Strategy

MRS 2016 Meeting Recap: How To Use the Patient Experience as a Business Strategy

By Griffin Jones

You could put summer-time Chicago against just about any city in the world, so we're all glad that Dr. Angeline Beltsos, MD doesn't hold the Midwest Reproductive Symposium international (MRSi) in February. From June 15-18, without a cloud in the sky and an oceanic view of Lake Michigan, we met at MRSi 2016 at the historic Drake Hotel in Gold Coast. The event boasted a Business Minds Meeting, a Nurses' Practicum, and a Scientific Program. I went back to Chicago this year for my second MRSi because it's just the right size. It's a great place to connect with colleagues who share your practice role and also for physicians, nurses, and practice managers to share programming and meaningful conversation with one another. If you haven't been, add MRSi to the list for next year. You'll be able to talk to people and listen to topics that you won't always be able to get to at ASRM.

Panel discussion at MRSi Business Minds Meeting

Panel discussion at MRSi Business Minds Meeting

While I did attend some of Friday's Scientific Program, I'll use this post to run down Thursday's Business Minds Meeting for some of the things that you really need to know about utilizing different aspects of your clinic operations to grow your practice.

The ART of Incorporating the PATIENT EXPERIENCE as the Center of the Business Strategy

Janet Fraser, Board President of Fertility Matters and the COO of Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies (AART), co-chaired the meeting with Derek Larkin, CEO of Boston IVF. 

“Improving our patients’ experience makes our patients happier and it’s better for our business”, Fraser mentioned of the day's theme. The thought was reinforced by all of the speakers; fine-tuning our operations so that our patients are more satisfied is measurably beneficial to the top line of the practice. Larkin emphasized the importance of continually adjusting to patient needs. "Patient expectations are continually evolving, and so must the experience that we provide to them. It's an unending process."

Incorporating Emotional Support to Decrease Patient Burden During Infertility Treatment

Dr. Alice Domar, PhD of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF talked about the importance of focusing not only on patient recruitment, but also on patient retention. “It’s human nature to pay attention to the patients in front of you, and not the ones who you don’t see (those who have dropped out of care). Studies have shown that people who were depressed were far more likely to drop out of their IVF cycle." Domar points to a 2004 Boston IVF study: Of 112 respondents, 40% displayed psychiatric disorders while going through infertility treatment. A separate 2011 study shows that care was significantly higher of a priority for patients, as opposed to physicians, for whom the greatest priority was success rates. "67% of people declined to fill out a survey on self-reporting depression because they didn’t want their physician to know how depressed they were," Domar adds. To date, four different studies show that infertility patients have the same levels of anxiety as cancer patients. 

Boston IVF tested retention techniques in a 2015 study that was published in Fertility and Sterility. Drop out rates reduced 67% in the intervention group."If you have effective communication with your patients, they perceive that you spent more time with them". Domar brings to attention the dollar amounts that practices spend on marketing to new patients, and how little is spent on retaining them by responding to trends in drop outs. 
 

Getting Staff Buy-In On The Importance of The Patient Experience

Hannah Johnson speaking on patient retention, courtesy of Vios Facebook page

Hannah Johnson speaking on patient retention, courtesy of Vios Facebook page

“Intrinsic motivation tends to be lost when we only focus on the extrinsic motivators, so we have to focus on activities where the reward is inherent in what we’re doing". Hannah Johnson, Director of Operations at Vios Global dives deep into how we motivate and empower our team members to take personal interest in each of their patient interactions. We need to allow our team to step back to appreciate the positive difference they make, including making sure they are aware when they are named in positive patient comments. We also need to empower them to correct errors. "It’s okay for your staff to make mistakes. Let’s talk about how we can make the patient feel really good about what happened.”

 

The Magic of Using the Patient Experience as a Focal Point of Your Employees' Day

“People don’t do what the mission of the organization states, they do what their managers pay attention to.” Lisa Duran is the CEO of Reconceived and has trained dozens of fertility centers in North America on how to build a patient-focused culture. Duran says that when many practices don't feel like they're fulfilling their mission statements, it's often because of a breakdown in the details of execution. We broke out into separate teams to identify challenges that different members of our team face in their day-to-day duties, and how we might be able to support them. Departments and staff need reinforcement and understanding from one another. “I want to know that my opinion matters,” Duran says of the most common desire that staff report before going into training.

In their own words

We had the privilege of hearing the first hand account of a couple who has gone through infertility treatment for many years. When asked what would have most benefited them to know when they first began their treatment, they each replied
"Don't be complacent if you're not getting the answers you need. Keep asking". 
"I wish that I wouldn't have waited so long. I wish I would have sought out treatment much earlier".
Hearing from patients in panel-form was a first for me at MRSi, and should be common practice at our conferences...imho.

