fertility marketing for fertility centers

7 trigger points that infuriate fertility patients and lead to bad reviews for doctors

By Griffin Jones

What should fertility doctors say or not say, do or not do, to avoid angry reactions from patients on the internet?

observation, not advice

This is tricky. I can help practices increase their positive reviews, but I will not tell physicians how they should talk to their patients, because I am not a physician. I write prescriptions only to medicine I’ve swallowed myself. The reason I feel comfortable telling clinics to invest in Facebook ads, is because I have had success reaching new patients through Facebook ads. I’m comfortable telling fertility specialists how to respond to negative reviews online because I have improved doctors’ online reputations from the way I respond to reviewers.

I have never delivered a fertility diagnosis inside a consult room. I’ve never told a couple that their prospective IVF cycle has a 10% chance of success or called someone to tell them that their 3rd IUI was not successful. I have an idea of how I think I would communicate with patients, but I have little tolerance for arm chair quarterbacks. 

navigating the mine field with compassion


What I can show you, however, are patterns that I’ve observed from upset patients: what I call “landmines” or “trigger points”. These are common themes that, when received a certain way, tend to send patients’ thumbs into a blaze of fury to light up their IVF center on the internet. By being aware of how patients recount certain interactions, you may better prepare for them.

“It’s not what we say, it’s what people hear.”—Frank Luntz, PhD

1). Body Mass Index
When a patient visits an IVF center, her initial testing may reveal that her body mass index (BMI) is too high for a fair probability of IVF success. Patients may first be referred elsewhere to help decrease their BMI. While I cannot tell you how to deliver this news, I can show you how it is sometimes received. Comments like, “he called me fat” or “they refused to even see me because I’m too fat,” are common on social media and review sites. I wouldn’t suppose that the physician used those words, but in a very difficult moment, this is what the patient may hear. 

fertility doctor called me fat.jpg

2). Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve
“She told me I was too old to ever get pregnant”. The quality or quantity of a patient’s eggs may be low, and a physician may issue caution about the probability of successful treatment. What could be a very honest move, certainly in patients’ best interest that they not spend money and energy on unwise surgery, can send patients to their keyboards in anger when received the wrong way.

fertility doctor said i was too old.jpg

3). Low probability diagnoses
Patients occasionally feel that their doctor is rooting against them, or shows no compassion for them when going over their diagnosis. Reviews commonly include boasting that the patient got pregnant, even though their doctor said they would not. This article articulates what patients sometimes write about their doctor after they have seen more than one specialist. 

4). Contact availability
“The two week wait” (#2ww) is one of the most notorious chapters of fertility treatment and it is only one of many anxious periods patients have to face. When one doesn't receive a call when she or he was told to expect one, more stress is added to the patient experience.  Failing to call with test results, not responding quickly enough to patient calls or e-mails, and not being available via the media which patients use to communicate are all landmines for patient reaction.

In fact, I would be very curious to know what percentage of negative fertility center reviews come during moments when the patient is waiting for correspondence from the provider. When worries about treatment monopolize a person's mental bandwidth, the wait for answers turns seconds into hours. It is a feeling of helplessness and desperation in which lashing out against the provider online may be an attempt to regain a sense of control.

5). Face time with doctor
Smaller fertility practices frequently claim that individualized care is their edge over larger practice groups. It is an advantage, if in fact, the patient gets to spend more time with the provider. Rarely seeing one’s physician is a very common pain point that leads patients to say things like “baby factory”, “only in it for the money”, and “looked at me as a dollar sign”.

