In this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to run a successful business without using some form of digital marketing. And yet, as of 2017 nearly a third of small business owners admit to not having a company website. If you’re shocked by that statistic, it’s for good reason. With more and more people turning to the web to find providers and medical advice, rehab therapy practices can’t afford not to hop on the digital marketing bandwagon. But if you don’t do your research first, you could commit a digital marketing faux pas that tarnishes your practice’s brand—and hurts your bottom line. To that end, here are six therapy marketing mistakes you’ll want to avoid as well as strategies for doing so:
1. You’re not on enough—or any—digital platforms.
If a significant portion of a clinic’s business is based on referrals, having a company website may seem like a waste of financial resources. But chances are, many of your patients and referral sources are stalking you online. That can be a good thing—if you have a strong web presence. But if you’re MIA on the Internet, then your schedule likely isn’t as full as it could be.
Now, you may be thinking, “Most of my patients are post-retirement age. Wouldn’t print media be more effective?” It may surprise you, but according to this Pew Research study, 67% of Americans over the age of 65 say they use the Internet. According to WebPT’s Brooke Andrus, “These days it’s pretty much business suicide to rely solely on outbound forms of marketing like ads and direct mail. Plus, in addition to being more cost-effective than traditional methods, inbound, content-based campaigns allow you to more genuinely showcase your expertise and value.”
The same Pew study also found that 34% of adults 65 and older are on social media, and that number is continuing to rise. As more tech-savvy Boomers reach retirement age, social media becomes an increasingly opportune way to stay connected with all patients—regardless of their age. That being said, your practice’s social media page shouldn’t be your only form of online presence.
2. You use social media as a replacement for a website.
As I mentioned above, the number of small businesses that don’t have a company website is pretty mindblowing. This could be because many of those businesses are hesitant to shell out a lot of money for marketing their brand, opting for a free social media page instead of a homepage. It’s an understandable line of thought, but when it comes to marketing your practice online, your website is its bread and butter.
Don’t get me wrong—social media for businesses is the bee's knees, the cat’s pajamas, if you will. And it’s an awfully powerful marketing tool, especially for a free one. But it shouldn’t be your only marketing tool. According to this Forbes article, “All your social media efforts should ultimately drive people back to your website. Social media is great to attract new prospects and as a channel to engage with existing prospects, but it’s no replacement for your own website.”
Own your marketing content.
Why is using social media alone so problematic? For starters, a clean, polished website sends a message to patients and providers that you’re a professional who’s serious about your business. Not only that, but social media offers little in the way of control. You don’t own your content—the social media site does. And because it’s an open forum, you can’t always control what people post to your page. If your practice is small, you might not have the manpower necessary to constantly monitor what’s being said on your social media site. Also, websites can offer better tracking capabilities, so you know who’s visiting your site, what they’re searching for when they visit, and which pages they’re looking at most.
3. You’re not engaging with clients online.
Again, social media is changing the way therapy practices interact with their patients. Posting to Facebook or Instagram can help you stay connected to past patients, retain current patients, and attract future ones. But most people aren’t going to strike up a conversation with you if they don’t have a reason to—or, worse, if they think they’ll be ignored. That’s why it’s important to post on a regular basis. And, if your patients are taking a moment to leave a comment or ask a question, then you should also take a moment to respond.
But social media isn’t the only digital avenue where you can engage with patients. These days, many businesses distribute a monthly newsletter to keep patients in the loop. Don’t have time to devote to writing a whole newsletter? Even something as simple as sending your patients a “happy birthday” email on their special day can be pretty darn effective, and it provides a great opportunity to promote any wellness services by offering a special birthday discount.
If you’re having trouble connecting with patients online, hosting drawings and raffles is a fantastic way to increase patient engagement. For example, when a patient subscribes to your monthly newsletter, you could automatically enter that patient into a prize drawing. Then, announce the winner(s) in the next newsletter. You could do something similar on social media—perhaps more effectively—by asking patients to comment on a Facebook post to enter a contest for a small prize. This will increase traffic on your social media posts, and your future posts will appear more often on the timelines of those who comment.
4. You don’t pay attention to online reviews.
If there’s one thing everyone does on the Internet, it’s talk—a lot. And not to make you self-conscious, but if you own a rehab therapy practice, people are almost certainly talking about you. The fact is, even if you’re not concerned with what people say about you online, potential patients certainly are. Even a sprinkling of bad reviews in a vast ocean of good ones can be enough to scare off new business, and it’s even worse if those bad reviews go unaddressed.
Keep your cool.
But there’s a right way and wrong way to respond to these reviews. Reading negative feedback about yourself can cut deep, and for some, their first instinct is to go on the defensive. But it’s crucial to remain absolutely professional in these situations, especially if the reviewer fails to do so. On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t forget to reward and be gracious for sparkling reviews. You may be an incredible provider, but clients are more likely to write a review if they’ve had a negative experience versus a positive one. So, when a person takes time out of his or her day to rave about you on the Internet, it’s kind of a big deal.
Additionally, if your Yelp or Healthgrades pages are starting to collect dust, there’s nothing wrong with asking patients to leave reviews. Some clinics even offer small incentives for patients to leave a review as a way to say “thanks.” If you decide to take this approach, it’s important to stress to patients that receiving the incentive isn’t contingent on how many stars they leave you. Although let’s be honest, if they’re in your office, they’re probably not unhappy with the service.
5. You—or your employees—are careless with activity on social media.
This one's a biggie—and while I’m not referring to the rapper, being careless about what you post on social media can definitely make you “notorious.” Your personal profiles are never really personal. Even if your friends list is made up of a few buddies, family members, and colleagues, we live in an age of screenshots and media leaks, and you can’t always control who sees what. This is especially important on sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, where anyone who connects with you can see every post you “like.”
Mind your brand.
It’s great to be yourself on social media. Just remember: when you own a business that caters to a wide demographic, you’re not just representing yourself. You’re representing your brand. So, before your publish your next post or photo, be sure it aligns with your practice’s image.
6. You have an unfocused campaign goal.
When it comes to digital marketing, if you don’t have an end game—or you’re lacking a concise strategy to reach it—you can waste a lot of dollars. As this article from digital marketers VivosWeb states, “When creating a digital campaign on social media or search engines, it’s imperative that you know what you want to get out of these ads. Do you want to increase clicks to your website? Reach a sales goal? Better your Google ranking? Increase email list sign-ups? Each unique goal requires a different campaign strategy.”
If your strategy doesn’t pull in 20 new patients overnight, don’t fret. For social media in particular, there’s an outdated belief that marketing through it will yield instant results. The fact is social media is all about the build up, particularly when you’re trying to cultivate a specific brand. So, avoid the trap of constantly switching up campaigns just because they don’t provide instant gratification.
For many providers and practice owners, the world of digital marketing is uncharted waters fraught with opportunity for potential blunders. But you don’t have to be an advertising wunderkind to avoid these pitfalls and reap the benefits of marketing on the web. With the right strategy and a little persistence, your practice will flourish—a fact that will be clear to anyone who Googles you.