quantity, because every practice is different and the surgeons that make up that practice that we talk to have different needs.
If you’re just coming out of a fellowship and you’re nervous, you just want seats, you want people just to fill it up. And of course you want to work on what you studied and what your fellowship was all about, but you’re taking care of everybody. You’re just trying to build trust and your reputation in the community. So volume is much more important than value for a person-
Scott: Right on. Right. And then as you start to build that trust in the community, as you start to get that reputation, as people start seeing, “Wow, that shoulder specialist really is a shoulder specialist. Look what they’re doing.” That’s when that value conversation starts to occur.
10, 15 years ago the value conversation was more about cranky old man disease or cranky old woman disease where it’s like, “I don’t want to see anybody. I just want to see these people.” It’s like, “Okay, cool. We’ll work on that.” Now it’s very different. It’s not just that, “Hey, I want to find a specific set of patients from a procedural perspective. I did my fellowship in X,” but it’s also like, “Man, wouldn’t it be great to be paid better. I want to see more people that would come into my ambulatory surgical center rather than simply the hospital.”
Scott: All of those things start to come into play, so understanding what is the value. I always tell people the same thing, if you could sprinkle magic pixie dust, what would you want? And it’s a really good way to start that in your own head.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting because there are a lot of convenience tools that are out there these days that can help practices. And this is something that we see with automated scheduling tools.
Michael: So yes, you can get patients in the door very easily and there’s a frictionless experience that you can set up, but you may get the wrong patients in the door.
Michael: And then you’ve frictionlessly gotten the wrong person into your practice. And so having that balance of qualifying the right patient, of getting that right person that you really want. So however that process works, whatever intake process you use, it is necessary for practices, like any small business, to have a steady stream of customers, or in this case patients coming in the door.
I’d like to dig into some of these processes, because I think that we’re seeing some possible ways of evolving some of the different things that we’ve suggested over the years.
Michael: But let’s talk about, I guess, what we’d suggest to most people, I think.
Scott: Yeah, the standard operating procedure, so to speak.
Scott: I always kid with my hip surgeons because they’re like, “Man, I just want to … I’ll get Zocdoc and I’m going to do this. It’s all going to be automated.” And I’m like, “Cool, man. If you really need to get a lot of patients in the door and you don’t mind having some bad connections, it’s not a big deal. Zocdoc will get paid people in through the door, it just may not be people you want.”
And they go, “Well, what do you mean?” And I’d go, “Well, you’re a hip surgeon. Do you want hip sciatica patients or do you want hip replacement patients?” And of course they say hip replacement patients, and it’s like, “Well, then don’t rely upon patients to self-diagnose themselves that they need a hip replacement.”
Scott: It’s like, where are these referrals coming from? And so getting a, quote, “qualified” patient … I think technology-wise, here’s this website, here’s this good content on the site. Here’s the reputation showing off that you’re good at what you do. But I think one of the most undervalued thing has nothing to do with us, Michael, it has to do with who’s answering the phone.
Michael: True, true.
Scott: Who’s processing that, who’s talking to them, because that’s such a drop for so many people. They just hire someone to go do it and it’s like-
Michael: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, and we’ll dig into that second part of it, this welcoming your guests concept.
Scott: [crosstalk 00:05:33], yeah.
Michael: There’s just like, “Whoever’s answering the phone is just whoever …”
Scott: “Doctor’s office.”
Michael: Okay, we are going to need to be a little bit more targeted in that. And some of the ways that we work with practices, we do recommend, hey, go ahead and set up an advertising campaign.
Michael: Let’s go ahead and get some of those things in place. So this is where marketing gets a little fuzzy-
Scott: Go ahead.
Michael: … because you start off and you go, “Okay, I’ve got the site, I’ve got this, I’ve got … I’ve gone down the checklist.”
Michael: “I’ve got this ad campaign running and I’m going to get it optimized enough. I’m going to be able to improve that.” This is where I think where we’re at this marketing-is-changing spot, this whole process of saturation of information that’s out there. There’s just so much content and so much information. We’ll dig into that more, but let’s compare these two approaches.
So you’ve got a website, cool. You explain what you do. We’re really focused on that.
Scott: Cool. Yeah.
Michael: But more than just explaining what we do, what if we really focus on things like differentiation? What are the things about this particular practice that really set it apart from the other practice down the street? There’s a level at which you just say, “I do a hip surgery in the following ways, and this is the approach I use,” and all this kind of stuff.
