Advertising mistakes: if your advertising results don’t deliver a steady stream of new patients, chances are you’re making costly, but correctable, errors!
The only purpose of advertising is to generate higher profits for your medical practice! Your ad MUST be a salesperson in print, online, on the radio, in your television ad, etc. Unless your ad convinces the patients to pick up the phone and call you or come into your office, your ads are useless; also known as “Doctor Advertising Mistakes.” Sadly, depending on the type of error, you even be pushing potential business directly to your competition!
If you look at many Doctors’ display ads, you will quickly notice that most of the ads look alike, and they say the same things. Worst of all, they all have nearly identical advertising mistakes, such as: “Free Consultant”, “Urgent Care”, and “Medical Care for The Entire Family.”
* Though all these services and details are important, and they all stand on their own merits! Unfortunately, as it applies in most cases, the only elements that change in the ad are the names of their practice.
Though many (if not most) media conduits provide their basic elements, essential ingredients, and software for an ad. Too often they [the media outlets] just offer some variation of a cookie-cutter formula for their “advertising platform.” Which is fine for their needs; however, too often some essential “components” are left out of your ad.
The importance of these elements becomes apparent when you look at your advertising from the perspective of what your ad (In a magazine for example, but it applies to all other mediums as well. For simplicity, for rest of illustration we will use print advertising) is indeed designed to do for your medical practice.
Every ad is created with two purposes in mind: 1) To attract a stream of new patients; and, 2) To have those patients who see your ad choose your practice over everyone else in your field and demographic area. Unfortunately, your competitor is counting on the very same benefit!
Print advertising is a medium that allows your biggest competitor to sit next to you in the periodical for easy comparison. Whatever your advertising medium, shortly after your ad appears, or is heard, your competitor’s ad will also be seen or heard. Therefore, as part of your marketing strategy, you have to do everything you can to stand out.
“What business strategy is all about and what distinguishes it from all other kinds of business planning is, in two words, competitive advantage. Without competitors there would be no need for strategy, for the sole purpose of strategic planning is to enable the company to gain, as efficiently as possible, a sustainable edge over its competitors.” ― Kenichi Ohmae
To stand out and have your next patient pick up the phone and call you is beyond important. It is life and death (for your medical practice). Your ad must be different! Shockingly, some doctors merely state their name in their ads, and besides a phone number — that’s all.
Interestingly, every consumer has one trait in common with every other buyer. We all like to buy; we just do not want to be sold! Additionally, we buy using unique triggers that appeal specifically to us; in marketing terms, it is called the “What’s in it for me?” quotient.
Your prospective patient wants to know things like, “What benefit do I derive from you [the doctor]?” Your advertisement needs to give your future patient an immediate reason to choose your medical practice over everyone else’s on the same page, on the same social media site, or the same periodical.
“What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) Is described beautifully by Webmagazine.com, “One thing is for sure, when your Web site, display ad, radio spot does not tell people what you can do for them, and the competition does, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Never require the reader to figure out your message!”
The fact is that you are competing in an arena where there are multiple competitors for a finite number of available patients. How you design your ad will make the difference between investment in attracting more patients, and expenditure that destroys your return on investment ratio.
In fact, highly successful and profitable display ads share very specific things in common. Though many media forums provide the basic elements of these key ingredients, too often, they [the media outlets] simply provide some variation of a “cookie-cutter,” “pre-packaged” formula for “advertising success.” Hence, your success depends on your input!
Use a Headline
Up to 95 percent of all chiropractic ads have no headlines. There have been mounds of marketing studies of people’s buying habits which point out, decade after decade, that fully 80 percent of all potential clients only read headlines when deciding which company to use.
Further, it has been pointed out in these many studies that the use of a headline needs to be the main ingredient of your ad so as to make it so powerful that, it can increase your display an ad’s pulling power by as much as 2,000 percent! It doesn’t matter how good the rest of the ad is; but if it has a weak headline, it won’t get read!
