Tips and Tactics: Crafting an Effective ENT Marketing Plan
How fine-tuning some simple marketing basics could make a world of difference for your ENT practice
Your ENT practice operates as a business, and identifying potential areas of growth to expand that business and help you treat more patients can be critical for continued success. When was the last time you evaluated your business goals and objectives? Have you worked on crafting an ENT marketing plan? If you have, when was the last time you evaluated it?
The only constant is change, and the same rings true when it comes to the world of healthcare marketing for your ENT practice. In this post, I’ll review marketing basics that may help drive new business and take your practice to the next level.
Evaluate your goals and availability of resources.
The first step in determining your medical marketing plan is evaluating your goals and mapping out resources—time and money—before plunging into marketing tactics full force. Time is perhaps your most precious resource, and most of it is probably spent seeing patients and managing your practice. You need to be realistic about your level of involvement. When it comes to goals, you’ll want to focus on what it is you hope to achieve.
- Do you want to grow your patient base with new patients?
- Do you want to increase the revenue per patient?
- Are you considering adding office locations and evaluating the need in a specific geographic area?
- Have your priorities shifted since you opened your practice?
- Do you want to enhance your current online presence?
- Do you want to focus on educating both current and potential patients on common ENT diagnoses and treatments?
- Do you want to strengthen your referral network with other healthcare professionals?
Perhaps your goals are a hybrid of all of the above and more. Your goals will likely change over time and that’s to be expected. A key to successful goals is making sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, or S.M.A.R.T.
Determine if the marketing duties can be shared among your current staff. You may want to hire a dedicated team member for your practice’s marketing initiatives or consider outsourcing to an agency that specializes in healthcare marketing.
While some marketing channels are essentially free, such as social media and local business listings, most often have a paid component plus you’ll need to budget for the staff who will be managing your ENT marketing efforts. I highly recommend having your budget in mind before you start building out your ENT marketing plan.
Understand your current patient base and how they first found your otolaryngology practice.
Through formally and informally polling patients, you can find out how they initially discovered your practice. It may be a good question to add to your new patient intake forms as well to understand the impact of your ENT marketing efforts. Perhaps they found your practice through:
- A physician referral
- Personal referrals
- Online search
- A magazine ad
- Direct mail
- Social media
- Insurance website
- Or another source or medium
If you know where your current patients first found you as an otolaryngologist in the area, chances are there are others using the same method to find a physician, and those may be the outlets to focus resources on. Polling your current and future employees can help guide your medical marketing plan, too.
Understanding the demographics of the city in which your practice is located can help as well. If your practice is situated in a college town, as opposed to an area with a high percentage of assisted living facilities or single-family homes, this may impact which healthcare marketing tactics will prove most effective.
Set up and optimize your ENT website.
With the prevalence of digital media and the age of the smartphone, having a robust website for your ENT practice can be key.
With 68 percent of consumers—potential patients—starting their research on the health industry via their mobile devices, there’s even more reason to invest in your digital footprint.
On your website, you may want to include information such as:
- The full range of medical services offered at your practice
- Educational materials on common ailments and treatments (We’ll talk about the value of an ENT blog later on.)
- Correct contact information including address, phone number and email for your location(s)
- Hours of operation, including breaks for lunch
- Links to social media profiles (More on that topic to come!)
- Answers to frequently asked questions,such as:
- What insurance carriers and plans are accepted?
- What are the differences among a doctor, physician assistant, registered nurse and other medical staff you may have?
- What are the estimated costs of common procedures?
- What should I expect on my initial visit?
- Can I fill out any of my paperwork ahead of time?
- What should I bring to my appointment?
- How can I schedule or change an appointment?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- Who do I contact if I have billing questions?
- How do I request a prescription refill?
- Provider and staff photos with bios
- Photos of community involvement and sponsorships
- Patient testimonials (adhering to HIPPA regulations, of course)
Did you know that in 2018, on average, 58% of website visitors are from mobile devices vs desktops according to an article from Stone Temple by Eric Enge. You want to make sure your website loads quickly and is mobile optimized. These are critical elements to ranking well in the search engines and helping for a proper user experience.
Your website is often your first digital impression and can influence a patient to call (or not call) your office. It paints a picture of who you are as a physician and a practice. It is essentially the brand and image you want to convey. A website should be continually updated, and an ENT blog serves as the ideal place to keep it fresh and relevant. I’ll dive into a bit more on that later in this post.