Michael: But what is it that you can do, whether it’s the bedside manner of the practice or whether it’s, “Hey, we have a very extensive PT approach that we use.”
Scott: Right, right.
Michael: Whatever that is. And then really leaning into that at every single opportunity. Because I think that sometimes practices will do a good job of saying at once. “Hey, this is the way that we believe the surgery should be done and this is how we do it. And if you go to this specific page, you’ll find that.”
Michael: But in every single spot where they could be reinforcing that story. “Hey, we think you should schedule. And this is how we’re going to accommodate that. And this is why we think that you should schedule with us.” Putting that on your map listings, on your review sites, on your content. Every single place that you possibly can put that information, just reinforcing that story. Then you’ve got your ad campaign, you’ve got all that kind of stuff.
But this I think can also weave in with a conversation that we had last week on the show, we had our guests Chen Yen come on, and we were talking about this whole setting up the physician as a speaker and being able to have either webinars or have speaking engagements. We’ve been in this industry long enough that we can talk about the old days and the new days and that kind of stuff.
Scott: Yeah, yeah. No, yeah, yeah.
Michael: And some of the old school models of getting your target patients in a ballroom at the hotel and having a lecture.
Scott: That’s right.
Michael: Or getting all of the primary care physicians and speaking to that audience, it’s some of that same kind of thinking. And this was something that I really liked about what Chen had to share last week, the fact that you really focus in on that particular message about that differentiation. We’re talking about the same kind of thing, but where do you deliver that message? I want to stress to everybody that you shouldn’t be thinking about this in an either/or capacity.
Scott: Right, that’s exactly right. It isn’t [crosstalk 00:08:38].
Michael: Not just on your website, it’s not just in your speaking engagements, but it’s this coordinated attack. This is so much … And getting into some of other targeting methods and other ways of getting more coordinated in your marketing, this is what a lot of big companies are thinking about and how they approach that.
So what’s interesting about that is that there’s a cumulative effect when you take all these different pieces. You’ve got your speaking opportunities, you’ve got the differentiation on the site. Not all of these things are things that you directly pay for like advertising, and say, “I’m going to put in $1, I’m going to get $2 back.” The math looks nice on that. But you say, “I’m going to do a speaking opportunity.” Well, are you going to get three patients out of that speaking opportunity? I don’t know.
Scott: I don’t know. Right.
Michael: There’s that brand building, there’s that long-term thinking that has to go into this. All of these things working together can look like your advertising is all of a sudden improving. “Hey, I’m doing this speaking engagement and I’m doing this. And now my cost-per-click came down so my ad campaign is doing better.” But it’s not just your ad campaign, it’s that accumulation effect.
Scott: Yeah. And to bring it in, we talk about ad campaigns and it always makes a lot of our surgeons, a little queasy when they’re like, “Well, how much money am I making? What am I bringing in?” And you try to get down to an ROI perspective as best as you can.
But building trust and your brand, if you say that to a surgeon I could just see those eyes glaze over, “What do you mean?” And it’s like, “Well.” I always come back to, “Remember when you first started and you were sitting in the ER, waiting for that next trauma case to come in.” Or you were the person doing the Colles’ fracture, but frankly is probably below your training level to just fix a simple Colles’ fracture. I get it. Not everybody can fix a Colles’ fracture, but pretty much any orthopod can.
And I always go back to that and it’s like, “Well, why were you in the ER? Were you counting how many patients you were going to get based on the Colles’ fracture you repaired?” It’s like, “Of course not.” But you knew it was important to build trust in the community, to get your name out there, to get you known as a good person who does good work, who can be trusted to do more complex cases, not Colles’ fractures.
Scott: And I always go back to that. When I talk to my surgeons about brand identity, they always go, “Whatever.” And I’m, “No, it’s not whatever. It’s important for you to build trust.” And then I come back with, Michael, stuff like, “What are you always talking about?” Whether that’s with the primary care physicians, whether that’s with the patients themselves, your staff. It’s like, is that being repeated everywhere like you’re saying, Michael?
Scott: Because it’s basic stuff. It’s like, “I always tell my total hip patients X.” “Really? Because I don’t see it anywhere on your website. Where do you tell them this?”
Scott: “Well, when they come in.” I’m like, “Well, you know what you could do?”
P3 Pro Tip
Hey, everyone, it’s Michael here with your P3 Pro Tip for the week.
