Podcast #24

Building Your Patient Pipeline Beyond Referrals

The pandemic disrupted the hospital and doctor referral pipeline, and a once steady pipeline of referrals dried up. While referrals have resumed, the pandemic revealed the vulnerability of relying on one patient source. Our hosts discuss how defining your USP, diversifying your marketing strategy, and investing in other digital marketing channels can help you build a more robust patient pipeline.

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone

Lauren Leone: “Think about how you’ve been positioning yourself to other providers. What is your unique selling point? Where are your patients spending their time? Marry those things together to see what really sets you apart.”

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast. The only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies, and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: What’s going on everybody coming to you from ATL. We do not call it Atlanta. This is Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal Digital Marketing. I’ve got Lauren Leone our SVP of Client Services. What’s up, Lauren?

Lauren Leone: Good morning. How are you?

Alex: I’m really good because COVID sucked for the world. They were still in it. However, it has forced a lot of practices to look at their patient pipeline differently. Tell us what you’ve noticed.

Lauren: I’ve noticed this sits across all verticals. I’ve seen it in senior care. We’ve seen it in pharma. There’s this traditional concept of building a network with other providers and referring amongst each other. Or having field teams that spend most of their time knocking on doors, meeting providers, going into hospitals, and acquiring patients that way and that’s great. Not suggesting that organizations should stop doing that, but when you couldn’t go into a facility or you couldn’t get on the phone with a provider, because their practice was shut down, where were your patients going to come from if that was your only pipeline?

So diversify. Really, we see a lot of companies coming to us and saying, “I’ve never had a direct-to-consumer campaign. I’ve been too reliant on referrals, and I really need to take control of my own destiny. What can I do to build up my own pipeline?”

Alex: It’s been good for digital marketing agencies, but we got to move faster. I wish it didn’t take a pandemic. We’ve been telling everybody for years, they’ve got to build their own pipeline. You just talked about it. Too much coming from inconsistent referral sources especially when can’t see them face to face. COVID is going to be here for a long time, and I think the implications are going to last forever. How do practices build their own referral pipeline, and how do they do it quickly?

Lauren: Think about how have you been positioning yourself to these other providers? What is your unique selling point? Then where are your patients spending their time? Marry those things together. Saying the right thing to the right person. The USP is something you can sit down probably in one session within your practice, maybe a marketing specialist, and understand what people want to hear from you. Whether it’s convenience, hours of operation, bedside manner, outcomes. Just think about what really sets you apart. You probably have the stories, because you’ve been telling the providers this, that you’re referring physicians this for years and years.

Then think about if your patients are searching for providers. If they are doing a lot of research before they make decisions, and then what channels help you best reach them at that point.

Alex: Let’s talk about channels. What’s the quickest to get my patients volume back up?

Lauren: To the bottom of the funnel. The very, very bottom is where you have search. Search organically and search paid. People searching for keywords that have an intent that shows what they’re looking for. Organic is a little bit harder to spin up. As we know it takes a while to build authority with the engine. What you can do in the meantime is set up a paid search campaign for your top keywords, and make sure that you are visible. If you have a small budget to start, pick a couple of zip codes, pick a small area where you want to acquire patients.

Don’t spread yourself too thin by doing a whole city, a whole state, just go into one community and try to own that community in paid search.

Alex: Do you need a landing page for every paid search campaign?

Lauren: You don’t. If you have a site that has the information that the patient needs to find a very clear call to action, loads while on mobile. If you do not have those things, do not spend money on paid search until you have solved those things.

Alex: Estimate per location, how much they should budget for PPC ads?

Lauren: Really varied. There are industries like orthodontics where clicks are very expensive, and then there’s maybe industries like therapy or psychology where there’s just so much volume out there that it’s not as expensive. I would suggest you need to have probably at least $1,000 a month if you have a couple of zip codes that you want to be in. Get with whoever you’re working with for marketing, run a few keyword searches. Just understand the cost per click and then you can put together a better estimate.

Alex: If you really want to do a budget, go to Upwork and find a contractor. Type in PPC contract. You don’t need a full-blown agency. You don’t need a full-blown marketing company. If you guys want to get going, you need to increase patient volume, practice admins don’t like to do it, not training in it, but they can go to Upwork and find a good search contractor if you can’t work with an agency quite yet. You don’t have to go full out to do this, guys. If you’re one of the three or four providers in your local area driving the traffic to a decent website will be enough.

You don’t have to get very sophisticated with it. We’ve got search campaigns running. What is the best long term tactical vehicle to increase patient volume?

Lauren: We talked about search. Most patients are still going to ultimately go to search at the end of the day. Maybe they’ve done some research on best dentists near me, but they’re ultimately going to search that. Maybe 30, 40% of people are going to click an ad. The remaining 60 to 70% are going to click an organic result. That could be a map result. That could be an organic listing. That could be a people also ask question and answer format. Make sure that you are working on building a presence to be there for the people that don’t click on ads.

That may take you 12 months, but if you don’t start it now, you’re just 12 months behind when you do eventually start it.

Alex: It’s not something you just turn off, guys, don’t turn your search campaigns out. Don’t turn your SEO off. This is a never-ending thing. You want to grow your practice. You want more patients for your providers. Then you’re going to want more providers. Then you’re going to want more locations. It never ends. Don’t run a lifestyle business, it’s boring. It’s boring. All right, guys, we want you growing. Lauren, in closing, what would you say is most important to make sure pipeline is solid.

Lauren: Diversify your strategies. We just talked about search and that’s great. At some point, your search is going to get really competitive. There may be hundreds of practices in your area bidding on the same keywords. Where do you go from there? If you only build it on search and you don’t start exploring different channels, you don’t start exploring display or social media advertising or video campaigns, then eventually, you’re going to get stagnant in and not be able to grow beyond the capacity of any given channel.

What we like to do is start at the bottom of the funnel, optimize the channel, and then move on to the next that the optimized channel becomes part of your evergreen campaign. It’s the foundation, but you’re never staying still. You’re always testing.

Alex: That’s right, always testing. Don’t rely on any one patient source. Like any business that’s reliant on any one source of leads and new business is very dangerous game to play. Now’s the time and you can do things slowly. You can do them quickly and you can do them on your own without full-blown agencies. Guys, you’ve got to get into digital marketing. If you ever need a consult, go to Upwork, find Cardinal, find a healthcare marketing, see whatever it is. I want to get you unreliant so your practice is not going down. If you can’t visit the hospitals, if your providers, your PCPs, aren’t sending you referrals. Lauren, thank you for joining us on Ignite.

Lauren: Thanks, Alex.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing, subscribe to our podcasts and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

[00:07:42] [END OF AUDIO]

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