Strategic Planning: Folding the Patient Experience into Your Business Plans

"Perception is reality. What patients feel is what they share." Rick Dietz, Chief Business Officer of Boston IVF, spoke in detail about the constant feedback loop of implementing and adjusting to patient input. Dietz says that practice strategy should be informed by a number of different metrics, and that self-reporting from patients is only one method at our disposal. "We can use patient surveys to give us clues and direction. But they don't tell the whole story."

Never Underestimate the Role of the Nurse in Patient Retention

"Nurses need proper training of how to talk with patients or you're going to get a lot more questions." Lori Whalen, RN, of HRC Fertility spoke about the importance of nurses as agents of patient retention. Whalen reminds us that nurses frequently have the most contact with patients and can be excellent sources of what patients want or what about our operations might be frustrating them. They can even find other solutions to patient problems, such as helping them find ways to save money. "Shared donors can cut costs in half for patients who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise," Whalen says.

The Vital Role of Digital Media in Recruiting New Patients 

It was my first time speaking in the field and I was very pleased to have a great audience that asked meaningful questions. What can I say in this single post that isn't better summarized in greater detail throughout the blog? Suffice it to say that I reaffirmed what matters above all else in fertility marketing: the attention of people dealing with infertility. When we know what people with infertility are paying attention to, then we can measure how we will increase IVF cycles, increase patient-to-patient referrals, and improve our conversions of prospective patients to scheduled patients. You can view the first half of my talk here:

It takes a village

The strongest recurring theme of the Business Minds meeting was the critical involvement of everyone at the practice. I frequently see public feedback when patients are happy with their physicians, but not their staff, and vice-versa. Patients form their opinions about their experience based on every interaction they have with us; from the receptionist who greets them, to the medical team that cares for them, to exceptional customer service both online and offline. When we support all of the role players on our team, and learn about best practices from clinic groups across North America, we can dramatically improve both our delivery of care and patient satisfaction. Now that's an excellent foundation for growth. I recommend that at least once a year, you accompany a few of your team members to an inter-role meeting like MRSi to identify how you can improve your practice operations. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn from your own team, and what they learn from you.

See you next year at MRSi 2017!

6 Topics You Need to Know to Run a Successful Fertility Practice: 2016 ARM meeting recap

By Griffin Jones

Time to get down to business

Thursday, May 5th and Friday, May 6th marked the 2016 annual meeting of the Association of Reproductive Mangers (ARM). The professional group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) convened on a pair of gorgeous near-summer days in downtown Chicago. Roughly 100 practice administrators attended, coming from single-physician fertility clinics to multi-state practice groups. At the welcome reception on Thursday, ARM Chair Brad Senstra invited the group to introduce themselves and enjoy dinner with someone they hadn't yet met. It was an in-person networking and educational opportunity that isn't especially common for practice admins. Here's some of what we learned

1). Salary Surveys, Benefits, and Calculation of Total Compensation

Sara Mooney, Human Resources Manager at Seattle Reproductive Medicine (SRM), opened the meeting on Friday by addressing many of the common issues that we face when reviewing and rewarding our team members. Sara recommends an online tool called Payscale, to review the pay averages of positions by geographic area and years of experience. Tools like Payscale generate reports that you can share with your employees, so that they understand when you are compensating them at a higher percentile relative to your competitors. Even when pay increases are not in the budget or may simply not be timely, there are other ways of rewarding your team, such as peer recognition from employee comment cards, added vacation time, and small gifts such as restaurant gift cards or sweets.

Carla Giambona, Director of Human Resources at IntegraMed Fertility, tackled the topic of benefits and calculating total compensation. It's important that employees know what your practice pays into their health and overall benefits package. Very often, employees view their salary as their total compensation. In reality, the practice may well be spending an additional 50% of that on health insurance coverage and other benefits. Premiums are among the biggest staff expenses to practices so engaging your team in wellness activities is a way to reduce your premium costs. Carla cautions however, that wellness engagement is a longer term strategy whose benefits will likely not be seen in the form of premium reductions within two or three years. 

2). Values Development and Implementation

Marianne Kreiner, Chief Human Resources Officer at Shady Grove Fertility, shared a meaningful (and very fun) exercise from one of the most successful practice cultures in the country. The total audience was divided into small groups of around eight people. Each subgroup was given a list of 150 words; desirable qualities for any team. Teams were welcome to add a word to the list if they preferred a quality that wasn't mentioned. Each person selected their twenty most preferred words and then group voting reduced the list to twelve and finally three words. The subgroups merged with one another and repeated the process with their combined word pools until finally the two halves of the entire audience came together as one to decide upon the chosen values that they felt represented their group culture. Want to know something about this ARM group? You must be hiring class acts. Independently, both halves of the audience chose "integrity" among their final three characteristics, a word that wasn't listed in the original 150. 

