what is content marketing

Why content marketing has overtaken GP referrals

When a surgeon or specialist was discussing the performance of a private practice, the story always seemed to focus on GP referrals. Until recently. The data collected by Digital Practice across all specialties in the Australian private health market is clear: content marketing, creating a direct connection between the specialist and the patient, is here to stay. Let’s go over the mechanics so you can apply them to your private practice.

what is content marketing

Why content marketing has overtaken GP referrals

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

June 29, 2022

Why doctors sometimes hate digital

doctors and digital

If you have already embraced digital as an important pillar of your private practice: Congratulations. 

If you still resist the idea that anything else than GP referrals could be the key to sustainable private practice business growth, keep reading.

I get it. Digital is not always fun. For starters, it wasn’t part of the typical Medical School curriculum and it has long been framed as ‘those technical things’ or ‘stuff for young people’.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"As a doctor, you can no longer deny the overarching presence of digital in your patients’ lives. From the way they do their research, to the way patient records are transferred or telehealth consultations are now part of the new reality."

The common reasons to have a more ambiguous relationship with digital, as a doctor, are present in many conversations we have with leading doctors:

  • Digital is too expensive. I choose not to explore it further.
  • Digital is often a scam. I have had negative experiences and a lot of promises and nothing happened.
  • Digital is too complex. It’s easier to dismiss it and hang on to what has worked in the past, rather than explore something I feel uncertain about.
    Digital is not for me. I am too old to have an online presence that brings in more patients.

Whatever your objection to making that first step: It is a perfectly normal situation because the whole online industry happened to many of the current leaders in the market long after they started working! And then again your long journey acquiring knowledge had a clear focus on medical content, not on the latest Netscape-Altavista-Yahoo-Google-Facebook-Tiktok trend.

That is why doctors and digital don’t always go together and the first step is to accept the reality.

So let’s take a deep breath, and answer a simple question. What is content marketing and how can you use it as a doctor? Because that’s where you can make up for the time you may have lost and help your practice stand out.

A quick rehash of marketing theory

marketing as a doctor

Advertising is about pushing messages to an audience stating how good you are. Switch on commercial TV and radio for 5 minutes and you will be remembered how that works. 

The problem? It works for refrigerators, insurance and cars. It doesn’t work if 80% of the audience is not receptive to a message about sleeve gastrectomies, hysterectomies, ACL reconstructions or antenatal care.

To understand marketing as a doctor means you first want to see the difference between marketing and advertising.

  • Advertising for doctors: In Australia, it is very restricted and almost non-existing when we look at surgeons and specialists in private practice.
  • Marketing for doctors: To perform marketing as a doctor means that you bring the right content to the right audience. It’s easier said than done and we will explain in full detail how to do it.

Specialists who master the art of marketing have abandoned the idea that marketing is advertising. They have also stopped looking at it as a waste of budget, a cost to avoid.

Once you see the dynamics of content marketing in action and start seeing the return on investment of a professional content marketing plan, you will understand why some doctors have more peace of mind and are able to build successful businesses.

what is content marketing

Display the right content to the right audience

google for doctors

What is content marketing in the context of running a private practice? 

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Founder Digital Practice

"Content marketing is the strategic use of research-driven content to attract patients and convert the conversation into a new patient lead to grow your practice and establish your reputation as a leader."

Right. It’s quite a mouthful. Let’s unpack this strategic approach, which we sometimes simply label as ‘Google for doctors’. In the end, it’s all about displaying the right type of content for the right audience.