Face time.jpg

6). Punctuality and preparation
Doctors are very busy people. So are patients. With high demand from patients, and a nearly infinite number of scenarios that can arise at any moment, the need for providers to maximize their time can make timeliness impractical. Still, patients feel slighted when they are not seen on time because their time is valuable too. The same goes for when they feel the doctor has not read their chart, not taken the time to thoroughly answer their questions, or rushes through their appointment. 

fertility doctor in it for the Money.jpg

7). Absolutely anything to do with billing
If these scenarios are landmines for fertility center reviews, the billing department is a minefield in and of itself. Billing issues might account for 1/3 to ½ of your negative reviews. In short, the billing department is arguably the greatest liability to a fertility practice’s online reputation. Patients often feel ambushed by the costs that they incur during the course of treatment. Insurance coverage (or lack thereof), reimbursements, deductible requirements, and variability in medication costs are pain-points unique to healthcare. Patients may lash out against their practice in a public forum because they do not experience these annoyances in most other consumer categories.

Hate the billing dept of fertility clinic.jpg

To make matters worse, prospective patients receive very little education about IVF costs prior to treatment. In fact, some practices refuse to detail any cost information on their websites because they are afraid that it will dissuade people in need from seeking a consultation or that it will give a competitive advantage to other IVF centers. Many fertility clinics would rather bury their heads in the sand and hope for the best, than properly use digital media to educate patients about the headaches of insurance and billing.

Setting the stage

As a fertility specialist, you are walking into a minefield of patient anxiety and frustration. I don’t think it would be possible to tip-toe around every possible pressure point. Instead, what may be more prudent, is to disarm the tension as much as possible from the very beginning. Of course, I can’t tell you what to say to patients. From what I observe from their accounts, however, is that many patients do not hear their concerns addressed in this way:

“What you are going through is extremely difficult at times, and that is perfectly normal. You’re not alone because we’re here to help you with everything we can and connect you with resources for those things we can't control. We wish we could wave a magic wand and make everything better right now, but there will likely be parts of this process that are very frustrating.

"Billing, medication costs, and insurance can be a big headache. You may see a charge for a service and think what the heck is this? Just ask, we're here to help you through it.

"There may be times when we don’t call you back as quickly as we want to because our nurses are helping other patients in the same way we want to help you.

"We always try to be on time for our appointments, but every now and again, a patient needs a little extra time with her doctor, and we want to extend that same level of care to you.

"We often have to be the bearers of very delicate news. We balance optimism and our eagerness to help you have a healthy, beautiful baby with our duty to inform you of the implications and realistic outcomes of your different options.

"You don't have it easy and neither do we, but the plus side is that we’re working together. We hope you’ll tell us if we are falling short at all during this process because we need your help to do our best for you".

Satisfaction equals experience minus expectation

By setting expectations abundantly clear ahead of time, you may be able to prevent negative reactions when, not if, issues arise. Some patients develop their own expectations, regardless of what you do to help set them. It’s okay if some people are not satisfied with your practice and staff as long as the dissatisfied number is the lowest it can be. There are certain pressure points that must be approached with empathy during the already tense fertility journey. By setting the stage and disarming the mine field, you can reduce the number of complaints about your practice and doctors, and increase patient satisfaction.


If it's too late and you need examples on how to respond to negative reviews, read chapter 4 of the Ultimate Guide to Fertility Marketing

7 Musts for Using Online Reviews to Avoid Choosing the Wrong Fertility Clinic

By Griffin Jones

Too often, I read an online review of a fertility clinic, in which the person says they wish they would have read other reviews before choosing that practice. In doing your online research, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the reported experiences of other people, to help inform your decision. More than just a few times, I have read reviews where the person regrets choosing the fertility clinic despite reading negative reviews, sometimes because they followed the advice of a friend.

A review from RateMDs

A review from RateMDs

Whenever I make a serious decision in life, I first want to speak to as many like-minded people as I can. I look for people who I feel share my profile and I deeply explore their experiences. For you, as a person coping with infertility, this will include consulting the #infertility and #ttc communities on social media, going to peer support group meetings, and thoroughly reading online reviews.