3). Leadership 

"Leadership does not carry a title," asserts Brad Senstra, Executive Director at SRM. Senstra explains four ways that leaders can encourage leadership, and therefore exhibit it in themselves. 

  1. Clarifying Values
  2. Inspiring a Shared Vision
  3. Enabling Others
  4. Encouraging the Heart

Above all, what sustains leaders, is that they love what they do. "Leaders build character by enabling others to act."

Example of leadership from Brad's talk. If the  story of these two dogs  doesn't rock your soul, then you don't have one.

Example of leadership from Brad's talk. If the story of these two dogs doesn't rock your soul, then you don't have one.

4). National Public Health Action Plan for the Detection, Prevention, and Management of Infertility

Dmitry Kissin, MD of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) delivered some reassuring news about the agency's efforts to address infertility as a public issue. The mission of the National Assisted Reproductive Technology Surveillance System (NASS) is to promote the health of women and men who receive infertility services, the health of pregnancies achieved through these services, and the health of infants conceived through these services, by conducting surveillance and research, creating and maintaining strategic partnerships, and moving science to practice. Among NASS's goals to address infertility as a public health concern, are to develop a standardized case definition of infertility and to eliminate disparities in access to affordable infertility services.

5). Patient Services

Lisa Duran, CEO of patient focused, Reconceived, facilitated an exercise that can be replicated with both your patients and your personnel. Duran uses the Myers-Briggs personality survey to identify how people with different personality profiles communicate in distinct ways. The 16 distinctive personality types are determined by a combination of preferences.

Learn where you fall in this spectrum.

Learn where you fall in this spectrum.

  • Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?
    • Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  • Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?
    • Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?
    • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?
    •  Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

Duran says its helpful to know patients' preferences because people with different personality profiles frequently equate to "speaking a different language to one another". I learned that I'm an ENFJ (the teacher) and I found the summary to be pretty spot-on.

6). The Knights at the Round Table(s)

I could only attend one of the round tables, and it certainly won't surprise you that I chose marketing. Jacqueline Sharp of HRC Fertility moderated the table of very different practice groups. All four squares of the big market, small market, small practice, large practice quadrant were represented. I continue to be fascinated by how different practices use different models to affect patient volumes.  Some groups follow the recommended 3-5% of total revenue as a marketing budget. Many practices have no planned budget at all, but rather approve or reject marketing investments as they arise. Proving return on investment (ROI) is a challenge for all of us--and I'm excited to  continue to address that challenge.

Come one, come all

This was my first ARM meeting and I plan to be back next year, which means I would recommend it to you. The content of the meeting is beneficial not only to administrators and those involved in practice development, but also to nurses and physicians. The ARM group offers what is probably the most team-comprehensive programming within ASRM. The input of others in our professional society helps us to build teams that grow, super-serve patients, and are just downright pleasant to work with. If you'd like to get to know the group and their topics before you board a plane to Chicago next year, join us for some of the incredible round-tables and symposiums that they'll be hosting at the ASRM Scientific Congress in Salt Lake City. See you in October!

Add $360,000 to Your Fertility Practice's Top Line By Rethinking Your Website

By Griffin Jones

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?

SEO for fertility centers

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.

conversion optimization for fertility clinics

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.

Direct patient booking is the clearest way to measure the impact of each review site

Direct patient booking is the clearest way to measure the impact of each review site

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

 

 

6 Ways Savvy Fertility Clinics Are Preparing to Take IVF Cycles From You in the Next Recession

By Griffin Jones

"Then the Grasshopper knew...it is best to prepare for the days of necessity."

Generally speaking,the last few years have been very good for fertility clinics. We seem to be in a time of abundance. So I write this article now, to reference when the time comes. A mediocre patient experience or sub-par marketing presence may suffice for the moment, but now would be the time to  begin improvements to avoid increased vulnerability during any potential drop in IVF cycles. 

In one of Aesop's fables, the ant toils all summer to be prepared for the winter, while the grasshopper does nothing to prepare for leaner times

In one of Aesop's fables, the ant toils all summer to be prepared for the winter, while the grasshopper does nothing to prepare for leaner times

lean economic times expose the mediocre

David Kiley of Bloomberg Business argues that "weak brands" are exposed during a recession. During the Great Recession of 2009,  brands like KB Toys, Circuit City, and Linens'n Things were forced to close their doors after decades in business. Stronger brands in their respective categories such as Toys "R" Us, Best Buy, and Bed, Bath and Beyond, offset the decline in the overall market with the gained market share of their vanquished competitors. Meanwhile, certain brands with low price points (Dollar Tree), easier points of sale (Amazon) and a unique customer experience (Apple) experienced accelerated growth though the weakest economy of their corporate existence.

