Episode Transcript: Troy Cole on Mastering Patient Communication
Crawford Ifland: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of The Medical Marketing Podcast.
In this episode of Ask the Marketing Manager, we’re going to talk about how to master patient communication to get more satisfied patients, and fill your surgery schedule.
Our guest today is Troy Cole, a conversion marketing specialist who helps physicians in private practice book more high-value, elective procedures. Troy has been marketing elective procedures for more than 15 years, so we’re really excited to learn from his experience.
Troy, welcome to the show.
Troy Cole: What’s up, man? Thanks for having me, Crawford.
Tell us a little about yourself…
Crawford Ifland: Yeah, my pleasure. So just by way of introduction, tell us a little bit about yourself and about your background in marketing.
Troy Cole: Yeah, man. So I live down here in Fort Worth, Texas. I’m a Texas boy. Grew up here with my wife and my four awesome children.
I’ve been in the medical marketing space since 2005. So I started my career with a full service agency. Ended up running that for about eight years, and then around 2015 or so, I really started to notice a few major shifts:
Number one was just the continued growth of digital. And so this was particularly in the social media space. And this wasn’t just for young folks, but this started to affect all the age demographics we were targeting for our clients. So you had that.
On top of that, you also had the growth of mobile traffic and activity. So not only were things going more digital, but on the digital side, that was all going mobile. You had the iPhone 5 and 6 coming out. You could do a lot more on your phone at that point than any other time, and mobile traffic and activity was continuing to grow. We all have super computers in our pockets now. We live on those things.
And then the third big shift I noticed was the on demand lifestyle. So Uber was getting popular. Think about this, about five years ago, right? Uber is blowing up. Amazon prime is just continuing to increase. Netflix gaining popularity. Airbnb was blowing up.
And so you’ve got all these companies that are in this on demand, what I call the on-demand lifestyle. And they are getting huge and they’re affecting consumer behavior.
So you might think, well, Troy, you just named all these companies that really don’t have anything to do with medicine. Which I agree, but it was big companies and what they are doing is influencing consumer behavior and the way that consumers make decisions, the way they engage with brands, and the way that they are finding you, engaging with you and coming in and choosing to have a procedure with you and your practice.
So at that point I was like, man, all this stuff’s changing. I want to be in the middle of this. I want to be more of a part of it.
So I decided to launch our consultancy, which is LogiCole Consulting. We focus on creating patient experiences that leverage digital assets that are super mobile friendly and that create a convenient and a premium patient experience.
And I know that sounds like pretty jargon-y, but we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of that here as we continue to talk.
The company is me and my wife Susan, and we’ve got a small team that works with us as well.
I focus more on the marketing side. She’s got a huge sales background. She sold pharmaceuticals, she sold elective procedures, so she does a lot of the sales training part.
And what we do is we teach and we implement marketing and sales systems for our clients that they can use to command higher prices for their premium procedures and fill their surgery schedules.
What does your job look like on a day-to-day basis?
Crawford Ifland: Awesome. So doing that, what does your job look like on a day-to-day basis?
Troy Cole: Yeah, so we have a number of different offerings that we provide to our clients.
We’ve got products and courses. We’ve got our marketing program, which is called the Practice Growth machine system, and then we do some one on one coaching and consulting.
Everything except for the courses are by application only – we want to make sure that our clients are a good fit for us, that we’re a good fit for them. We’re not a giant agency. We’re not working with hundreds of clients. We don’t want to be that. We like working with a select group of clients who are awesome and who we can really help to take them to the moon.
So everything that we do is based around systems. You’ve heard me use that term a few times already.
I’m a big fan of the Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, who’s actually has a great economics and business mind.
One of his popular quotes is“Losers have goals and winners have systems.”
That might sound a little harsh, but the gist of it is that if you have a goal, a destination you want to get to, but you don’t have a system or a pathway to get there, you’re not going to get anywhere.
So let’s say you’re an ophthalmologist, right? You have a goal to get to a hundred eyes a month. Or you want to start 50 new ortho cases next month, for example. Whatever it is, that’s great. It’s good to have a goal, but what is the system that can get you there. Right?
So you’re asked about our day-to-day. Our day-to-day is mainly creating and iterating on these patient conversion systems that we have.
So that includes lead generation systems. We use things like viral quizzes that we can take and promote to generate patients. We’ve got automation systems that help to nurture prospects over time on behalf of our clients, so the client can be doing phone calls and our system can be doing, say, emails and text messages, for example.
So you take a lead generation system and an automation system, you put those together – a lot of people call those a funnel. You’ve probably heard the word funnel if you’re listening to this. So we’re building funnels for our clients.
And then of course on the sales side, we have sales systems. So that might be word tracks, follow up timelines and cadences, different ways to recognize and engage with different communication styles. But these are all systems.
And then what we do is we go and we assess these systems and we test them and we iterate on them. So we put out a new funnel out into the real world and we test it on behalf of our clients.
And our clients love it because we work with practices who want to have an unfair advantage right? These are leading edge surgeons and doctors by nature. They want to be out there in front. So they like having the opportunity to explore this new territory as well as use the tried and true proven systems that we’ve already developed.
