Mobile Marketing 101 For Private Practice Owners

Most private practice owners have a list of patients and their cellphones.

A cellphone number is a valuable piece of data, much more important than the patient’s email or home address, from a marketing viewpoint.

After all, there are only THREE things that everyone carries with them when they walk out of their home – their keys, wallet and cellphone.

More than 95% of the US population owns a cellphone. Text messaging plans are very affordable these days, and 95% of individuals check their text messages within 5 minutes of receiving them.

Every private practice owner knows it’s important to stay in touch with patients, but there are a few problems associated with the ‘common’ modes of communication.

  • Email – not always opened, spam filters are making it increasingly difficult to get emails read
  • Regular mail and print ads – rising costs, difficult to measure response
  • Newspapers – readership declining rapidly, since more people go online for information
  • Phone directory – do you even know where yours is?

The number of individuals with smartphones, and mobile web users has increased dramatically in the past few months, and jumped 34% from July 2008 to July 2009 alone, according to Nielsen Co.

Bango, a mobile analytics specialist, reported a 600% increase in traffic to mobile websites in the past 12 months.

This means that not only do patients have cellphones capable of receiving text messages, more and more patients have ‘smartphones’ like the Iphone, Droid and internet enabled phones that enable them to browse websites.

Here is how this applies to your practice:

  • If you have cellphone numbers of your patients, you should be communicating with them using text messages. The fact that they gave you the information during patient intake gives you the right to communicate with them (and they can always text STOP if they don’t want to hear from you).
  • Since you are communicating with patients directly, it’s important for your message to be short, precise, captivating and beneficial.
  • Your website should be ‘mobile optimized’ since patients will browse your website from their mobile phones
  • You should be engaging your patients with mobile votes, surveys, polls. You should be using  automatic appointment reminders to boost compliance and minimize cancellations.

Speaking of appointment reminders, here is a simple way in which text messaging can boost patient compliance and minimize cancellations.

To understand how mobile marketing works, it’s important to understand a few key terms. Let’s say your practice name is “Healthfit Physical Therapy”.

Now, if you ask a patient to text the word HEALTHFIT to 77453, then the word HEALTHFIT (doesn’t matter if they text it in uppercase or lowercase) is called the ‘mobile keyword’. The number 77453 is called the ‘shortcode’, which is provided to you by your text messaging provider platform.

Now, you need to get an account with a company that provides a ‘text messaging platform’. Ideally, this company should also provide ‘voice broadcasting’ services and email marketing services, allowing you to get an all-inclusive system that automates all your patient marketing using text, voice and email in one platform.  (I will be making an announcement soon about a service I built that does ALL of these things, and helps you market your practice to patients and prospects on their cellphones.)

Every practice should have at least three, preferably five mobile keywords like lowback, hip, knee, etc to appeal to different segments of patients. When you are marketing to the general population, asking prospects to text the ‘mobile keyword’ (like HEALTHFIT)  to the short code is an instant way to get their cellphone number in your database.  The interesting part is, once your ‘keyword’ is taken by someone else, there is nothing you can do about it. It makes sense, therefore, Now, when you follow up with prospects using motivational quotes and inspirational messages, the likelihood of getting the prospect to convert to a patient increases significantly.

If you’ve been collecting the cellphone numbers of your patients as part of your patient intake (good job!), simply import it into your text messaging platform. Once the cellphone is in your system, you can send patients appointment reminders and engage them using a combination of surveys, polls, competitions, incentives, greeting cards etc.

Text messages are CHEAPER and get read FASTER than traditional email and snail mail, allowing you to save time and money and get IMMEDIATE responses from patients.

Imagine the power of simple banner on your building or signs along the roadway with a way for people to simply text that they’re interested in what you have to offer. Your sign could something like:

“Text BACKPAIN to 77453 to receive a FREE low back pain evaluation”

“25 Volunteers needed for a guaranteed results pain relief study. Text PAINFREE to 77453 to learn more”

“Free Fall prevention class this Saturday. Text NOFALLS to 77453 to secure your spot!”

Combine scarcity and urgency in your offer and take a normal call to action like “call now to claim your 2 week pass” and make it better. For example: “Special Bonus: Text WELLNESS to 775453 a receive an immediate coupon for 50% off your exercise program”

“Special Bonus: Text HEALTHY to 77453 for unlimited 2 week passes for you and all your friends and family”

“Show a staff member at our facility this text today before 9:00pm to receive 25% off on any massage package”

“Hi Charles, be sure to check in at the clinic today between 10am – 3pm and I’ll give you a free T-shirt”

“Special Announcement: Renew your wellness program membership by Wednesday next week and get an additional 6 weeks free!”

Do you want to see this in action? Just text the word PATIENT to 77453 and see for yourself. I’ll send you a FREE book on “The 10 Laws of Mobile Patient Marketing”

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