Since the COVID-19 pandemic has swept our country, many practices have, understandably, sought out ways to cut back on their budgets. Often, marketing is one of the first things to be cut from the budget because it is not essential to the daily operations of the practice.
As a marketing company, we could of course make a case for keeping all forms of marketing all the time. With that said, we also understand that practices may have less budget to work with these days, and they need to make the best of it. However, we do urge practices to be strategic about which aspects of marketing to stop vs. which ones to continue. Some marketing channels can be turned on and off with little consequence, while others can affect your search engine ranking down the road if you halt them completely.
Reputation marketing is one of those services that we would recommend a practice continue if at all possible. Here’s why.
How Does Reputation Marketing Help Your Practice?
Reputation marketing helps your practice collect and post reviews from patients. Online review sites have become increasingly prominent in search results for medical practices, and patients are frequently consulting these sites when searching for a new doctor or specialist.
With online reviews, it’s important to not only have a high average rating, but also have a high volume of reviews. Think about when you shop for an item on Amazon or book a hotel online: are you going to trust the one with 5 stars, but only 10 reviews, or the one with 4.8 stars that has hundreds of reviews. The amount of reviews builds trust just as much as the overall rating.
Reputation marketing can also have an impact on your practice’s search engine rankings. Practices who have a high volume of reviews and regularly have new reviews coming in may rank more often in map results, and your review profiles on third-party review sites may rank higher also.
What Might Happen If You Stop Reputation Marketing?
The key to success with reputation marketing is keeping up a steady flow of new reviews. We often talk to practices who think they should discontinue their reputation marketing services after they’ve hit a high volume of reviews with a positive average rating. However, it is important to remember that reviews are dated, and the timing of the reviews plays a factor not only in your search ranking, but also in how patients make their decisions.
A high volume of positive reviews can help your practice rank well, but it is important to remember that search engines are constantly seeking new content. If a competitor continues or starts reputation marketing after you’ve stopped, they could eventually outrank you because their reviews are more recent. This won’t be an overnight change, but the longer you go without collecting new reviews, the greater your risk of losing any ranking you may have built up.
Cutting off your flow of reviews could also affect how patients perceive your practice. If your practice has a ton of great reviews, but nothing new in the last 6 months to a year-plus, they may wonder what happened. Did something change about your practice that made patients stop leaving positive reviews? Even if no negative reviews come in after you’ve stopped reputation marketing, if you go several months without a new review, patients may wonder if all of your previous positive reviews are no longer indicative of the current experience at your practice.
How Can You Save Marketing Dollars in Other Areas?
If your practice needs to cut back on your marketing budget, we would strongly suggest that you look at other areas rather than reputation marketing. If possible, look at cutting services that can be easily turned on/off with little consequence, or marketing efforts that can be handled internally. Whenever possible, try to keep marketing services that help to build up your organic search engine ranking, as this aspect of online marketing requires the most effort to keep up and also has the most long-lasting effects.
Paid search, social media advertising, and print ads are great examples of marketing services that you could cut back on with minimal effect to your online presence. Paid advertising, especially online, is more about instant results–it only works while you are paying for it. Likewise, it also can be turned back on very quickly and can start getting results very quickly when you have more budget available. While we’ve seen practices have a lot of success with online ads recently, reputation marketing may be more valuable to your practice long-term. Advertising can also get very expensive depending on your market and competition, so sometimes reputation marketing is the lower-cost option.
Other things to look at cutting back on might include certain outsourced work, like posting content on your website or social media, if you have an agency do that work on your behalf. If your website is built on a content management system, your staff may be able to learn how to make updates themselves. Social media posting could also be handled internally to save money.
If you absolutely must cut back on reputation marketing, there are some ways that you can be more strategic about it. For example, if your practice has multiple physicians, perhaps you can keep reputation marketing only for the physicians that “need” it the most. This might include doctors with the least reviews and/or low averages, or new doctors who are not as well-established online. If you have one of the higher-tier plans, you can try scaling back to a smaller plan for a bit.
We understand that with the current state of things, practices are having to make tough decisions on how and where to spend money. Our goal amid all of this is to advise practices on the most worthwhile ways to spend their marketing dollars. If you have any questions or are seeking marketing strategy advice, our team is here to help!