Online reviews are one of the top drivers of new business. How do you get your online reviews?
In this interview, Jennifer Thompson shares how medical practices build strong online reputations so they can attract and retain clients.
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Deliberate Leaders I am your host Allison Dunn, founder of the Deliberate Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach and Owner of Deliberate Directions. Today, we are bringing you an expert interview in the area of marketing with a specific zone of genius being medical practices. I am very excited to introduce Jennifer Thompson. She is the President of Insight Marketing Group, a company that helps medical practices build strong online reputations, so that they can attract and retain clients. Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Allison.
Absolutely. So I have a ton of questions that I know that all of our physicians and medical practices are going to have around to their marketing. So are you ready?
Ready to go.
Okay, so let’s first understand what kind of medical practices do you focus on? Is there a specific sweet spot for you?
Yeah, absolutely. So we run the gamut on specialty but mainly, I find that we do more specialties that are really competitive. So a lot of orthopedic, a lot of ophthalmology, a lot of plastics, a lot of ear, nose, throat type of practices. And then we have a sweet spot serving independent physician groups so we don’t work necessarily with hospital and physician groups but we really focus on keeping kind of the small business even if you say like a small businesses 30 doctors but keeping them private and keeping them able to run the business, kind of in line with why they got into business for the first place. And so we have a couple of outlier clients, but for the most part about 90% are independent physician groups across a handful of about a dozen specialties.
Okay, fantastic. So a real true niche is what I would consider that to be a focus and what kind of marketing services do you provide so that I don’t ask a question that is not in your service.
Yeah, so we do pretty much anything and everything related to the digital footprint. So anything and everything that you may find online or making sure that our practices show up at the right time at the right place, and exactly when a potential patient is looking for them. And then we also do some top level strategy work and kind of business development work for practices that are looking for like partnership opportunities or strategic relationships within their particular community. But our bread and butter is really working on the digital side of things and making sure that you know, when somebody is looking for a position that they’re showing up when they need to show up.
What would you consider to be what you see is the top problem when looking for medical practices and reviewing them, like what are some of the top problems that practices just aren’t doing?
Well, it’s making sure that you have a handle around what other people are saying about you, because I think physicians, you know, they think they put up a website and you know, their, their directory listings are correct on Google, but then they get, you know, they get frustrated when, when somebody has an experience, and they decide to publish it online, whether it’s on Yelp, or health grades, or Google or random DS, or you know, whatever you name it, you know, most of the time, it’s not even about the physician, it’s about a staff member or something that’s going on at the practice. But, um, you know, physicians are people too, and they really take it to heart. And so I think that sometimes they put their head in the sand and don’t want to get their hands truly around the digital footprint. And so much of what we’re doing now, is choosing our providers based on what other people are saying about them, you know, we have the ability to do that now.
Is there so I agree, I work with a number of medical practices. And I would agree that they don’t have a necessarily they take it really personally when there’s a bad review and then they don’t know what to do about it. So how can you fix this type of problem where the review is damaging you what would be the steps that you can help someone.
So I really like to the first thing I always suggest to people is to make sure all your directory listings are claimed, so that when something negative comes up, you have access to your profile, because maybe you didn’t want to sign up doc on these websites. But the fact is, they’re pulling from the NPI database, and it’s updating information twice a year. And you need to go in there and make sure that your info is accurate. And you have your logins and your passwords and things like that. That’s really like if there’s one takeaway do that because it doesn’t cost you any money, but it’s something that you really need to be doing. And then the next is I’ve been doing this about 15 years. And, you know, over the years reputation management has changed so much. Now, it used to be where you really would just update the profile and leave it at that. But now, you know, there’s so many reviews out there, like I have a practice that I was looking at their numbers this morning, they have about 10,000 reviews online, you know, across about 30 different providers, you know, and when you’re in business 45 years, you know it that starts to build up. So what we did to them for them a couple years ago is that, you know, the docs would come to me and they do a lot of work comp, like their ortho guys. And they do a lot of work comp, and they would come to me and they’d say, like, Jen, what can you guys do? Like I want to get rid of these negatives. And finally, we were like, well, let’s find out what the negatives are telling you. So I really am a big believer in taking that data that’s out there in the public domain, and pulling it down and evaluating it and doing what we refer to as a sentiment analysis. And Doc’s love data, they can pull this out of themselves and see what the reviews are telling them. Nine times out of 10 it’s not anything to do. For the most part. It’s not about the provider experience. It’s about something going on at the front desk, something going on and building something going on about not wanting to return to work or getting access to opioids or something of that nature. And I think that practices that will take that data, analyze it, push the outliers away, and then hone in on the root of the problem for negative reviews. They’re the ones that are best positioned. And so it’s, you know, there’s a lot of things you can do to make sure your profiles are clean, and to make sure your digital footprint is the best it can be. But the bigger the bigger kind of conversation is pulling what that data is telling you offline, and looking at what you can do internally at your practice, to become better to deliver a better patient experience. And so that’s kind of where the evolution has been going. And I’m seeing more and more practices are willing to start looking at it this way.
