Vein practices across the country have become increasingly aware of the power of online marketing as a means to help grow their patient volumes. Recent market research studies conducted with hundreds of vein treatment clinics (members of the American College of Phlebology (ACP)) have shown that online marketing drives referrals at half the cost of traditional media (print, television, radio). As we approach the annual ACP conference this year (in Ft. Lauderdale, FL), here are a few things every vein practice considering online marketing should know:
1) A website is not an online marketing strategy
Long gone are the days when simply putting up a website is enough to garner a significant amount of online activity. 'If you build it, they will come...' may have worked 3-5 years ago, but not anymore. However beautiful and functional your website might be (and regardless of how much time and money was spent to construct it), without actually taking steps to promote it, you will have limited activity on the site beyond your employees and existing patients.
2)SEO only leaves 70% of leads for others
Optimizing your website to gain increased organic rankings (a process called search engine optimization or SEO) is one popular technique on which many internet firms focus exclusively. While effective for larger businesses that have a national (or international) footprint, the value of SEO is somewhat less for those with a localized presence and limited budget. In fact, a recent MD Connect study comparing SEO vs. PPC (paid search) techniques for vein practices showed that even when one achieved virtually perfect SEO in a geographic market (top 3 rankings across a broad swath of localized, converting keywords), only 29% of the available referrals came from SEO/organic vs. 71% from PPC/paid. An 'optimized' medical website is not (enough of) an online marketing strategy.
3) Beware the popularity contest
There are hundreds of online media, strategies and techniques out there (and even more firms promoting them), but the harsh reality is that most of them (when actually tested) are not cost effective at driving new patient leads. Social media (Facebook, Twitter) is omnipresent in the business press and popular media, but has been significantly less popular in circles of professionals tasked with driving actual business results. As a firm that has extensive experience with Facebook advertising, I can assure you that its ROI is decidedly less than straight search. SEO is very popular and commonly touted as driving 'free' visitors and referrals, but these arguments often neglect the real costs of the ongoing time and effort needed to implement truly effective SEO strategies (like blogs, linking, content updates) and also the limited potential of SEO in reality.
4) Don't accept worthless metrics
It's amazing to me how many online agencies focus on interim measures like visitors, rankings, or impressions as their measures of success (and how that is accepted by many of their clients and prospects). While these measures may sound useful, they can often be misleading (it is easier than many think to drive large volumes of (low quality) visitors or achieve rankings for what sounds like a useful keyword (but may have limited actual search volume)). It is easier than ever to measure (and thus focus on) the actual patient contacts driven to your practice by a particular marketing program (both via internet/e-mail and phone), especially with an online program. You shouldn't accept anything less.
5) Medical (vein) marketing experience and expertise matters
I think most people would agree with this statement. What may surprise most is the extent to which experience and expertise in online marketing for vein clinics matters. It's not just a 5-10% difference in performance. It can easily be an order of magnitude in performance. We've taken over for other online agencies and driven improvements as much as 3X (our case studies prove it).
You want to make sure whomever you work with is familiar with medical, has worked with a number of other vein clinics, has deep experience in online marketing (not just website development) and has produced tangible results (and positive ROI) for these vein centers. It's no different than medicine where you're better off consulting a specialist (e.g. phlebologist). MD Connect has over 7 years' experience in phlebology and we have run online marketing programs for over 100 vein clinics. We've learned a lot of lessons along the way.
For those of you coming to the ACP in Florida, please do visit us at Booth #109 or visit our website if you would like to learn more.