One of the biggest marketing mistakes most practice owners or administrators make is not putting themselves in their prospective or current patients’ shoes. How do they think and feel about you and your practice? What makes them take action? What do they say about you to others? Why do they stay – and more importantly, why do they leave?
If you can learn to think like your customer and understand what makes them tick, from the first time they hear your name until they leave you as a patient, you will be far more successful at growing your practice.
How Do Your Current and Prospective Patients Engage With Your Practice?
The best way to track and see the engagement visually is to create a “customer journey map,” which is a simple diagram that shows the steps the patient goes through in engaging with your practice. Whether it’s a product you sell, your online experience, your services, your waiting room experience, or even your billing process, each “touch point” has relevance and can greatly affect your patient or potential patient’s perception of you and decision to “buy” from you.
Let’s take a deeper look into how it works. Obviously, the more touch points you have with your patients or prospects, the more complicated your customer journey map will be. Here are typical stages; although they don’t have to be linear, often people will jump around. They become a patient, leave and come back, etc.
- Engage with a customer – perhaps via an email campaign or other advertising method
- Customer becomes a patient or buys a product you sell
- Patient has experience in your office
- Patient shares that experience – good or bad – with others
- End of journey – Patient finishes treatment or goes to another practitioner (competitor) and restarts journey there
- Re-engage patient – Is there opportunity to bring the patient into your office for other services or cross-sell products like laser, pillows, nutrition or weight loss? If lost, how can you re-engage the patient to bring them back?
Map Out a Sample Customer Journey
So, how do you actually map things out and get to the sample customer journey noted above? There are many different formats and there is no right or wrong way to accomplish the task. We like a simple model:
- What actions are your patients doing at each stage? Perhaps more importantly, what actions are they taking to move from one stage to the next?
- What motivates them? People buy emotionally and justify it logically. What motivates your patients to call you and to continue seeing you? What motivates them to buy your other services or products? What emotions are they feeling? (Remember – people either buy to gain pleasure or to reduce pain. When it comes to chiropractic, it could be a mixture of both: acute illness or ongoing well-being.)
- Are there unanswered questions? Do your patients have questions or concerns? Are there unknowns that “scare” them from trying alternative health care?
- What are the roadblocks that could prevent your patient from moving between stages? These could include everything from cost, ease of doing business (such as getting an appointment and wait times) to low Google Reviews or Healthgrades ratings.
What Would the Customer Journey Look Like Visually?
To make it easy, let’s create a simple patient “buying experience.” We will assume they are not a current patient:
- Initial Engagement
- Research by Prospect
- Prospect Becomes Patient
- Patient’s Initial Experience
- Patient Shares Experience
- Patient’s Ongoing Engagement
- Patient Ends Journey
- Re-Engage Patient
For each of these sections, you should have actions (What are they doing?), motivations (Why are they here? What are they feeling?), questions (What questions do they have? What are the unknowns?) and roadblocks (What can prevent them from moving forward?)
Sample Steps — Initial Engagement
- Actions: Prospect receives direct-mail postcard and series of six emails from drip campaign, or learns about you via a referral / word of mouth from a current patient.
- Motivations: Back pain, overall not feeling well, frustrated with traditional medicine, not happy with current provider.
- Questions: Unsure of chiropractic care, how does process work, will insurance cover the cost?
- Roadblocks: Cost, bad ratings / reviews, trouble making appointment, provider unknown in area.
Now map the information out for each of the touch points in the journey. Once it’s done, you will want to review and update as your practice grows or changes.
How to Get the Answers You Need
Ask! Surveying your patients regularly is smart business and will allow you to adjust your customer journey map as needed. Prospects? Ask them how they heard about you. Those who left you? We love the idea of “We haven’t heard from you in a while” – dentists are great at this tactic. If you haven’t been in for your six-month check-up, you get emails, phone calls and post cards. More often than not, one of these actions will trigger a reply.
Now You’ve Got Your Customer Journey Map – How Do You Use It?
Congratulations, you’ve discovered how your patients think, feel, react to and wonder about your practice. Now you are officially ready to use the data to re-examine your current marketing activities.
By looking at each of the four sections of your patient’s journey you are essentially doing a SWOT analysis of your practice (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), but through the eyes of your patient.
Engage with potential patients the same way your best patients found you. Create marketing materials and campaigns that address what motivates your patients to buy more products and services, continue seeing you and referring new patients to you. Address any questions your patients or prospects may have. You can accomplish these points on your website, social media and/or in printed material.
Last, but not least, address the roadblocks. Can some be changed? Can you target a different group who may not see them as roadblocks – typically this is a pricing trigger.
Rob Berman is a partner at Berman Partners, LLC, a medical device sales, service and marketing company. He has held a variety of marketing roles during his career. Rob can be contacted by phone at 860-707-4220 or by email at . His company website for new lasers is www.bermanpartners.com and for used lasers www.usedlasercenter.com.
Cindy Donaldson is president and CEO of Red Barn Consulting, a strategic marketing, sales and business operations consulting firm. Contact her at 860-469-8090.