And so we’re able to say, “Hey, look, we tested this. It’s working really well for this client over in this city. They match up a lot with what you’re doing over in Y city, and so let’s go ahead and implement this for you.” So we do a lot of cross-pollination as well. Which again, our clients love that because you get to share best practices all over the country.
And then another part of our day to day is research. We do a ton of research. And when I say research, really what I mean is like looking at what’s going on out in the marketplace and how we can apply those things to our marketing systems.
Now we’ll look at some of what’s going on in the industries we work in. We’ll look at other plastic surgeons, we’ll look at other ophthalmologists, but really what we’re doing – the vast majority of it – is what’s happening in other industries?
- What’s happening in tech?
- What’s happening in retail?
- Who has a great user experience?
- What companies are growing?
- What products do people fall in love with?
I want to know what’s happening with those companies and what they’re doing that we can take and we can mimic and implement for our clients too, because they’re doing something right. It’s probably not being done in my client’s industries and we can push it out and that can be a game changer. We’re all about that.
Crawford Ifland: That’s awesome. I love what you were saying about systems. I’ve, I’ve heard it said that both winners and losers have the same goals. And it’s really not enough to just have those goals, but you have to have the right systems, the right habits, the right practices in place to actually be able to achieve those.
Troy Cole: That’s it, man. For sure.
How do you typically come alongside practices to help them in their marketing?
Crawford Ifland: So you’re an outside consultant who gets brought in when practices realize they need some extra help. Now, understandably, many practices start out trying to do marketing themselves, but they realize a few things:
- They either don’t know what they’re doing,
- They don’t have enough time,
- Or maybe a combination of both
So how do you typically come alongside practices to help refine their marketing and get better results when they realize, “Hey, I’m a little bit in over my head. I need some help.”
Troy Cole: Yeah, that’s a great question, man. You know, I’m not opposed to the idea of practices having their own marketing teams. I think it’s a great option for some. But it’s a really bad option for others.
Here’s the hard part about an internal team: the hard part is keeping up with all the massive changes that are happening.
And really that’s, that’s even a hard thing for an agency to do, right?
I told you my background: I started in an agency, and so I saw this firsthand. Think about, just rewind, say just a decade, right? Just 10 years ago, you could have a “full service agency” that can handle pretty much most of what you needed.
But when you think about how many more marketing opportunities and how many different media platforms there are now compared to just 10 years ago, right? All the different social ad platforms, marketing automation, the display ad works, the native ads, you know, it’s impossible to keep up with all of that under one roof, whether you’re a practice and you’ve got a marketing team, or even if you’re an agency servicing clients, right?
Here’s how I break it out when I’m working with, with an internal marketing team, and it’s pretty simple: The practice marketing team is going to focus and be most effective at anything that is born internally.
So for example, gathering happy patient testimonials. I can’t do that in my office if your practice is 300 miles away. You’re in there, you’re seeing the happy patients, you know, “Hey man. Jane came in, she was super pumped about having her vision correction procedure. She would make a great testimonial.”
We need to engage her on that, right? So those kinds of things: putting together newsletters, creating original content for organic social media posts.
I can’t sit here and take a picture of your birthday celebration with your staff. Right? But you can, and I can help you learn the language and the type of photos you need to post that so that you get awesome engagement on it, right?
But that needs to be created on the practice level.
Promoting local events within the community, right? Patient appreciation nights. CE’s, if you’re hosting those. Doing blog content creation.
So all of these things that, that are born out of the practice and can and are better when they’re created on the local level because there are more organic pieces of content or pieces of marketing. That’s where the practice marketing teams can really thrive.
And then you have external specialists to do the technical stuff.
That’s where I bring in somebody like you and I say, “Hey Crawford, this client needs SEO and Adwords, let’s rock and roll.” Because you’re living in that every single day, right?
And then we come in, we might set up our practice growth machine system, which has the paid social ads, the automation reviews, some critical aspects of staff training. That’s all encompassed in that umbrella, right?
And so what you’re doing is you’re building a small squad of experts: some internal, some external, and then the marketing team, whoever’s running that within the practice, acts as a quarterback of this squad.
Now, some, some practices might think:
- Why not just train my team on these things?
- Why not just train my team to do Facebook ads?
- Why not just train my team to do Google Adwords and the SEO?
You can totally do that, and I know practices that do. Here’s how I’ve seen it backfire in two big ways:
Number one, it takes a lot of time and bandwidth and actual monetary investment to train someone to become proficient in these areas that we’re talking about.
Like, how long would it take someone to intuitively know how to assess and execute an effective SEO plan, Crawford?
Crawford Ifland: Oh boy. That would take a while.
Troy Cole: It’s not like a weekend course, right?
Crawford Ifland: Yeah, all of these marketing managers have other things to do. They have other responsibilities inside their practices too, so it’s really not feasible to ask them to take, you know, a couple months off of their normal job just to go out and learn something like that.
Troy Cole: Exactly. There’s an opportunity cost of having a team member tied up in that versus doing something that’s much more beneficial to the practice. So that’s one way that it’s a much more expensive venture, both in terms of money and in terms of opportunity cost.
The second, the second way I’ve seen this backfire is really practical: what happens when that person leaves?
Crawford Ifland: Yeah.
