If Don Draper strolled into today’s marketing firms, he’d need a smoke and an old fashioned, fast—well, faster than normal. Why? The computers! All the computers! And not just the devices themselves, but the marketing wizardry behind them. I’m talking about digital marketing. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I’m not an ad-man like Don Draper. What do I need to know about digital marketing?” And to that I say, while you don’t need to be as knowledgeable about digital marketing as ol’ Draper is about the Kodak Carousel, as a small business owner, you do need to know a thing or two. So, grab the bourbon—or a glass of iced tea—and let’s get down to brass tacks.

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What is digital marketing?

Simply put, digital marketing is everything that Don Draper would know nothing about. It does not include the traditional marketing channels from the ad-man glory days—like radio, TV, billboards, and print. Instead, it’s pay-per-click and banner advertising, search engine optimization, email and text messaging, blogging, podcasting, website development, social media, mobile—the list goes on and on. Essentially, it’s marketing born out of the Internet and conducted online, and because of that, it offers instant feedback in the form of data.

Why should you care?

As Heidi Jannenga made pretty clear in this month’s founder letter, modern consumers are doing everything online, including making healthcare decisions. If you’re not online—and if you’re not marketing to those prospective patients online—then you’re missing out on business, big time. No small business owner can afford that. Even if you’re a physical therapy clinic that receives almost all its patients from physician referrals, you’re still missing out. Why? Because there are people out there in need of PT, and they’re searching for providers online. And with some form of direct access existing in all 50 states, why shouldn’t it be your practice that benefits from their Googling?

So, what’s the plan?

Okay, you know what digital marketing is and why you should care about it. Now, you need a strategy:

  1. Ensure you have a marketing plan that accounts for digital opportunities. Need some pointers on how to make one? Check out this blog. Oh, and plans call for budgets, so make sure you have a marketing budget, too—and that, again, it accounts for digital. Here’s an article that explains how to make one.
  2. Create a website if you don’t have one now, and start blogging so your site always features fresh content. Already have a website and blog? Excellent. In that case, I challenge you to guest blog.
  3. Understand that you don’t need to do everything. I know I just told you to make a website and start blogging, but that’s just the tip of the rocks glass. Don’t feel like you have to order every drink on the menu right off the bat. Not every digital marketing initiative—and there are a lot of them—is right for you. Within your marketing plan, outline specific marketing objectives and choose digital initiatives that best align with your goals and budget. This super sweet chart from Moz breaks down dozens of digital options by cost, time involvement, and support requirements (i.e., whether you’ll be able to do them yourself or will need guidance, software, or technical help).
  4. Get your keywords and NAP on lock, get listed on local directories, and make sure you have social media profiles set up. For instructions on all of that, check out this article.
  5. Monitor and track. As I said above, digital marketing gives you instant feedback in the form of data. Gone are the Mad Men days of assuming all sales stem from the efforts of an ad agency. With digital marketing, you can see exactly what’s working and what isn’t. Take advantage of that. I recommend the Small Business Guide to Google Analytics.

Now that I’ve whet your appetite for digital marketing (and a classic old fashioned), it’s time to put your learnings to practice. Don Draper might’ve been a creative genius, but nowadays, he’s a man behind the times. Not you, though; you’re a clinician, and soon you’ll be a digital marketing technician. That’s a combination that could certainly Madison with the mightiest of Mad Men.

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