A digital marketing strategy for your function medicine practice should focus on connecting with the customer at every stage of the buying cycle. Most of your potential patients will move through some or all of the four stages. It is important to understand the stages and how to most effectively interact with your potential client in each of them.
Four Stages of the Functional Medicine Buying Cycle
The four stages are Attract, Convert, Engage, Close, and we’re going to look at how the different elements of your marketing strategy will fit into these stages.
In the attract stage, your potential patients are becoming aware that they have a need and that you have a solution. For example, a person is frustrated by the lack of help they have gotten for their fatigue, thinning hair and weight gain. They decide to look up their symptoms online and discover one of your blogs on your website talking about the effects of an underactive thyroid on weight gain. This person is aware of their issue and that you might have a solution. Alternatively, this same person may have seen a Facebook ad for a class you are teaching about natural alternatives to synthetic thyroid drugs.
There are several methods to connect to people that are researching their symptoms or medical frustrations online.
- Social Media Publishing & Ads. Regularly publishing appropriate content on channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., creates an online presence, a brand, that establishes credibility. The goal of your social media should be to attract people who are looking for solutions and direct them to your website. This process moves them through the funnel. The most effective social media channel for your functional medicine practice will depend in part on where your company is located and where your potential patients are spending the most time. For a robust strategy, we recommend 2-3 channels. For example Facebook and Instagram, or Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Social media ads help you target the exact type of patient you’re looking for, which makes it easier for you to attract people who are more likely to convert to patients.
- Blogging. Producing quality content that is relevant to your audience keeps your website current and can increase your leads by two-thirds. Blogging is one of the best ways to provide customers looking for help with expert content they need. Ideally, you want to blog once or twice a week, but if once a month is all you can do, just stay consistent. Answer questions you commonly get asked and your website rankings will increase as do your leads and conversions.
- Google SEO & Adwords. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means that the content on your website is optimized with keywords in your content, your photos are tagged correctly, and you have quality backlinks. All of these items contribute to attracting patients who are looking for help. A robust Google Adwords program is essential because it ensures that you are getting top listings and therefore more potential exposure to attract the people looking for the services you provide.
The convert stage is when the patient becomes an interested party who is willing to give you some lead information like an email or email and phone number in exchange for something that is valuable to them. The interested party could value a short video on the difference between synthetic and desiccated thyroid medications. Or if they liked your blog enough, they might sign up to receive notifications the next time you post a blog or to receive an email with your newest blog.
At this point, your potential client is not necessarily ready to make an appointment, but they want more information. They are considered leads with the opportunity to convert them to prospects.
Here are some ways you can convert an interested party into a lead:
- Landing Pages. Landing pages are on your website that focuses in on a specific service, offer, product, or piece of information that is of particular interest to your potential patients. When an interested party clicks on a PPC (Pay Per Click) ad of Google, a Facebook ad or a sponsored or promoted post, it will take them to a landing page on your site. The user must then provide some basic contact information to access or receive what they are looking for. It is a “win-win” for both parties. The end users get the information they need, and you obtain contact information for future marketing.
- Video Content. Video content has become the preferred method for information consumption. So instead of or in addition to writing a blog consider a “how-to” video or informational video. You don’t even have to be on camera, the video can be narrated animation or a moving infographic.
- Ebooks, Reports, or Whitepapers. A well designed, visually stimulating published piece can still be effective, especially if your target patients are 40 years or older. This group tends to prefer reading material rather than watching a video.
When people are in this stage, it is time to cultivate the relationship. You know they are interested but for whatever reason, they have not made the decision to call you so this is your opportunity to eliminate the reasons for them to say “no” to you and “yes” to someone else. You have the chance to stay in contact with them and develop a deeper bond of trust using some of the techniques below:
- Email Marketing. It is not enough to just collect lead information; you must have a system to follow up with those leads. Email marketing via relevant content sent out at regular intervals is a powerful way to foster and develop leads into converting to regular customers.
- Podcasts. Engage potential customers and current clients with news radio style programs on topics of interest to the listeners. Podcasts can be recorded daily, weekly, monthly or on whichever schedule works for you. They are audio only and often involve interviews, guest speakers, etc.
- Longer Videos. YouTube provides a powerful medium for longer format videos before the short 30-60 second spots that are popular on social media. Longer format videos give you the chance to engage on a deeper level with your target audience. They can be 30-60 minutes long for example, which provides you with a lot more time to expound on topics such as nutrition trends, meal prep, stretching techniques to address stress, new information on thyroid issues, and much more.
- Assessments. Providing a free evaluation for potential buyers is a great way to engage with them and get them to engage with you. Be positive, but be honest. Depending on your specialty what you offer as an assessment is going to differ. One key though is to make it as easy for the end user as possible. Maybe the assessment is a simple BMI, or an accurate body fat % calculation. There are many options out there, be creative and have fun with it!
This is the final stage and the goal of the entire process. You want the prospect to convert to a patient because they believe you are the right person to help them and they trust you. Sometimes circumstances in their lives my push them into making the decision and sometimes you can help them before they get to a potential crisis by using the tips below:
- Free Trials. Just about everyone likes free trials of just about any kind! So if there is a way to let them try some part of your product or service for free, then offer that. It can be a dynamic way to get them in the door and wanting more of what you offer. Again, get creative with what you are offering. Maybe if you have a massage therapist on staff, they can get a 15-minute chair massage for free when they come in to have an assessment or with their first appointment. Maybe their first day of meal planning is free. Maybe there are smaller samples of the nutrition supplements you offer that you can give away for free. Try different offers until you find ones that are effective and then cycle through them at regular intervals.
- Free Consultations. Free consultations are very similar to assessments, and sometimes it’s just a matter of vocabulary. An assessment and a consultation are very similar, and the main difference is that they have different goals. The assessment in our funnel is more to engage while the consultation is typically more to convert the potential client.
- Coupons. Coupons are great for getting people in the door as clients or customers, though sometimes people will just come in to use the coupon and then never come back. Moving a potential client through the sales funnel and essentially building a digital relationship with them increases the likelihood that they will not only use the coupon, but they will become a regular customer because they have that connection with you and your practice.
- Appointments. The whole goal of all of this is to get people to call, make appointments, and come through your door. Afterall, getting them through the door is the hardest part, right? The rest is relatively easy because you’re terrific and you care, and you have a fantastic product or service!
Finally, I’ll leave you with a few essential tips to remember. Not every patient will need to go through every one of these stages, and some will go through it several times. What do I mean by that? Well, statistically about 2-4% of those in the attract stage will jump directly to making an appointment. 5-15% will choose to call you in the convert stage, and approximately 80% will become patients in the engage stage. Some people will become aware of your practice in the attract stage, then get distracted by life and end up coming back to you later. When they come back, they may have to start toward the beginning of the funnel or life may have changed for them and they are ready to close right now! Consistency is vital as is relating to each person in the correct stage of the buying cycle. For example, you don’t want to send the person who just signed up for your podcast and email that says welcome to our practice! Instead, it should be welcome to our podcast; we are thrilled you are interested in learning more about _____________.
The buying cycle may sound like a lot, but it is vital to understand how the modern, digital-savvy customer engages with your company so you can know how to move them through the cycle. If you want some help or want to talk to someone about what an inbound buying cycle looks like for your business, we would be happy to talk with you. We offer free assessments, and we love to talk shop! Shoot me an email at [email protected] or sign up for one of our free consultations with our VP of Marketing, Jennifer Christensen. We can’t wait to meet you!