Small Practice Survival Secret: Think Locally, Act Digitally

It’s often said that size matters — just not always in the way people think it does.

Take aesthetic marketing, where big chains with multiple locations often seem to have a competitive edge because they can employ big-buck ad campaigns, celebrity spokesmodels, etc., to promote their services and stack the name-recognition deck in their favor. But the fact is that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and smaller practices can improve their own odds — and win more patients — by ensuring their online marketing underscores and amplifies their local presence.

Simply put, people like to patronize local businesses — and not just because they’re nearby. In fact, in one recent survey, the top three reasons cited were quality of work, reliability, and trustworthiness. (Proximity was No. 4.) And when respondents were asked to compare local businesses with national competitors, they favored the former by significant margins on six out of eight parameters, among them:

  • Personalizing service: 96% vs. 4%
  • Trustworthiness: 91% vs. 9%
  • Overall customer service: 88% vs. 12%

The key is to get that information in front of consumers, which is where your online presence can be your ace in the hole in promoting your practice to nearby consumers. Here’s how:

Think local: Just like the potential patients that want to find you, Google wants to know where you are IRL (in real life). To help all concerned, ensure your address and other geographical information is displayed throughout your practice website; confirm the information by setting up a Google My Business account, and if you’re going to pay for search ads, incorporate local extensions to improve visibility with nearby searchers.

Think long tail: While larger businesses with multiple locations may dominate results pegged to generalized searches (e.g., “cosmetic surgery” or “Botox”), they may not have the resources (or savvy) to target the more nuanced searches today’s aesthetic consumers utilize. Incorporating longer phrases and more specific information in your keyword strategy effectively targets these long-tail queries, which, in aggregate, can add up to higher visibility with high-intent consumers.

Think fresh content: Google and the other search engines tally hundreds of factors to determine search rank, and while they keep the exact recipe secret, they all place a high value on fresh content. Maintaining a blog and consistently adding reviews both fit the niche, so updating a blog and encouraging more reviews can give you a boost over larger competitors with static and/or dated content.

Think mobile: Between 2014 and 2015, Google searches that incorporate the phrase “near me” doubled, and with many of them originating on mobile devices, it suggests that people are “in market” for the products and services they’re researching. In fact, Google is actively encouraging such searches by adding “near me” as an autocomplete suggestion, further underscoring the need to optimize content and design for both mobile and local searchers.

Doctor Takeaway

Augment your global reach by highlighting your “hometown” advantage

Put it all together and it’s clear that emphasizing the local angle can help smaller practices level the playing field against their larger competitors. Sure, the latter are likely to have larger staffs and bigger budgets, but good web design, great content, and smart SEO can provide the edge that helps local consumers find and choose your practice.

As Ross Marchant, marketing manager for BrightLocal, puts it:

Consumers will be more likely to use a local business if it displays informative company details on its website (e.g., company origins and/or history, basic details about the products/services offered, the local areas in which the company operates, and mission statement, etc). As well as telling a customer what a business does and who’s behind the business, it also reinforces the values and personality of the business which can have a very positive effect on potential customers.

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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