I appreciate that perspective, because any type of feedback is a gift. And just to figure out not to discount it say like make that go away or how do we you know, bury it, but what is it actually telling us I think that is excellent advice. And it does sometimes create the changes that the practice needs to stay or grow to the next scale to the next level for sure. And what have you found to be the I want to say most popular but like how do your doctors How did the clients come to them? Like what is the digital footprint most common portal of entry?
It is 100% what other people are saying about the practice. So it’s all it is 100% online reviews. And I mean, it all has to kind of match up you know, your, your gift to claim all these profiles out there because whether you want them or not, they’re there. And they’re, you know, your potential patients are looking at them to even find your practice, even if they’re being referred to your practice. The first thing somebody’s going to do is go online, and see what’s been said about you and the very first thing that’s going to To show up nine times out of 10 is a Google listing or something from health grades, then that your website’s going to show up. And so I think that that’s the point of entry. And we’re seeing data to support that, that is only going to grow. And so if you’re going to invest in one thing invest in you know, those kind of that patient experience and the reviews online.
You are referring to recommending claiming their profile listing? Is there an industry list of ones that are for the medical field where you go to make sure you go claim it? You’ve mentioned four or five already? I get terrified when someone says that they haven’t claimed their Google listing, which makes me go wide. Yeah.
Yeah, look, there’s like 70 to 100 different websites at any given time and nobody. I think for a physician, nobody would expect a physician to claim all of those sites. But the way that it works is you have a handful of the top sites that show up on the first page in Google, if you’re only going to worry about a handful just worry about what’s on that first page, maybe go into the second page. And then those, those larger directory databases kind of trickled down to the others, because the others are pulling data from those. So if you focus on that first, maybe second page at Google, I think you’re going to be okay. And then let’s be honest, doctors don’t love spending money. But there are many services out there where, you know, it’s a very good investment and a very small investment, less than a good bottle of wine per month to have this handled for them. And there’s plenty of companies out there that do it. And so, if a doctor doesn’t want to do it, I highly recommend paying someone to handle this for them.
Okay, so you kind of took it in a different angle regarding the pain part of it, so paying someone to handle to manage your profiles and your listings and claim them and manage them. Are there any listings or profiles directories that you’d suggest paying to be listed in them?
Hmm, not really. Because I really wouldn’t. So I get hit up. My clients get hit up all the time to pay for like enhanced listings within. But let’s be honest, I mean, when if I was going to go look for let’s say, I get a recommendation for a cardiologist, and they tell me, I gotta go see Dr. Smith? Well, the first thing I’m going to do is I’m certainly not going to go to some third party website to look at something that as a halfway educated consumer that I probably know, is a paid listing. I’m just going to search something online. And I’m going to see what shows up. And I really think that what shows up on Google and what’s on the, you know, the top of the bar and on the right side of the bar, and then even take it a step further. Let’s say I need a cardiologist for my son. Well, where am I going to go? I’m going to maybe do a search online. I’m going to talk to somebody like a doctor, but I’m also going to go to social media, and I’m going to ask people on social media for a recommendation and We’re seeing that more and more now. And so, you know, what I pay to be listed? Probably not unless it was unless I really could understand the hard data, I would focus on the organic listings. Okay.
