In this post, I take two very technical marketing terms and explain how each of them leads to new patients at your fertility clinic.
but what do we want our website to do?
Why do you have a website? You know you need one. But why? What is its function? Well, if we didn't have a website, no one would be able to find us. Yes, that's true. We want your fertility center's name to appear at the top of a Google search for "IVF" in your area, right? Yes, that's extremely important. Is that all we want? Do we want people just to be able to find us and then not take any action toward scheduling their first visit?
You're probably familiar with the phrase, SEO: search engine optimization. Search Engine Land defines SEO as the process of "getting traffic from the 'free' or 'organic' search results of search engines". Odds are, this is what you hired your web firm to do; so that your site is built in such a way that it is more likely to be found by search engines. A term that's not as familiar is called CRO: conversion rate optimization. Qualaroo defines CRO as "the method of using analytics and user feedback to improve the performance of your website". Ok, let's talk about these concepts with respect to fertility clinics.
SEO affects how easily new patients find your fertility center when they are looking for
- Your practice specifically
- One of your physicians
- IVF/IVF cost
- Information about their problems with infertility
- Solutions to their problems with infertility
CRO deals with questions like
- How do new patients decide to choose to schedule an initial consultation at your fertility center instead of another?
- What actions do they take to do that?
- How many of the people visiting our website do we convert into actual patients?
YOU CAN DO MORE WITH THE PEOPLE already on your site
According to an analysis by Volume Nine, improving conversion optimization is more cost-effective than getting more traffic to your website. Again, let's think about this in fertility terms. Your numbers will vary depending on your practice model and what market you are in, but let's use some VERY rough figures to explore the point.
- 2,000: the number of visitors to your website every month
- $10,000: what your practice charges for an IVF cycle
- 30%: your margin on IVF
- 50% of your new patient consultations result in IVF cycles, therefore
- $1,500 is the value of a new patient visit.
If we can get just an additional 1% of those 2,000 total website visitors to schedule new patient consults, that's an additional $360,000 over the top line of the practice in one year. To get there, we need to know how many patients we're actually converting from our website and other marketing channels. It's much more difficult to get enough new traffic to total $360,000 in take home pay. By converting the people who already come to our sites or by proxy via social media and review sites, we make our existing marketing channels much more cost effective.
patients come to our website to inform their decision, but we're not helping them make it
Many fertility clinics have a strong search presence. Most have horrible conversion optimization. The reason? We don't have anything in place to convert. As the person who wants to be the single best marketer in the fertility space, I take a large share of the responsibility. So let's get to the bottom of this and work our way back up. In order for us to convert website visitors to patients, we need to offer them a means of actually becoming a patient.
Most fertility centers do not offer the option to schedule an appointment online in real time. Most of us have the "call to action" (CTA) to schedule an appointment, yet it's really a form for the patient to fill out their contact information so that the practice can call them at at a later time. It's fine to use contact form submissions as a key performance indicator (KPI) for the moment, and some forms provide useful data, like this one from Shady Grove. Each month we can manually check
- How many of those patient inquiries actually resulted in scheduled appointments?
- Was their cancellation rate was higher or lower than average?
- What content resulted in more form submissions?
more convenient for the patient=more measurable for the practice
Going forward, we'll have to recognize that we're adding an extra step for the patient. In nearly every other consumer market category, we observe that our patients don't like extra steps. Research shows that our patients use apps to order their ground transportation, meals, flights, and much more.
- Instead of calling and exchanging money with a taxi cab, the Los Angeles Times reports Uber's growth at 141% from 2015 to 2016
- Instead of traveling to and checking out at the supermarket, Inc reports that Blue Apron grew to $2 billion within 36 months by delivering groceries
- Instead of stopping at check-in to print their boarding pass, a study by Juniper Research concluded that one third of all boarding passes will be on smart phones by 2019
We can remove one more barrier to the patient while giving us a more direct measure to optimize at the same time. Different patient scheduling softwares enable patients to schedule their first consultation in real time on your website. Many of them give you a code to embed in your profile on review sites or social media. When you have the ability to securely schedule a new appointment within your different marketing platforms, it is considerably easier to track their effectiveness.
do robots suffer from infertility?