Troy Cole: Right? That person goes and gets another job. We don’t want to think about that happening. We want to think we’ve got great teams and they’re going to be with us forever, but we know it’s not reality. All right, so now you’ve, you spent this money, you spent this time to train somebody on this specific skillset.
And then they leave, and now your entire brain trust around that part of your marketing is gone and all that investment is gone. So now you’ve got to train someone else to do it.
Crawford Ifland: You lose all of that institutional knowledge.
Troy Cole: Yeah. You’re, you’re back to square one or you bring in an outside expert and you get them up to speed.
So everything I’m talking about here is part of the path we go down with our clients on the consulting and the coaching side:
- To develop their internal teams
- Determine who’s going to do what
- What outside help is needed
- And then we teach them to be that quarterback I was talking about, which helps them be more efficient and effective in their marketing.
And so this is where my years of agency experience really come into play. So I can leverage my background in media, buying, copywriting, building better creative, managing teams, messaging, patient communication – all those different pieces to figure out who needs to do what and how to assemble that team and how to manage it.
And that gives my clients the shortcuts that they need to to move fast and get more effective faster.
What’s the most challenging part of your job? And what’s the most rewarding?
Crawford Ifland: That’s awesome. So two-part question for you: Number one, what’s the most challenging part of your job? And then number two, what’s the most rewarding part?
Troy Cole: Yeah, so you know, the most challenging part – and you can probably relate to this on some level – is just staying on top of all the fast changes that happen in marketing and advertising, particularly on the digital and the social side.
So if you take something like radio, for example: it’s pretty much the same right now as it was when I started 15 years ago.
Yeah, different station formats changed and stations have introduced online streaming and apps and things like that. But if you want to go buy some radio spots and get an endorser, the process is pretty much the same.
But you contrast that with like Facebook advertising, right? It’s constantly changing:
- What they will allow
- What they disallow
- The different ad formats
- What’s popular among the different consumers, right?
Like that’s just always morphing. That’s a challenge. But for me, I think it’s also a lot of fun, because there’s always new opportunities to test creative and to test offers.
And I really like how you can test campaigns much more efficiently than you could back in the day. So think about this: if you wanted to test an ad campaign 20 or 30 years ago, you might invest, you know, tens of thousands of dollars to send out a direct mail piece, right? This direct mail is still fairly popular – used to be super popular.
Alright so you spend all this money – $20,000. You send out this piece to a list that you bought. You don’t have any idea if it worked for, you know, four to six weeks. And then you look back and you say, “Hey, how did we do on this? Did this work for us?” It’s a pretty high-risk scenario when you think about it.
Today, we can create an offer, and we can go and promote it to a certain demographic on social media and for $100, $200 in a couple of days, I know if that offer has teeth. I know if we need to keep going down that path, or if we need to refine it or if we need to kill it. So that’s super low-risk.
The most rewarding part is seeing our clients get huge wins. Seeing their teams transform and realize that they could be premium providers and charge premium prices.
I’ll say this a few times: I’m a big, big fan of not competing on price, but competing on value.
I don’t think you went to medical school and started a business and dedicated decades of your life to this so that you could compete on price and be a commodity.
So when I hear, when I, when I’m working with a client and I hear the confidence in their voices, when I’m listening to phone recordings, when I see them and they say, and they realize and they know, and they believe, “Hey, we are the best.”
When I see that, I mean, that’s the most rewarding part.
And then seeing the validation that comes from patients who go and leave my clients amazing reviews on Google, and they share their experiences. I mean, that’s it man. You know? That is the awesome stuff.
Break down the three parts of advertising: Marketing, Conversion, and Fulfillment…
Crawford Ifland: That’s great. So as you describe it, advertising for private practices is really about three categories:
Can you break each of those down for us?
Troy Cole: Yeah, so marketing, first and foremost, that’s the promotion of the practice, right? Pretty straightforward. And that’s not just your advertising.
I don’t remember who said this, but “Everything is marketing.”
Everything is marketing.
- Your ads
- Your website
- Your scripting that you use on the phone
- Your internal materials
- Your consultation process
- Your tone of voice
It’s all marketing and it all works to get more patients into the practice.
And since everything is marketing, that also means everyone is marketing as well.
You can’t just think, “Well, we have this marketing department that lives in the marketing cave and does marketing things in their marketing bubble.”
That’s not how it works. At least that’s not how it effectively works.
Your marketing folks need to be involved in every aspect of the practice. They need visibility. They need to see what’s going on. They need to know that Jane came in super happy about her procedure and that she’s ready and excited to shoot a testimonial for you. They have to be involved in all aspects of that.
And then on the flip side, every person who’s not in marketing, every other person in the practice is part of the marketing effort.
You might not think like, Oh, well my billing team, my technicians. Yeah. Well, you might think, yeah, they’ve got a technical job to do, but it’s not really sales and marketing, so I don’t have to worry about that.
That’s wrong. They are absolutely part of marketing.
Every single person who touches a patient, and I would argue, even those who don’t – because they’re still part of the patient experience in some way – is part of marketing.Which means that everyone has to be on board with your practice mission.
They need to eat it, they need to drink it, they need to breathe it, they need to know it, and they need to embody that for you to have the most effective marketing of your practice and brand building of your practice that you could possibly have. So that’s the marketing side.