Part of what I do for a living is help fertility centers and doctors improve their online reputation. There's no real shortcut here. You can't delete reviews that other people write about you on the internet. In a 2016 world, practices need to make sure you have the best experience possible. If you're satisfied with the effort and attention that you received from your care team, you won't leave a negative review. If you're delighted, you will want to tell the world. That's better advertising than they could ever purchase. Fertility practices greatly benefit when they have a stellar online reputation, but that benefit belongs first and foremost to you. Online reviews exist for the people reading them, not the people they are about. 

I've written guidelines for fertility centers on how to respond to both negative and positive reviews. Now I want to share that experience with you so you can use fertility doctor reviews to avoid regrets and find the best fit for you. Here are seven things to keep in mind when finding a fertility center:

1). Check multiple review sites. Different review sites are more widely used in different cities. Check these nine sites to see which have the most reviews in your area. Simply enter your city, state, or province into their search field, and select the corresponding specialty.

  1. RateMDs: Reproductive Endocrinologist
  2. ZocDoc: Infertility Specialist
  3. Vitals: Reproductive Endocrinologist
  4. Healthgrades: Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
  5. UCompareHealthCare:  Reproductive Endocrinology
  6. Fertility Authority: Fertility Doctor or Fertility Clinic
  7. Yelp: Fertility
  8. Google Reviews: Appears in the Google+ frame of a search for the clinic/doctor's name
  9. Facebook: Usually linked to the practice's website

2). Read beyond the star rating. In my opinion, Vitals, Healthgrades, Fertility Authority, and UCompareHealthCare, are the least helpful of the above options when searching for a fertility clinic. I suppose if there are enough responses, then it helps to see if someone has a two star or a five star rating. Still, I think these sites are better designed for a chriopractor or a dentist; a specialty where a rating on timeliness and billing would suffice.

You know all too well that infertility is much more emotionally involved than that. I recommend diligently reading the comments. ZocDocs, Google Reviews, Yelp, RateMDs, and Facebook are sites where the star rating is accompanied by a comment (you know, an actual review). Read as many as you can. If there are enough, you will be able to get a better idea of the practice or doctor. 

3). Read as many reviews as you can find. Two or three samples won't show you a complete picture of the personality of a physician or the culture of a practice. Thirty will. Look for recurring themes. If eight out of nineteen reviewers call the doctor "arrogant", or fourteen people say she "is the most compassionate person ever", that is probably more reliable feedback.

4). Be aware of the bias that exists because that bias matters. Positive reviews are far more likely to come from people who became pregnant and negative reviews are far more likely to come from those who did not. In a study I conducted in 2015, I found that positive reviews are three times more likely to mention a baby or a pregnancy than to mention unsuccessful treatment or to make no mention at all. Equally, negative reviews are three times more likely to mention a lack of success than to reference a baby/pregnancy or to make no mention at all.

Study on negative fertility center reviews

This is massively important because, as a prospective patient, you should know that no one can guarantee a 100% probability of success. There are several doctors and practices with very few negative reviews. This isn't because their IVF success rates are at 85%--that doesn't exist. It's because of their bedside manor, helpfulness, compassion, reliability, and communication. All of these things matter to your choice, because the clinical result of a pregnancy is not the only factor in your experience.  A physician or clinic with many authentic positive reviews and few negative ones is more likely to properly set and manage your expectations.

study on positive fertility clinic reviews

5). Utilize Facebook: With regard to the above, know that Facebook reviews for fertility centers are far more likely to be positive than negative. My untested hypothesis is that this is because we generally use our real names and identities on Facebook, as opposed to a username (Yelp) or remaining unidentified (Ratemds). Recalling a negative experience may be too emotionally burdensome for someone to associate with themselves so personally and yet so publicly. In my personal opinion, a fertility center with less than a four and a half star rating on Facebook is not a good sign. For other sites, a good practice and team could still feasibly have a three and a half star rating. Again the number of reviews matters (at least ten).