Do you speak the language of your patients? I’m not asking whether you can speak and understand foreign languages. Rather, this is a question of whether you can explain medical information in a way that patients can easily understand. If you use too much medical terminology and don’t break things down enough for your patients, they may not fully understand your recommendations and maybe less satisfied with their experience at your practice.
When we look at positive reviews for healthcare providers, one of the common threads we see is patients praising their doctors for helping them understand their treatment recommendations. Happy patients mean greater patient retention and more word-of-mouth referrals.
Look, if you’re just joining us, this is the Paradigm Shift of Healthcare. I’m Michael Roberts, joined here with Scott Zeitzer. And we’re talking about ways that you can coordinate all of your marketing efforts. And that has to do with your website, with your content, with your advertising campaigns, and even with speaking engagements. Really leaning into the thing that makes your practice unique really helps stress that differentiation.
I’m going to, all of these things that we’ve been talking about so far, this showing up everywhere kind of concept. I want to compare that to a subject matter that’s near and dear to my family’s heart, collective heart, the superhero film.
Scott: [crosstalk 00:12:54]. Yeah.
Michael: Movies are coming back into theaters as of this recording, we’re recording in September. And Marvel has had a couple of movies that have come out. Somewhat feeling confident to go back to the theater-
Scott: [crosstalk 00:13:07].
Michael: … somewhat not, just depending on the scenario. But regardless, Marvel is just pumping that advertising out there. But I want to compare like what we’re talking about. Disney’s pumping money into advertising on television, social media, digital channels, everywhere that you can get information, there’s an advertisement that’s popping up.
Michael: Right. So again, comparing that to the practice. You’re advertising on Google Ads, you’re advertising on Facebook. You may be advertising in local periodicals, that sort of thing. But there’s a certain point where Disney looks at all that advertising and it goes, “Okay, cool. I’ve checked that box off.” And then suddenly you start seeing the actors that are in the film everywhere.
Michael: They’re on every talk show. They’re on every health magazine. They’re on every YouTube video. They’re on Hot Ones eating hot wings and all that fun stuff. And it’s not just pumping money into these ads that does enough, they’re also really working on the personality of the actors, the manufactured personality of the actors if you will.
Michael: That persona that they’re putting out there. All of a sudden everywhere you look, these actors are there. This is the same kind of thing that physicians can do in a more targeted way. You don’t want to show up on the local news and you don’t have to show up at the library and show up at all of these kinds of things, but you can own a subject matter in your community. If you’re looking for the person that has this particular type of physical therapy, that has this type of procedure to help folks in this particular age category get more mobility back, physicians can achieve that same kind of presence.
And so again, when you start looking at how your advertising is going to work, how good your website’s going to be at converting patients, all of that kind of stuff, suddenly all of these things work more effectively. Again, this is why and how the cumulative effect comes together.
Scott: It does.
Michael: You’re talking about building trust in the community, and then you can look at layering on these other opportunities on top of that.
Scott: Yeah. It’s getting that message out and over-communicating that message because, Michael, you and I have … I’ve run a business since 1998, you’ve run the marketing department here for over a decade. And how many times would we both lamented the fact that, “Man, I thought I said-“
Scott: “… X and nobody’s getting that.” And you’re going, “Yeah, I didn’t repeat myself enough.” And how you get that across, I’ll say it over and over, to your staff so they can repeat that message. So, so critical. These are the kinds of things that just happen over time. And in some ways they, in the old days, it would just kind of happen, or haphazardly happened. And now you can come up with a focused way and we help a lot of practices with that.
There’s a friend of mine, Dr. Ira Kirschenbaum, an orthopedic surgeon, and he’ll be joining us soon for our hundredth episode. And he had once made a joke to me about when a shoulder specialist, a shoulder fellow, comes into a town for the first time there’s an outbreak of rotator cuff repair. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek kind of a joke. And it’s not that the shoulder specialist is causing rotator cuff repair obviously, it’s like, “Hey man, there’s finally somebody here to go do this and make my life better-“
Scott: “… by doing these particular types of procedures and there’s a specialist here to do that.” And that specialist is getting the word out that they exist, that they’re doing it this particular way, that this is another way to take care of that shoulder issue.
And it’s very similar to that. And you’re talking about, what is it that I do a little bit differently? There’s Dr. Andrew Wickline, who’s got a really, a very specific type of PT post surgery. And he’s got really great results with that PT. And one of the things we talked to Dr. Wickline about was, “You need to highlight that. That’s nowhere.” I remember when we first met him, “That’s nowhere on your site that you’re doing this.”