Create social media profiles and craft engaging content.
I alluded to it in the previous section, but I think it’s important to expand on the influence social media holds in healthcare and with today’s patients.
Case in point: you could be missing a large population of individuals if you and your practice forgo a social media presence. With all the platforms available—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram, among others—you don’t need to have accounts on all social platforms to have a strong presence, I would actually suggest against that. You want to have a strong presence on one or two, and do them well.
While creating accounts doesn’t come with a charge, it takes time to cultivate and post content, and there are paid advertising options, too. Almost nothing is worse than a profile with outdated content. It can send the wrong digital impression about you and your practice. You want to make sure you can properly manage the profiles you do have while posting relevant and engaging content. Types of social media content could include:
- Profiles of your staff
- New allergy treatments and findings
- Tips to battle allergy season at home
- Photos from events you are involved in—this could range from sponsoring the community baseball team to presenting at an ENT conference
- Patient reviews
I would encourage you to allocate a small budget (anywhere from $100-500/month) to spend on Facebook advertising. With detailed targeting options available, it can help raise awareness of your practice to the community in which you live and work.
Invest in local search engine optimization (SEO).
First, let’s define what local SEO is. According to Moz.com:
Local SEO is all about increasing search visibility for businesses that serve their communities face-to-face. These can be brick-and-mortar businesses with physical locations, like a grocery store or dentist’s office, or service-area businesses that operate throughout a certain geographic area, like an electrician or house cleaning company. This includes everything from claiming a business listing to ensuring a franchise location appears in a local search on Google (a process known as location data or citation management). It also extends to managing online ratings and reviews, local-centric social media engagement, and beyond.
To properly set up and optimize a social medial profile takes time and effort. Agencies and services specialize in this arena of marketing and could prove to be a wise investment.
When people search for “local otolaryngologist” or “ ENT physician near me,” among other related searches, ideally your practice and all the pertinent contact details, including your website and social media accounts, should populate at the top of the search results. This is how local SEO can work to your advantage.
This includes online reviews from patients as well. According to a Software Advice survey, 94 percent of patients who responded to its survey use online reviews to evaluate physicians.
You can employ patient survey technology in your practice to help gather feedback—both publicly and privately—which can help turn patients into your best marketing tools through positive word of mouth, both on and offline.
Be sure to read, understand, empathize with and reply to customer reviews on Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp and others.
Start blogging on your ENT practice’s website.
In short, according to Dictionary.com a blog is: A website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions,etc., and often having images and links to other websites.
This is the place on your website where you can craft content on topics ranging from some of the top reasons you see patients, like allergic rhinitis, at-home remedies for allergy season and even highlights from the academy you presented at.
Other types of blog content could highlight your specific services, the story of how you became an otolaryngologist, staff profiles and your philanthropic involvement. There shouldn’t be a shortage of ENT-related topics to blog about.
You may work to optimize your blog for SEO by including topics and key phrases commonly searched by patients. This can be a critical tactic to have your website populate at the top of search results. Plus, using your ENT blog content for social media posts can be a great way to cross-pollinate and repurpose quality information with a bit less effort.
Utilize the right ENT software technology in your otolaryngology practice.
You may wonder where ENT software such as an electronic health record (EHR) and practice management system fit into the healthcare marketing mix.
By using an EHR that captures structured patient data, along with an integrated practice management system and analytics platform, you’ll be able to really dive into types of patients you see, where they live, referring physicians and more.
All of this can aid in providing more personalized care, along with helping you craft your marketing messages to send pertinent information to the right patient. It can also make your practice cutting edge.
According to a Black Book survey, it was found that over 12,000 patients found that the more technology the physician is perceived as using to manage the patient’s healthcare, the higher the trust level patients have in their provider.
You can set yourself apart from the competition by setting a strategic ENT marketing plan in place while pairing it with a technology-forward practice. The two can go hand in hand.
You can use technology, including the digital marketing realm, to help market your practice and grow your patient base. While it may seem overwhelming at first, tackle one task at a time and employ the right people, whether that’s a new staff member or agency, to help guide you and execute on important healthcare marketing tactics.
Don’t underestimate the role that your ENT software can play in making and marketing your practice as cutting edge while also helping to better serve your patients.