6). Message the reviewers. Sometimes people will leave their contact information in their review, because they would love to answer your questions and share their experience. In the case of Google+, Yelp, and Facebook, you have the opportunity to click on that person's name and send them a message. Take advantage of that! If it were 1996 instead of 2016, you would have to wait outside of the fertility practice like a creep to ask people what it was like. Today, those that want to share their experience are doing so publicly. There's no magic number of conversations that you should have, so let's call it five.

  • Tell them what your greatest concerns are.
  • Ask them what their greatest concerns were.
  • Were their concerns relieved or confirmed?
  • What did they learn from their experience that they wish they had known before? 
Remember to search for other cities and suburbs around you.

Remember to search for other cities and suburbs around you.

7). Leave your own review after your experience. At least one, on the site that you found most helpful. If you go to the deli to buy a $5 sandwich, and you're not satisfied, you don't have to tell the world. Anyone can live with the consequence of a mediocre lunch. With your journey, aren't you almost compelled to offer your experience so that someone can make a more informed decision? With the emotional cargo, financial burden, and uncertainty that characterizes the infertility journey, aren't you obliged to warn or make recommendations to others? There are countless couples and individuals that share the same concerns as you and your partner; your opinion could really help them. Use a site where you leave your real name or one where you remain completely anonymous, depending on your personal preference. It's not my place to say, but I think that the prospective patient population would be much better served if every person that underwent fertility treatment left an online review afterward: good, bad, or neutral.  

Take advantage of the wisdom of others

Online reviews don't exist to benefit hotels, restaurants, vacation destinations, products, or medical practices. They exist to benefit guests, patrons, consumers, and patients. Fertility clinic reviews are channels for you to share your experience and the purpose of these channels is to benefit other people facing choices similar to ones you have faced. If you are considering a fertility doctor or practice for the first time, please, don't just look at their website. Take advantage of the wisdom of others who will be able to greatly inform your decision. If you are a veteran of fertility treatment, please give others something to consider by writing an online review.

Did you read reviews before you chose your fertility practice or are you using them now? What have you discovered?

Power to the Patient: 5 tips for your unbeatable fertility marketing plan in the great information shift

By Griffin Jones

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?

Anna sharing the news of her most recent pregnancy loss with her husband.

Anna sharing the news of her most recent pregnancy loss with her husband.

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?

Some of the phrases people enter into Google to learn more about infertility and IVF

Some of the phrases people enter into Google to learn more about infertility and IVF

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:

  • Healthgrades
  • ZocDoc
  • RateMDs
  • Yelp
  • Vitals
  • Fertility Authority
A completed physician profile looks much more professional.

A completed physician profile looks much more professional.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Increase your IVF cycles this year by creating better content than any other fertility practice in your area. Download my completely free e-book, "Digital Marketing for Fertility Centers: How to use digital media to acquire new IVF patients in 2016".

The Truth Is Undefeated: A hard look at "questionable techniques" and the current state of fertility marketing

By Griffin Jones

You can tell I'm still relatively new to the fertility space. I don't appear in the top ten Google search results for "fertility marketing". I'm working on that, that's what brought me to check. I was both encouraged and discouraged by something else that did come up, however.

On the first page of Google search results for the term, "fertility marketing".

On the first page of Google search results for the term, "fertility marketing".

It's unfortunate for the field of reproductive medicine when our top search results for marketing include, "Many Fertility Clinics Use Questionable Marketing Techniques Online", a Jezebel reiteration of a Huffington Post article from three years ago. I would normally argue that we should avoid questionable marketing techniques by using only real patient testimonials and images. But authentic content does not fully address the issue of transparency in fertility marketing . The fundamental problem is that fertility clinics serve two different populations who sometimes overlap and who are sometimes at odds. Until we equally recognize both groups and the value of their experiences, I'm afraid we'll continue to have more problems. 

Flowers over figures

Both articles are sensational summaries of a report called Selling Art: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics' Websites by Jim Hawkins, of the University of Houston Law Center. The report suggests that the content on fertility centers' websites may be misleading--using pictures of smiling babies and the words, "miracle" and "dream". The report offers criticism that these images and words may influence a prospective patient's decision instead of focusing on the Society for Advanced Reproductive Technology's (SART) published data on success rates. Such advertising may suggest that a pregnancy after IVF treatment is a certainty, when we know that in some cases, it's not even likely. 