Scott: And then he’s like, “We stuck it there.” He’s like, “Okay, we’re done now, right?” And I’m like, “No. No, we’re not done. We have a lot of work to do.”
Michael: And it’s interesting, when you do start differentiating and when you do start leaning into that messaging more often, because then you have the potential to start expanding your reach.
Scott: You’re right.
Michael: You don’t just have to talk about the local market anymore. You can start looking at what does it look like to have people from out of town come over, because you are the person that does X-
Scott: X, yeah.
Michael: … whatever procedure that is. And so, if you think about the traveling patient, the person that’s going to go maybe into another state, that’s going to go across state, whatever that is, there are some inferences you can make about that patient. They necessarily have to be more selective. So if you’re not reinforcing your message every step of the way, if you’re not really making it look like, “This is going to work out and this is going to be worth your while.”
Scott: That’s right.
Michael: “This is going to be-“
Scott: “This is going to be worth my while to get in the car, get in a plane,” whatever. “Spend a significant portion of my day to go leave where I’m at, where there’s probably a surgeon or two, and come visit with you because you’re so expert.” Well, you better get that point across really well. And we’ve advised people, it’s like, “It’s not just about getting the point across that you do X, it’s also about …”
We set up medical tourism pages and we have very specific messages we put on that so that the patient feels more comfortable about that. By the way, that patient normally, if they’re doing all that driving and all that distance work, normally frankly, is a better payer than somebody who’s just, “Look, I don’t have …” “You got to have enough money to do travel.
Michael: Right, right.
Scott: I mean, there’s a lot of reasons why when I talk to a surgeon and I ask, “Is there something that you do that people would be willing to travel to see you do?” And sometimes the answer is, “No, not really. Standard orthopedic practice. I do X, Y, and Z and I really just want to focus on the area that I’m in.” Cool.
And there’s often times where someone says something along the lines of, “Well, most of my stuff but for,” whatever, “this particular procedure, yeah, I was trained by one of the best and I do it really well, if I don’t mind saying so myself. And I do it fairly often, but I wish I could do it more but I’m limited because the city or town I’m in only has so many of those style patients.”
Michael: Sure, sure.
Scott: Right. And we’ve helped a lot of people get that word-of-mouth. We always talk about how do you expand word-of-mouth? How do you expand your practice’s reach? Sometimes it’s just within the community, sometimes it’s outside of that community as well and there’s a lot of benefit to that. And there’s a subset of practices with which we work that, man, they feel pretty confident that they’re being found locally. They want to get the word out and pull people in remotely.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott: And that’s a big thing from our team.
Michael: And when you look at what the needs are when it comes to patient intake, for the patient that’s going to be traveling across state, that’s going to be going … It’s got to be a different ballgame at that point.
Michael: And you have to start thinking about how do you elevate your intake experience as a whole. Because wouldn’t it be great if you could just look and say, “Oh, this number’s from out of town. I’m going to be really nice to them and I’m going to take extra good care of them.”
Scott: Yeah. Not how it works, yes.
Michael: That’s not the way that practices should run. But giving enough care there, enough opportunity. If they left a voicemail, how many times does the front desk try to reach back out? Is it one time and then, “Well, I’m done.”
Scott: “I called them.”
Michael: “I did my part.” And I get it, there’s need for procedures. There’s need for all that kind of stuff and there’s a level at which you have to figure out how to best run the practice. But the advertising and all of that effort that you’re throwing into this part of the equation is just dropping off because the processes weren’t reflective of what you were trying to achieve.
Scott: Michael, how many times have you and I had a conversation where it’s not just about budgeting ad dollars, but budgeting time to train your staff up. Because if all you’re doing, the minimum is, “Hey, here’s my website. Here’s content on the website. Here’s the reputation marketing.” I’ll say it over and over, took the ABC’s. And then the next step normally is something like, “Let’s do an ad campaign. And that ad campaign will take them to that page where we wrote content about that particular procedure.” It’s fairly basic stuff, and you’d be surprised how many people don’t even do that.
But then moving past that, it’s like, “Hey, staff, I’m spending money on an ad campaign for jumping jacks.” Just to be silly, I always pick jumping jacks. “And did you guys know that I do jumping jacks?” “Oh yeah, doc. I know you do jumping jacks.” “Did you know that I was very well trained on it,?” And, man, I don’t know, go buy lunch.
