This morning, I read an article in an Australian newspaper, watched a sunrise in Hawaii and met with business acquaintances in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York — all without stepping away from my desk.
If that doesn’t speak to the far-reaching, distance-obliterating power of the Internet, I don’t know what does. And that’s as true for medical marketing as it is for my morning activity. While there’s clearly a place for local search and location-based marketing, one of the great, often-overlooked advantages of a good digital marketing campaign is the ability to reach potential patients you would never connect with any other way.
Consider the experience of William Portuese, MD, a Seattle-based facial plastic surgeon who started his practice in the early 1990s when “marketing” essentially meant taking out an ad in the Yellow Pages.
In those days, all you could do was the phone book and I was spending $1,000 a month, $1,500 a month, he says. I’d get a couple mole removals, some cysts, but it just wasn’t delivering quality traffic and it wasn’t going to pay the bill.
Needless to say, most of those procedures were performed on patients from the Pacific Northwest.
Fast-forward to the late 1990s, when he launched his website, and then to 2007, when he began answering questions posed by aesthetic consumers on RealSelf.com.
I’ve ramped up the number of questions I answer over the last 3 years and we now get inquiries from all over the world, says Portuese. It’s gone from regional to national to international. It’s spawned a sort of medical tourism, if you will.
As the following graphics demonstrate, much of that growth has come from other U.S. states but Portuese has also performed rhinoplasties on patients from 10 countries this year. The increase in both out-of-state and international patients, he says, has been so strong he’s had to make one longtime employee a half-time patient care coordinator just to handle them.
While that growth clearly demonstrates the power of the Internet as a marketing tool, it also speaks to the power of social media in that those questions and answers don’t happen in a vacuum. One potential patient may be asking the question but, as Portuese has discovered, untold others are likely to be listening to the answer.
It goes to how many eyeballs are looking at the answer; there could be a couple hundred thousand who see it. How many of them are then going to check my website or call the office from Arkansas or Texas or northern Saskatchewan? That’s the value, that’s the reach.