77% of Adults Own a Smartphone. How Do You Connect to Mobile Patients?

If common sense hasn’t helped you realize just how prevalent mobile devices are in today’s search society, maybe a recent Pew Research Center report will:

Today just over one-in-ten American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional home broadband service.”

That number equates to 10% of the population; however, what’s important to note is that the largest percentage of smartphone-only users are, of course, younger generations:

US Smartphone Usage

It doesn’t take too much effort to realize that because of this, you can be certain that smartphone dependency will only become more traditional, with desktop users declining at a steady pace.

This trend is by no means relevant to a select few industries, either. Your prospective patients use their smartphone devices to make key medical decisions. They browse on their phones at work, at home, in the doctor’s waiting room, and while out and about on the town.

What does this mean?

Your mobile marketing strategy is now as important as your desktop strategy. Soon, it’ll be more important.

But what exactly is a mobile marketing strategy? And do you really need one?

Developing a mobile marketing strategy for your medical practice

Chances are you don’t have a dedicated strategy to address your mobile audiences. Don’t fret if that’s the case – you’re not alone. Most folks assume that developing one marketing strategy for a hospital or a healthcare professional will suffice.

But they’d be wrong.

You need only look at your website to see just how incredibly different the experience is for a user who finds you from their desktop vs. their mobile phone.

Desktop View:

Website Desktop View

Mobile View:

Website Mobile View

Mobile screens don’t allow for much spacing. But we’re not telling you anything new, are we? You probably know how important it is to have a responsive website that adapts to any screen size, right?

If you’re not sure if your site is optimized for mobile screens, simply go to your site from your phone. What does it look like?

  • Is it easy to read the text?
  • Are buttons easy to click on?
  • Does everything fit within the confines of the screen width (meaning you don’t have to scroll left or right to read or see everything)?
  • On each page, is your most important information easy to find and access?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then you need to update your website to be mobile friendly. Before you look into any of the mobile strategies we outline below, updating your website should be your #1 priority.

Why?

For starters, your website is the hub of your digital marketing efforts if you’re a plastic surgeon or a healthcare professional. Nearly every strategy or campaign you launch is designed to funnel folks back to your site.

If that isn’t enough reason, then consider this:

Google Tip - Optimize Your Website for Mobile Viewers

That’s a screenshot straight from Google’s knowledge base, from an article published in 2015. Allow us to highlight the key line here:

Google Search will be expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

In other words, if you want to rank high on Google’s results pages, you better have a mobile-friendly website.

Period.

Your site is mobile friendly. Now what?

If you’re reading this section, then you either already have a mobile website, have put the steps together to get one, or are throwing caution to the wind (to those folks we say good luck).

Either way, as important as it is to have a mobile website, it’s not the magic potion that’ll help you attract and retain all of your prospective patients who use mobile devices.

For that, you need to develop a comprehensive mobile strategy. What that does that look like?

Mobile ads

We here at Cardinal are staunch proponents of healthcare SEO strategies. It’s one of our core services for our clients.

But we never suggest that SEO, alone, will grow your practice. If you want to experience real growth, then paid (PPC) campaigns are a must.

It’s possible you have an existing PPC campaign for your healthcare practice. Great! However, you need to have a specific one for mobile audiences. Why?

  1. Mobile audiences are at a different part of their search journey, meaning they’ll use different keywords when browsing on Google. For example, mobile searchers are far more likely to ask, “What’s the nearest urgent care facility near me” on their phones.
  2. Mobile audiences are turning to voice search more and more. This impacts the types of keywords/phrases you should optimize for.
  3. Mobile audiences have the ability to call your practice right from your ad (vs. visiting a landing page), so your ads should offer them that option.

Take a look at the screenshot we took below for a search of “urgent care centers near me”:

Google Search Results for Urgent Care as Displayed on Mobile

The first two ads do a great job of making it easy for us to call with the push of a button. Ad #3 – not so much. It’s not optimized for mobile audiences.

Social media

If you’re not using social media to reach your audiences, you should start now. And we’re not talking about the occasional organic post. Those are fine, and they have their place.

But we’re mainly concerned with strategies that deliver results. And for that, you need paid social ads.

Perhaps you already do paid social media advertising for your healthcare practice, where you target messages to specific audiences, such as your followers, Facebook users who are similar to your followers, contacts you have on an email list, or folks who fall within a certain demographic.

Usually, these ads link to a post you want to share, or to a landing page of a campaign you’ve kicked off.

That’s all well and good, but when you create these paid social media campaigns, do you factor in the reality that most of your social media audiences are clicking on that ad from a mobile device?

It’s not even close. While you can (and likely do) hop onto Facebook from a computer from time to time, you know firsthand that most of your “Facebooking” happens from the palm of your hand.

Your prospective patients are no different. That’s why it’s imperative that you develop social media campaigns that cater to this mobile crowd. Everything we discussed in both the website and PPC sections above apply here. Make it easy for your Facebook audiences to click on your ad, and navigate your landing pages or posts from the tiniest of screens.

Texting patients

It seems like only yesterday that the new and cool thing to do was to email your patients with important information such as appointment reminders.

That still can work; however, have you considered texting?

Texting your patients is another great way to utilize the convenience of mobile technology. And, it’s been proven to increase patient compliance.

Tread carefully here, though. People are very protective of their privacy, and abusing your texting capabilities could turn a loyal patient into a lost one. Avoid texting your patients with “special deals” or offers. Stick to the information they value and want to have.

Use services like email to promote your other services.

Chatbots?

There’s a reason we put a question mark after chatbots. Even though chatbots have been around for some time, they’re still a relatively new technology and not wholly feasible for every practice.

But boy are they effective.

Chatbots installed on your Facebook Page (for folks who message your page) and on your site, could both impress your current and prospective patients, and provide them a better experience. Consider this scenario:

One of your current patients visits your FB page, because she knows that your team responds to questions on that platform. Here’s what she types in:

I have a mild fever, headache, I feel dizzy. What could it be?

Your team could respond, but is that really feasible? Can your team respond to every patient request? No.

But wouldn’t it be nice if your practice could give patients like this the attention they deserve, on the platform they choose to contact you from? Yes.

With chatbot technology, and access to your patient’s records, here’s what could transpire, all from a chatbot:

  • What is your temperature at the moment?
  • 102 F.
  • How long have you had this headache?
  • For about 3 hours.
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • No.
  • Our records show you had these symptoms last week too, and the week before that. We recommend you schedule a visit with the doctor. Let me give you a few slots we have available over the next few days to see if we can get you in.

What an incredibly effective way to manage your patients, while minimizing your resource dedication!

And sure, this is a pretty complicated strategy that requires a lot of pre-thought and strategy to implement. But the technology exists, and we’ve used it for other clients, with tremendous success.

No matter what you decide to implement, or not, the key takeaway here is that your prospective patients use mobile devices for a lot more than shopping.

Smartphones are more secure. Technology is more advanced. In the near future, all of us – including your patients and prospects – will rely on mobile devices for everything.

The sooner you build a mobile-specific strategy, the better off your practice will be.

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO

Alex Membrillo

Founder and CEO

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal also recently earned him the honor of being selected as a 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year (Rising Star), and the 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).