On the conversion side, so that’s the second piece, right?
Conversion happens at every step of the patient journey.
Most people talk about conversion, like, okay, well we’re going to convert a lead into a patient, and yet that’s true, but that’s just one part of it.
When you think about it, you zoom out and you look at the patient journey. You have multiple conversion points throughout the patient journey:
- So somebody doesn’t know who you are to knowing who you are. That is a conversion point.
- From knowing you to engaging with you, right? That might be visiting your website.
- From engaging with you to actually connecting where you talk on the phone and then once you connect with them to actually schedule them.
- Then from schedule to show up from show up to book surgery.
- From book surgery to keep surgery. All of these are conversion points
- And then finally you from keeping surgery to becoming a raving referral.
So when you’re thinking about this, I want you to think about what your weakest link is cause you’re only as strong as your weakest link.
Think about it:
- If there’s a breakdown on the sales side during the consult, it doesn’t matter how great your ad campaign is, okay?
- If there’s a breakdown on the followup and the booking side. It doesn’t matter that you have the world’s greatest sales person in there as a counselor because they’re never getting in. The patient’s not getting in.
So as you can tell from what I’ve told you about our consultancy already, we’ve strategically created products and services that fortify every one of these conversion points I just went through because that’s what it takes for a practice to succeed.
We can’t just focus on one or two. We’ve got to focus on the whole thing.
It’s an entire bridge, right? And we got to get people from the beginning, from not even knowing who you are to sending all of their friends and family in because you are the bee’s knees. So that’s the key. That’s how we look at conversion.
And then fulfillment. So the same thing on the fulfillment side. After each conversion point, you have to fulfill your obligation.
So we talked about the conversion points. These periods of time between those conversion points are called incubation periods. So for example, from the site, the time that someone books a consult to the time that the actual consult occurs – time doesn’t just stand still, right? It’s not just frozen.
That person goes about their life. They get busy. Maybe they get nervous, maybe they start to second guess their decision. These are all common things.
So your job during that incubation period is to “incubate” the decision and keep them moving down the path of the patient journey.
And so that’s part of what we do is teach a simple system of how to do this through things like text messages, emails, phone calls, physical items like brochures, different videos, and more.
So to sum everything up here, you market to get the initial conversion, and then that marketing continues in different ways during each incubation period to reach the next conversion point.
Crawford Ifland: Yeah that’s great. And I love how you’re thinking about those incubation periods and all of the opportunities you have. Not just, “Oh, well it’s a one-off conversion. They scheduled a surgery” – but like each of those steps between becoming aware of you and then engaging on your website and then scheduling an appointment. Each of those is an opportunity to deepen that relationship with the patient, to get them more familiar with you.
We always tell people – our clients and others – that your brand is the sum of all touchpoints that people have with your organization.
It could be something as simple as the way your staff answers the phone or how many rings it actually takes for them to pick up. But all of those contribute to eventually getting those conversions. So I love the focus you put on that because it really is important.
Troy Cole: Yeah.
Where do most practices’ marketing funnels break down?
Crawford Ifland: Love it. So in your experience working with these private practices, where do you find that most often their marketing funnels break down? Like where do practices need the most help when they’re creating or improving a funnel?
Troy Cole: So we take a “choose your own adventure approach.” All right, and here’s what I mean by that. The mistake that I see most practices make is that they have very few ways that a patient or a prospect rather could actually engage with them. So take for example, your typical practice website. And I’m sure you see this all the time in your business.
What methods of engagement will you find on the typical practice website?
Well, you’ll find a phone number. Okay, so a prospect could call you, you’ll find a contact form where someone can request an appointment. And so for people who are 100% ready to take action, those are fine. That’s all you need.
But the problem is that a very, very small portion of people who get to your site, normally, like 1-2% of people are ready to go, are at that 100%, right?
The vast majority of patients – 98% of folks – they’re not ready, right? They’re not there at that “pull the trigger” moment.
So how do you get the 98 out of a hundred people who come to your site to engage with you when they’re not necessarily ready? If their only options are to do a 100% option, right? Like pick up the phone and call or leave?
And this is where the choose your own adventure part comes in. We want to give people, engagement opportunities that aren’t necessarily all the way to if they’re ready to book the consult.
So I already mentioned that we do a lot of quizzes and self tests. So if someone’s thinking, “Hey, look, I’m not ready to book just yet, but let me see if I might be a candidate for this certain procedure. I’ll take this quiz and check it out.” That keeps them moving down the line.
We also use things like free downloads where, you know, they’re called like lead magnets, right? People can request in exchange for their contact info. So we might have a pricing guide or an info kit, or five questions you must know before choosing your surgeon. And then they can submit their name, email, and phone number, and we’ll send them that for free. And then we can follow up with them and answer any questions they have after they go through that content.
And we even use tools like chat bots, which is like a live chat, but it’s completely automated. And again, that’s designed to move people through these different “choose your own adventure” scenarios.
So there’s a lot of ways that we, we make, you know, we don’t have to necessarily overhaul a client site to go in and add these things and start to convert more of their visitors into actual leads.
And the goal of all of these is to start a conversation.