Excellent, excellent advice. And one of the things that we have in common is your website suggest that you also offer employee engagement, which is an area that we offer, so explain to me how that fits in your suite of services. And
How does that go alongside marketing?
Okay, so I kind of alluded to it before. So I have this really large orthopedic practice. And I always use them as the example because they were the first one to kind of be the guinea pig. And they came to me and multiple doctors said, Can you remove these negative reviews? And I said, No, I cannot. There’s things that we can do to push them down. But I can’t deal with all your problems like you have, we have to get to the root of it. And that led us to pulling down there too. thousand or so reviews and doing a full analysis on what the data was telling us. And this was kind of happening at the same time that we were. So I’m in Central Florida, and we were pretty much at full employment. So, you know, employees would jump ship for 50 cents an hour. You know, it’s a different it’s a different environment at this moment. But you know, big picture is that we were pretty much at full employment. So how do you engage employees and provide them some training? So we really created a kind of an engaged employee engagement platform that focuses around patient experience training, and then basic customer service and working together as teams. But it’s all driven as a result of what that sentiment of the online reviews were telling us. So the reviews were telling us we needed to focus on phone skills on front desk skills like basic customer service, we were having an issue with older populations and younger employees and vice versa and so on. We’ve created like an on demand training that is literally delivered in 10 minutes or less per employee. And what we do is we create a marketing program that’s an internal employee marketing program within the practice, so the employees earn swag. And there’s contests and it’s all built in a learning management system, all kind of around this idea of, we focus on the patient experience. And then in turn, we watch how those reviews trickle upward or downward to measure whether or not the engagement efforts with the employees are working. And the gentleman from this practice the CEO, and it’s about a 30 provider practice. He and I actually presented at the State Conference this past year, so about six months ago, talking about kind of the outcomes from that year long experience of really engaging their employees and looking at how we were able to move the needle from you know, mediocre reviews to really positive reviews, and when you have 10,000 reviews online, it takes a lot to move that needle. And so we tracked internal KPIs, you know, whether or not employees were willing to refer the, the, the employer to a friend or a family member. And then we looked at those online reviews to kind of track if it was working or not. And so that’s how engagement kind of works in marketing. Because ultimately, you can throw all the money you want out there in the world. But if you really just focus on your people, they’ll do your marketing for you. They have to understand like, where they fit into the big picture.
I think it is very relevant. So thank you for describing that understanding that the way that your practice is growing, is coming through what people are saying about you online. And if your internal team is providing an experience that doesn’t make people say good things engagement is you know, like it’s just it’s a very holistic approach. so fantastic. That’s it’s excellent. Um, I am Constantly coaching on why it’s so important to be proactively asking for reviews not in like a campaign or a contest or anything like that. But I’m finding a respectful way to encourage pace patients that you are providing an exceptional experience to, to say good things about you in your reviews, so what is the most respectful way that you found to coach people to actually ask for them?
So I have stopped trying to get providers to ask for reviews, okay, completely stop because they are not salespeople, or they would have gone into a different business. And they get really hesitant about asking this person over another person. And so we kind of go at it two ways. One is, I think that to be successful with your practice, you need to have a robust website that allows you to go in and make changes all the time that make it easy to make changes and to grab that data. So for every client that We work with, we try to create like an internal feedback page. And then we asked people to give us their feedback while they’re in the practice. So if they’re sitting in the waiting room, and they feel like they need to get something off their chest, because it’s just not up to par, we provide them a direct URL URL that they can pull up on their phone if they want, or they can talk to anybody. And we encourage people to leave feedback. And we do this so that we can internal capture whatever the negative is, because nine times out of 10 people just want to like get something off their chest, they don’t want to go online and bash you, they just want to get it off their chest. So we provide them with an internal capture. And we’ve got the teams trained where if something comes in, it’s really stop what you’re doing and go deal with whatever this problem is directly. And usually we can prevent the negatives from going online when we’re really proactive. And then separate from that, as I try to get all the practices that I work with, to use an automated service where they FTP over a List of patient records like at the end of the day, and it goes into a folder and it automatically sends out a text message or an email to all of the patients. And then everybody gets treated the same and you’re not having to pick and choose. And then when I have Doc’s that are like, well, I don’t want to send it to all my patients will say yes, and it’s all your patients. And then let’s focus on making the experience better. Because I think patients realize that you’re not going to have a great day every day. So let’s treat everybody the same. And so that’s really what kind of what our big focuses.