Soccerlens.com explains the benefits of a headline clearly and succinctly:
“Grabbing attention in search engines – Go to Google and type in virtually any word you can think of, and you’ll often find millions of results. The interesting thing is that for most search results in Google (and other search engines) there is very little for readers to go by in deciding which result to click on. There is a title, a short excerpt, and a URL. The most highlighted of these is the title, and we believe it is a key to getting search-engine-referral visitors.
Getting RSS readers’ attention – In a very similar way, titles have the ability to grab the attention of those following your blog via RSS feeds in news aggregators [like NewsNow]. News-aggregator readers tend to scan the titles of posts for things of interest rather than reading the full-text version, stopping to read and visiting the posts that pique their interest.
*According to Abouttech.com, “RSS” is about getting live web feeds directly to your computer. RSS takes the latest headlines from different websites and pushes those headlines down to your computer for quick scanning. Likewise, you can send out your site’s latest information to all your followers.
Getting attention on social bookmarking sites – The same principle is true in social bookmarking sites like Reddit.com and Delicious.com, which have the potential to send your site many thousands of visitors based almost solely on the title of your post.
Loyal readers – Good titles also impact the way your loyal readers interact with your site. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, web users scan pages and one of the best ways to make them pause as they roll their eyes down your site is to capture their attention with a good title that intrigues them enough to slow down their frantic web surfing and actually read some of the content that you’ve poured time and energy into.
Search engine optimization – Though there are many factors that contribute to how search engines rank a page, one of the most powerful onsite factors is the words that you use in the title of that page. By default, content-publisher platforms like WordPress will include your title in the title tags of your post’s page and the URL structure of that page – both of these factors contribute to that page’s search engine ranking. Add to this that other bloggers often use your title to link to you (a very powerful thing), and your titles become a very important factor in ranking well and generating traffic in search engines.”
Unfortunately, many, many media sources use mass-produced template formats to create your specific ad. Think about from the advertising platform’s perspective; they offer a consistent component to their business models, and they meet “most” people’s needs (those that don’t have a particular direction for their audience or method to attract them).
It is hugely important to stress that there is nothing wrong with their format; so long as it yields the intended results, but if you are not getting the responses you want and need, then you must re-evaluate what it is that you are saying to your future patients.
Say what you will about magazines like the National Inquirer and the Star Magazine, but from an advertising and consumer attraction standpoint, there is no denying that they excel at writing headlines!
When they post headlines that state that a “Cosby Kid Caught in Disastrous Divorce;” or “Leaked DNC Documents: Ted Cruz’ Father With JFK Assassin;” or “Marilyn Monroe: Shocking Autopsy Secrets,” or “Bombshell Book Exposes Hillary’s Lies & Donald Trump’s Path To Victory!” we tend to look. You may not buy the magazine at the supermarket check stand, but they make us take notice.
A great headline compels future patients to read your ad. They will be magically drawn to it.
The whole purpose of allocating a portion of your annual budget on advertising is to get the patient to read your ad and call your number! If your prospects don’t read your ad, you’ve not only wasted your resources, but you’ve missed out on untold amounts of money from those patients who didn’t call you. Statistically speaking, the prospective patient did call your competitor, because they needed and wanted the type of services you provide.
Because we are speaking about business attraction advertising and not tabloid advertising, your ad must also include a set of captivating benefits for your read.
Once more, an effective headline attracts attention, communicates a definite benefit, and answers the pivotal question, “What’s in it for me?” A headline acts like a marquis for a movie theater and selects the right audience. Identify all the benefits of your service from the client’s point of view; so,
Offer Specific Benefits
Tell them what’s in it for them. The only thing potential patients want to know is how they will benefit from using your services.
Have an Offer
It’s amazing that hardly any medical practice’s display ads include offers or incentives of any kind to use their services immediately. Every industry has some guideline concerning what one can and cannot do with their advertising.