Fertility treatment could be considered "recession-resistant" (I don't believe in such a thing as "recession proof"). There has never been a decline in the number of IVF cycles performed in the U.S. over the last decade. According to SART data, the slowest growth in IVF cycles overt the last fifteen years was in 2009, with still more than 1,400 cycles than the year before. Post recession growth has resumed to 8,000-10,000 year-to-year increases. Still, many clinics throughout the country reported a sharp decline during 2009 and 2010. I have spoken with others in the southern United States and in western Canada who have been effected by regional recessions caused by the decline in the price of oil. 

hope for the best, prepare for the worst

I don't own a crystal ball. I can't say when the next economic downturn will come nor how strong it will be, and I am wary of those who tell us they can. We've heard for some time that the market will implode or the value of the US dollar will fall to zero. We're still waiting. Nonetheless, it would be reckless to assume that another sharp decline in the global economy will never affect fertility practices. It would be equally irresponsible to take for granted that IVF cycles will increase forever, even though current medical and social trends don't show any sign that they will decrease in the near future.

 I will be eager to capitalize on the opportunities that present themselves. I am not concerned about an economic downturn.  I prepare so that I don't have to be concerned. Neither should you be worried about the future of your practice. The point is not that you fret over potential upswings or drops in the market. The point is that you focus on providing a unique patient experience and leverage it to win market share from competing fertility centers.

Winning share of IVF cycles is the best hedge against a downturn

According to Fast Company, "market share is the most important metric because it is a relative measurement against external benchmarks." In other words, increased market share is your buffer heading into a recession. If the total number of IVF cycles decrease in a given area, you can mitigate the decline with an increase in the share of IVF cycles that your clinic performs. Rather than scramble to grow market share at the onset of a recession, we can begin to take measures now that will blunt the losses we might have otherwise incurred. We may even be able to use a weak economy as an opportunity for growth. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that 9% of companies emerged from the Great Recession, performing better on key financial parameters than they had before, due to a combination of strategic cuts and investments in marketing and new assets. These are six measures fertility centers can take to win market share and prepare for a recession:

  1. Pay attention to other fertility centers' reviews to inform your competitive analysis. Monitoring sites like RateMDs, Yelp, Vitals, Facebook, ZocDoc, and Fertility Authority, allows you to see what patients like and dislike about other fertility specialists in your area, so you can assess your competitive strengths and weaknesses. Read all of the reviews that you can find of every fertility doctor/clinic in your area including your own. Example: you read several complaints that another reproductive endocrinologist (RE) was very inaccessible, while your reviewers laud you for the time you spend with your patients. Your "time with patient" is a competitive strength. If other practices have very few complaints about billing, but almost all of your negative reviews involve your billing office, your billing process is a competitive disadvantage that has to be corrected.
  2. Track all of your marketing efforts. In a recent blog post, I talk about the importance of closely monitoring key performance indicators (KPI) at your practice. You can't nurture relationships with your top five referring OBs if you don't know who they are. You can't cut the expenses of your three least effective marketing ventures if you don't quantify what results they produce. Start tracking your marketing effectiveness now so that you have a finely tuned system in place when going into an economic slow down.
  3. Expand your "word of mouth" referral system by over 600% with social media. Most fertility practices I have spoken to put their "word of mouth" referrals and those who report having found the practice through the internet at a combined fifty percent of new patients. Internet and word of mouth aren't entirely distinguishable from one another, due to the prevalence of social media. Data from Statista shows that on Facebook alone, your patients have an average of 360 friends. Meanwhile, according to the Social Brain Hypothesis, on average, people have a social circle of fifty friends and fifteen in whom they "can confide in about most things". So if you don't effectively leverage social media, you forfeit sixty to ninety six percent of the word of mouth social network that would otherwise be at your disposal. Use social media as both outbound distribution of patient recommendations and a source of inbound feedback to continually monitor the patient experience. Amplify your word of mouth referral network as much as you can by engaging your community on social media.
  4. Strengthen your MD referral relationships. Word of mouth is king. Internet presence is paramount. Still, referrals from OB offices play a hugely important role in new patient acquisition. Most clinics report half of their new patients coming from referring MD offices. One practice in the southern United States increased OB referrals from less than 40% of all new patient visits to 60%, citing physician lunches "as their single biggest marketing return by far". Your REs are extremely busy; taking them to an OB's office for an informational lunch might seem like an inefficient use of time, but with relationships with referring doctors yielding such high returns, it's wise to nurture these relationships before you need them the most.
  5. Test other markets. If you live in a more sparsely populated area, it may be that no amount of marketing or exceptional patient experience will yield you enough new patients. There are various ways for fertility centers to enter new markets. First, you can check Google Analytics to see if people are looking at your fertility center from other markets. If you live in an area with a low cost of living index, within a short flight of an area with a much higher cost of living, it could be that your IVF pricing is much more affordable than clinics in that area. Further data from the Harvard Business Review supports that drawing patients from remote markets is a way of increasing your market "headroom". If pricing is equal, and you can't find other strong competitive advantages to why someone would come to you from out of town, your only option for growth may to be open an office in a new market. 
  6. Increase your role in support. Connecting people to support is part of the patient care experience. As part of the standard of care, people should be informed of resources for both professional and peer support. Support groups, by default, then become referral networks. Like online reputation and social media, this is why effective marketing inherently depends on outstanding patient attention. Patients use their support groups to solicit and make recommendations of fertility centers. By supporting organizations like RESOLVE, and Fertility Matters, and informing patients of other support resources online and in their area, you give patients the confidence to recommend you to others in their support networks.