If you can start a conversation, if you could focus on starting more conversations, starting more engagements, then you are systematizing this process and the result will be:
- More leads
- More bookings
- More people coming down through your funnel
How does communication change once a patient takes the next step?
Crawford Ifland: I love that. It’s super simple. It’s not necessarily about capturing everybody who’s 100% ready to go because that can be rare. But really just simplifying that process and taking it from, “Hey, you don’t have to go in a 100%. You don’t have to go all in, but let’s just start a conversation and learn about what’s best for you and what’s right for you.”
So at first the name of the game is kind of about getting patients into a funnel of some sort, depending on what they’re looking for. Your messaging, your communication, and all your calls to action, all point to that one thing.
But once a patient converts and say, you know, they take the next step, they schedule an appointment, how does that relationship change and how should a doctor’s communication change towards that patient as a result?
Troy Cole: Yeah. So think of it like dating, right? So from the point when you first meet someone to your tenth date to getting engaged to being married for 10 years, your communication style is going to change a little bit. As you get to know somebody, as they get to know you, there’s just a natural evolution that takes place.
And the same thing happens with your patients.
And the way I talk about it is this: ultimately what you want to do is you want to make a patient feel like they are part of your tribe. Like, they are part of your family, all right?
It might sound silly, but you want them to feel like they’re part of the cool kids club by coming to see you having a procedure with you, like they are in the know.
They, at that point, they’ve gained access to a secret that maybe other people don’t know about. And so you want to craft your communication and your, your patient engagements around that.
So think about, you know, think about a time that you’ve discovered a new product, for example.
I really like Mizzen and Main dress shirts. They’re wrinkle-free shirts, they fit really well, they look good, they’re not super expensive. They’re just great.
I’m always trying to find like a really good looking dress shirt. So I’ve found that company and I’m like, this is great – these feel good, that look good. They’re awesome.
So what do I do once I make that discovery? Well, I start telling my friends about it. Dude, I checked out Mizzen and Main. Their shirts are awesome. You guys need to go check it out. So I start to use my word of mouth to do that.
You want to create the same kind of scenario with your patients.
So not only do you want them getting to know you and developing trust with you so that they spend their money in exchange for a life changing procedure, but you also want them to feel special.
You want them to feel like they are part of something special, they are a part of your mission, right? Your mission to change the world, one person’s body or one person’s eyes or one person’s smile at a time – they’re now part of it, and they get to be part of sharing that with the world.
What marketing or advertising channel is most effective for doctors in private practice?
Crawford Ifland: Hmm. That’s awesome.
So in your experience working with private practices, which marketing or advertising channel is usually the most effective?
Troy Cole: So this is a good question and it’s an interesting question, right? Cause there’s a few different ways you could tackle it.
I have spent and managed millions of dollars in traditional media over my career on behalf of my clients.
So, you know, take TV and radio. Those are still viable ways to grow your practice brand and to get people in the door. The thing is, they are quite expensive. And I would say in some cases they are overpriced.
So when you consider how many people have “cut the cord” and gone to streaming services for music or the gun to Hulu or say Apple TV or Netflix for their television. You might think that radio and TV would be more affordable than they were 10 years ago before any of those things existed.
But the thing is that you have a lot of big businesses out there, big corporations who are still spending a good chunk of money in those media. And what happens is that regardless of popularity, regardless of viewership, that creates demand and that demand increases price.
Okay, so I’m a big Gary Vee fan and he talks about attention.
What you’re trying to do with your marketing is to get attention.
Where can you, in the case of advertising, where can you buy attention where it’s either priced fairly or ideally where it’s under priced?
If a practice had to choose just one channel for advertising, I am a huge fan of sponsored social media ads, and that’s what I recommend, and that’s for a few reasons:
It’s more affordable, period. You can run a campaign online and reach tens of thousands of people for less than you could buy one decently, a timed television spot.
You can tailor your message to each audience. And this is where it’s a super powerful. If you’re on social, if you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you know how much information you provide to those platforms. You sign up, you’ve got your photos on there, they know where you took those photos, they know your age, probably know if you’re married, know when your birthday is right, and they know if you have kids based on your photos based on what you’re doing. And so they’re able to take all these data points and provide them to advertisers to use.
Now, I can’t go out and say, all right, I know how Crawford is and I know exactly who Crawford is and what Crawford’s into…but I can build an audience around guys who are your age in your area, and from that, I’m able to target you.
So, you know, the thing is with traditional media, when a 30 year old LASIK candidate sees your cataract TV commercial, that’s just not a targeted message.
Yeah, there’s some good brand exposure to it, but that’s not a message for them.
But when you can go in and target by age, gender, geo, interests, career, and you can then build messaging and build a funnel around that, it becomes very, very efficient.
Also, there are very few limitations. You can only say so much in a 30-second TV spot or radio spot. But on social, you can do a sponsored ad that has an image in 10 words, or you can go in and write a 500-word ad that includes a 10 minute video. And there are occasions to do each.
So for example, one of our best-performing ads last year was for cataracts targeted at the older demographic that’s literally 1200 words long.
But that copy is so engaging and informative for that demographic that they are more inclined to read that long copy and they read it and consume it and click and it works really well.
