Alana Buller, M.A., C.C.C. is a Certified Canadian Counsellor and owner of Whole Heart Counselling Therapy in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She’s here to share her insights on how practitioners can tend to their emotional needs during this pandemic and continue offering high-quality care for their clients.
If you’re worried about the damage to your business from COVID-19, you’re definitely not alone. When so much is beyond our control, it’s easy to assume that there’s nothing you can do to protect your business now—especially if you’ve had to close your doors for the time being.
However, marketing your clinic is about more than driving in-person footfall. It’s also about building and maintaining great relationships with your clients, which in turn promotes loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals.
The most important thing we can do now is to help others to get through this period safely. So don’t overlook the fact that just letting your patients know you’re there for them if they need you, using your clinic’s existing online presence, is a key way to help them and reinforce your relationship with them. With so much changing on a daily basis as a result of COVID-19, it may be difficult for the general public to understand which allied healthcare businesses are still open.
If you're fully shut through a lockdown, proactively telling your clients that you're closed is better than leaving them to seek you out and have a phone go unanswered, an email bounce back, or a voicemail unreturned. Those things represent time spent by someone who wanted your service, and it can cost you their business when things go back to normal. Keeping channels of communication open in some form will help you maintain your relationship with them, even if they need to use another clinic for now.
If you are still treating patients, it’s important to tell everyone! Not doing so may mean there are some who assume you’re shut and go elsewhere. Others may wait until they’re in acute pain before taking the time to find out who is still open, and by then, you may lose them to another clinic if they’re calling around to see where they can get an appointment soonest.
It’s remarkable how a small piece of information that clarifies your business at this time may prompt a client to call and make a booking (now or down the line) or follow your social profiles.
Here are some simple things you can do to keep your clients engaged with your clinic, whether you’re able to serve them now or not.
1Update your website homepage to acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 on your business
Regardless of whether your clinic has closed, is still practising, providing telehealth consultations, or modifying your practice access in some way, you’ve probably made some significant operational changes in recent weeks.
Adding a succinct message to the top of your homepage that explains whether you're open or closed, and including a call to action will inform your client what they can do next. For example, you might ask them to click through to another page that has your clinic's full COVID-19 response, follow your Facebook page for updates, or book a telehealth appointment. Then, link to the place where clients can undertake the action.
Example homepage text:
- COVID-19: We’re still open. Read our Covid-19 response.
- COVID-19: We are temporarily closed for treatments but follow us on Facebook for weekly tips on how to stay healthy at home.
- COVID-19: Telehealth appointments now available. Book now!
Your website is your online shop front, and one of the more obvious places new and existing clients will go to find out whether you’re open for business. If your homepage does not address COVID-19 at all, then clients may just assume, incorrectly, one way or another.
Check out Hawker Place Physiotherapy and Pilates (Canberra, Australia) for a great example of how to update your website homepage. Here's why we like it:
- 1.The information is at the very top of the page so it can’t be missed.
- 2.A highly relevant headline to the COVID-19 environment.
- 3.An statement about how services have been adapted or updated.
- 4.A link to more details of the practice’s response to COVID-19.
- 5.A call to action (telling the customers what action the practice wants them to take) ‘Book now’ and ‘Book Online’.
You can also add special frequently asked questions (FAQs) for COVID to your homepage or your existing FAQ page.
2Update your clinic profile on Google Maps (Google My Business)
Your Google My Business profile is another place new and existing clients may go for an update on your status and contact information. Make sure you update your business hours if they’ve been modified, and refresh your business description to acknowledge COVID-19 for the same reasons listed in point one. Don’t have a Google Maps profile for your business? Now is your chance to get set up, here’s how.
Example profile text:
- Kate's Fabulous Multidisciplinary Health Practice is still treating clients during the COVID-19 crisis. Clinic consults available for acute pain treatment with Osteopathy and Myotherapy. Telehealth consults available for Physiotherapy, Psychology and Occupational Therapy. Call now or book online.
- Kate's Awesome Massage Clinic is closed during the COVID-19 crisis. Follow us on Instagram to find out when we're open again and to get our weekly tips on self-massage you can do at home.
3Proactively keep your clients informed of your clinic’s status
Your existing clients may not go further than steps one or two to find out if you’re still open, so it’s important to make sure you’re putting in the effort for them. Fortunately, there are many ways you can get the message out there.
