Case study: Medical practice increases revenue, conversions through content strategy

About a year ago, I introduced you to Lisa Reath, who is the business/marketing manager for a nearby medical clinic.

Lisa faces an extraordinary marketing challenge — engage customers with a medical practice, which of course is surrounded by patient privacy issues. To make things even more difficult, the practice specializes in cosmetic surgery — not a subject people usually want to discuss in a public sort of way.  Add in a recession and some intense competition, and you have yourself one massive marketing mountain to climb.

Unless, of course, you possess the business savvy of Ms. Reath. A few years ago, Lisa took my social media marketing class and just caught fire with new ideas. “I realized that I needed to stop selling so much and just be helpful and available,” she said. “That was a new mindset for me and our business.”

Since I first wrote about Lisa a few years ago, she has continued to make exceptional progress and I wanted to report on her results. But first, let’s review her strategy.  The medical practice deploys a variety of content marketing methods:

eBook

“I think our most successful marketing effort is a 33-page Girlfriend’s Guide to Breast Augmentation,” she said.  “It is designed to be read online or on an iPad, downloaded free, easily forwarded and linked to.

“Our idea was to offer patients free information about breast augmentation that is helpful but not easily found online. Chapters are informative but also entertaining.  We went out of our way to try not to directly sell our practice.”

The eBook recently was named a “Magnum Opus” award winner and will be highlighted at the upcoming Content Marketing World.

What’s cooking

One of the most creative content marketing applications I have seen is Lisa’s publication of a high-quality, hard copy family cookbook that she distributed to friends and clients at Christmas. Again, the medical practice is not even mentioned, but you can’t help but think about it every time you open the book … which is often because the recipes are excellent! Quite a brilliant idea.

Facebook
“Given the privacy expectations with plastic surgery, we have had surprising success with Facebook,” Lisa said. “It’s largely because of a quiz game we play every week with our fans. We came up with the ‘Truth-O-Meter’ to establish ourselves as an authority and sort through all the misconceptions surrounding plastic surgery.”

Every Tuesday morning Dr. Reath posts a question on the Facebook page. A winner is randomly chosen from the correct answers and announced by a short YouTube video every Wednesday. Prizes include gift cards, skin care products, and contributions to charity in honor of breast cancer awareness month.

Blogging/video

Dr. Reath keeps patients current by blogging on hot topics in plastic surgery. He also comments on current events that affect women’s health. The practice has more than 120 videos on their YouTube channel covering common plastic surgery procedural issues and the the “Truth-o-Meter” game.

The results

There are measurable gains from the social media exposure:

  • Revenue up 19% YTD vs 2011 in down economy (no open surgery spots in Dr. Reath’s schedule.
  • Conversion rate is up from 55% to 70% because “Patients feel they know us and come in ready to schedule.”
  • Today 2,082 Facebook fans with 203 regularly engaging.
  • 9,027 downloads of Girlfriend’s Guide so far
  • 109.5 percent increase in referrals to website from Facebook. #1 site for referrals after search engines
  • Provides forum for good reviews which is becoming increasingly important for doctors.
  • Top ranking for all key search terms

I’m proud of Lisa and think this is an enegerizing success story in an unlikely place. Agree?

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  • rowlandjohn

    Great Post. 🙂

  • Wow, terrific case that everyone can learn from. This speaks directly to the effective use of social media for business growth. Congrats Lisa!

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  • Lisa works really hard to make sure she’s on top of her game at all times so the success they’ve had is as much a testament to her tenacity and vision as it is the opportunities afforded via a social media.

    She and Dr. Reath are a great example of the kind of fearless people who succeed because they’re wiling to keep trying new things. They want to lead an industry, and they are. This is a great lesson to others who say you can’t do much with social media in a regulated industry. Heck, it’s a great lesson to anyone who has doubts about the opportunities that come from social media. Of course, they’ll be needing their own Lisa as well.

  • You’re right, Bill. So what does it mean to have a “Lisa?” To me, this means you have a) sponsorship from the top, b) immersive learning in the new media c) cultural transition that supports the marketing change d) patience and appropriate expectations, e) creative, engaging approaches appropriate to the audience and the channels, and f) measurement aligned with goals. What did I miss?

  • 33 page e-book. 120 videos. Hardcover recipe book. I think Bill’s comment “works really hard” comment is the key. Of course, Lisa obviously works smart, creatively and, as you say, with sponsorship from the top. I find that what potential content marketers often fail to realize is that sponsorship doesn’t simply mean endorsement of the effort or moral support – it means investment.

  • That covers most of it. I’d only add two things: she doesn’t have to ask permission to spend money (within reason I suspect) and she’s afraid to fail (and not afraid to do so if it brings about learning for future work).

  • I spoke to a company last week that is spending $700,000 per year on full-page newspaper ads. Why? Because they have done it for years. If they took just 10% of that budget and put it into social media programs I think they could get a big bang for their buck. So, it’s not just “investment,” i’t the right kind of investment or perhaps reallocating the resources they already have. Thanks for the great comment Chuck.

  • Dr. Rae

    Thank you Mark for sharing this informational “case study” that is both inspiring, and motivating. Two thumbs uo!

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  • Gretta

    Great job lisa!

