1. Build a website. The first step of an online marketing strategy is creating or updating the practice website. Independent spine surgeons and groups must have a website regularly updated with relevant information to appear in patient searches.
"You need a place where potential patients can go to become educated about your treatment offerings," says Ms. Cienkosz. "Your website will have a huge role to play in practice marketing."
The website should include information about the surgeon or surgeons in the group, services provided, conditions treated and the practice location. Once the website is in place, you can move ahead with additional social media initiatives.
2. Make your approach patient-centered. Online marketing efforts should have a patient focus. Make sure the patient's wants and needs are at the forefront of all advertisements and material you put online.
"The most important thing is making your approach patient-centered," says Ms. Cienkosz. "Your communication touch points should describe the services you provide. It's important not to mislead the patient about what you do or how you do it; be very forthright."
Patients want to know what the surgeon has to offer and how they would benefit from treatment. "The content doesn't always have to be created from scratch," she says. "If you have marketing content from somewhere else within the organization, repurpose it for online space."
3. Engage with social media. Create a social media page that allows patients to dialogue with one another about past or upcoming surgeries or general health topics. Social media channels you may consider using to start the conversation include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube.
"Patients communicate in a forum and ask each other questions," says Ms. Cienkosz. "The conversation happens naturally. It's a great marketing effort and it takes very little internal resources to keep up."
Laser Spine Institute doesn't moderate the discussions; they flow organically. However, posts will be removed if they are threatening or violate HIPAA.
4. Educate patients with marketing efforts. Educate patients about surgeons in your group and their services online. You can go a step further by educating patients with substantive articles and videos about common conditions and treatment options.
"We have condition-specific information about our procedures on our group website," says Ms. Cienkosz. "We also want to educate patients about our surgeons because that's what is really important to them. We have bios on our website for each surgeon where they are featured in an introductory video about their backgrounds to make patients as comfortable as possible."
The marketing manager can also post relevant articles and other resources on the social media and website outlets to stay current and start conversations about hot topics for the day. "We post updates on a daily basis about different health-related topics to continue engagement with potential patients," she says. "They are thought-starters for people who visit our page."
5. Upload more video content. Video content will become increasingly important heading into the future. Patients will be looking for videos about different procedures for education as well as surgeon profiles to become more familiar with their providers.
"We have procedure animations, condition animations and surgeon biographies where they describe what the procedures are like," says Ms. Cienkosz. "Video content will be very important from a marketing perspective as well as for patient education. Our surgeon biographies aren't scripted; they communicate who they are and connect with potential patients. You want that to be very natural and allow them to really show who they are and what they've accomplished."
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5 Steps to Optimize Online Marketing for Spine Surgeons FeaturedWritten by Laura Miller | December 31, 2012
Briley Cienkosz, senior marketing director of Laser Spine Institute, discusses five steps for spine surgeons and groups to optimize online marketing efforts.
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