By Lisette Hilton
Originally published in The Dermatology Digest
Instinctively, dermatologists might think it best to slow or stop practice marketing during pandemic shutdowns and through the uncertainty.
But marketing pro Risa Goldman Luksa tells The Dermatology Digest she recommends that dermatology practices rev up some aspects of their marketing campaigns while limiting others to maximize profit potential and minimize expenses.
“Marketing during this pandemic is extremely important. It is actually more important than ever to have really good, open, transparent lines of communication with your patients that you can keep updated,” said Luksa, founder and president of Goldman Marketing Group, a professional consulting firm specializing in medical marketing and business development almost exclusively to dermatology and cosmetic surgery practices.
These extraordinary times call for nimble, impactful marketing approaches, including on practice websites, through social media channels, and by email.
“The pandemic has taught us that things change fast and we need to be able to react and pivot quickly, so having all your marketing channels in place to be able to get the message out is more important than ever,” Luksa said.
Pandemic marketing may look different
During a pandemic or soon in its aftermath, dermatology practices should focus on marketing tactics that offer a quick conversion to potential patients and should put some more expensive long-term branding efforts on hold, according to Luksa.
For example, print advertising tends to be best for branding a practice and capturing the attention of a specific audience. But it also tends to be expensive and could be put on hold until things ease up.
Another way for a practice to reduce the money it spends on marketing is to look at things that cost money and can easily be turned on and off, such as Google Pay Per Click advertising.
“If you are not open, are not accepting new appointments, or are booked out for a very long time, Google Ad Words is an easy thing that you can turn off without jeopardizing your long-term success because you could easily turn it back on,” Luksa said.
Dermatology practices should focus their pandemic marketing efforts on the lines of communication with their patients. Generally, the 3 best ways to stay in touch with patients and others are the practice website, email marketing, and social media platforms.
Practices should make sure their websites are active and updated with COVID-19 protocols and other timely information. People go to social media platforms and email for immediate information, and practices should use those channels to not only update people but also differentiate themselves.
Among the questions to answer: Are you open? What are your COVID protocols? What should patients expect? Why should they feel comfortable still coming to see you? What is an urgent need requiring an office visit and what can wait? What can be done over telemedicine or virtually? Can skincare products be purchased online?
Practices should make sure their Yelp pages are updated as well as Google My Business and RealSelf.
Automated communications with patients might need to be modified during a pandemic. One example: reminders to make office appointments at 3 months for cosmetic neuromodulator injections.
Do embrace innovation and use it to educate
Now is the time to virtually educate, do Zoom presentations about the latest in at-home skincare, and more, according to Luksa.
“I think people are looking for virtual opportunities more than ever before,” she said.
She recommends that dermatology practices offer online booking on their websites and 2-way texting for people who want to communicate electronically easily and quickly.
Dermatology practices should consider hosting virtual events, since it may be awhile before people feel comfortable about indoor gatherings.
“I’ve actually seen tremendous success with virtual events, with being able to reach a far bigger audience than you ever would inside your practice,” Luksa said.
Do consider new revenue lines such as online shopping
There is little downside and much potential for increasing a practice’s bottom line when offering e-commerce skincare solutions, according to Luksa.
Dermatologists can use platforms that do the selling for them or build their own online stores.
“If patients can shop online for skincare, that can also help you with virtual consults. You can send them products, for example, to modify their skincare regimen before or after a medical procedure or cosmetic procedure in the office,” she said. “I definitely think online shopping is here to stay and is worth the investment.”
Don’t market blindly: Measure, measure, measure
Dermatologists who measure their marketing efforts have a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t. And in many cases, measuring is easy.
For example, options in call tracking software use specific phone numbers for tracking different marketing tactics. All calls go the practice’s front desk. And at the back end, practice administrators can log in to see how many people called due to the Yelp page, practice website, print ad, radio spot, etc.
Programs such as Google Tag Manager and Goals in Google Analytics can track email inquiries and online booking forms.
Do consider a quarterback for your marketing plan
It is important to stay on top of marketing efforts, especially during a pandemic when things can rapidly change. So Luksa recommends that dermatologists delegate the quarterbacking of the marketing plan to someone in the office who can work with different vendors, or to an outside professional.
“You don’t want your social media vendor tracking separately than your website vendor than someone else because really they are all working toward the same goal. At the end of the day, the most important statistic is how many new patient leads you got every month. Then to take it a step further, how many of those actually converted to become patients?” Luksa said.
Dermatology practices can track those numbers with customer relationship management software and strategic marketing tracking efforts, she said.
Do look at pandemic marketing as key to surviving, thriving
“I have seen some incredible innovation and people rising above during the pandemic. You can make yourself stand apart from everyone else,” Luksa said. “Are you innovating quickly to accommodate social distancing? [Are you accommodating] your patients’ new-found needs and desires and their wish lists by rolling out things like online scheduling, ecommerce skincare, texting? If you can do that and keep in touch with patients and help ensure that they feel supported … it will definitely come back 2-fold, 10-fold in the future, when everything does go back to normal. I think people are going to remember the stores, vendors, colleagues, the people that stood by them during the harder times.”