Fourth, and lastly, there are always new opportunities. So several years ago, Facebook ads was the big play. Facebook’s still a great channel, but it’s getting more expensive as more competition comes in. Now we also do a lot on Instagram. Snapchat has advertising opportunities that are much more cost-effective than Facebook or Instagram. So that’s something we’re starting to test now.
We’ve also, run successful campaigns that are targeting business executives on LinkedIn. And so there’s all these new opportunities that are being presented in the social marketing space.
I’d say the one thing that is so vital to remember in this is that while there are a few limitations on say the length and the different types of creative you can use, there are requirements and restrictions on how you can write your copy. For example, Facebook and Instagram don’t want you calling out someone’s specific physical traits.
This can get tricky when you’re advertising life-changing procedures, right? You’re not supposed to call it their traits, but you want to talk to them about changing their life or changing their appearance or whatever.
So the thing is, if your copy is not in compliance, you might have ads that are disapproved.
Those ads might run, which isn’t a huge deal individually, but if that happens enough times and they shut down your ad account, it becomes a big problem real fast.
So this is an area where we spend a lot of time crafting specific copy to convey a persuasive message while still staying within the bounds of their guidelines, which is super important to keeping your ad accounts running on these platforms.
How should doctors follow up with leads effectively?
Crawford Ifland: That makes a lot of sense. Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about following up with leads.
How should practices effectively follow up with patients…and when should they know that it’s just time to stop?
Troy Cole: I say follow up forever or until somebody tells you to stop.
We’ve all received unsolicited phone calls, and they usually come right at dinnertime from someone trying to sell us a new credit card. And that is a total pain. Nobody likes it.
You and your practice are different because anyone that you were following up with has somehow raised their hand to say, I have a problem and I’m interested in your solution to fix it.
You aren’t just cold calling people:
- Maybe they’re been on your website and downloaded one of the free lead magnets that we talked about.
- They’ve engaged with you on social media.
- They’ve completed your contact form.
- They’ve done something, and that’s why you’re reaching out to them.
And this is super important right now more than ever, because of the growth of the new digital landscape that I talked about.
You will get more leads that come through your digital platforms that you must then contact back to engage with them. That’s just the nature of things. It’s not going to change, so you have to be ready to change to make the best of this situation.
Many practices make the mistake of calling someone once, and if that person doesn’t answer or if they don’t hear back, the practice assumes that person is not interested.
ButI would submit:
- Have you ever ignored a phone call from a number you didn’t know? We all have, right?
- Have you ever not answered the phone because you were in the middle of a task, or your kid was crying, or you were in a loud area?
We’ve all been in that boat, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in answering the phone call. I mean, it might be our mother calling, but it’s just not a good time to answer.
We can’t read someone’s mind. And I see this a lot: “They didn’t answer. I called them, I left them a message on, I guess they’ll call back if they’re interested, but if not, then they probably aren’t interested.”
We can’t just read someone’s mind and assume that they are not interested. People will tell you to stop calling them if they want you to stop and then you respect that.
A couple of important notes on followup though. So I said, yeah, follow up. You want to follow up. Multiple times.
We encourage 10 touch points within the first week and a half.
Now, this isn’t just phone calls, but phone calls and text messages and email follow ups.
But a couple of things that you want to remember here:
- You don’t just want to follow up and say, “Hey, so are you ready to book? Are you ready to book yet?” You don’t want to just bug people.
- You can follow up frequently, but be sure that you’re adding value.
So what does adding value look like?
Well, you may follow up to say, “Hey, I wanted to make sure that I mentioned this special payment option that we have right now. Let me tell you the details on that.”
You might follow up and say, “Hey, you know, you asked about, XYZ thing and your console and I actually got some more information about that for you that I wanted to share.”
You want to follow up with a reason and with value. You don’t just want to bug somebody to book their appointment, all right?
Number two is that you always want to establish your next touch point.
So if you’re leaving a message: “Hey, I’ll give you a call back again this afternoon or tomorrow morning.”
If someone is adamant about discussing their decision with their spouse, “Hey, you know what? That’s a great idea. Take some time. You’ll discuss it over dinner. I’ll give you a call tomorrow afternoon and I’ll address, I’ll address any questions that she has as well.” You want to establish actual timelines, set a next touch point.
So a lot of times I’ll hear, “Yeah, I’ll check back in with you later.”
Later is not a time. Use actual times to establish this, to keep the ball and keep the momentum moving forward.
What about word choice? How can doctors change their word choice to get more conversions?
Crawford Ifland: Gotcha. So obviously marketing and good communication go hand in hand. And I love what you’ve put on your website: “We teach Ninja sales and marketing strategies to world class refractive surgeons and their teams.”
So, talk about some of the subtle word choices that doctors can use that make a huge difference in that patient conversion process.
Troy Cole: Yeah. So I’ve got two, two quick things on this that I think your listeners will find really valuable.
Number one is that you always want to use assumptive language. For example:
- “Thank you for choosing LogiCole medical practice.” It’s not just thank you for calling, but choosing. We want to remind them that they have chosen us.
- “When you come in for your consultation, here’s what you can expect.” It’s not, maybe you’ll come in and here’s what happens when you come in. This is what we’re doing.
