Once you have built up your practice’s digital office (Website, Facebook Page, Twitter profile etc.), you have to get your virtual patients in the “door”. What is the best way to get people to visit your website and Facebook page?
This question touches upon the greater issue of determining how to communicate with your patients about something important. With so many options nowadays, from digital communication - emailing, sms, social media; to traditional – actual face-to-face, snail mail, or print advertising, how do you decide how, how much and how often to reach out to your patients and friends and tell them about your website or FB page?
Communicating With Your Patients
As the old adage goes: “Tell them what you're gonna tell them. Tell 'em. Then tell them what you told 'em”. Effective communication requires an integrated approach of online and in-practice interaction. While each practice is different, here we detail our “plan” (in order of effectiveness) of reaching out and most importantly, reaching, your clientele.
1) Just tell the patient.
It’s best to start with the direct approach. Many practitioners respond to this “We're already telling them so much, how much more can we tell them?!” The answer is ... you decide what's important to your practice, and if you feel that there's only so much your patients can hear (what we all know to be a 'grey area'), then you tell them what's important to you!
How you tell them requires strategy. Assign one person in the process to be responsible for relaying to patients that you have a web site or Facebook page and make sure they are armed not only with all of the necessary information, but with a sales pitch as well. Telling a patient about your online presence isn’t enough, you also have to convey what the benefit is to them. You need to strategize a compelling reason that the patient can benefit from visiting your site/page and ensure that gets across to them.
2) Give it in writing.
We all know that telling anybody anything nowadays is pretty useless unless they have it written down (either physically or electronically). So, the next step is to follow-up with telling them again – in print. It is important to keep in mind that any important message should not be combined with any other form of communication that is already focusing on another message (i.e. don't announce your new FB fan page at the bottom of the invoice!).
Rather, important messages need to be related individually and with the proper medium. In this case, a nice hard stock business card with your web site address on one side and your Facebook fan page address on the other would fit the bill.
Again, spreading the word is futile unless you accompany it with a call-to-action and a reason or benefit for the recipient to visit your site. For example, direct the patient to a nice link on your home page where they can post a review of your practice (check out http://www.customeyesvisioncare.com/ for a good example).
Facebook equips you with an obvious call to action – “Like Us”- but the trick here is the benefit –why should they like you? If you are using your page effectively, this is a no-brainer. “Like Us” to get access discounts, coupons, specials, free stuff, giveaways and contests, plus 'important' eye health related updates.
Of course, you need to make sure the business card (or whichever form of written appeal you choose) has your website and Facebook vanity url’s (i.e. www.facebook.com/eyecarepro) along with the call to action.
3) Send an email.
Despite all of the hype over the instant mobile and digital age, email remains one of the most effective ways to communicate with clients. An email waiting for your patients once they step out of your office will remind them what you told and showed them, while reiterating all of the benefits and calls to action while they are actually sitting at their computer. Seize this opportunity to say a little more (you have a lot more space in an email to describe the benefits) and again, don’t mix in with another message. A quick and friendly email reminder is an easy way to follow up and reinforce your relationship with your patients.
Note: This means that you must have a procedure in place to obtain patients’ email addresses (See Dr. Gailmard’s tips on collecting email addresses).
Just remember, no matter how much you invest into throwing a party, the guests won’t come unless you invite them (and promise them some fun!). This stands just as true with your website, Facebook page and other online profiles. Tell them about it and provide them with an incentive to take action. If you are offering your clients a valuable experience, they won’t complain that you are giving them too much information.