In this week's premier of the final season of Downton Abbey, one of our favorite characters, Anna Bates, reveals her struggle with recurring pregnancy loss. The season takes place in 1925. How different options would have been for Anna and her husband in that period, with respect to both medicine and information technology. How would Anna have learned more about her medical condition in 1925?
The world's collective knowledge was not at Anna's fingertips 90 years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Bates had one source of information, and likely a very limited one: their physician. The available doctor had all of the access to information and the patient had none. Today, on Google alone, there are 10,500 average monthly searches for the phrase, "cause of infertility", in the United States and Canada and 276,500 monthly searches for "IVF". The infertility hashtag has been posted 122,534 times (and counting) on Instagram. What implications does this conquest for information have on how new patients come to find their fertility centers?
With all of the analytics before us, it's obvious that many patients are curious to know as much as they can before they ever contact a fertility specialist. According to research conducted by Carnegie Mellon's George Loewenstein, curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know. For this reason, the websites of fertility centers with the most relevant information are usually able to attract more visitors, for longer periods of time than those with less information. Rather than spending money on conventional advertising, providing patients with the answers they seek is one of the most effective plans for attracting new patients. Here are five ways to begin to build your fertility marketing plan for 2016:
1). Use a tool like Marketing Grader or Moz Local Search. See how easily (or not) your website is found by search engines. These tools scan your website for checklist items to make sure they are complete. I use these tools, and I find them useful, but they are a start. Individuals and couples dealing with infertility are your real focus, not a checklist.
2). Claim and verify your practice location(s) with the major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Claiming your listings on these major search engines helps prospective patients toward the end of their decision making process. They have all but decided on going to see a fertility specialist. Make sure that your most important contact information is correct:
- Phone number
- Office hours
- Address/GPS location
- Web address
This rings especially true for clinics with multiple locations. If you are in a large metro area like Dallas, for example, claiming offices in satellite cities like Plano and Ft. Worth may make the difference in someone finding your practice over another. The more complete these listings are, the better (real photos).
3). Complete your profile on the most relevant review sites. I distinguish review sites from the major search engines because they have different implications for fertility centers. The most popular review sites for fertility doctors include:
- Fertility Authority
Some of these directories will charge you to complete your profile and respond to reviews. It's usually not a priority to claim all of them. There will be two or three that are more widely-used in your area. RateMDs, for example, is very popular for reproductive endocrinologist (RE) searches in Los Angeles and Dallas but much less so in the Bay Area and Houston.
When someone searches for information on these sites, they are given suggestions for competing fertility clinics and doctors. Here, complete information is a stark advantage. Would you prefer that your prospective patient view another physician's professional head shot as compared to a computer generated silhouette to represent you?
4). Increase your Facebook reviews. In this context, I prioritize Facebook above other social media for fertility centers because of its search value. Facebook almost always ranks among the top search results for your practice. Since 77% of adult women use Facebook, they will quickly find if any of their friends or acquaintances publicly "like" your practice, thus dramatically expanding your "word of mouth" referral network. Facebook reviews provide a wealth of social information to you prospective patients and women's healthcare influence has spread beyond the family. According to a survey conducted by California Healthline, 41% of women report that social media sites influence their choice of physician, hospital, or medical facility.
Building an active social community takes time and resources, but to start, make it easy for your best patients to find you so they can leave high-quality reviews. At the very least, every fertility practice should have an
- Updated cover photo
- Updated profile picture
- Current contact information: phone number, website, address, hours, etc.
- Reviews enabled (If reviews are turned off, your best patients won't be able to vouch for you)
5). Resume your blog. Hubspot's data shows that blogging is the #1 cause of increase in a site's web traffic. When your REs and other experts from your community blog, you effectively increase the number of answers to potential questions that lead new patients to find you online. But how do you face information overload?
According to a study by the University of Southern California's Institute for Communication Technology Management, we consume 74 gigabytes of information every day; the capacity of 9 DVDs! With so much noise on the internet, how do you ensure that your blog post will be found, much more read? You can
- Use Google's Keyword Planner to find "long-tail keyword" searches. "Infertility" is a "short-tail" keyword where "blood tests for infertility in women" is a long tailed keyword. Often, there is less competition for these terms and you can even localize the planner to your geographic area.
- Go from memory. The twenty most frequently asked questions you receive from patients during their initial consultation are topics for blog posts. The way the patients ask each question is often the best way to title the post. Even if not optimized well, archiving your personalized answers to your most frequently asked questions on your website brings extra value to your patients. It gives them another resource to check if they forget your answer or want more information.
- Subscribe to inbound marketing software. The most efficient way to increase new fertility patients by blogging is to use inbound marketing software like the platforms offered by Sales Force, KissMetrics, or Hubspot. You can waste a lot of time, money, or both by guessing which content to create. Let inbound marketing software focus on the data so that you can focus on creating the content and answering the question.
The shift in access to information has certainly changed since the epoch of Downton Abbey. In 2016, patients have virtually unlimited access to information. They need a fertility specialist to help them unpack this information overload with context and insight. Today's fertility marketing is based on the principle that this exchange of information begins not at the first consultation, but online, before your new patient decides on her fertility doctor. I'll do anything I can to help patients find the answers they're looking for, I hope that involves you.