Want new patients? Nurture those Internet Leads

Nurturing Internet leads

Imagine this scenario: You have a well-designed practice website with appealing design, fresh content and multiple ways for visitors to contact you. When a prospective patient does just that — either by phone or email — it’s only natural to believe that you’ve just gained a new client.

The reality? Internet leads are just that — leads — and if you want to convert them into new patients, you need to treat them as such.

An internet lead is not equivalent to a word of mouth lead, says Tom Seery, CEO of RealSelf.com. They need to be qualified, in a process that’s called lead nurturing.

Truth is, managing inbound leads from the Internet has more in common with traditional outbound marketing methods (e.g., cold-calling, PR campaigns, etc.) than it does with personal referrals and other word-of-mouth channels.

Why? Because making contact is only a marginal indicator of intent and all but irrelevant in terms of the decision to proceed with a service or procedure.

Inbound e-mails or calls are exactly like cold calls except that the leads have taken the first step by contacting you, says trust-based sales expert Ari Galper. You and the other person are still complete strangers.

And if you’ve ever been hit with a sales pitch from someone you’ve just met, you know how off-putting it can be. Just as with traditional outbound marketing, it’s all but impossible to turn an Internet lead into a loyal customer if you don’t know what they really want. Hit them with the hard sell right off the bat and your emails will be blocked faster than those from UK lottery officials and Nigerian princes.

Instead, you need to build a relationship by responding to their inquiry, not as a seller of specific products or services, but as someone interested in their concerns. Are they simply curious about prices? Looking for more detailed information on a specific procedure? Hoping to book a service at the first opportunity?

Unfortunately, many doctors see only the latter as worthwhile, aka as “qualified leads,” while dismissing the others as “unqualified”—“tire kickers” and “looky loos” in common parlance. But the reality is that almost all of them are also considering a potentially life-changing event and confronting a decision that they will neither take lightly nor make quickly.

They are, as we’ve noted elsewhere, on a decision journey and doctors who nurture that process—we’ll discuss some lead-nurturing techniques in a subsequent post—stand the best chance of not just qualifying those leads but turning them into new patients.

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.