The secrets to marketing your practice are hiding in plain sight but are you really using them effectively? This author emphasizes the importance of consistent online content updates, marketing in a comprehensive manner and building referrals from your current patients. There is no secret to marketing your podiatry practice. People may think marketing means there is a purple pill they can take, that there is one thing they can do that will solve all their problems. This simply does not exist in spite of all the emails we are all receiving daily telling us that someone “has the guaranteed answers to getting you on page one of Google by spending hardly any money.” The truth is that marketing, like everything else in life, is a process that requires time, tools and people to make it work. It can be tedious and it can be fun, just like everything else. Great marketing is a comprehensive, sometimes complex approach to letting your market come to the conclusion that you are the best choice in solving its problems. The paradox is that “Secrets to Marketing Your Practice” do exist but they are not really secrets. They are hiding in plain sight. Most doctors reading this article will say, “I already know that” to much of what I am going to tell you but here is a secret: you might know it but you do not do it. That makes all the difference between those podiatry practices that I see surging forward and growing the practices they want, and those practices that are convinced that the next five years are just going to get worse and worse.
Secret Number One: Do Not Underestimate The Importance Of Consistent Content Additions To Your Web PresenceMost podiatrists are woefully underutilizing the Internet to build their practice without realizing it. Most podiatrists have a website and even have some social media platforms set up for their practice. However, that is simply not enough. Let me give you an analogy. When I bought a big Lexus LS460, I was very happy with it. I am a big guy and it is a big car. As I drove it off the showroom floor, it was gleaming. I drove it for about 400 miles and it suddenly lurched, bucked and stopped right in its tracks. I got out and kicked it, and said, “This car is a piece of junk and it does not work.” I am sure this has also happened to you, right? Of course not. It did not happen to me either because I, just like you, are well aware of a sophisticated network of places all over North America called gas stations. Long before my car stopped working, I went to the gas station and filled up my tank. I have done it many, many times since then and my big, beautiful car is still taking me anywhere I need to go in style. Your website and your social media platforms are exactly like your car. They need gas if they are going to do anything for you and that gas is content. Period. More than one company has most likely told you recently that they are search engine optimization (SEO) experts, which is the new snake oil being sold on the Internet. Doctors are especially good targets because they have some money and no way to judge any of this. Many doctors are spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars each month for what amounts to nothing. Worse, these companies are using “tricks” to try to fool Google into putting you at the top of the searches and in most cases, these tricks will seriously damage your Internet SEO reputation and ruin your ability to market online. If the company uses phrases like “guaranteed” or “Google Certified” or “$299 gets you on page one with no work,” you should run the other way. There is no such thing as Google Certified. Guaranteeing results before knowing anything about the health of your current Web properties is something no reputable companies would ever do. Caveat emptor is the rule when sorting out who is going to work with you online. It is essential to have multiple references from doctors just like you with great results. Do your homework and save yourself enormous frustration. Let us get back to the similarities between your Web site and your car. Your car needs gas and so does your Web site. Gas, in this case, is content. So what constitutes viable online content? • Articles that are 500 to 700 words in length added to your website (all content must be original and that applies to everything below too) • Blog posts that are 150 to 250 words in length • Frequently asked questions (FAQs) that are 75 to 175 words in length • Videos that are 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes in length (approximately 50 to 200 words) • Images pinned to a Pinterest Page • Posts on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter Your practice needs to do this daily. It is much easier than it sounds. Think about it this way. If you have the time to write one article that is 500 to 700 words, this is not long and you can do it in less than 90 minutes if you are uninterrupted. You can then select three subtopics from that one article to be the subject of three more articles. Either you or your associate, if you have one, can write these articles. So if you write one original article about heel pain, you would possibly address plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and flat feet as examples. You then write an article about each of these three subtopics. You now have four articles you have written. The next step is to find people you know who have writing skills. Maybe your receptionist or one of your medical assistants can write. Possibly a friend of the family, a relative, a student in podiatry school or a resident can write. The key is that it is not you. You assign the designated writer this task: write three blogs derived from one of the articles you have written. The content must be original but can derive from what you have done. Remember, you now have four articles that you can add to your site but when this round is done, four articles will produce 12 blogs. This is 16 pieces of content in all. Here is a big secret. Now have the designated writer author three FAQs deriving from each blog. That is right. You will have 36 FAQs. You are now up to 52 pieces of content all from that one original article. We are not done. Each of those FAQs can be a script for short, informative videos that you can shoot in your office. That adds up to 36 videos. Add that to the 52 other pieces and you have 88 pieces of content you can add to your Internet marketing. It will take you 88 days to post it all and that can be automated. If you do this with ingrown toenails and ugly fungal toenails, you will not be able to post them all in one year. You can make your Internet marketing soar just by following this simple process.
Secret Number Two: Take A Comprehensive Approach To MarketingThe second secret is the Internet is not the only way to market your practice. Great practice marketing, just like everything in business or in life, needs to be comprehensive. Just doing one thing and expecting it to build your practice keeps you vulnerable if anything disturbs that one thing. There are dozens of medical and non-medical referral sources surrounding your practice that desperately need a trusted extension of their care to which they can send their patients when they need help with their lower extremities. They would send you their patients if they knew they could and most do not know you even exist. That is not their fault. It is yours. A key to marketing success is having a dedicated person frequently visit medical specialties surrounding your office. This person’s sole purpose is to build quality relationships with these offices. This person needs to have a “ray of sunshine” personality. He or she needs to be out in your market making friends and helping people. By slowly developing quality relationships with your referral sources, they will over time dramatically expand your medical referrals. There are obvious medical practices like primary care physicians they can visit but OB/GYN, pediatric and cardiology specialties can be abundant referral sources as well to name a few. Cardiologists need your help so their patients can walk and become stronger. The OB/GYN offices are filled with women whose feet are really hurting and the only advice the obstetrician offers is to “have a baby.” They are great referral sources. Medical referral sources are truly only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of non-medical referral sources surrounding your office that would love to send you patients. These include senior centers, running shoe stores (locally owned), pharmacies, higher end nail salons, coaches, athletic directors and many, many more.Having a dedicated person reach out to these significant patient sources is a secret hiding in plain sight because everyone knows they should do this and they used to do this, but they do not do it now because they are too busy or do not want to dedicate a person to this job. The right person can generate so much patient traffic that it is inconceivable that every podiatry practice is not using this incredible “secret” strategy.
