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Referrals and RelationshipsBehind every professional referral, there is a relationship between someone at your practice and someone at the referring practice. It’s a relationship based on trust. From cardiac surgeons to gastroenterologists, from endodontists to podiatrists, many healthcare providers depend heavily on professional referrals to keep their business running, growing and changing…

What this means is that these types of practices are dependent on relationships. And relationships need to be maintained. So this month’s tip is as simple as it is important: Pick up the phone and call.

Growth- and success-minded practices are wise enough to develop and manage effective practice representation programs. As successful as such programs are for many referral-based practices, they are a complement to not a replacement for the direct contact between you and your referrer.

When a doctor sends you patients, there is trust inherent in the act. And that trust is placed in you, the individual healthcare professional. So you need to maintain, reaffirm and strengthen that trust by reminding the referrer of your appreciation and support.

While your practice representative does something similar (and vital), he or she is merely building and supporting the bridge between your practice and your referrer’s practice. You must still walk across that bridge from time to time to shake the hand of the person who is entrusting you with his or her patients and contributing to your revenues.

Take a few minutes, call a referrer, say hi and ask how things are going. Start with those you know best and with whom you’re most comfortable. And be sure to ask them how you can help them take better care of their patients.

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Features Your Website Should Have to Attract More Customers and Extend their Visit Time
To bring in new Customers, build your reputation and enhance your revenue, your business website should:
1. Be informative, with useful information on topics relating to your specialty: A new treatment or a health alert that’s making news, for example. Inform people and they’ll be grateful; they’ll want to buy from you.
2. Be frequently updated. New information gives visitors a reason to come back to your site, and makes your site come up higher in search results. In other words, content changes are good!
3. Be interactive. Give visitors something to do. An ophthalmologist’s site might ask: “Is LASIK right for you? Take this 30-second test to find out!” This subtly encourages visitors to commit to you and your practice, making them more likely to call and make an appointment.
4. Home Page Video. Some research suggests that the average time spent on a site during a typical search is 3-5 seconds. And since 30 billion videos are watched on-line each month (an avg of 27 min per day) consumers are more readily retained when a video is readily available for viewing. I suggest a 60 or 90 second custom video placed on your home page that touts your brand and your capabilities
5. Back links. Maintain active social sites such as Facebook™, Twitter™, LinkedIn™ that are readily accessed with icons on your home page. Linking these sites to your website can assist with optimization
6. Blogs. Crawlers recognize and rank Blogs as valuable because they still see them as educational. Host a Blog, update it on a monthly basis and link it into your website with a homepage “button” so customers can learn more about your capabilities
7. If you want to have an “offer” listed on your site avoid words such as “free”. These words look “salesy” [sic] and could cause a crawler to over-look your site.
Simply stick to the tips above and your website will begin to work more effectively 24/7 to help you attract more Customers, build an outstanding reputation, and enhance your bottom line.

There may always be a need for printed materials such as practice capabilities brochures and patient information sheets. In some small, rural markets across America and in certain health specialties, there is still a place for Yellow Pages ads, too. There are still places in America where people don’t own or use computers. But the greatest potential for new marketing opportunities today is on the Internet.

Over 110 million Americans routinely search the Internet for all kinds of health information, services and support. To reach your share of this enormous audience, you need an effective Internet presence. Your first basic necessity is a well developed and designed functional website that communicates your unique brand, benefits and services to healthcare consumers. Your website should be easy to navigate, easy to use, easy on the eyes and sufficiently interactive to engage visitors.

Your second basic necessity is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Without good SEO, your website will languish in obscurity, unnoticed by the people you most want to reach. Invest in good SEO and your rewards will be worth every penny.

Beyond your basic online marketing necessities
Once you have an effective website and good SEO, you should consider tactics that will make your site “sticky” or hard to leave. Offer visitors some variety with an interactive e-brochure they can marvel at and download, an e-video (think YouTube) they can learn from or a blog they can add their own comments to. Add social networking links and more interactivity through FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter.

Can’t find expert healthcare online marketing help in you area? Maybe Practice Builders can help.