So taking it out of their hands to ask for FTP being up there, their daily list of patients are, is that is that getting the result that you’re looking fo more reviews online?
Absolutely. We see.
We sometimes see double digit increases month over a month on reviews, and so we get just depends on the patient population. I do a lot work in orthopedics. So we like to judge the ortho as against each other, if they’re older patients will really take the time to leave a review. And then they’ll have a higher conversion on an email. younger patients are less likely to leave reviews just because they can’t be bothered sometimes. And but they’re more likely to respond on a text message. But yes, I think when you take all the guesswork out of it, you get a lot more reviews. And also, I mean, if if you have a really good patient that you know, they’re going to leave you a glowing review or recommendation, put them in touch with somebody on your team and get them on video doing a great testimonial. Because I’m a big believer that as a doctor, most of the times, you’ll go to a physician’s website and you’ll see like they’ve got this credential. They’re double board certified and whatever. They’ve you know, they got their fellowship training here. They worked with this sports team. I think that’s all fine and dandy, but I expect all my doctors to be board certified To have excellent training and to have all the awards, the only real differentiator is what your patients are saying about you. And so if you have really have somebody that’s above and beyond, ask for a patient story, and then get that patient story and use that in your marketing, and if you have, you know, 5.0 star ratings and 4.5 star ratings, use them in your marketing, because lean into the patient reviews because that’s your differentiator. It’s and this this applies in healthcare outside of healthcare in anywhere, you know, there’s nothing that’s special about your business. The what’s special is the way that you make people feel and how they feel when they walk away.
So let’s say someone walks away not feeling so good, and they go on to do a really bad or very reflective review of their how they felt about their experience. What’s the best way to follow up with a patient that has expressed themselves upset online.
I’m not sure there’s a best way but I think the quick down and dirty is you you acknowledge That’s something that’s happened, like you acknowledge that there’s a review. And you never acknowledge that they’re a patient. And you say, if you’d like to talk about this, here’s a, here’s a backline phone number, even if it’s not a backline, here’s the direct number and the person you need to talk to, we really hope you’ll give us a call. I had a patient this week, down in a kind of a rural area, who so we’re talking right now. And we’re like in the in the midst of COVID. And the patient was just beside himself that he was forced to wear a mask at the practice. And he’s like a 75 year old guy in a like, he they’re kind of in a rural area, but they’re surrounded by some big urban areas. I mean, just beside himself, and it was one of those four inch long, negative reviews about how dare the practice tread on his rights. And, you know, and it was one of those things like, you know, we’re sorry, you feel This way, here’s the back office number to call. By the way, here’s the CDC guidelines for, you know, staying in business. But I think you have to acknowledge it and walk away. And it’s not so much to make that patient necessarily feel better, because I’m not sure there’s anything you’re going to do to make them feel like that, that you’re all on the same side. But it’s about what that next patient is going to look at. And if they’re going to acknowledge that you saw that or didn’t see it.
That make sense.
What would you say? I assume most of your medical practices are on a smaller team side, or at least you have at least some that represent not a big staff, not certainly marketing experts in any way. What are the top two to four marketing tasks that they should tackle up front? That you’d recommend?
