A practitioner and a marketer

Paul Smith—allied health practitioner and experienced digital marketer—offers his advice on how you can begin to grow your clinic’s online presence without any marketing experience.

Doug Pohl·

A picture of Paul Smith wearing a dark shirt and glasses.

Recently, Cliniko’s marketing team held a live webinar and published a blog article with advice and actionable steps to help you sustain your business during the coronavirus pandemic (and continue growing it long after this is over). If you’re new to the world of digital marketing, though, even the best advice can sometimes feel overwhelming, and it might seem like you just don’t have what it takes.

I’d like to suggest otherwise, and this post is intended to offer the encouragement you need to give digital marketing a shot. Once you get started, you may discover that it’s easier than you think. And who knows? You might even enjoy it!

The practitioner who does it all.

Paul Smith is a clinical hypnotherapist and owner of Norwest Wellbeing. He’s also been involved with digital marketing since the very beginning—as in, the beginning of the Internet.

Back in the mid-1990's, Paul and his friends began selling video games on floppy disks to gamers in online forums. Pretty soon, he was running a bustling e-commerce business long before most of us even knew what e-commerce was. He even managed to land a distribution deal with gaming-giant EA Sports. Not too shabby, eh?

The point being, Paul knows what it takes to successfully market a business. And since he also has the unique perspective of being an allied health practitioner, I couldn’t wait to sit down with him for a chat.

We talked about his years of experience marketing all sorts of products and services online, and how he’s been able to put his know-how to good use in building his practice. Mostly though, we talked about the different ways practitioners can effectively promote their clinics online, during—and after—this pandemic, and continue caring for patients who need their help.

If you boil it all down, Paul has three overarching bits of advice to help practitioners survive this crisis and continue growing their clinics long after:

  • Stay curious. Start conversations and ask questions. Seek out new opportunities and learn to recognise when they present themselves.
  • Move slowly. Learn as you go and find joy in the small victories. There’s no need to rush toward perfection.
  • Expand your offer. Be generous with your knowledge and expertise. Show people you truly care about their well being.

Stay curious.

Digital marketing is about more than just learning the jargon and getting familiar with the different platforms (although that is a big part of it). It’s about getting into a mindset where you can uncover new opportunities. Paul says, ‘If people aren’t actively looking for marketing opportunities, they may never see them. We have to stay curious’.

Paul gets a lot of his insight from just talking with people and says he’s amazed at the things he can learn from a simple, friendly chat. During appointments, he always takes a little extra time to ask how clients are feeling beyond their reason for treatment. It’s nothing fancy—just casual, open-ended questions, like ‘How’s your family holding up?’ or ‘How’s it going with the kids at home every day?’

Also, as part of his transition to 100% telehealth during the pandemic, Paul began offering free ‘discovery calls’ for prospective clients. These 15-minute consultations allow a no-risk opportunity for people to get a feel for the appointment process, and they also give Paul a chance to have a chat with someone new.

During two of these calls, people mentioned that they were smoking more than they did before the crisis. Paul did a little deeper research and discovered that without the restrictions of an office setting, people are lighting up a lot more often during this pandemic. So now he provides smoking cessation treatments—a service he wasn’t offering before.

Paul even takes things a step further by joining conversations in Facebook groups and online forums when he feels the discussion is relevant to his expertise, and this is how he began offering treatments for teen anxiety. While reading through a Facebook group for his local community, he learned that parents were concerned about the pressure being put on children to earn high marks at a nearby school. Paul joined the discussion, offered some helpful advice, and gained a little insight that led him to offer a new service at his clinic.

Here’s the most important bit: no matter who Paul is talking with, he truly listens to them. He’s not thinking about marketing while they’re chatting. He is genuinely interested in what they have to say. If he’s able to gain a little insight to help him reach even more people in need, that’s just a nice bonus.

Move slowly.

If you’re new to digital marketing, don’t worry. You don’t have to be an expert to start making a real difference for your practice. Paul emphasises the importance of starting slowly and suggests a simple two-step process to get you going.