Organize, don't agonize

There's no way to be certain if the next recession will come in twenty days or twenty years. We don't want to worry about how we will operate during a recession, we want to operate in a way so we don't have to worry. If the trend in IVF cycles ever stops its nationwide increase, you will be well-served from having won market share from other clinics. Gaining market share is the greatest hedge against an economic downturn because it mitigates the overall decrease in IVF cycles. We can increase market share by expanding our "word of mouth" systems, nurturing referral relationships, empowering support networks, testing new markets, and tracking everything we do to bring in new patients. By preparing for a downturn in IVF cycles while conditions are strong, your fertility center will be well poised to flourish and grow.

win share of ivf cycles from other clinics to hedge against a downturn! download my absolutely free e-book "Digital Marketing for fertility centers: how to use digital media to acquire new ivf patients in 2016".

 

 

 

 

The BIGGEST Marketing Challenge Facing Fertility Centers in 2016

By Griffin Jones

"If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." --Peter Drucker

Recently, I've been honing in on the fundamental problem that we face in fertility marketing. People e-mail the practice for information but never schedule a consultation. Referral networks don't always deliver the number of patients that they promised. New patients way too long to schedule their first consult with a fertility specialist. How do we prioritize finding solutions to these challenges and is there a greater problem from which they arise? Usually, our greatest problem is that we don't accurately or thoroughly track how our patients come to us.

If we don't want to waste money on fertility marketing, we need to track and measure.

If we don't want to waste money on fertility marketing, we need to track and measure.

Connecting the dots

I quickly learned that many past, present, and future patients interact with their practice through social media. I also learned that many patients choose their fertility doctor because of the recommendation of someone they know. We can view and measure how patients talk about their fertility clinics online. Yet, missing links remain regarding how we quantify this  "word of mouth" activity into new patient consultations. My goal is to continually reverse engineer how a complete stranger makes the decision to schedule her initial consultation at a fertility office.

We can spend a lot of money on marketing. It's one  of the reasons we're reluctant to spend any money on it at all. When I talk to reproductive endocrinologists (RE) for the first time, they often view any new marketing investment as an additional expense. There's only one reason we view marketing as something where we part with money, instead of make money: we don't know to what extent it's going to work. If we were 100% certain that any marketing effort, would individually yield more revenue than the amount of time, effort, and money, we spent on it, we would pay for it without hesitation. That's part of the problem, isn't it?

Tactics vs Religion

If every fertility clinic in the world knew that a given tactic would bring them more patients, they would all do it. If every fertility center had the exact same marketing strategy, how would patients choose one clinic from another? No one would be able to increase market share. Even though the number of people being treated for infertility is far less than those who need treatment, market share is not infinite. I accept that the reasons that patients decide to schedule their initial consultations are not entirely measurable. The individual attention of walking a patient to her car at the end of a long day, which in turn caused her to be the source of four new patients over the course of her lifetime, is not exactly a measurable marketable tactic. Marketing depends on a combination of religion and tactics. 

I think the use of the word religion is prudent here, because good marketing requires faith, patience, and personal commitment. I spend thousands of dollars, every year, to go to meetings of various infertility societies throughout the United States and Canada. I might spend $1,500 on a conference between the fee, airfare, and lodging, and I can't say that any one conference yields a client who returns my investment in that singular interaction. That's why most people won't do it. I pay the expense of going to the meetings  because being a part of the community benefits me. Multi-millionaire marketer, Gary Vaynerchuk, contends that belonging to a community yields privileges and opportunities that do not come easily to those outside of the community. The value that we bring to the community that we serve may be considered a marketing expense . Still, we can't spend money aimlessly. We have to measure key performance indicators (KPI); numbers that let us know if we are on the right track.