It does seem that people sometimes feel misled. In a small survey I finished in April of 2015, patients told me that confusion about success rates was one of their greatest pain-points in selecting their fertility clinic. We also read in negative fertility doctor reviews that people sometimes feel rushed into IVF treatment. I recently spoke to a couple at Resolve's Night of Hope who felt the same way. It is certainly the case that some people feel that IVF is being sold to them. 

So why do I also find it encouraging that highly authoritative links to this report ranked so highly in the search results for "fertility marketing"? For the same reason I am building a company that will also rank among those results. I believe in a marketing strategy built on support and transparency. The report suggests that fertility clinic marketing should be more thoroughly regulated because of these questionable marketing tactics. My largest problem with that notion is that it shares a faulty belief with the lousy marketers that implement those tactics: obscurity works. Indeed, not being fully transparent may work in the short term. Some people clearly feel that they were persuaded with unrealistic expectations to pay for expensive IVF cycles. This strategy may have been tenable twenty years ago. Today's data, however, proves that people increasingly make decisions based on what they read in online reviews from their peers

You can run but you can't hide 

Fertility centers need to properly manage new patient expectations or their online ratings will suffer. Social proof in the form of online reviews should be the cornerstone of every good fertility clinic's marketing efforts. If any prospective patients or patient advocates read this post, I implore you to check the reviews of a provider before you decide on them. Investigate both the fertility practice and the reproductive endocrinologist (RE) on Yelp, Health Grades, Vitals, ZocDoc, RateMDs, Google reviews, or whichever of those are the most used in your area. Don't look at the star rating alone, but pay attention to the comments. If there are enough reviews, you will be able to get an idea of the culture of the practice or physician you are considering.

I don't know if fertility practices should be required to post their success rates, but I certainly think that they should post them. Patients are looking for that information and if they don't find it from you, it will be from a site like fertilitysuccessrates.com or from one of your competitors. Clinics should be transparent with success rate info and create content explaining the complex data to patients. 

Patients will find your success rates from one website or another. Fertilitysuccessrates.com

Patients will find your success rates from one website or another. Fertilitysuccessrates.com

Miracles happen and dreams are real 

I disagree that it would be appropriate to remove baby pictures and words like "dream" and "miracle" from your site.Those words belong to the patients themselves. If you look at the Facebook pages of nearly any fertility clinic in America, there is almost certainly a photo post from a happy patient that includes the word, "miracle". That child truly is a miracle for the parents that ventured that hard, lonely journey for so long. Their fertility specialist and their practice helped bring that miracle into existence. And for those couples and individuals that are struggling with infertility, it is their dream to have a baby of their own, a dream stronger than any other. We should speak to people in the language that they use, especially when it's based on results you've achieved. Your practice exists because people vividly dream of a miracle. Ideally, we should use baby pictures from actual patients. I think it's time to get the HIPAA release forms ready. The authentic account of someone who has actually realized their dream  is critical motivation for people under enormous emotional stress who are making a complicated medical decision. Sadly, however, we know that dream will not come true, in that form, for many people. So we must recognize the value of two communities rooted in the journey of infertility.

The word miracle belongs to the infertility community.

The word miracle belongs to the infertility community.