  • Thanks Gretta!
    Chuck, I appreciate your kind comments about the hard work. When I don’t have an idea for a Truth-O-Meter Tuesday question or a blog headline, it does seem like work. But most days it is just a lot of fun. Particularly getting to know such inspirational people as Mark Schaefer and Bill Seaver. Bill is correct that I don’t have a lot of the constraints that many marketers have (needing permission to spend money) and as Mark points out I do have “sponsorship from the top”!
    My advice to marketers who don’t have as much support as I do is to surround yourself with folks who “get it” and keep learning. Subscribe to industry leader’s blogs and take classes if you are lucky enough to have them in your area. Conferences like Hubspot’s Inbound 12 going on right now in Boston, and Content Marketing World next week in Columbus are great places to learn best practices and get inspired. My favorite one is right here in Knoxville- Social Slam!

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  • Excellent example of where things are going and how to do it.

    It just shows how important adding value is and will continue to be. The social media online internet thing is nothing other than another area to communicate a message to potential customers.

    The catch is how to get the right message across its not advertising its demonstrating how your business adds the most value.

  • Mark, I LOVE that you have followed the progress of this so closely. As someone who works primarily with plastic surgeons I battle the issues you mentioned daily. More often than not our doctors want to market, market, market and spam their blogs, social profiles, and websites in hopes of reaching search engine ranking nirvana and don’t want to believe that content marketing, social media, and a patient-centric focus can create results like this.

    I’d love to know how long it took before the doctor began seeing results and ultimately if they were augmenting these efforts with other avenues such as PPC, link building, etc.

  • Hi Mike,
    Thanks for your comments. Our practice used to be more like the clients you mention who are focused on selling. I had a series of “aha” moments and one of them was in Mark Schaefer’s class that I took. He advised us to start by being “authentically helpful” and that really resonated with me (and Dr. Reath). We decided to focus our social media efforts on education, rather than promoting our practice directly. We never focus on link building, rather we try to create good content and the links come naturally. We do a modest amount of PPC but that is not where the growth has come from. To answer your question about how long it took, we saw gradual increases over the first several months and then the strong growth we are experiencing now. For your docs that don’t want to put in the time Dr. Reath does in social, I would tell them that they could start by constantly updating their practice website with new content and more before and after pictures (we have over 80 before and after photos just of breast procedures). Google will reward this in their search results.

  • Thanks for your response Lisa! I wish we had more clients like Dr. Reath. haha It’s great to see that a cosmetic surgeon is reaping the benefits of social and content marketing. I remember reading the original story a while back and sharing it with many of our doctors to show the benefits of thinking less about just SEO and more about helping patients.

    I again used Dr. Reath’s blog and this case study to showcase that what we are trying to push our client base to do can and will provide results if done with the intent of helping patients and not just pleasing the search engines. Thanks for sharing your story, I hope it will inspire other doctors in our niche to do the same!

  • I think having a “Lisa” is key Mark–you nailed it.

    “Don’t be afraid to try stuff, you’re not going to break the Internet” is something that I’ve said for the past 10 years, and it’s still relevant today. When I watch my kids “play” they have so little fear of looking dumb or breaking something…they play…boldly. Getting out there and trying new things is SO important.

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  • I really enjoyed this post because it touches on one of the most important aspects of using social media and customer service, giving back to your clients and community, as well as being creative and really getting in touch with the heart of the brand to reach others.

    There are no rules in social media, but most businesses hang onto what they read they need to do and handle their social media approach as if they are following some sort of bizarre guide book. They read genuine, and think they need to post pictures of their kids, or share their trip to the golf course, they hang their hopes for increased popularity on contests, not even thinking about how this fits in with their brand. They think their brand is their logo..They are confined by the pure definition of their product and most struggle with truly pushing those limits to truly reach the core of their business.

    Lisa really got it here, to share the personal cook book, to write an ebook, not being afraid of the potential to lose to other competitors – to do things that really nurture her community and give that feeling of caring – that’s golden.

    Then on top of these value added extras that show a true level of caring, the contests tying into the videos, are amazing. Thank you for sharing this story, its exactly what people need to be thinking about – not all that other stuff. *This* is humanizing a brand…you cant help but feel good about Dr. Reath in all this (and I haven’t even watched his videos!) being helpful and caring – that’s truly social. Its a social inspire story. Loved it 🙂

  • This is a pretty awesome example of thinking out of the box when it comes to content marketing. I mean, who woulda thunk a cookbook can help a cosmetic surgery practice. And yet, there you have it. Wonders never cease.

    Lisa, I don’t know if you talked about this elsewhere, but why cookbook? Was it because you were a kickass chef yourself and had a bunch of great recipes passed down in your family from generation to generation?

  • Well said Jeremy.

  • I feel the same way (obviously!) about the case and Lisa’s patient and enlightened path to success. I think you really nailed it when you describe the current state of affairs. In fact I would go so far as to say 95% of the businesses i see don’t get it. Thanks Mila!

  • Hi Bhaskar, Glad you like the idea. Our family loves to cook together and several years ago we had previously published a much smaller version of Reath Recipes for our family and friends. People were still commenting about it so I realized that it had a long shelf life….literally. So we decided to do a hardback version to give to our patients as a Christmas present last year. If you would like a copy, I will be happy to send you one. Just shoot me an email with your mailing address. LisaReath@msn.com

  • Thank you so much Mila! Your comments made my day. I am going to share them with David (Dr. Reath) right now.

  • Absolutely. Are you going to be in New Orleans at the ASPS meeting? If so it would be fun to chat over a beignet and some chicory coffee.

  • Lisa, thanks so much for the generous offer. But while I love cooking and your recipes sound like something I would like to very much try I am afraid it might not be feasible. I am based far out in India, not exactly in your neck of the woods 🙂

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