- “On your surgery day, you will start out, you know, XYZ.” So again, there’s no question there’s no “maybe”, there’s no “ifs.”
We are assuming that they are moving forward.
We have what I call a bias toward action.
They have signaled that they want to solve the problem. They want you to help them solve this problem: a vision problem, a weight problem, a smile problem, an appearance problem. Whatever it is, they want you to help them solve it. And so we’re going to take a bias toward action and keep treating them as if they are ready to move forward.
And we are going to take that bias until somebody actively stops it. Until somebody says, “Wait, I want to talk to my spouse about this. Wait, I’ve got questions.”
That’s fine. We will go with them at the pace that they want to go, but our job is to leave them.
So often I find that practices, and you’ll see this a lot on the phone, for example. You’ll have someone on the phone and they feel like it’s their job just to answer questions and they’ve got answers to every single question, right?
They’ll answer a question, and they’ll say, “what other questions can I answer for you?” And this seems on the surface, like it’s a really nice and a great thing to do.
The problem is most of the people calling you don’t know what questions to ask anyway.
This is why the pricing question comes up so often because people don’t know about your technology or the way you do different procedures, but people know what price is. They know what money is, and so they’ll just ask that.
Rather than saying, “Hey, what other questions do you have?”, we need to establish that we are the leaders, and we are the authority, and that they are in good hands by coming to us. Because we are going to take you by the hand. We’re going to walk you through this entire process. Okay?
So we want to lead the phone calls and we want to have a bias toward action when we do that. So that’s number one, use assumptive language.
Number two, stories sell.
- Storytelling is effective, period.
- It’s effective for selling.
- It’s effective for advertising.
- We remember stories.
You might even remember back in, you know, back in college, think about some of your favorite professors, right? Or even situations where maybe you were a little bit tired in class, but the professor starts telling the story.
We are hard wired just to snap back in and listen. We want to know what’s happening. We want to know how the story ends. That is just the way that we are wired.
The thing with your practice is you have a thousand stories of happy patients and for every person who comes to see you, you’ve got examples of other patients just like them, who have changed their lives with your services and your procedures. So you want to tell those stories.
Obviously, you’re not going to sit here and use somebody’s first and last name and birthday and violate HIPAA by telling a story. But you can talk about the mom that came in the other day because her kid kept pulling her glasses off her face when she was trying to read a bedtime stories and what a nuisance that was and how much more fun she’s having engaging with her young children now that she had her vision correction procedure, for example.
Tell those stories.
If you have had a procedure, doctor – talk about it. All right? Now you have a a wide audience that listens to this show. I understand that some of the procedures that they perform may be more sensitive than others, but for example, using vision correction: a lot of those surgeons that we work with have had a vision correction themselves.
And they need to include that story with every single patient that they see. Right? Not only is it persuasive because it’s a story, but it also builds faith in the surgeon, right? You, surgeon, believed in this thing so much that you had it yourself, or you did it for your wife or for your parents.
Those are the kinds of stories that you want to tell because they build a ton of faith and a ton of goodwill in your surgical skills and in your, uh, your ability to help people.
Man, if you’re going to have it yourself, if you’re going to do it for your wife or for your best friend or for your son, okay, then, then you must really believe that this is the life changing thing that it is.
Crawford Ifland: You’re really putting our money where your mouth is.
Troy Cole: Exactly. Exactly. Now, since we’re talking about scripting and word choices, there’s actually something that’s, that’s I’d say ten times more important even than the specific words that you used, and that is the tone that you use when you speak.
Think about an experience where maybe you’ve been in a medical practice or maybe you’ve just been out making a purchase and you’ve dealt with with a salesperson or a counselor or someone who’s upbeat – they’re excited, they’re confident, they’re ready to serve, they’re ready to help. Right?
Contrast that scenario with someone who’s not so confident in what they’re doing. They’re a little bit unsure. They’re not confident in their responses. The difference is night and day.
You can give both of those people the exact same words to recite, but the tone is what’s going to make the difference.
And so we talk about this a lot in our sales trainings. We go through scripting and word tracks, but it’s less about that and really more about tone and the mindset you need to be in to set the right tone.
Everybody wants the perfect script, right? What’s the perfect script? What magic words can I say to get somebody to magically open up their wallet and slam $10,000 cash down on the table?
The scripting is useful, but when you have the right mindset, when your salespeople have the right mindset and they’re coming from a place of service and true excitement to help someone change their life? You don’t have to memorize a script to do a great job and convey that value – it’s going to flow naturally. So we focus a lot around that mindset and that tone, which are both very important to the patient journey.
Crawford Ifland: I love that. That actually reminds me – my wife and I went shopping for a car a couple of years ago. We went to one dealership in particular and you know, we were met with a salesman and we kind of told them what we were looking for and we told them our budget about how much we were looking to spend.
And before he said anything else, he laughed.
We were, you know, slightly out of budget for what they had on the lot. But like, just that one slight little thing, he probably didn’t think anything of it.
But we were so turned off by that interaction. It doesn’t matter if they had the perfect car, we weren’t going to, you know, we weren’t going to be sold by him.
That interaction, just through the rest of the rest of our time off. We probably only lasted five minutes there. And we’re like, we don’t, we don’t want to buy from here. You know?