The building blocks could be defined as follows:

  • Research: With over 50% of patients using Google to read up on symptoms, conditions, treatments and surgeries, and hospital and doctor profiles, there is an abundance of data. The medical content experts at Digital Practice, in Perth and Tilburg (The Netherlands) are performing 24/7 monitoring of medical specialty keywords across almost any subspecialty in the Australian market. This data is an exceptional source to then work out a content plan for your private practice.
  • Content: The way Google looks at the content on medical websites is different to how you would assess it as a medically trained professional. Google’s artificial intelligence (sometimes called the algorithms) checks the relevance of your pages by comparing them to global authorities such as the Mayo Clinic and other leading medical websites. In addition, Google checks your website health, mobile-friendliness, readability of the copy and the image/text ratio as well as the labelling of the actual page and metadata. If this is done by an amateur or a cheap-labour outsourcing service, you will never know why your content is not ranking well because someone took a shortcut.
  • Conversion: Digital strategy and Google for doctors is often reduced to getting more clicks, followers or likes. It leads to disappointment. A click is not a person sitting in your consultation room signing up for treatment or surgery. Conversions only occur when the content you publish is 100% tailored to the information needs and emotional state of your potential future patients. That’s a skill, a technique, an art and an integrated activity that requires medical journalism, marketing and media skills and creative thinking along with the business owner: you as a doctor.
  • Leadership: An overused word, I know. In medical marketing, we use it to describe the status you achieve when your content is effective. It shows up. It hooks the audience. It creates patient enquires and generates GP referrals. It prequalifies your patient leads so you only book consultations with the right type of patients. It creates leverage for you to work more, work less, build partnerships or launch a group practice, get better theatre lists or do other work in the healthcare industry.

Here at Digital Practice, we are passionate about all of the above. We do not outsource the work to junior marketing workforces overseas because we believe your practice deserves the highest level of quality and detail, particularly when it comes to building and nurturing your online reputation.

And how does this impact my GP referrals?

doctors as influencers

I know. It’s hard to reframe the reality of GP referrals as the main driver of your patient numbers. 

Before the internet, we have lived in societies where ‘word-of-mouth’ was literally about conversations and face-to-face meetings. You would do amazing work and people would talk about it. Which led to more great work.

GP referrals still happen but the GP does not live in a bubble away from the digital space. I have seen GPs using Google to find a drawing, explain a symptom or go over medical content to educate the patient.

I know of GPs who are new in town and still getting their head around who’s who in terms of leading specialists.

I know of specialists who only reach out to GPs using the digital space, on LinkedIn, using their website section dedicated to GPs and driving quality conversations based on a premium online presence.

When we look at doctors at influencers, a whole new paradigm is created. Doctors are not influencers in that they are dancing on TikTok, promoting shoes and handbags or promoting holiday destinations. However, using their expertise to help people understand health, doctors can become digital leaders. Gain followers. Influence the way consumers make choices and therefore, the way GPs make choices about patient referrals to specialists.

That is why mastering content marketing across medical websites, social media, video marketing and LinkedIn networking, is not a waste of your time as a doctor in private practice.

The starting point in medical content marketing

content marketing for beginners

Here’s an easy DIY exercise you can do at home. You can do it as a practice manager to take the first step in growing a leading private practice. 

The exercise helps you identify the current content gaps in your online presence.

  1. Identify your top 5 services or income earners: Be as specific as you can and list the top 5 treatments or surgeries your practice is built on. The words on your list could include things like sleeve gastrectomy, caesarean section, cataract surgery or shoulder surgery.
  2. List the words that come up and that patients could type into Google if they start developing an interest in those topics: losing weight, elective c-section, cataract symptoms or shoulder injury could be included for the respective examples I used above.
  3. Google these terms. Check if you are on Page 1 for these terms and their variations.

If you are nowhere to be seen on Page 1 of Google Search Results, scroll down and book your free 1:1 Strategy Session now. You are losing patients.

If you are appearing for some of your services but invisible for others, still scroll down and book because your practice can do better.

If you are on Page 1 and in the top 3 positions for each individual keyword you type in to Google: Congratulations! And you can still book your free 1:1 in case you want to explore how to improve your online strategy even more.

Let's meet

Free 1:1 Strategy Session

content marketing experts

We are content marketing experts with a unique focus on doctors in private practice. You will see that we are passionate about the private practice as a business model and we want to be your business development partner. Book your free 1:1 session now to go over the status of your current content marketing strategy, and we will explore ways to improve your online lead generation based on our unique data and methodology. I look forward to hearing from you! 

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