Here is one of the toughest marketing challenges I can imagine — 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 pronounce 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 you possess the business savvy of Lisa Reath. Lisa is the marketing manager of her husband’s medical practice (and a graduate of my social media marketing class) and she’s developed one of the most interesting and successful social media marketing programs I have seen – under some tough circumstances.

Lisa had been trying to promote the business through traditional media but was excited by the possibilities of the social web.  “We made our share of mistakes at first,” she said, “but things started to click when we learned that our marketing should focus on being authentically helpful instead of the traditional sales-orientation.  We’re doing this by providing targeted patient education in a fun way using new media. Our goal is to establish a relationship with patients so that when they come into our office, they feel like they already know us.”

The medical practice deploys a variety of social media methods:

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. Between 30 and 60 people answer each week, including many potential new patients.  Prizes include giftcards, skin care products and contributions to charity in honor of breast cancer awareness month.

And a nice side effect of Truth-O-Meter Tuesday is that the practice has a growing collection of relevant videos on YouTube!

Facebook is now the fourth leading contributor of traffic to the clinic’s website.

Blogging
Dr. Reath keeps patients current by blogging on hot topics in plastic surgery. Recent blog posts include:

New “Bridalplasty” Show: Bad TV. Even Worse Medicine.

The List: Every Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon in Knoxville

New Trend: Patients Having “Work” to Find Work

eBook
“I think our most successful marketing effort is the new 33-page interactive eBook written by our staff,” she said.  “It is designed to be read online or on an iPad, downloaded free, easily forwarded and linked to.

“It was written in response to the increase in the number of patients coming to our office with problems after having surgery with doctors who are not Board-certified plastic surgeons. 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 (otherwise no one will want to read it and forward it to their friends!).

“Since we designed the eBook to be a helpful resource, we went out of our way to try not to directly sell our practice.”

The results

There are measurable gains from the social media exposure:

  • The social media efforts have dramatically increased traffic to the medical practice website and resulted in new customers. Many people who participate in the contest request additional information and typically when they come in to collect a prize they become a customer for skin care products.
  • Within the first month of publishing the eBook, the practice received six new customers solely based on that publication. In addition, patients are forwarding it to friends and relatives who are considering the surgery.
  • The constant contact with patients through social media provides an opportunity for the medical practice to stay connected and at the top of mind when it comes time for an elective surgery or procedure.

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

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