Effort does not equal result

When we don't know how much a marketing effort is returning its investment, we're tempted to measure false metrics. I have been told by fertility centers, more times than I can count, that they have a company that handles their social media. Then I look at their Facebook page to see that no one has liked, commented on, or shared any of their content. We check the box. "Social media: done". We mistake our output for a key performance indicator. We ignore what is really important: the attention of our prospective and current patients, and the decision making process they go through to choose their fertility center.

We measure output like this

  • We aired 100 television commercials
  • We post to Twitter and Facebook everyday.
  • We wrote 20 blog posts.
  • We hired a marketing firm.

What were the results? Did anyone read your blog article? Did anyone see your Facebook post? If they didn't, how are these efforts meant to bring in new patients? If they did, how do we know if anyone took action because of it? Output is relevant only to the result it produces.

Tracking is easier when you have a sales funnel

Fertility centers struggle with measuring their marketing efforts when they don't have a sales funnel. Tech Target defines a sales funnel as the visual representation of how a sale proceeds in a linear fashion from customer awareness to customer action. Let's use a common example for fertility practices. How often do you receive an e-mail or a Facebook message from a prospective patient asking questions about infertility or IVF? You send them a response asking them to call the office to schedule an initial consultation. Maybe they respond saying they will, maybe they don't respond at all. You check after a few months to see how many of those people actually scheduled a consultation. Very few, right?

I used this image from stevepatrizi.com because I liked it the best.

I used this image from stevepatrizi.com because I liked it the best.

Why do so few people actually schedule a consultation relative to the number who are researching us online? We are trying to get them to jump from the very top of the funnel right through the bottom in one drop. That's not how funnels work. Funnels swirl from one ring to the next. I want to do a better job of helping fertility clinics build their sales funnel. Taking exceptional care of your patients matters. People recommending their friends to your clinic results in more patients. I want to be able to better quantify that.

Setting goals and ways to measure them

We need to do a better job of tracking where our patients come from. To start, we need to know our goals so we can align our marketing efforts with out KPIs. Most businesses do a poor job of this. Most medical practices are even worse at it. Fertility centers are no exception. In our case, we can determine our goals with questions like these.

  • How many IVF cycles can each physician perform? IUIs?
  • How many new patient consultations do we average each month?
  • Do we want to hire additional physicians/staff in the future?
  • Do we want to expand our facilities/office locations?
  • How many new patient consults can we see monthly?
  • How many consultations result in IVF? IUI? Other treatment?
  • What are the margins on IVF from a patient who pays out of pocket vs. one who pays from insurance?

Once we have our goals, we can begin to set KPIs. 

  • Are consultations up, month to month? Year to year?
  • What is our average cancellation rate?
  • How many patients do we schedule online? Over the phone?
  • Are cancellations higher or lower for patients scheduling online? By how much?
  • How many patients come to us from MD referrals? The internet? Word of mouth? Other?

Once we've determined what KPIs support our goals, we can implement methods to measure them. There are various ways of doing this, such as purchasing software from Hubspot or Sales Force. Inbound marketing software is extremely helpful for tracking how a prospective patient goes from the awareness stage at the top of the decision funnel all the way through to become an actual patient. The software provides you with data to decide what content to create, to nurture prospective patients to scheduled patients. Even without paying for expensive marketing software, we can do a better job of tracking our goals and indicators. Whether through your patient portal, on a tablet in your office, or a form for patients to complete, we want to ask patients various questions. For our own purposes, we want to be able to answer

  • How did they become aware of us?
  • Why did they decide on our practice?

Frequently, people have a hard time answering these questions when they're phrased like this. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, says that "we must learn what customers really want. Not what they say they want, or what we think they should want". We need to observe patients' online behavior and ask more specific questions about their choices rather than hypothetical options. 

Please list ALL of the ways you heard about us.

  • If referred by an office
  • If referred by a friend
    • Who?
      • Through social media? Or in person? 
  • Your opinion really helps us provide the best experience for our patients. Would you please describe how you made your decision to choose our practice?

Implement, Measure, Adjust, Repeat

We often ignore the tracking process as marketers because it's cumbersome. First, we have to decide upon our practice goals. Then, we have to set key performance indicators (KPI) to measure those goals. After we've aligned our KPIs with our marketing efforts we need to validate them with detailed patient feedback. It would be imprudent to base our marketing strategy entirely on tactics. Marketing involves a combination of tactics and religion--the faith that an outstanding patient experience results in more patients. In order to prove that exceptional patient attention is an engine for practice growth, we need to measure our KPIs and ask patients for their input. It may mean we have to change some of our marketing efforts or practice style. Once we have a measurable marketing system in place, however, we can efficiently invest resources and sustainably grow the practice. With the adjustments that we make from the feedback we've learned, we can repeat the process for predictable success. 