Yeah, I am. I think first and foremost, get your hands around all the directory listings and the things online that you need to make sure that your data and your Information is current. So if you are going to do only one thing, make sure you do that. Number two is I would invest energy into making sure that you have a decent website that allows you to go in and make changes. And you don’t have to pay hand over fist money every single time you want to make a small change to your site. It should be something built in a CMS like a content management system. or press, there’s plenty of them out there. But you need something that’s robust enough if you can work in Word could work in WordPress, the basics. And then I would say invest in some regular content development. I go back to my orthopedic example, you know, all the orthopedic guys are out there really wanting to make a push for outpatient joint surgery right now. Like it’s a big deal for them. Well, you don’t need to invest tons and tons of money into coming up with good content. Get somebody who’s two hours post up. That’s what to sign a photo released, showing them walking down the hallway and saying, you know what I’m walking, I was just on the operating table two hours ago, this is the best thing ever. And then they go home. Like that’s easy content. And sometimes we don’t think about it, we have a very powerful computer in our pocket, and people are sometimes afraid to use it. And that cell phone gets great video and video does fantastic. And then finally, I would say and I’m seeing this so much right now, as it relates to how do you market like in this coven environment, and invest in audience building on social media? Don’t just invest like in putting stuff out there. But I find that there’s a huge difference between being on social media and being in social media. And being on it is scheduling things and maybe putting up like, you know, whatever your latest blog post was, and you know, Monday, Wednesday and Friday you have something going up on social media, but being in it is responding to reviews and asking for recommendations and participating in conversations and using To engage employees. And right now in this environment that we’re in, those practices that invested time to be in social media are leaps and bounds ahead of everybody else, because they have a direct connection with their patients, their employees and any audience that’s out there looking for them. They’re having that one on one conversation, whereas the other ones who just kind of said, like, yeah, I’m on social media, they’re not able to see kind of the return on those years of investment and they’re, they’re losing ground as a result. And so I would update my listings, make sure I have a decent website, invest in a content schedule, and then I would invest my time in social media, maybe not by dollars.
Excellent pieces of advice. Thank you. Um, in the in the review world, getting online reviews, which I know is one of the things that you do is you handle like an online reputation management. Correct. What are the rules? What are we allowed to do? And what are we not allowed to do when trying to get legitimate reviews? And then they still don’t put them up for some reason?
Yeah. And that’s partly why I say, take the guesswork out of it and just ask everybody to leave a review. And then don’t worry about what you can and cannot control and focus on making those incremental improvements with your staff and making the experience good, and it will pay off dividends. You can’t pay people to leave reviews. So you might think you can do a contest, and you can offer people a gift card and many practices do that kind of thing. But you can’t really do that. You can’t have that patience. There might still be some practices out there that do this, but you can’t have sign. You can’t have patients signed contracts, saying they won’t leave you a negative review. There’s a study. There’s case studies on that. Were the doctors would put that in the fine print of something you can’t do that you can’t pay for those types of reviews. And a lot of times you can’t take them down. And so I think that knowing what you can’t do kind of leads you back to what should I do, what you should do is go back to the basics of customer service and focus on delivering the best possible experience. And the rest will take care of itself. There’s a company out there that was referenced in a wall street journal article a couple years ago, and it’s called Wally who MP fly. And at their core, there are credit card processing company. And they have a bunch of medical clients and they did a study a couple years back of 25,000 freestanding medical clinics and health care providers. And they evaluated their credit card debt data from a revenue standpoint, and they were able to create a direct correlation that that practices that have like a funnel point five to 4.8 star rating, do better than practices with a 5.0 star rating. And that’s because the average consumer knows that, you know, you’re not perfect. Not everybody is always going to be happy. But focus on the things that you can control, like delivering a great experience and then take the guesswork out of reviews, know what you can’t do. But just focus on good business and it’ll pay dividends.
You just made me reflect I think I only have five stars. I have to go get a challenging one. I guess you need Yeah, you did you need at least one negative. But you also need a lot of reviews. Because what is you know, five stars for 10 people is totally different than 4.2 stars of 10,000. Truly, so keep it in perspective.
Right. Okay, that’s fair. Thank you. That makes me feel like I don’t have maybe have to go get one yet.
Although I have more than five it’s not it’s not 10,000.
