Lauren Leone: “Look at the ways that potential patients are interacting. We need to listen to the patient and recognize that we can’t force them into this box. We can’t say, ‘You can only pick up the phone and call,’ or, ‘I’m only going to offer you an online scheduling option.’ Some people are more comfortable on the phone and others want to make all of their health care decisions digitally. Think about providing an option for each of those different user behaviors.”
Read the Transcript
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: Hey, everybody. This is going to be a really fun podcast/ video/ transcription/ blog article review. Yes, we cut the content in a million different ways. We’ve got Lauren, our SVP of Healthcare Marketing, helped grow all of our provider groups from two to 300 locations. You’re going to want to listen to everything she says. She has been in the trenches, not only talking with all of our clients but talking with lots that are adjacent in healthcare on their strategies and how they’ve been impacted over the last year with COVID.
It is, and I’m going to date this, and that’s okay because I’m getting excited here, February 23rd of 2021. Case volumes dropping around the country and vaccines are ramping up. I think we’re coming out of this. Lauren, let’s talk about what’s changed. Then we’re going to talk about, in a post-vaccine world, and where everything’s returning back to normal, and we can throw the masks away, what we’re going to look like. Let’s start. What have you seen as the biggest changes in healthcare marketing over the last 12 months?
Lauren Leone: I think the biggest change in marketing is the biggest change in just the patient interaction as well, which is companies had to go from seeing patients in person to seeing them online, overnight. We had a client who was thinking about a telehealth offering by the end of 2020, and on March 16th when the world shut down, we had a discussion around needing to flip the script. By April 1st, we were up and running with a telehealth platform and nationwide campaigns to help people realize that they could still fulfill their appointments. They weren’t going to have any downtime. The marketing is really just a result of how we’ve had to change how we interact with our providers.
Lauren: Yes. Foundationally, nothing has changed in the tactics. It’s really about, what are we saying? Who are we saying it to? Interesting, in telehealth, and I’m sure a lot of provider groups have seen this, when you’re seeing a patient virtually, location is not a barrier anymore. We had these restrictions with our clients, whereby maybe we were serving 5, 10, 15 miles from the practice.
We needed to make sure that people could get into the practice for their appointment, and then all of a sudden, my only restriction is insurance, where [inaudible 00:02:47] covered? I can go statewide. It really opened up the floodgates for which patients they could see, and also for the patients, which providers were they able to access. In some ways, it made it less competitive, but in some ways, it also made it more competitive because I no longer am restricted to the neighborhood in which I live.
Alex: Still, please prioritize marketing in the neighborhood in which you live, because when we hit a return in person, we want to be grabbing those people. We’ve had so many leads over the last year, Lauren, and they say, “We’re ready to advertise in the whole Midwest.” It’s like, “Just think about, this is not forever.” Good point.
Lauren: Don’t rob your local efforts of the funding that they need. If you have the appropriate budget, really what we’re doing is we’re setting up local versus statewide, or regional, or national, whatever their new limitations are. Just set them up separately, have slightly different KPIs, and make sure that you understand what each campaign is there to do.
Alex: Lauren, let’s talk about how things have changed from a digital marketing perspective, because a lot of groups that were relying on their physician liaisons going in and getting provider referrals, or going into hospitals and getting that list of three homecare groups or hospice or skilled nursing facility, that’s no longer happening. Have they come online? Has it been successful? Will they stay online?
Lauren: Yes. They’ve definitely come online. There’s been no other option. There’s nowhere else for them to go. Friends, and family, and that really plays in maybe a little bit to the digital space as well, but mostly online. I think it’s the same as you and I not being in the same place right now and companies working from home. How can we ever forget or go back to the way it was? I just don’t think that’s possible. There may be a new hybrid model, whereby there’s still a physician liaison and there’s still the hospital relationship, but is the end consumer just going to sit around and wait for someone to recommend them? No, they’re going to go online. That’s what they’ve been doing for a year now.
Alex: Yes, absolutely. They’ve been doing it, and they’re going to continue to do it. We have grown Cardinal since January 2020, from 12 to almost 40 people here only 14 months later. Now, some people could say everybody’s come online and it’s a bubble. It’s going to burst and they’re going to go back to traditional marketing. We just did our State of Healthcare Marketing for 2020, with a forward look in 2021. Let’s get a little sneak peek here, Lauren. What did it say about traditional marketing and where healthcare marketers are planning to spend? Increase or decrease on traditional marketing this year?
Lauren: Decrease and that trend has been the case, I think, since probably about 2018 but it was really accelerated this past year. Unfortunately, people are not in their cars as much so out of home is not really active and mail. I think about mail and for a year, I wouldn’t touch my mail because of the fact that maybe it wasn’t safe unless I really needed something. There’s just a change. We’ve all been changed permanently. The whole concept of traditional is really dropping at a faster rate than I think anyone projected it would in 2020 or ’21. Those dollars have to go somewhere, so where are they going? They’re going online.
Alex: We’ll take them. We’ll take them. We’ll take them. The top three channels that the State of Healthcare Marketing survey reported increase in spend in Google Ads, number one, increase in Facebook and Instagram advertising number two, SEO number three. I found that very interesting, not email, not direct mail. These direct mail and email have been good components for a lot of providers for a long time, but we saw decreases is what a lot of people were saying, and increases in PPC, Facebook, and SEO.