 

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. 

Top 7 Ways to Market Your Fertility Practice in 2016

By Griffin Jones

2015 was an interesting year for fertility centers. We saw big mergers in both the United States and Canada to watch large practices become extremely large practices. Meanwhile, other practices sold equity to team up with larger management firms while some reproductive endocrinologists (RE) opened their own clinics. That's no surprise; infertility treatment remains a high-growth category. The Society for Advanced Reproductive Technology (SART) numbers show an increase in ART cycles every year from 2003 to 2013 and we expect the 2014 and 2015 reports to follow the trend. I see a few possible scenarios in this increasingly competitive market for IVF patients:

SART reported a 6% increase in ART cycles from 2013 to 2012

SART reported a 6% increase in ART cycles from 2013 to 2012

  • You want to grow as an independent practice
  • You are an independent practice who has to defend market share from growing competitors
  • You can grow to have a higher valuation to sell equity to a management company
  • You are an equity firm who needs to increase fertility patients to return your investment in a practice group
  • You are a large practice group who would like to merge and acquire other fertility clinics

Whichever scenario best describes you, I generally believe that increasing market share is the best way to sustain your practice. The focus doesn't belong on converting consultations to IVF cycles, does it? From my research, patients are more likely to negatively review their practice when they feel rushed into a particular treatment option. Isn't it better if we can increase the number of consultations and let the number of IVF cycles increase by proxy? That way, according to patient feedback, you can properly manage patient expectations to provide the best possible care experience. That appears to be a virtuous cycle from which you will increase market share.

Additionally, increasing market share is a hedge against a recession. Personally, I like to be prepared for a recession, even when the economy is strong. I don't know if the next economic downturn will come in twenty weeks or twenty years, but if we're in business for long enough, we will experience one.  Increasing market share from competitors helps blunt the sting of the decline in the economy. Whatever your own reasons for growing your fertility center, these are the top 7 ways to market your fertility clinic in 2016.

  1. Invest in patient experience. Nothing exposes a faulty patient experience better than good fertility marketing. When patient delight is at its best, marketing is far more effective (and often cheaper). You may choose to hire someone like Reconceived to help you install a patient-centered culture or you might create your own system. Research shows us that patients increasingly choose their medical practices from online reviews. We can't delete online reviews from sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, Ratemds, or Healthgrades, so minimizing negative experiences and getting the most from positive ones is paramount to growth.
  2. Respond to online reviews. The patient experience extends to the online world. Patient delight is part of the conversion cycle and delight requires interaction after treatment has ended. Sometimes people are displeased with their experience with your practice. That's okay. It's important to acknowledge these patients online because your audience consists of every prospective patient who factors that review into their decision-making process. This should be done very delicately, Read the six critical rules for responding to negative fertility reviews. You can also nurture your "word-of-mouth" referral network by responding to positive reviews. These are the patients that have taken time out of their day to promote your practice and increase your social proof. Thanking them rewards and encourages a culture around your practice.
  3. Post original content to Facebook This is a way for you to dabble in the world of content creation. You don't need to invest much at first. You can start with your iPhone. Selfies with the embryologists, a family-style photo with the nurses, and an RE with his birthday cake will almost always garner more engagement than rhetorical questions or links to studies. Above all, it will help to instill the habits of content creation in which everyone on your team can participate.
  4. Start using Instagram. Instagram is an absurdly powerful connection tool in the infertility community. We have to be even more cautious with how we use it because of HIPAA regulations, but I've identified seven powerful ways for fertility centers to attract new patients with this fiercely popular medium.
  5. Use online video. Don't skimp on your selection of a cinematographer. Good ones don't come cheap. I would hire someone at the caliber of John Paget in your market. In my experience, the most effective use of online video is for social proof. Rather than a scripted commercial, online video can capture the feelings, emotions, and concerns of your former patients. You will need HIPAA release authorizations, but through your social media channels, you can find several delighted former patients who will be willing to share their experiences. For someone who is considering your practice, the heartfelt validation of one of their peers may be enough for them to make their decision at that moment.
  6. Invest in inbound marketing software. I advise this with a word of caution. It's only worth spending the money on inbound marketing software if you are also ready to invest the resources and time into creating the content that the software is intended to manage. Integramed uses a system offered by SalesForce. I personally like the inbound marketing platform offered by Hubspot. Inbound marketing provides you with a system to follow to create content to meet your goals. For example, let's say your practice does 500 IVF cycles per year and you would like to increase that by 10% in 2016. You use the content management system to track where your leads are coming from, how to increase them, and how to improve conversions. Inbound marketing is the most proven form of marketing there has ever been. But you need to be able to first quantify your goals, and be willing to invest the resources to meet them.
  7. Optimize for mobile. Really, this item belongs on the 2010 list, but I still see many fertility centers whose websites are non-responsive to mobile. The problem is two-fold. First, new updates to Google's algorithm tend to lower the search ranking of those websites that aren't mobile friendly. The second is that you can look at your bounce rate in your Google Analytics account. Your bounce rate may be 30 to 50% higher than normal. This means the patient is leaving your site without interacting with it because the site doesn't look good on their iPhone. The data from Google (below) demonstrates that the majority of your web traffic likely comes from mobile and tablets as well.
A breakout of Google searches for IVF by device as of December, 2015. Only 35% of IVF searches come from desktop.