Secret Number Three: Build Your Patient Base From Your Existing PatientsYou already know everyone you need to know to grow your practice and they are your patients. Your list or database of active, inactive and really inactive patients is the single most valuable asset in your practice other than you and your well-trained staff. These people know you, like you, trust you and will return to you and refer to you for the rest of their lives if you do not drop the ball. Unfortunately, most professionals do drop that ball. They discharge the patient and never communicate to him or her again, thinking it is too costly to maintain a relationship with that patient. Let us examine this for a moment. I propose that on the average if new patients come to your practice and you treat them, they will each produce $450 of revenue for your practice in the first year. In other words, they have a problem, you treat them, they get better and on average, they will produce $450 of collections to the practice. Some will produce less and some much more but it will average $450. If you do not agree, just plug in the number you think it is for you and use that. Do not let what I am about to tell you be invalid because you do not agree with my number. That means that patient is worth $450 to the practice when he or she comes to see you. What is the lifetime value of that patient to your practice? I think if that patient returns to see you at some time in the future just once, then he or she will be worth another $450 to your practice. Add this to the first time and he or she has a lifetime value to your practice of $900. Fair enough? What if he or she refers one person to you? What if that person comes back once in his or her lifetime? That referred patient would be worth $900 lifetime too. So therefore, if a new patient comes to you, returns once and refers a person who comes to you and returns once in the future, that new patient is worth $1,800 lifetime to your practice. That means if you have 50 new patients this month and they return sometime in the future only once and refer only once before you retire, they have a lifetime value of $90,000 to the practice. If you get 50 new patients a month for one year or 600 new patients, they will bring $1.08 million in collections to your practice before you retire. This only holds true if they return and if they refer. If not, then they just produce $450 one time to the practice. Doctors who understand this understand the number one secret of successful businesses. If you communicate to your list every month through newsletters, mailings, emails and on all of your Internet properties, you will never have a slow month again. Jeff Bezos of Amazon is obsessed with customer communication and satisfaction. Every great business that maintains a relationship with its database of people who know them, like them and trust them is rewarded. This is truly a “secret” of great practice marketing.
Secret Number Four: Do What You Know You Should Be DoingSuccess is actually easy. In fact, in truth, success is always easy. If you are stressed out about your practice — constant worry about money, people and a tsunami of work that never seems to end — then the problem is you. This is the bad news and the good news. It is bad news because no one ever wants to hear that he or she is the problem in the practice. It is good news because that means you can change and fix it. I am very serious about this. The difference between the successful doctors who transform their practices into top practices and start having far more fun and financial success and those who don’t is 100 percent their own mindset. Let us define “simple” first. When I say simple, I mean easy to do on a daily basis. I do not mean that everything you will do is simple or that it will happen overnight. In fact, the more complex your solution to the problems of marketing your practice or managing your practice (or both), the better. There are good solutions and answers to your problem, and you already know what they are. The problem for most of us is that we just want them to be fixed now. We are so frustrated and impatient that we just want someone, anyone to fix it. When they do not show up, we just keep putting our fingers in the dike and stop the leaks while the water just keeps coming. We go to meetings and hear good ideas, but we just do not seem to get them implemented well. Think about that. You already know everything you need to know to accomplish everything you wish to accomplish in your life. So what’s the problem? What’s the answer? The answer is: you do not do it. You just do not do it. On top of that, what you need to do is easy to do. However, here is the thing. It is just easy not to do this too. If you are not in the habit of doing it, then you will 95 percent of the time not do it. Just like you are not doing it now.
Take Action NowIn his remarkable book The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson makes the point that we all know what to do already in most cases. We have read enough self-help books and tried enough health and diet plans. We know how to exercise so why aren’t we all fit? What is the answer? We don’t really do it. If we had, we would have achieved transformative and ridiculously positive results. This is the final secret. You have to take action. You have to have goals and a plan. You have to decide to move forward. General George Patton said “Wars are won by people who actually go out and do something.” The good news is that how your future plays out and how your marketing succeeds are up to you. You can download my planning and goal worksheets at no cost at www.RemsGoalWorksheets.com . It is my gift to you as you move forward and transform your practice into the successful and abundant practice it can and should be. Mr. Jackson is the President and CEO of Top Practices, LLC, and the leader of the Top Practices Master Mind Group. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management (AAPPM) and an adjunct faculty member with the practice management program at the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine. Jackson is also the recipient of the AAPPM President’s Award for 2012. He can be reached at rem@TopPractices.com . You can find out more about Top Practices at www.TopPractices.com . Editor’s note: For related articles, see “Building Referrals By Marketing To ER Physicians” in the July 2005 issue of Podiatry Today, “How To Market Your Practice On The Internet” in the September 2008 issue, “Strategic Marketing: Can It Take Your Practice To The Next Level?” in the June 2007 issue and the December 2009 DPM Blog, “Does Marketing Make The Podiatrist Or Does Reputation Make The Podiatrist?” by Kathleen Satterfield, DPM at http://tinyurl.com/qd3bg4p .