However, within these regulations, you may offer any one of the following to potential patients: free special report, consultation, free massage therapy, etc. I would caution you that a free consultation is a very over-used offer. If you are going to offer a free consultation, make sure it is different than everyone than what everyone else in your area is doing.
An excellent example of being creative with your offer is the strategy employed by Dr. Gary Thompson (name changed for confidentiality) whose chiropractic practice is in the Columbus, Ohio, area.
In his case, he is one of 263 chiropractors in his city; because of competition new patients often seem beyond his reach. Dr. Thompson solved this problem by publishing a book. He was the only author among the 260-some chiropractors in his area. This in itself differentiates Thompson’s practice.
The title of his book creates additional differentiation, “Good Back, Bad Back: The 10 Things Women Must Know to Eliminate Back Pain and Look and Feel Younger.” This title instantly lets potential future patients know Dr. Thompson’s specialty.
However, Dr. Thompson took his book a step further to find and secure new patients. He now offers a free copy of his book as his incentive offer.
Back your offer with an invitation to view (online) what your past patients have to say about your services. Let them sell how understanding and caring you are; how you understand their plight, etc.
This is imperative because making an offer can increase your response by as much as 400 percent. It will set you far above your competition in the display ads.
This is one of the most effective advertising strategies, yet hardly ever utilized. What satisfied patients say about your practice is more important than anything you can say about yourself. Testimonials result in huge profits for the advertisers who take advantage of the immense power and credibility that comes with the use of endorsements.
Today’s technology makes it is easier than ever to set up 2-minute videos from satisfied patients. You would then include those testimonials as prominent and revolving features on your website (and in your waiting area of your office).
Collect, frame and hang your testimonials from those patients who represent the top 20% of your base that gives you 80% of your profits. They [your patients] should focus on how your services have worked for their specific needs. These endorsements will be a vehicle to develop the emotional side of your practice, where a new patient can emotionally validate the decision to you (rather than the other doctors advertising on that same medium).
Important Note: We acknowledge that display ads (whether online or in print) have space limitations. So as to be able to get your entire message in the available space, your advertisement could clearly state that your business has dozens of happy, satisfied, result-oriented patient testimonials.
Include an invitation to future patients to visit your site. Stress/state that you have a strict a “no strings attached” and a “no one will call them unless they request” policy. Offer to send them a special report that you have written, like (again, your report depends on your medical niche), “What you really need to know about what happens to your spine in an accident,” or “50 Tips to Increase Your Muscle Strength and Flexibility,” maybe something like: “Seven Secrets Every Expectant Mother Needs to Know about Proper Alignment.” This is also an excellent strategy for promoting a medically valuable newsletter if they leave their e-mail address.
For those patients that aren’t computer literate or don’t have a computer, offer to provide the testimonials them upon request. All of your literature should contain testimonials for those people who may not have seen your ads.
It is also very important to clearly indicate how easy and convenient it is to arrive at your physical location. This can be done by having a scaled down site map (from Google Maps) on your website; nothing too elaborate; a nice, simple, easy-to-read line drawing will do in your print ads.
Does your firm have a Competitive Advantage/a Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P)? It is that single unique benefit or significant promise that you hold out to the patient; one that no other competitor offers — it distinguishes you from your competitors.
Your U.S.P. must be a clear, concise, compelling reason that makes your patient immediately aware of what you can do for them. Make your business the clear choice for clients. It could be anything you offer that gives them a reason to choose you over all the other doctors in the area.
Your Competitive Advantage must be something you are committed to delivering to ensure continual business growth. You must develop and enhance your brand!
Branding is the most important factor in gaining a competitive advantage.
You need to develop your brand so as to instantly separate yourself from every doctor in the area! To be clear, Entrepreneur.com defines branding as “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product (in this case, you) from other products (your competitors). An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.”
If you feel that your profession is essential, but straightforward in its explanation and everyone knows what your service consists of and what it involves, and if you believe that standing out from the crowd is too daunting or maybe even impossible. Take the advice from competitors in an incredibly crowded field where huge money prevails, and advertising and big promotion is king: the hamburger market. Small entrepreneurs are staking out a beach-head in the specialty burger market.