If we could just briefly go back to social media and I kind of I don’t want to assume I know the answer. So you’re saying it’s, it’s important to be in social media and on social media. And when we look at content calendars, which is something that we do as a practice with our businesses, what’s the most effective social media engagement strategies that you have found?
It’s changed so much over the years. I mean, it really truly has.
I just think that anytime that we can do something that’s a glimpse behind the scenes, is the absolute best that you can do. It’s the stuff that takes time. And it’s the stuff that you have a difficult time planning for. And, you know, you know that around the holidays, your staff is going to wear you know, their, their ugly Christmas sweaters, and you know that you’re going to take photos of that and then you can do like a contest. Amongst other departments and people vote on it and you know, those are going to get great, that’s going to do great. I had a practice that it was a there’s like 22 male doctors, surgeons, and there’s the first female and she happened to go out and have twins. And she sent us a photo and let us post it on social media and it blew up. It was amazing. So anytime that it’s like a glimpse behind the curtain, whether it’s with your employees, whether it’s like a flub up that you can make fun whether it’s you know, a physician doing something that’s not like over like edited, you know, we had a doc one time for that was in the O r, and he wanted to like give a big shout out to athletic trainers and he just grabbed up his phone and did it on the on the phone and there was like his pa was coming out of surgery too. And she popped in and says like athletic trainers rock and the thing went viral among all the national associations because it was so in the moment. And I think that’s the stuff that’s so hard to plan for. It’s the stuff unfortunately, that takes so much time and you may only get one play on it. But it’s the stuff that really does pay dividends.
So authentic behind the scenes not overly prepared, like yes, don’t over produce it.
Okay. Great advice. I have just a few more questions. So I am a big fan of having some metrics that we track to know whether we’re winning the game or not. What are some of the key performance indicators that medical practices should be paying attention to from the marketing?
Well, funny you asked because I feel like I’m always pulling up dashboards we look at. We look at new patient counts. We look at return patient counts. We look at I question whether it’s marketing, but we look at surgical capture ratios. Because we want to understand like from an internal marketing standpoint, what do we also need to be focused on? When we have like walk in clinics, we always measured the number of walk in patients that come in anything that we can measure we do we look at work comp type things on different surgical captures. We look at everything related to websites, but we look at how long people stay on the site and we specifically dive into appointment requests. And lately we’re tracking appointment requests versus telemedicine appointment request, because we want to understand if folks out there think that telemedicine is going to stick and we don’t give people the option of choosing telemedicine versus in point an impatient like in office now. Now we just say, would you like it and if so, if it makes sense, we’ll do it that way. But we track that. And then we track engagement numbers on social, not vanity metrics, we track engagement. And then finally we track we track online reviews so we look at the number of positive reviews or as negative and we look at what we refer to as filtered reviews, which are the ones that are internal capture that we that we like to assume we’ve kept them from going offline. And then of course, we track AdWords and stuff like that. But for the most part, I mean, we try to, we try to say like anything that can be tracked, we want to track it. We like to track it over long periods of time, so we can see if we’re moving the needle.
Those are some great dashboard metrics. I just want to give you also a quick shout out you have a doctor marketing tips podcast, which will be included in the show notes for this particular episode. But I’m Jennifer, I did want to give you an opportunity if I’m if our listeners wanted to find out any resources that you have or connect with you what is the what is the best location for them to do that?
Yeah, absolutely. So we have the doctor marketing tips podcast. I feel like I just recorded Episode 300 this morning, and you can find that on iTunes or any of your favorite podcast players. And then I would say the best way to connect is visit my website which is insight ins I ght m as in marketing G is in group Comm. And I’m big on just giving out free stuff. And so if somebody really wants to figure out marketing for their medical practice on their own, there are guides and calendars and templates and anything and everything that you can imagine. And anybody can download it and give it to their staff and it is all theirs free to go and really will give you the foundation that you need to get started marketing your medical practice.
Fantastic, Jennifer, I appreciate sharing all of your great tips and suggestions and expertise out here and deliberate leaders today. And I encourage our listeners to go and listen to the doctor Marketing Podcast. So thank you so much. Be well.
Thank you so much Allison. Appreciate it.
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