Use all the channels you have available, including:
Your email should inform your patients and clients of what is happening with the clinic, and include a call to action like how they can stay in touch with your business if you’re closed, or which services they can access with the current COVID-19 restrictions in place. You may also wish to update your email auto-responder if you’ll be unable to reply to emails, letting anyone who sends a message know that you’ll be out of action for a while.
Here's a real-world example of an email sent to patients by Riverside Chiropractic (London, Canada):
B. SMS text
Much like point one’s message on your homepage, a text should be brief, inform of your business’ position, and include a call to action with a link. Don’t give them a call to action without a link! Not pointing your clients to the right spot for more information forces them to perform an additional task (manually looking up your website for example), and may have a negative impact on the amount of people who undertake the action you want them to take.
C. Don’t forget social media!
Social media channels, like Facebook and Instagram, are free to use and easy to update. Unlike email and text, social allows you to connect with prospective customers as well as existing ones.
And yet, so many businesses take social media for granted. I turned up to an appointment recently only to find the class wasn’t on. The business had sent me an email informing me the class would not go ahead due to COVID-19 challenges, but it went to my spam folder, and I didn’t see it. I checked their Facebook and Instagram, but there were no updates, so I assumed it was going ahead.
Social media channels do tend to move quickly in terms of older posts being buried by new content. However, Facebook lets you pin messages to the top of your page, and it's a good idea to pin the most important information like your opening hours and how you can be contacted.
Facebook also lets you indicate whether your business has temporarily closed or has implemented service changes by updating the ‘Page Info’ section of your profile.
We’ve designed these badges for you to use on your social media accounts promoting telehealth if you’re able to offer it. At a minimum, this will help you get the word out about your new way of working!
Each of your customers will choose to connect with your business slightly differently, which is why it’s important that you post all of your business updates to all channels, every time.
Each time you have an update to your business, update your clients and social account followers.
- Re-opening your clinic? Email, text, and post!
- Staggering your practitioner return-to-work? Email, text, and post that ‘Jenny is back and available Tuesdays and Wednesdays’.
- Now offering online Pilates? Email, text, and post that ‘We’ve taken our Pilates classes online! Book now’.
- Started an Instagram account? Email, text, and post ‘We’re posting updates and tips on our new Instagram account. Follow us to keep in touch’.
4Provide information that helps people get through this strange time
Even if you’re still open or have converted to telehealth, you may find you have fewer appointments and a touch more time on your hands.
A great way to spend some of that time is investing in the relationship with your clients and creating new relationships with people (potential clients) in your community. This will help you create a stronger business on the other side of COVID-19.
How do you do this? It’s actually quite simple. Think of your clients and patients and how the lifestyle changes of COVID-19 have impacted them. You’re a health professional, so what can you tell them that can help them stay healthy through this time?
Here are some great ideas we’ve seen:
- Cross Works Physio (Ontario, Canada) hosted a live chat where their customers could ask questions.
- You're not the only one who is new to telehealth consults. Your patients are too. Ovens Valley Physio (Ovens Valley, Australia) is walking their clients through how a telehealth consult works.
- Geelong Osteopathy (Geelong, Australia) is creating videos to help their customers set themselves up to work from home.
- Naturopath Dr. Jeannie Doig (Port Alberni, Canada) is talking clients through anxiety and depression while in lockdown.
- Hammerton Therapy (Auckland, New Zealand) is teaching their community simple massage techniques.
Don’t have a graphic designer on the team? No problem. Try using a free design tool like Canva for an easy way to create professional images optimised for social media.
5Boost your digital marketing skills
The list above is just the minimum in terms of what you can do to reach your existing and prospective clients. If you are able to use this time to pick up a few new skills, you can learn more about digital marketing from the resources listed below. Learning these new skills will not only help you think of new ways to reach your clients now but also help you kickstart your engagement efforts when the current crisis ends.
These resources are all free of charge and created for beginners—no experience needed:
- For email marketing, check out the Google Digital Garage intro course.
- For social media, Google Digital Garage’s course on getting noticed is a good start.
- For Instagram specifically, parent company Facebook offers a two-part intro to business fundamentals.
- For content creation, try Hubspot’s free content marketing certification course or check out Google’s content creation short course.
- For search engine optimisation, try Moz’s beginner’s guide.
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When it comes to telehealth, offering video appointments is only half the equation. There are new skills that you may need to help you market this service and create a great client experience. In this guest post, Peter Flynn shares his top tips and advice to get you started on the path to success.