Grow Your Practice with RealSelf’s 5 Cs of Social Healthcare (Part I of a series)

content marketing authority realself

Doctors who share their expertise engage attract engaged consumers (photo by krossbow via flickr)

As the owner of a small business, you’ve probably heard of the 4 Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. It’s a time-honored concept that works well when you’re selling widgets or washing machines but it falls short when your “product” entails a medical service, an emotional decision and the growing influence of social media.

At RealSelf, we believe that the 4 Ps just don’t cut it anymore, which is why we’re launching a new initiative designed to help doctors navigate the ever-evolving world of digital marketing. In this and other posts, we’ll look, not at the 4 Ps but what we’re calling the 5 Cs of Social Healthcare — Content, Conversations, Channels, Code of Conduct and Commitment — and how they can help you engage with aesthetic consumers, gain their trust and grow your practice in these digitally driven times.

Create Content for Patients, not Search Engines

If you build it, will they come?

To hear the mavens of search engine marketing (SEM) tell it, all you have to do to generate new business is have a website, fill it with pages of blog posts and spend a good chunk of your marketing budget buying keywords and banner ads.

If only. The truth is that the cost of SEM can add up much faster than the leads and business it generates. Furthermore, SEM is no way to build a loyal following because, as Sookie Shuen of Tomorrow People writes, SEM standbys like pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns tend to be short-term fixes that are better at attracting window shoppers than potential buyers:

PPC is purely about grabbing the potential customer’s attention without actually developing a lasting relationship with them. It focuses on the attraction stage and neglects to actually nurture and convert the buyer.

So, what’s a doctor to do? Stop throwing money at SEM vendors and start developing the kind of campaign that actually builds brand awareness and long-term value for consumers — and your practice. It’s called content marketing and it’s all about providing the kind of information that gets people’s attention and keeps them coming back.

The problem is that too many doctors interpret that to mean posting self-reverential updates about their practice and in-depth descriptions of specific procedures at the expense of sharing stories that potential patients can actually relate to.

The answer, says Tom Seery of RealSelf, is to provide or enable a steady stream of high quality content (including patient stories and reviews) that helps people get informed and feel empowered to make a decision.

If you build that, they will come.

Doctor Takeaways

1. Skip the self-promotion

Ultimately, you build influence by sharing your expertise, not by touting your name. A page on your website noting your board certifications and accreditations is fine but in your online interactions with aesthetic consumers, keep the focus on their interests and concerns, not how many procedures you’ve performed.

2. Boot the back pages

Generating page after page of generic content about this or that procedure doesn’t do anybody any good. People don’t seek them out; search engines don’t highlight them, and the ROI of producing them is negligible. Focus instead on fewer pages with more personal insights that demonstrate your empathy, expertise and thought leadership.

3. Engage in Q&As

Good content isn’t limited to your practice website. In fact, with more people spending more time on social media, sites like RealSelf offer an unsurpassed way to engage with consumers who are serious about pursuing cosmetic surgery. Engage with them by answering their questions and you establish influence while they’re still trying to decide on a course of action rather than after the fact. This also sets you up well for future consumers as you create the kind of content they’ll likely be searching for.

4. Encourage reviews

The most powerful content of all, says Seery, consists of first-person stories, which is why it’s so important to encourage patients to chronicle their experiences both before and after their procedures. As the steady stream of reviews under RealSelf’s Worth It Ratings shows, potential patients love to read those stories and rely on them as they make their own purchase journeys. In fact, consumers visit patient stories on RealSelf more often than any other pages except Before & After photos — and reviews remain the top reason consumers choose a doctor for a consultation.

5. Keep at it

Unlike PPC, which is best suited for short, targeted campaigns, content marketing requires a consistent, ongoing effort. And while it can be time-consuming, doctors who commit to it — our fifth C, by the way, and the subject of a subsequent post — stand to reap consistent, ongoing benefits.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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