Step 1: Run one ad.

Don't worry about learning all the jargon and definitions or becoming an expert at any one platform. Just run one Google ad for a small amount of money, and check on it once a day for a week to see how it performs. Then take a look at the final results and try to find some insights in the data.

Create a new ad the following week by making one small change to your first one (maybe in the text, or how it’s promoted) and compare the two. Whichever one earned better results is your keeper. Now, using that ad as your new baseline, make another small change and see how it affects the performance.

Continue with that process and try to make each ad a little better than the last. The idea here is that your ads should always be evolving and improving, so it’s okay if you don’t get great results on the first one (or second, or third, or fourth).

Throughout this process, it’s important to make sure that you’re working toward a specific goal. If your campaign isn’t pointed toward a ‘destination’, you may never know when your ads are performing well, and that’s an easy way to wind up with an endless cycle of payments to Google and lacklustre results.

Writing your ads.

When it comes to writing your ads, Paul suggests keeping your message clear and concise. Let readers know who you are, how you can help them, and give a strong call to action for what you’d like them to do next. The words don’t have to be perfect. No one expects you to write like Shakespeare. Just ‘keepeth’ it simple.

Remember, though, that search engines like Google and Bing rely on keywords to help them locate relevant results. For example, if lots of people search for 'physiotherapist Sydney’, you’ll want to make sure to have those words in your ad. That way, Google knows that it makes sense to show your ad on the results page.

Google offers a Keyword Planner to help you discover new keywords and research which ones might be the most beneficial to use as the foundation for your ad campaign, but Paul also recommends a simple little hack that can give you some useful clues. After making a Google search, scroll down to the bottom of the results page. There you’ll see a section titled ‘Searches related to…’. This will show you other popular keywords people have used to make searches similar to yours. Look for trends in the words they used and consider using some of them as the building blocks of your ads.

Here’s a real example of what you might see for searches related to ‘physiotherapist Sydney’:

Screen shot of a portion of a Google search results page showing searches related to physiotherapist sydney

Step 2: Try tracking.

After you have an ad or two under your belt, give tracking a try. Paul recommends using Google Analytics to monitor your website traffic. This tool allows you to see all sorts of information about your website traffic (like visits by time of day, most popular pages, devices used, etc.), and you can use that info to tailor your ads to your audience. If you’re running ads on Bing, you might want to take a look at their similar tools, as well.

Cliniko also offers tracking for your online bookings page through Google Tag Manager, and Paul says this has been especially helpful for his remarketing efforts. If someone begins the booking process but never finishes, Paul uses the tracking info to target that person's device with highly relevant ads that might encourage them to follow through with their booking.

If you built your practice’s website using Wordpress, Paul recommends installing the Google Site Kit plugin for your tracking. It’s very similar to the Google Tag Manager, except that it’s specifically designed for Wordpress websites.

No matter what tools you’re using, the bottom line with tracking is the more information you have available to you, the more effective ads you’re able to create.

Expand your offer.

Like most practices, Paul's margins are already slim. He knows that lowering his prices (even a little) will be unsustainable. He also knows that once the price drops, people will resist the idea of paying more after the crisis is over. So Paul is keeping things right where they are.

Instead, he’s increasing the value of his offer. Rather than charge people less, he’s giving them more.

He’s giving more of his time. Remember the 15-minute discovery calls that I mentioned earlier? He offers those for free just to help people get used to the idea of telehealth and ask some questions before paying any money.

He’s giving more treatment options. Paul is creating a video series that patients can access for free. These videos offer step-by-step lessons on how they can continue their treatments at home in between appointments.

He’s giving more of his expertise. Paul says investing the time and effort to write blog articles that offer genuine value for readers will pay huge returns in the end. ‘Now is the time to give away our knowledge for free,’ he says, ‘because a little generosity today, might earn a new client tomorrow.’

Author information

Doug is our in-house writer. When he's not banging on the keyboard, you'll probably find him listening to old Willie Nelson records or chasing chipmunks on a mountain trail.

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