Scott: Asking the staff, asking the office manager, “Hey, when people call at lunch, is anyone answering the phone?” You would be surprised how many practices basically answered, “No, we don’t answer. We’re at lunch.” And it’s like, “Well, we have two people answering the phone. You think maybe somebody could work from, I don’t know, until 11:30 and then answer the phones from 11:30 to 12:30 or something along those lines.” Whatever, man, split it up, and so that there’s at least one person answering the phone. Because you know when the patients call? When they’re at lunch.
Scott: And then now, Michael, we’re not even talking about that. Now we’re talking about somebody who’s got great insurance, is willing to drive, and they’re calling a practice. And they have no idea that this person is willing to drive, this person has more questions.
Scott: And all they know how to do when they answer the phone is, “Do you want two o’clock on Tuesday or three o’clock?”
Scott: Well, if you guys are wondering why you’re not getting as many patients as you could, and you’re doing this campaign not just locally but spread out, well, I can tell you why. You just lost that patient, and you can’t measure that.
Michael: Yeah. The term “opportunity costs” just keeps coming up over and over on this kind of stuff.
Scott: There you go, opportunity cost.
Michael: It’s like [crosstalk 00:23:06].
Michael: Yes. “I only got this many patients from the campaign,” but where were all the drop-off points where you could have been netting more? Because the campaign says that this many people were clicking or this many people were showing interest, but how does it actually lead into real action?
Look, there’s a couple of things I want to hit before we wrap up for the day. One thing being more, I guess, warning points around pursuing-
Scott: Go ahead. Go ahead, yeah.
Michael: … this kind of mentality, this sort of approach. It is easy to have too narrow a focus when it comes to differentiation. You want to be known for a procedure X but only 20 people in your market get it per year, or something along those lines. It’s finding that right balance between serving a big enough need and being known as the expert in that. And one of the ways that we in particular recommend, so let’s say that … I’m just going to use partial knee replacement as an example.
Michael: You may be the partial knee replacement expert, but let’s say that you talk about knee replacement as a whole because that’s got a broader range of interest from the local market. We can do keyword research.
Michael: We can look into how often people are searching and all that kind of stuff. Understanding how to walk people down that pathway to getting to the specialization.
Flip side of that, if you’re just trying to shotgun approach everything, and you’re talking about sports medicine and spine surgery and hip … If you spread out the net that far you’re going to lose it [crosstalk 00:24:39].
Scott: You’re going to fail. Yeah.
Michael: It’s just too diluted.
Scott: I couldn’t agree more on that.
Michael: The other thing that I’ll throw out there as a caveat and as a warning, is that this really has become a pay-to-play space. The days of just setting up a blog of just setting up these kinds of things, and not really investing in advertising that blog or in advertising these different things, a lot of that is going by the wayside.
Michael: There’s actually a guy named Rand Fishkin who does a lot of different writing about search engine optimization and just how things have changed. He wrote an article just recently called The Incentives to Publish no Longer Reward the Web’s Creators. And what he was arguing was that, man, it’s really hard to just write a blog and have it show up in Google. It’s really hard to write a blog post and advertise it and just post it to LinkedIn, to Twitter, to Facebook, because all of those networks now have algorithms that suppress outgoing links. Here are all these different ways that we used to use-
Scott: That won’t work.
Michael: … it’s a lot harder to succeed that way. All of these have moved to pay for access, pay for attention. And so aligning a message that will get you exactly the type of patient that you’re looking for and then investing in that message, these are the things that you have to consider to succeed in today’s space. Especially if you’re in a big market, especially if you’re in a big market.
Scott: Yeah, I’ll say that again, especially if you’re in a big market.
Scott: And guys, part of that budget, I just want to add that in because I harp on it so much, I’ll say it over and over and over, communicate it. If you’re going to do this, you got to train up your staff.
Michael: Absolutely, absolutely. So targeting, differentiating, and then setting up your staff to succeed. These are the things that we’ve had the chance to see people really succeed with this approach.
Scott: Oh, absolutely. No, no, no.
Michael: But we-
Scott: We’ve been there, we’ve done that, we’ve gotten it done. But please, that’s it, you’re right.
Michael: Please consider all these things.
Hey, next episode is episode 100 for us. We’ve been doing this for quite some time now, and we’ll have Dr. Kirschenbaum come on so we’re looking forward to that. Everybody have a great week. Thanks so much.
Announcer: Thanks again for tuning into the Paradigm Shift of Healthcare. This program is brought to you by Health Connective, custom marketing solutions for MedTech and pharma. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.