So those things, even the subtle things like tone or how you message something, it really does matter and make a big difference.
Troy Cole: Without a doubt, man. Yeah.
What is post-acquisition marketing?
Crawford Ifland: So, one big thing you do is what you call post-acquisition marketing. So walk us through what that means and how physicians can use that particular tactic to get more patients.
Troy Cole: When we think about marketing, we think about promoting the practice to get people in the door and book surgery, right?
But when someone’s in the door, they have their procedure, it’s usually like, all right, cool. Thanks for coming. Good luck. Enjoy your new life.
Now if you were a retailer. Okay, so let’s say Target. You shop at Target, and then what happens after you shop at Target? You get emails from Target, you get direct mail from Target, you get coupons from Target.
Why? Why does Target follow up with you even after you’ve made a purchase? Well, it’s pretty obvious. They want you to come back and spend more money with them.
They want to build a longterm relationship with you. And I want us to think about our practices in that same way, because we want to build a lifetime relationship with a patient.
You want them to come back for another procedure with you when they need it.
Now, they may not need it. You know, in the case of vision correction, if someone has LASIK when they’re 25 they may not need another procedure for 20 more years. Okay? But when they do, we want them to come back and see us again.
Plastic surgeons do a pretty good job of this because a lot of the procedures and treatments that they offer compliment one another. But there are other areas where we could do a much better job of this vision correction being one, orthodontics being another. We want people coming back to us.
And not only that, but we also want them to refer their family and friends to us.
The most valuable patient you can have is someone who is referred over by someone that they already trust.
So we need to pay more attention to what we’re doing to market to people. After their procedures, and that’s what post-acquisition marketing is all about.
First of all, in the short term, we want three things from a happy patient:
- Number one: we want an online review. I know you talk a lot about this.
- Number two: we want that testimonial that you’ve heard me mention a couple of times. Maybe that’s a written testimonial, maybe it’s on video, but if someone is super excited, they’re happy with their procedure, we want them to share their story.
- Number three: we want a referral, and of course, over time we want multiple referrals from that person.
Now, the easiest way to get those things is to ask for them. You’ve heard the term, “if you don’t ask, the answer is an automatic no.”
You’ve got to ask happy patients for these things: reviews, testimonials, and referrals.
Another part of the post acquisition marketing strategy is that we want to extend what we call the “honeymoon period” for patients.
So when you think about someone who has a procedure, most of them are excited about it, about that change for a couple of weeks – two, three, four weeks, and then that fades away, because whatever procedure they had now becomes a new normal. All right? So that’s the honeymoon period.
- Well, how can we extend that?
- How can we keep ourselves top of mind?
- How can we keep them excited and appreciative for what we help them to achieve?
So what we do is we schedule out touch point after surgery. Send small gifts. Gift cards, Starbucks cards, notes on their anniversary of their procedure.
And we send those out based on a set schedule as additional touch points. They might get one in month, one, month, two, month three, month six. All right? Because we’re trying to extend that honeymoon period and remind folks, “Hey, we changed your life. Aren’t you so excited about it? Share it with somebody that you know.”
So these are all parts of the post-acquisition marketing strategy. And really, for anyone listening, and that’s enough to get you started. The concept’s pretty easy and straightforward – most people just overlook it.
But again, you know, the more referrals you can get from happy patients, the less you have to spend on marketing and you can still grow your practice. So this is an important area. Does it cost a lot of time or money to do? No, but it can have huge results.
What’s the best piece of advice you would have for doctors and marketing managers?
Crawford Ifland: I love that. Super simple practices, Doesn’t have to be super expensive. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but just those little touches to kind of keep nurturing that relationship. Let people know that, you’re thinking about them, hope they have a wonderful experience here. Little things like that can really go a long way. I love that.
So Troy, just to kind of wrap everything up: if you had one piece of marketing advice to offer private practice marketing managers around the country or around the world who might be listening to this, what would that be?
Troy Cole: You don’t have to compete on price.
And I know I mentioned that earlier, but it’s so important with the corporate chains that are popping up across many different verticals.
You spent 10, 15, 20 years of your life studying to be who you are today, you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on your education. You took the risk of opening a business so that you could employ people in your community and make a difference in patient’s lives.
And I just believe that you didn’t do all that so that you could race to the bottom on price in competition with some chain provider.
So, my hope is that you’ll take what I’ve discussed here today and that you will constantly remind yourself not to compete on price, but to compete on value.
If you’re the kind of client that we normally work with, someone who’s a skilled surgeon, somebody who truly cares about their patients, who invest in the latest technology, who pays their teams well to have the vest people who cast a big vision and nurtures a positive culture for their teams? Then I believe that your procedures are worth so much more than what you charge for them, even if you charge a lot.
And I need you to believe that too. Your team needs to believe that, too. The value that a patient gets from you and your practice is a better value than they’ll find anywhere else. And that supersedes price.
Compete on value, be the best, and get paid.
And if you need help, give me a shout.
Crawford Ifland: Well, Troy thanks for taking the time to chat. I think other marketing managers out there can learn a lot from our conversation. So thanks so much for joining us on the show today.
Troy Cole: A pleasure, thanks for having me Crawford.