We got people appearing in our office windows who got such a spectacle in this office with our mural. That’s so fun. They take pictures. Very cool stuff happening there. We see the digital transformation continue. It’s like we accelerated five years of digital marketing growth into one, and we see that continuing. That’s what healthcare marketers are saying. Now, with that happening, and we’re driving more online traffic, what needs to happen on website to make it easier to book appointments? What are you seeing some of your more advanced provider groups doing that everyone else needs to be doing?
Lauren: I think we need to listen to the patient and recognize that we can’t force them into this box. We can’t say, “You can only pick up the phone and call,” or, “I’m only going to offer you an online scheduling option.” Look at the ways that potential patients are interacting. Some people are more comfortable on the phone. Some people want to make all of their health care decisions without ever having to talk to someone. Think about providing an option for each of those different user behaviors.
Have a scheduling online widget for the people that want to. Look at available times pick when they want to come in, not talk to, you show up, do their thing and get out. Then there’s going to be the people that aren’t sure maybe what service or who’s the best provider, so have a phone option. Allow them live chat with you and ask questions if they need additional validation before they make a decision. If you are able and have the capacity operationally to have those three options, a live chat, a phone and/or call back, and then an online scheduling–
Alex: Four different ways.
Lauren: Four, yes. Think about how, if possible to make all of those available.
Alex: It’s no longer acceptable for our provider groups to say, “Well, our front office isn’t trained in that,” or, “That’s too much for our office manager. We can’t take schedule online.” Guys, you’re going to get left behind. The groups around you, they’re going to get gobbled up or they’re going to become more advanced, and you’re going to have to be able to book. In any way that I as a patient want to book, you need to have all four available.
Please, when you’re doing your online scheduling, make sure that’s connected to your practice management system. Too often, people are booking a time, it’s not connected to anything and the office manager is having a callback and say, “Actually, Dr. Robinson is booked at 2:00. What about 4:00?” That just pisses people off. Let’s not do that. Please make sure it’s all connected guys. Chatbots. People using chatbots. Are our provider groups using chatbots and there’s someone actually manning that, or it’s automated?
Lauren: I think there’s a hybrid model. We’ve all seen it in customer service when you’re trying to buy something and it didn’t show up on time. Just like if you call into a line and there’s an IVR phone tree. You can usually use a bot to at least navigate that person through a couple of simple steps. Are you looking to make an appointment? Are you looking for your bill or do you have questions about your patient records?
That can be automated to take a little bit of the burden away, but when someone does say, “I’m interested in a new patient appointment, and I don’t know enough about your services,” have a person available to actually answer their questions. If it’s not someone sitting there right now, have some indicator on when they’re going to be back or when they can call you. Create options for the patient to get what they need.
Alex: Absolutely. Don’t make it difficult and not all automated, please. I find myself on the chatbots doing the same thing I did when I’d call in. Representative. Representative. [chuckles] I’m telling these damn chatbots, “Just put a human on here.” We’re getting too automated. Yes, please have both options, but the ability to have a human answering questions is important and make sure it’s all HIPAA compliant if they are answering any questions.
Alex: We’ve seen a big transformation. Give me one big thing people aren’t or healthcare marketers are not looking at, that they should be over the next year. Do you have one big sneak attack they should be paying attention to?
Lauren: Wow. That is a loaded question. I think healthcare is tough. Personalization is a sticky situation because you want to provide the patient with the information they’re looking for without violating the information that you know about them. We’re looking at ways that we can personalize the patient experience without crossing the line. There’s really small things you can do on your landing pages or through your paid efforts, your paid search campaigns, or your SEO efforts to acknowledge that there is an experience that is more than just, “Here’s my homepage. It’s there for everyone, you go find what you need.”
Maybe that’s as simple as acknowledging where that person is located. Where’s the search coming from? Can you provide an experience that shows them the closest office? Can you understand, through the sentiment of their search, that they are looking for information on insurance and make sure that when they land on your site, whether it’s organic or paid, that the page actually contains information and content on the topic that they’ve searched? There are ways without truly violating anyone’s personal information that you can give them an experience that is what they are looking for. That, I think, is something that a lot of healthcare marketers know about, but aren’t sure how to execute.
Alex: How do they find out? You mentioned personalization. Is that the keyword where they go to Google and they type it in, they’ll hopefully find Cardinal’s blog on it? Is it that or is it conversion rate optimization? Is it lumped into CRO?
Lauren: CRO is a wider bucket. CRO could be personalizing the experience. It’s, how do I improve my conversion rate? Personalization is one way to do that. There are other things like just simple page structures, or is my page loading fast enough on mobile? CRO is just a wider bucket that comprises personalization.
Alex: Okay, I got it. All right. CRO, the all-encompassing thing. If you’re looking for more information to healthcare marketers, type in conversion rate optimization. Find out all the information and personalization within it, that’s the big thing to watch. You don’t have to violate HIPAA to make sure all of the content is matching search queries, et cetera. I like it. Lauren, thank you for talking through trends. Let’s do a whole episode just on our survey results. We need to get that out soon. We’re just going to do all of that. We teased it today, we’re going to do a whole episode on that. All right, everybody. You heard from the best. Lauren, thank you for joining us.
Lauren: Thanks, Alex.[music]
Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast, and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.[music]
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