I have been reading a lot about burger places in the mid-West that have introduced the “Juicy Lucy.” This burger is a scrumptious concoction of molten lava of cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms (basically, whatever you want to pack into it), stuffed between two fresh, grass-fed, ground patties, and oozing out with every incredible bite you take. Now, I don’t eat red meat much these days, but this sounds like heaven on earth! More specifically, the big chains can’t compete, and these impresarios are gaining market share and opening new locations!
Market niches can be defined by region, by special patient needs or by demographics, such as a particular ethnic or age group. Sometimes just offering a product that’s a variation on an established one can generate a market niche. The word “niche” comes from the French word for “nest,” and as a small business, you want to build your nest somewhere far away from the big-business hawks.
As you can see, this is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of a business analysis. Your U.S.P should be the cornerstone of all the marketing and selling you do. It can establish a foundation for your medical practice to create profits as no other single strategy can.
A finely tuned U.S.P, conveyed throughout every aspect of your business should elevate your practice and enable you to consistently out-market your competition.
Remember that your U.S.P is what gives your prospective top 20% patients (which represent 80% of your profits) the reasons why they should use your services. Every U.S.P should be created from the patient’s perspective, which is (again), “What’s in it for me?”
As you have seen in the example above, one of the purposes of your U.S.P. is to create a clear distinction, but it also must fulfill an industry need, or remove the “pain” of choosing between one non-descript ad from another — again, from a patients’ point of view.
You should communicate your U.S.P. on every form of advertising, direct mail, social media platforms, e-faxes, e-mail signature lines, part of the subscript to your header, catalogs, business cards, stationery, as well as verbally when people are telephoning in to request information.
Another method of separating yourself from your competitors is through the use of digital radio.
For decades the radio has been the constant companion for all of us on every road trip, jaunt to the market and general outing throughout the country. Everywhere we go, there is a radio nearby. Why not tap into the most familiar piece of electronics that we have in our cars, homes, and offices? Create your radio voice.
Why not share your expertise, or promote, and expound on the nature and detail of your book or special reports? Why not share your knowledge with a program like “Back to health” or “The sports adjustment”? I assure you that very few, if any, of your competitors, are reaching out quite this way.
All you need is a: Computer with internet connection, headset/microphones, and your content, and you are off on your mission to stand apart from every other doctor in your area.
- Tell your story about what you love
- Independent radio (i.e., Saturday morning as your listeners “Get ready for their day hour”)
- Streaming on the internet
- Internet broadcasting: on a tablet, mobile, PC and tying it into your social media platform. Thus, widening your appeal and making people part of the “family.” Internet radio is a massively growing medium according to the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB).
- Creating/empowering your brand
- Increasing the traffic to website
- Go beyond your geographic limitations
- Develop listener loyalty by giving the people what they want by keeping your content relevant; create an exchange with audiences, etc.
- Promote radio broadcast live and put them on a website, acquired a 24-hour streaming service. People can text into the show; and you can endorse other professionals, etc.
If your services can be perceived by a future patient as being at least 20% better than your competitors, then with a good U.S.P. you can outsell the competition dramatically. The combinations of the two dramatically can result in a crippling blow to your competitor.
It is surprising how many chiropractic practices do not use the available technology to capture more patients. It is amazing how many doctors do not properly use, take advantage of, and dominate social media sites.
For example, too many Doctors ignore sites like Yelp or YP.com. The fact is that you must enhance your practice through use if services like Yelp.com. If you are not familiar, it is a national and regional consumer rating service. Thus, when a new, never-before-seen patient is looking for a good doctor in their area, they will make their decision based on a service provider’s reviews.
According to Mashable.com, “next to Google, there’s probably no more important site for small businesses than Yelp. The company’s mobile apps are used by about 7 million people. Yelp.com gets 78 million visitors per month.”
