It’s often said that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, but the converse is also true: Those who fail to anticipate the future are destined to miss it.
And, make no mistake, 2017 promises to be a year of extraordinary change in healthcare. At this point, most eyes are on the incoming administration and its plans for Obamacare, but even practices that don’t rely on the ACA should prepare themselves for a challenging year. That’s especially true in aesthetic marketing as new technologies and increasing competition make reaching potential patients more difficult than ever.
Difficult, but not impossible. The solution is to accept the fact that old marketing methods will no longer work and to implement strategies that address this rapidly evolving reality. Understanding the following five trends and incorporating strategies to address them will help ensure that your practice remains relevant regardless of whatever other changes may come:
Reviews are everywhere
Search engine result pages (SERPs), company websites, dedicated review sites — reviews now show up virtually everywhere online consumers go. (Even Google’s Knowledge Panel now includes reviews.) The more ubiquitous they are, the more potential patients will use them to form opinions and make decisions. In that light, having a good selection of reviews will be the bare minimum; effective strategies will require practices to generate a consistent flow of new reviews and ensure they appear wherever aesthetic consumers congregate.
Algorithms get intelligent
Between the development of voice-based search and the proliferating array of digital assistants designed to accommodate it, search engines are handling complex searches that would’ve been impossible a few years ago. Along the way, they’re gathering immense amounts of data and developing increasingly intelligent software that not only provides better results but actually learns from the process. As so-called machine learning becomes pervasive, relying on old SEO strategies (see content below) will lead to poor visibility and diminishing traffic.
New rules for content
Evolving algorithms will require a new approach to content: A few years ago, for example, sprinkling “Seattle plastic surgeon” or “Dallas dermatologist” around your website might’ve gotten Google’s attention, but that’s no longer true. Going forward, it’ll be more about context than keywords: If the rest of the content on your website doesn’t match searchers’ increasingly sophisticated inquiries, Google simply won’t include it in the results it delivers.
Mobile will matter more than ever
As more and more searches are conducted on mobile devices, the importance of having a mobile-friendly website should be obvious. But it’s about to get even more so, as Google has begun moving to a “mobile-first” ranking system. Whereas the company has traditionally relied on websites’ desktop versions to determine rankings, it will now give mobile versions precedence. Now’s the time to make sure your mobile website loads quickly, is easy to navigate and provides the sort of content that encourages visitors to stick around.
Emerging technologies will present new challenges
As the writer Matthew Crawford puts it, “Attention is a resource — a person has only so much of it.” And with the ongoing proliferation of new platforms — messaging apps, live video, augmented/virtual reality, etc. — attracting it is only going to get harder. It’s still early days for the latest technologies, and there’s no telling which ones will prove effective as marketing tools, but the underlying truth remains the same: Today’s patients are time-pressed, media-savvy, and in control of their aesthetic journeys. Practices that respect their time, understand how they prefer to engage, and provide real value along the way will be the ones that thrive in the years to come.