Unless you’re a fan of The Beautiful Game, you may have missed the news that the 2015 Major League Season has just gotten underway. That’s unfortunate because as anyone who has sat among thousands of screaming futbol fans can tell you, it’s a highly entertaining experience.
Educational, too, especially if you’re in the business of marketing a business. Approach your various marketing channels (social, search, email, etc.) like a soccer team, suggests Craig Bradford, and you’re more likely to have a winning season.
In soccer, of course, different players play different roles and even the most skilled “strikers” rely on passes and other “assists” from their teammates. The same is true in marketing, where the channels that deliver website traffic directly (thus getting the score) only do so because other channels set them up effectively.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to look at your website analytics, determine that most of your traffic is coming from one channel (organic search, direct traffic via your practice URL, etc.) and ignore the rest of the path visitors to your website took to get there. Businesses that do so succumb to what’s known as the “last-click myth,” a double-whammy error that can lead to both misallocating resources and missing the initial connections that set the process in motion in the first place.
The key is understanding that different channels play different roles in the process. The folks at Google, for example, separate them into Assisting Channels “that build awareness, consideration and intent earlier in the customer journey” and Last Interaction Channels “that act as the last point of contact prior to a purchase.” Analyzing the data for various industries and countries, here’s how they break down for the health category in the U.S.:
(Note: The image doesn’t necessarily indicate a serial path, but rather, whether channels are more likely to play a role in the awareness or decision-making stages of the process. Also, as noted elsewhere, this so-called consumer decision journey is seldom, if ever, a straight line.)
Given social media’s position in the above image, it’s not surprising, perhaps, that so many businesses misjudge its role or question its value. In fact, according to a 2010 study conducted by the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, a full 71% of small businesses said they expected their investment in social media to attract new customer leads, meaning they saw it as an acquisition, rather than awareness, tool:
Doctors, it seems, are no exception:
Will social media generate new patients for my practice? I’m asked this on a nearly daily basis by plastic surgeons, says Tom Seery, founder and CEO of RealSelf. Based on this question, I’ve concluded that many physicians view the value of social media — whether it’s updating Twitter, Facebook, or responding to Q&A — as limited to marketing the practice and delivering new patients.
While patient acquisition does result from some forms of social media, measuring success or accounting for the benefits based on patient “leads” greatly undervalues the role of social media to a practice. Social media is far more powerful than a new take on Yellow-page advertising or web directory listings.
That power is predicated on the ability to engage with potential patients as they consider their options, a key strategy that should be part of every doctor’s game plan. With millions of people turning to social conversations as part of their aesthetic research, social is not unlike a soccer midfielder who sets up the play that leads to the score.
If more patient contacts are the goal, social media gets the assist
The typical aesthetic consumer spends months or even years researching her options so assigning all the credit for visits to your website to organic search or direct traffic, i.e., “the last click,” overlooks the many other sources that actually led her to that point. Doctors who get on the playing field early and stay there until the final whistle — contributing content, answering questions, etc. — set themselves up for success in the long run.