How to boost your clinic's marketing efficiency while costs are rising

In tough economic times, pinpointing where your marketing is underperforming (and how to fix it) can help you save money and continue to grow your business. Here are some practical tips you can use to do just that!

Michelle Geslewitz·

An illustration featuring a man struggling to push a blue square and a woman speeding past with a yellow circle

Is it possible to save money on marketing and grow your healthcare business at the same time? If you’ve considered spending less due to inflation or concerns about the economy, marketing may be one of the more tempting areas to cut on the budget sheet. And that makes sense on the face of it: if you are currently in a situation where appointments aren’t filling up like they once were but your expenses are rising, it’s easy to wonder why you should continue to invest in reaching prospective new clients.

Maybe you’re already seeing a drop in visits to your clinic’s website, fewer people heading to your bookings page, or perhaps the costs of your ad campaigns on platforms like Google and Facebook are climbing. It’s tempting to throw your hands up and quit, especially if you don’t have the time to dig into your marketing performance on a granular level. But there may be more straightforward ways to improve your efficiency than you realise.

Odds are you’ve heard the famous quote, “you have to spend money to make money”. But there’s a big difference between spending money on activities that bring a net positive return (also known as a return on investment or “ROI” for short) for your business and those that don’t.

With marketing, especially (but not exclusively) during times of economic change, the line between which tactics are worth it from an ROI perspective and which are not can go a bit fuzzy. There may be multiple factors influencing whether a patient books in to see you or not, and that can really muddy the waters in terms of figuring out where you can improve your marketing performance.

Every business is different—only you can decide what’s right for your clinic when it comes to adjusting the levers, so to speak. But if you’re looking for some tips on how to improve the return on your marketing efforts, here are a few ideas on how you can book more new patients for your money.

If you only have time to try one thing…

All of the tips I’ll be sharing are based around the concept of the marketing funnel, which is just a fancy way of explaining how your clients relate to your business as they engage with you.

An illustration of the marketing funnel, including awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy phases.

The marketing funnel is a way of visualising the process of a new prospect discovering your business, becoming your patient, and finally, an advocate

At the top of the funnel, you have people who are not aware of your business at all— these are people who may have a problem you can solve, but don’t know that you can solve it. They may be researching possible solutions to their problem by Googling or asking people in their network for help, and that could be how they first find you. So making sure your business appears in places where people are most likely to seek information or solutions on how to fix a problem you can solve is very important.

Once you have their attention, they begin the phase of considering your services and deciding whether you’re going to be able to solve their problem versus your competitors. This can happen instantly or it can take some time, so making sure you have a good amount of helpful, relevant information on your website, directory listings, social media, etc. is important for reducing friction at this phase.

Next comes the “conversion” phase, the magical step when a new prospect decides to book in to see you. It’s tempting to focus all your attention on this part of the funnel if your booking rate is lower than you want, but don’t underestimate the role that the first two parts of the funnel (awareness and consideration) play in helping your prospects turn into clients.

After conversion, the quality of the service you provide will determine their loyalty and whether they advocate for your business and recommend you to others.

That’s a long-winded way of explaining why one of the best ways to improve the returns of your marketing and find the most effective fixes to implement, is to pinpoint and eliminate anything that makes it more difficult for a prospective client to move through the funnel and book in with you. (This is referred to as “friction” by marketers).

Essentially, by figuring out exactly what about your marketing is underperforming, you can first identify which part of the funnel has more friction than you want. From there, you can make small adjustments aimed at helping your ideal client, the one whose problem you feel best suited to solve, find and choose you!

The good news is that there are lots of ways to reduce friction that are neither expensive nor especially complicated, and definitely do not require extensive marketing training. In fact, much of it comes down to how well you understand who you are marketing to and their needs.

What to try if you have fewer new prospective patients contacting your clinic or visiting your website

Even if you don’t take online bookings on your clinic website, your digital presence matters a lot when it comes to getting on your ideal patient’s radar. And making your online presence work harder for you is a great way to improve the value you derive from things like your website hosting fees and the resources that go into keeping it up to date.

If you’re offering services with a lot of competition in your area, one way to get ahead is to think about what sets your business apart in the eyes of your ideal client.