A breakout of Google searches for IVF by device as of December, 2015. Only 35% of IVF searches come from desktop.

By all indications, 2016 will follow the trend of increased competition among fertility clinics. Some practices will merge to become larger, some will sell equity to large management firms, and some REs will go off on there own to begin new practices. Whether you are looking to defend you own market share, or to grow across multiple markets, these are the top seven ways to market your fertility clinic in 2016. 

Take IVF cycles from your competitors this year. Read my absolutely free e-book, Digital Marketing for Fertility Centers: How to Use Digital Media to Acquire New IVF Patients in 2016.

7 Measures To Increase IVF Patients From Other Cities

By Griffin Jones 

Caution. Attracting patients from another market will do one or all of three things.

1). Slowly and sustainably grow your REI practice

2). Hedge your patient flow in a recession

3). Offer you data to decide if maybe even one day it would make sense to open a clinic in that area (if you´re so ambitious)

In an earlier post, I showed you how to use Google Analytics to see if patients from other markets are investigating your clinic. Now, I´ll tell you what to do if they are

1). Create an entire page specific to patients from that market. Example: If you are in Springfield Illinois, give the page its own tab on the home page called ¨Chicago Patients¨*. 

2). Interview patients that are currently coming from the potential market. This will take time. If you need your business manager to do it, that´s okay. If you need to reward them with restaurant gift certificates, gas cards, for their time, do it. Ask those patients from Dallas why they chose to drive up to Tyler. Ask for all of their reasons, and then ask them to rank them. Look for common responses among the interviewees. This will be the copy for your page.

3). Address each of the pain points on the page. Order them in the importance that your patients ranked them. Bullet the points as the problem they described it. Then support with the solution. 

  • Example: IVF in Chicago is too expensive: In Springfield, our IVF cycles are half of the average cost in Chicago, and our success rates are even higher.

4). Support each pain point with a testimonial. Consider HIPAA and state and local regulations relevant to your area, but those who love you will happily sign a release.

5). Within step two, ask patients why they considered NOT coming to your market/clinic. Repeat steps three and four with each potential objection, and why the patients themselves overturned them.

6). Geo-target a landing page to bring the right visitors directly to this page. Your web guy/gal will know how to do this. Just tell him/her that all visitors coming from the certain zip code or metro area should see this landing page.

7). A-B test every  landing page. Repeat monthly or bi-monthly at the longest. This means that you are testing titles, page copy, testimonials and images, to see which results in more patient form downloads or new patient inquiries.

How Your Clinic´s Website Will Tell You if You Can Attract IVF Patients From Other Cities

By Griffin Jones

How do you grow your infertility clinic's practice if you´re from a small market? What if you´re the only fertility center that provides IVF in your area? 

I have an assignment for you. First, you certainly have an anecdotal idea of how many people come to your practice from out of town, that´s a start. But there´s also a way to tell if people are considering you, researching your practice online from other cities.

Let´s say your center is located in Providence, RI or Ottawa, ON or Canberra, Australia. How can you tell if patients would really consider coming from Boston or Toronto or Melbourne? 

1). Log into your Google Analytics account
2). Under Audience in the left tab, Click Geo
3). Click City

Click these tabs in Google Analytics to see if IVF patients from other markets are investigating your fertility clinic

Click these tabs in Google Analytics to see if IVF patients from other markets are investigating your fertility clinic


4). In the cities column, your own will probably rank number 1, followed by your principal suburbs. But then, you may see that magical Toronto or Melbourne or whatever it may be
5). Look at the number of new users to see if it´s anything significant
6). Then look at the bounce rate, number of pages per session, and avg. session duration
7). If these numbers are fairly close to your site´s average, they´re not coming there by accident. These are prospective patients.

These are the markets to start with to either slowly grow your practice or to build a safe buffer for a recession.