As an excellent health professional, it is in your best interest to let as many people as possible know about your particular skills. Therefore, when you provide your “superior care,” incentivize your patient by informing them that you will award them a discount on their next visit when they provide a review on Yelp. Note, you are not asking them to say something that isn’t true; you just want their review.
Every business enhancement article urges you to collect as many of your future patients’ emails as possible; however, if you do not give a prospective patient anything of value, how can you expect someone to share something so personal with you?
Offer future patients high-quality items in exchange for their email addresses. Provide them books you have written; invite these potential patients to listen to your online radio program, send them valuable special reports; in this way, you shouldn’t any problems getting your potential patient’s e-mail address. In turn, you will have access to providing your current and future patients periodic valuable information that may assist them with future medical issues that are part of your specialty.
In fact, you may also direct patients to your website to take advantage of special offers and promotion on your print ads. Your print ad may say something like: “Check out our website and read what people just like you say about us. While you’re there, review our special offers.” At the end of testimonial section, invite them to ask questions; because the only way you can answer those important medical questions, is if they provide you with their e-mail information, their first and last names, etc.
Within seconds, they will receive a return email (from you) with valuable answers, perhaps can include an informative special report that gives them a bit more information about their particular topic, as a gift for asking such a great question. It will also include a warm letter of introduction from you and your assistant (in case you are helping another patient).
Many marketing studies show that it takes between 9 to 14 follow-up contacts to convert a potential patient into an actual one. Most likely patients are turning to the display ads to make an informed decision on whom to use. By effectively utilizing your website and following-up with email, you will provide the information your patients are looking for to make an informed decision quickly. Best of all, the whole process can all be fully automated. Automation creates an immediate impact and is different than what other doctors do to endear themselves to future patients.
It is worth noting that “strategic” medical practices are taking full advantage of current technology, and its use has reaped huge financial rewards.
To conclude, this special report is an expanded second edition of an article that was originally written for Chiropractic Economics Magazine (however, it applies perfectly for every other medical specialty). We developed a relationship with the editor and during one of our conversations we were told that about the reader’s biggest concerns. One of those issues that cause a lot of distress was about the poor performance in the print ads. So in an attempt to solve this difficult reality for the doctors we wrote, “Warning, Chiropractors: How Many of These Costly Mistakes Are You Making with Your Yellow Pages?”
As part of the article, we offered to provide the readers with a free review and a detailed list of solutions for the mistakes they were making in their current Yellow Page ads (which at the time was being used heavily by chiropractors), a service for which we typically charged $500 per review.
This article was a great success; instantly it prompted over 842 Chiropractors to rip their yellow page ad out of the book and mail it to us. We received over 268 faxed copies of their ads for a free written critique of the mistakes they were making. We converted 153 of these chiropractors into clients.
This story gets even better. The article was later picked up by Chiropractic Products Magazine. In time we also developed a relationship with that magazine’s editor as well. During one particular conversation, we asked what other magazines they published. The editor told us eight more magazines — all for medical and dental professionals. We then asked the editor if he would like a customized version of the last article for all eight magazines. He was very excited and gave us the go ahead.
The takeaway from this is not that we’re so cool because our medical practice enhancement strategies have appeared in several national publications. No! The importance of this is that we hit upon a tremendous need, and we were able to help a lot of doctors!
Though technology continues to move forward, and the platforms for publicity have expanded and evolved, the basics of good and fruitful advertising remain the same, but they are still being ignored. There is no doubt that the ads look good on the computer monitor, but are they any more effective?
If you see the wisdom of saying something different to your future patients, but you are not sure how you will achieve this, or where to begin, all you have to do is contact our office. We will help you to develop your unique niche.
I invite you to explore for yourself how we can work together. Again, all you have to do is contact our office, and we will gladly help you!
We wish you continued success!
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” –William Arthur Ward
From the desk of Claudio Gormaz, with Stevenvonloren.com
Personal email:firstname.lastname@example.org; 916.750.6319