Do you have a niche area of expertise compared to your competitors? If so, anywhere your ideal client can discover your business for the first time is a great place to highlight what makes you unique, and show off the value you can deliver to them. You stand to become more efficient mainly by spending some time empathising with your prospects' specific needs and what they’d most want to know about you before booking, especially now they may be extra budget-conscious.

  • In previous blog posts we’ve covered off the potential benefits of using Google Maps as a marketing platform. Make sure all your information listed there and on your Google Business Profile is up to date and accurate—in particular, that your contact and booking information are clearly visible, and that you’ve included your logo and photos, if available.
  • If you’re paying for your clinic to appear in a professional directory–for example if you’re a UK-based psychotherapist and you appear in the BACP directory, make sure your profile is as complete as possible with details about the services you provide and what it’s like to work with you. Rather than just listing out the therapies you practice, try writing about the common problems you solve for your clients and the results they can expect to gain if they work with you. Add high quality photos if you can.

What to try if you have fewer new patients booking in treatments

During difficult economic times, people tend to change their purchasing behaviours and the consideration process may be longer and more price-sensitive than usual. In fact, many of us will be seeking discounts and value offers now. This can create a situation where it’s tempting to broadcast out discounts for services, particularly if that’s what your competition is up to. Avoid a race to the bottom by considering these ideas first.

  • The number one question to ask yourself is whether you have removed as much friction as you can for your ideal patient to book in with you. Do your patients book through your website or via the phone? Either way, make sure the relevant information they need to get in touch or book in is displayed prominently on your website, ideally on each page so that your patients don’t need to go hunting for it. Just doing this can help you get more bookings from the same amount of visitors.
  • You can also get more from your booking system by considering whether your appointment types have clear enough descriptions that your patients can easily self-select the best option for them. Having a special appointment type for new patients can also help lay the groundwork for what they can expect working with you—and it’s a chance for you to highlight any intro offers you have available, too!
  • Content creation is another great way to educate your prospects on what to expect when they work with you and for you to deliver value without discounting. You can create pages on your site for each of your main services, demonstrating your expertise and offering practical advice if appropriate. Don’t forget to explain what kind of outcomes your patients can expect from your services–how can you make their lives better? Consider incorporating client recommendations or testimonials, especially on your home and booking pages.

What to try if your digital marketing costs are rising

No, you’re not imagining it: just like many of our day to day expenses, the cost of advertising online can be affected by inflation, too, and if you rely on a big, competitive ad platform like Facebook or Google this can cause some scary fluctuations in performance. The best way to manage inflated digital ad costs may not necessarily be to rush to turn off all your campaigns, which could slow you down in the long run. Consider the following first:

  • Audit your accounts and reassess whether your campaign objectives still make financial sense for your business—and that they are driving prospects who are more likely to book. For example, if you are running campaigns with awareness or website click objectives, you may be getting more impressions on your campaigns for a lower price, but missing out on prospects who are ready to book sooner rather than later. The same goes for running ads that direct people to your homepage rather than your booking page. It may make more financial sense to focus your budget on campaigns that are targeting people with a stronger intention to book.
  • Double check that any geographical targeting and ad audiences you are using still make sense for your business as well. If your priority is finding prospective clients most likely to book in, it could be worth focusing more of your existing budget on people based closer to your clinic and who are a closer demographic match to your ideal client/core existing client base.
  • One of the best ways to improve the efficiency of your paid ad campaigns may be to adjust your ads themselves, and experiment with ad text or creative so it’s more targeted towards what your ideal prospect needs now—especially if it’s been a while since your last refresh. For example, instead of an ad headline or copy that focuses on the fact that you offer physiotherapy services in your local town, you could experiment with a new headline that highlights how quickly a physiotherapy appointment can be booked.
  • If you decide you definitely need to cut back on your digital ad spend, you can consider ramping up your word of mouth efforts at the same time. Depending on your profession and the relevant laws around marketing in your country, this can include anything from offering your existing customers a reward for anyone they recommend, to partnering with another local business to incentivise footfall for you both.

These are just a few ideas you can use to help you continue to grow your business while dealing with a tough economy. And it’s definitely not exhaustive! For more support on making your marketing budget go further for nurturing existing clients, check out our guest post by Alan Zaia called Marketing smarter not harder.

Author information

Michelle was born in Chicago and now lives in Leamington Spa, UK. She currently works on growth marketing for Cliniko, looking after paid marketing channels, social media, SEO, content and more.

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