For too long, many SEO tactics have centered on the mechanics of the search engines rather than the intent of the patient. This is why we see so many fertility websites stuffed with keywords like "Dr. Blank is a San Diego infertility specialist and San Diego fertility doctor who treats San Diego fertility patients for infertility issues at our San Diego infertility clinic in San Diego." We get it. This website copy was written before more recent updates to Google's search algorithm. It's the same reason your clinic's website has a list of every town, village, and hamlet within 200 miles of your practice at the bottom of your home page. The problem is, Google keeps getting better and better at delivering to people exactly what they are looking for; beyond just scanning for certain words. Now this website copy just looks silly, and we've done nothing to persuade the prospective patient to take action.
With conversion strategy, we want to create content for real-life human beings, not robots. What are the compelling desires and urgent needs of a person or couple dealing with infertility? These are people who are facing massive financial burden, loneliness, depression, and stress in their relationships. What information and/or assurances do they need in order to make their decision about going to see a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) for the first time? These are the questions we need to ask when we want our web presence to yield us more new patients.
give patients what they need to make their decision
Effectively, we aim to provide the best possible experience to new patients so that we can continue that experience online to earn their choice. According to Becker's Hospital Review, as data on quality and cost becomes more prevalent, most hospitals are likely to exhibit scores in the 90th percentile range — meaning the differentiating factor between facilities must lie elsewhere. Author Frederick Reichheld, concludes that companies with the highest customer experience grow at twice the rate of their competitors because they have the fewest detractors (those who complain about their experience) and the most promoters (loyal enthusiasts who come back and urge their friends to do the same).
Religiously monitor patient feedback from internal surveys, one-on-one conversations, and online reviews to continually improve patient relations. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, we cannot build a strong marketing imprint over a fabricated patient experience. We have to genuinely satisfy and delight patients for true marketing power. Otherwise, the transparency of the Digital Age will sabotage our efforts. While this is a much broader topic, these are three ways to extend your patient experience to the online world to increase conversions from your site.
- Online reviews. Research from Zendesk shows that 88% of consumers report having been influenced by online reviews prior to their purchases. With the longing for shared experiences that often accompanies the infertility journey, would we expect peer opinion to be any less relevant to fertility treatment? If we've invested in the patient experience so that patient feedback reflects it, we can place our reviews front and center among the calls to action on our website. If we have patient scheduling software on our review sites like Zocdoc and Healthgrades, we will be able to monitor how they lead to new patient bookings.
- Patient testimonial videos: Online retailer, stacksandstacks.com, reported that visitors who watched an online video were 144% more likely to make a purchase than those who did not. Reproductive Health Center in Tucson, Arizona has great examples of using current and former patient delight as a means to lead prospective patients to take action. The videos are not commercials. They feature real people talking about their real problems in an unscripted way that people struggling with infertility identify with. By using landing pages and having the right videos on your appointment scheduler page, you will be able to measure your increase in conversions.
- Lead magnets. Digital Marketer defines a lead magnet as an item of value that is exchanged for some contact information from the prospect that allows you to stay in touch with them. Lead magnets for fertility patients might include a cost calculator, an IVF research worksheet, or a guide for coping with infertility. A lead magnet that I use is my e-book. You give me your e-mail address and I give you 30 pages of awesome information on how to use digital media to acquire new IVF patients. Shameless plug: download it here, if you haven't already.
The purpose of being found
We have to know what we're converting in order to use our websites to get more new patients. Being found through search engine optimization (SEO) is important. But what do people do at our websites once they're there? When we have an amazing patient experience, we can use the resulting social proof to lead prospective patients to schedule their first consult. Online appointment scheduling is more convenient for the patient, and provides more reliable data for the practice. We don't always need more people to find our fertility clinic by coming to our website. Sometimes we just need to do a better job of using our website to show patients why they should come to our practice instead of somewhere else.
convert more website visitors to actual patients! read chapter four of my free e-book, digital marketing for fertility centers: how to use digital media to acquire new ivf patients in 2016