Serving two communities at the same time

I will oversimplify the infertility community for the sake of fundamentally understanding our responsibilities to them. As I see it, the infertility community is one population of people that becomes two. There are those who have ended their journey by achieving their dream of a biological child. In parallel, there are those who are still very much on their journey who may never realize that version of their dream. I hope this is the beginning of a much longer dialogue, because not recognizing the significance of both groups' feelings leads to many problems. We often hear complaints from patients without children when little ones are in the waiting room. Yet, we hear grievances from patients with children when they are asked not to have their child in the sitting area. For one group, Facebook and Instagram are places to celebrate their triumph over the darkest period of their lives. For the other group, they are in the midst of darkness and every pregnancy announcement on Facebook and every baby photo on Instagram is excruciatingly painful . Both communities have an inalienable right to the way they feel. These two communities overlap and we serve both of them. Because we're serving two communities, we have to be able to offer them a variety of benefits or some will never get value from their experience with us. I think fertility centers need to consider themselves agents of help beyond clinical treatment. Both groups need access to support; a peer support group member should never have to find out about her support group on her own. To better serve both populations, we need to

  • Send patients home with information on support groups in their area. RESOLVE facilitates infertility patient support groups in most mid-size to large U.S. metro areas and Fertility Matters is their peer in Canada. These are only two examples of support networks. There are patient advocacy groups and countless independent support groups throughout North America. I believe it's our responsibility to promote support groups when they ask for our help in distributing their information.
  • Empower people on social media. Whether it's on your fertility practice's Facebook page, or in a private forum, people coping with infertility use social media to connect with people who know their struggle. Promote RESOLVE Fertility Matters, and other groups online and share their groups if they ask you to. We don't not need to participate in these support forums (it may be better if we don't), but simply connect the people who are interested in them.
  • Give patients a list of popular infertility blogs and infertility podcasts so that they can interact with people who share their experience. 

Can you grow your practice by reconciling your results as a "miracle worker" with empirical expectation setting? I am building a business with my vote of confidence that it's the best way to do so.

Setting up for success

There are real life examples of the virtuous cycle I propose--attract new patients with the experience of delighted former patients, offer support and other resources, temper with very realistic expectations, and repeat. Dr. Ilan Tur-Kaspa is one of the highest rated REs in the Chicagoland area. I spoke with him about his approach. Dr. Tur-Kaspa says that the number of new patients that tell him they chose him because of his online ratings has increased. He credits a strong emphasis on properly managing expectations with the patient before treatment. "We talk a lot about the difference between disappointment and surprise," Tur-Kaspa says. "Whatever the probability of success is, it is important to communicate that in the terms of the probability of failure. i.e. if there is a 30% chance of success, we should communicate that there is a 70% chance that it won't work. The patient should preferably  acknowledge the odds of failure. Wait until they say 'I understand'".

When a patient looks at your online reviews on a site like ratemds (pictured), they are one click away from every other RE in your city. We want your reviews to be the best they can be.

When a patient looks at your online reviews on a site like ratemds (pictured), they are one click away from every other RE in your city. We want your reviews to be the best they can be.

I'm not a physician, so I certainly can't advise physicians on how to speak to their patients. Nor do I want to offer an incomplete solution, because I see that positivity is hugely important.  I'm simply a marketer who sees the impact that clear expectations have on the public image of the practice. Some marketers may ignore expectation setting for the sake of scheduling more IVF cycles in the short term. A good marketer will use the patient delight that comes from proper education as the pillar of their marketing strategy. For highly rated REs and fertility clinics, those reviews belong front and center on your website. A window to Yelp and Facebook  provide a balance to the testimonials that you've selected . It's okay for patients to see the occasional one-star review. Not every one will be satisfied 100% of the time. I believe that when we publicly acknowledge that, we begin to ensure that people are satisfied as much as possible.

The truth is undefeated (eventually)

We don't have to use "questionable marketing tactics" because they won't grow our practices over the long term. For those that embrace transparency and connection to support, market share will grow and marketing will be more effective and less expensive. We have to provide the best possible patient experience in order to build public social proof. That social proof, tempered with clear expectations and information, is the best way to attract new patients. In order to preserve this virtuous cycle, delighted patients bringing in more patients, we have to recognize the dynamics of both populations in the infertility community, and the equal worth of their experiences. 

Why on Earth Would an RE Review Google and Yahoo?

