Just a few decades ago, it was almost unheard of for doctors to advertise. Sure, some may have taken out an ad in a local paper, but for many, it still seemed almost uncouth. Doctors built their practices on their reputations and credentials, and that was enough to grow a robust patient base, boosted further by word of mouth and a strong referral network.
Today, what your CV, patients, and peers say is still important. However, in cities where competition is steep, and choices are overwhelming, your talents and skills can get lost in the noise if you don’t let people know about them. That’s where digital advertising can be an effective strategy for building your medical practice.
What are the best digital advertising solutions for medical practices?
While there are many options for digital advertising on the web, their effectiveness can vary based on industry and target audience. Here, we’ve highlighted the three best solutions for local medical practices, how they work, and the business objectives for which they’re used.
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Build awareness with Facebook Ads
Advertising for awareness is a common tactic on most social media sites. The most popular is Facebook, which hit 2 billion monthly users this summer. Above other social media platforms, Facebook makes the most sense for medical practices looking to build awareness, since people generally use the site to share recommendations and interests with family and friends.
With Facebook Ads, you can tailor an audience you’d like to see your ads based not only on the user’s location but also demographic data and potential interests. “Instead of appearing in front of searchers specifically looking for a sports medicine specialist at that moment in time (we’ll get to that later), you could set up your ad so it appears in the feeds of, say, marathon runners, soccer league members, and other sports enthusiasts of a certain age within a geographic target,” explains Alka Du Mont, account manager at Hanapin Marketing, a digital advertising consulting agency. “Think about the times you’re online not searching for things, but simply taking information in for future use,” she says. “Then, when a person is ready to search, and your ad comes up, your practice will seem familiar because he or she has seen it before.” One caveat before you starting to build Facebook Ads for your practice – a dedicated resource may be necessary to monitor trends and make tweaks to optimize for best results.
Surface yourself in evaluation searches with Google AdWords
Albeit expensive, there’s a reason why many medical practices advertise with Google: it has 81 percent of the search engine market share (and growing). With Google AdWords, you bid for your advertisement to appear when certain searches are entered in areas most relevant to your practice. The reason it becomes expensive, however, is because the more popular the term, such as “pediatrician in NYC,” the more practices are willing to bid. Because of this, smaller practices are often quickly priced out.
The best way for medical practices to think about using AdWords is to increase visibility when a patient is in their evaluation stage, which means the patient performing these searches is still gathering more information, but probably not yet ready to book an appointment. Another factor that complicates this tactic is that popular searches are generic and it can be difficult to understand the searcher’s intent.
For example, you can bid on searches made in zip codes near your practice that contain the word “doctor,” but if someone in your area searches “doctor 90210,” your ad could be shown when someone is actually just searching for more information about a television show. Because of this, like Facebook Ads, Google AdWords is most effective with dedicated time and attention to monitor performance and make adjustments.
Stand out to patients ready to book with Sponsored Results
While marketing and advertising are important in the awareness and evaluation stages to help patients get used to your practice and brand, it’s also important to advertise when patients are actually ready to book appointments. For this, it’s most effective to advertise on sites patients already use to book appointments with doctors, such as Zocdoc.
Zocdoc’s Sponsored Results advertisements show your profile above the rest of the search results, making you the first doctor a patient sees when they have the strongest intent to book an appointment. But what’s particularly powerful, is that you can target for visit reason, specialty, insurance, and location, so your ad is only showing to patients who are eligible to actually book with your practice. Over 96% of patients who book through Sponsored Results are new patients, so this tactic is especially effective if you’re looking to attract new business.
Unlike Facebook Ads and Google AdWords, Sponsored Results does not require a full-time resource to be effective. The advertising product was thoughtfully built for doctors and office managers, who are doing marketing and advertising in addition to full-time providing medical or administrative care for patients. Setup is easy, and occasional monitoring is all you need to make sure it’s working for your practice.
The best thing about digital advertising is that you can tell if what’s working and what’s not working. And—unlike a bum billboard ad— you’re not stuck with it. For medical practices looking to improve reach to new patients, consider the options above for the best results.