Building up a successful practice requires spending money on marketing. How much you spend, and on what, will likely change over time, especially as social media and marketing technology (aka MarTech) evolve. A marketing mistake, then, isn’t so much a failure as an opportunity to refine your strategy and double down on what works.
Of course, you can learn from other practices’ slip-ups as well as your own. We asked five providers to share their biggest marketing mistakes. Here’s what they said.
Bioidentical hormone doctor, Phoenix and Chicago
Biggest mistake: Going it alone
I thought I knew more about marketing than I actually do. I thought if I built a web page, got someone to do a little SEO for me, stayed active in social media and posted a few ads in local health-related magazines, I would be set. I soon found out that the world of Google and marketing is more complex and dynamic than I could understand. It is difficult to know which aspects of a marketing strategy are working for you and how cost-effective they are. When the results of a marketing campaign change, it’s very difficult to figure out why and how to fix it. My advice is to get help from someone who knows what they’re doing.
Emergency physician, Tampa Bay, Florida
Biggest mistake: Spending on traditional forms of marketing
The biggest mistake I made when marketing my practice was using traditional forms of advertising. We were spending about $4,000 a month on billboards, print ads and radio.
There was no traffic after three months. We foolishly kept at it because we were told by our marketing company that three months wasn’t enough time to judge the ROI [return on investment]. In retrospect, we should have canceled after the initial three months. Compare that to digital marketing, where you can set your monthly budget and tweak it from there. We’ve seen more traffic with a Google ad budget of $250 a month over the last several months than we did with traditional marketing.
Plastic surgeon, Detroit
Biggest mistake: Betting on Facebook
For a while, I was spending upwards of $500 a month on Facebook ads to grow my reach. I have 70,000 followers now, in part because we advertised to local people so they could see our posts. For years, my surgery videos would get as many as 10,000 people watching — without my needing to spend additional money. But then the rules changed, so now I’m lucky if 1,000 people see a video I post. That audience I grew is no longer accessible to me without me paying more to Facebook. All that money I spent to grow my audience was for naught. I hitched my cart to the wrong horse.
On social media, the rules can change, and the changes aren’t necessarily good if you’ve invested in a particular platform. My advice is to make sure you diversify or watch your campaigns very closely so you can benefit immediately when you have followers. If you’re putting money into something, you want to see some immediate return. Otherwise, the site could go the way of Friendster or MySpace.
Hair restoration surgeon, Atlanta
Biggest mistake: Publishing without a strategy
I wish I had started with a strong content strategy for our website earlier. Having one has improved our search engine rankings, informed our social media choices and encouraged our website visitors to book consultations.
Emergency physician, Los Angeles
Biggest mistake: Not tracking campaign success
I didn’t have an attribution system in place initially to understand how a specific marketing initiative was connected to actual patient encounters. Unlike online businesses, where customer purchases can often be tied to a specific marketing effort, like an online ad, many patients may not initially recall how they encountered my practice in the first place. Implementing referral source data collection at the time of the patient’s registration and asking questions like “How did you hear about us?” can help to some extent. While we have improved our attribution processes over time, it can still be challenging to connect any online searching or activity with an actual patient encounter in the practice.
Responses have been lightly edited.