By Griffin Jones

Did I miswrite the title of this blog post? Aren't reproductive endocrinologists reviewed on Google and other search engines, not the other way around?

If you believe in content marketing, it's because you've seen results from it. If you've seen results from content marketing, then you likely agree with Gary Vaynerchuk when he says that every company is a media company.

Your fertility center is a media company. This is the thesis of the free e-book, Digital Marketing for Fertility Centers. Content marketing works because it engages, educates, or entertains people. 

The issue of IVF coverage as part of employee compensation is a hot-topic issue for many professional women, especially in silicon valley. Hot issues invite commentary. Most fertility centers will leave this commentary to CNBC, CNN, the Huffington Post...you know, the media companies.

But you're a media company too, remember? People find and choose your practice online because of the connection they form with you. Content builds connections. This is a simple assignment for you, as an RE, to baby-step your fertility clinic into a small media company.

Take a look at all of the benefits offered by different  companies in the US and Canada. This message board may give you a head start. Just do a little bit of research to make sure the information is correct. You can rate companies from your own experience, you can interview company representatives, or you can simply add your take to the latest news article on the subject. You can record video or  write a blog post; this is just an assignment. The habits toward a much greater shift from fertility center to media company/fertility center are what enable your practice to grow in the Digital Age. 

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Infertility Clinics Make on Facebook

 By Griffin Jones

I have reviewed the Facebook pages of nearly every infertility clinic across the United States and Canada. (Not an impressive bragging point at cocktail parties, by the way). These are the most common mistakes.
5). Having a lot of likes with little to no interaction. It doesn't matter if you have 60 fans (page likes) or 6,000, if only 2 people like your posts on average.  It´s your mother-in-law and your uncle and they are not prospective patients.
4). Not Paying for Facebook Advertising. Interaction is more important than fan size because it leads to reviews, recommendations, and referrals which generate new patients. That said, you need distribution and paying as little as $500/month on Facebook will build a community of hundreds of people in your area who are researching your services. 

No one has interacted with this fertility center's content on Facebook, so very few people will see it. 

No one has interacted with this fertility center's content on Facebook, so very few people will see it. 

3). Too Much Medical Content. But wait,  expertise is paramount in REI. You need to establish yourselves as the the best trained and most knowledgeable. Yes you do...on your website and on your blog. This is what Gary Vaynerchuk means when he talks about respecting why people are using each social media platform. People are not on Facebook to research medical advice.
2). Not Enough Community Content. Much to the contrary, people spend record time on Facebook looking at and posting baby pictures. This is why every fertility clinic should be generating plenty of new patient referrals on Facebook. But they´re not. With HIPAA release authorizations and patient generated content, your practice can play to its strengths on Facebook. 
1). Not Responding to Positive Reviews Though not the most common, this is the most grave, and it makes me want to pull my hair out. We all know (I hope) that we have to respond to negative reviews. But the vast majority of Facebook reviews for fertility clinics are positive, and we shouldn't ignore them. We have a bit longer to respond to positive comments, let´s call it 3-5 days, but we need to thank these people for being our strongest supporters. These are the patients who refer the most people. Responding with enthusiasm deepens the relationship with the patient and makes them even more vocal advocates of you and your practice. 
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People who generate the most new patients for fertility centers are ones who leave reviews like these. They should be thanked and acknowledged.    

People who generate the most new patients for fertility centers are ones who leave reviews like these. They should be thanked and acknowledged. 


What Makes Online Reviews Different For Fertility Centers

By Griffin Jones

I shot this video post back in June after the 2015 Midwest Reproductive Symposium. The way infertility patients use online reviews for their Reproductive Endocrinologists and their practices is vastly different from most other categories. Facebook is by far the most positive review source for fertility centers. Yelp is certainly the most negative. Other sites, such as RateMDs, ZocDoc, HealthGrades, and Fertility Authority tend to fall in between the two ends. 

I explain how reviews from your practice and other healthcare categories, how they differ for each platform, and what that means.