Digital Marketing for Doctors
A case study with local podiatric surgeon, Dr. Hasan Masood.
Can you give us a 30,000-foot view of your business and the current structure of it?
Our business model is that we want to focus on healthcare and the expenses that are associated with it. Especially if you want to get a minor procedure done like a bunion or hammer toe, most of those procedures nowadays are done in a hospital setting, which is a very expensive place to be. Patients are not happy being in hospitals.
Our model is based on having an in-office surgical suite. We’re the only doctors in Vegas who offer that. It allows us to drastically cut down the cost of any surgical procedure by thousands of dollars. We focus mostly on performing minimal-incision surgery, which can reduce complex deformities — bunions, hammer toes, rear foot, and ankle problems, etc. — through a smaller incision.
This helps patients get back on their feet faster, have less pain and overall, produces a better cosmetic result as well.
As far as I know, we’re the only ones in Vegas doing the minimal-incision procedure, and it’s something you have to be trained in. It’s not something that you can just pick up unexpectedly.
Patients are happy because they save a bunch of time and money. And not only that, they’re able to walk out right after with minimal pain.
When a patient has pain after surgery, it really limits the recovery process because the patients are scared to walk on it. There’s that rehab period and we’re able to avoid a lot of that or cut it down with minimal-incision techniques.
From our perspective as your website developer, there are two points that we would really want to get across very quickly on the site. One, the surgery is taking place in your office, not in the hospital, which is very important. Two, you’re the only one doing minimum-incision podiatric surgery in Las Vegas.
Right, I agree. When people go to our website, we don’t want them to just think, “Okay, this is just another podiatry website. We want them to be think, “Hey, there’s something different happening here. There’s something better.”
How do you find technology has improved this process for you?
If you reach out to a lot of the older podiatrists, they’re no longer using yellow pages or they’re not advertising in newspapers anymore. It’s all about your digital presence and conveying to patients, “Hey, you should choose us over our competition.”
I think everybody now wanting to be first creates a lot of competition. I’m not sure exactly how to make myself more present in the web space.
Well, hopefully we’ll be able to take a deep dive into your marketing efforts and give you some actionable strategies that you’ll be able to start to implement too.
I haven’t been practicing as long, but even in residency when you go to some of your podiatrists who are well established, they don’t necessarily need to do a lot of marketing. They update things here and there, but they’re not actually gaining any new patients.
People who have done well, who have adapted to the online model of A/B testing, constantly marketing and constantly updating content, websites, blogs, pictures, etc. Those are the ones who are doing well in this environment that we have now.
Digital marketing allows anyone — whether trying to enter into the space after just starting up or if they’ve been practicing for 25 years — regardless of the size of the budget, to be on equal playing fields. Small companies can easily and fairly compete with major corporations with a little bit of work.
However, consumers are certainly smarter nowadays. They understand the internet, they know how to use it, they know how to research it, and they know what looks modern and clean versus what looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 90s.
So, what are some of the arenas you would put some money towards, or you put some effort towards with respect to marketing of Dr. Masood’s business?
I think I’d first start off with the website as a whole. As he said previously, the prospective patients are going online. They’re looking for a doctor, so maybe they would drive a little bit further away, as opposed to a dry cleaner or a grocery store or an auto repair shop.
I think having a web presence that has that balance of good modern design, ease of use, a good user experience so the consumer can find the info they want, without going over the top.
When you’re talking about the medical industry, the medical aspects are going to come first before design elements. But your design should be a good balance of clean and easy to read.
You certainly want to make sure that there’s a contrast in the font against the background, especially if you’re going to be working with patients who may be a little bit older. Make sure you don’t have fonts that are very light grays that don’t contrast with a white background.
Obviously, mobile devices are where most of search traffic typically will come from. You always have that battle of small buttons and big thumbs. You should make sure that your mobile experience is designed in such a way that someone who might have a little more difficulty navigating is able to find the right web page and is able to navigate the site very easily.
On the basis that Dr. Masood has a website that already has those elements, what next? What if he says, “I would like to improve the traffic that’s currently coming to the website?”
I think the first question is to analyze it down into a few groups to set your priorities as far as what elements you want to promote. Maybe you want to promote the surgery, maybe you want to promote bunions. You want to have that contrast and understanding of what terms have high volume that will get you the search traffic, as well as what’s profitable.
Dr. Masood, can you give us some insights to your specific niche? You don’t have to disclose any numbers specifically, but if we were to set up a marketing campaign, do you have five or six top priorities that you’d really want to highlight?
In terms of what I really want the practice to be known for, it is definitely minimal-incision surgery. Many patients avoid surgery because going to the hospital takes so much time and money. But if they’re coming into the office, it’s actually beneficial to both parties.
The doctors will benefit because they get paid more by the insurance. On the other hand, we have to then buy our supplies for the surgery. But if we do it in a reasonable way, we can actually make more money, see more patients, and save more time. That’s the minimal-incision portion of it.
The other thing to focus on is, “What do podiatrists actually do that’s bread and butter? What brings in patients and generates income?” Those include ingrown nails, plantar fasciitis, diabetic wound care, fungal nails, hammer toes, bunions, Achilles tendonitis, etc.
You have to be excellent at those smaller things if you’re going to do some of the bigger, higher-end surgeries like ankle replacement or reconstruction.
As far as what will get patients into the door, the cost to the patient of something like an ingrown toenail and what you would charge for that, is significantly less than one of your ankle replacement surgeries.
Right. The cost of the benefit and the risk is very high. Many podiatrists won’t do surgery because they’d rather just take care of the ingrown nails all day because it pays well with little risk. Plus, there’s not much time involved compared to ingrown nails. If they do a big surgery, now they’re seeing the patient for free for the next 90 days for post-op. A practice can get a lot of ingrown nails, and that’s a very lucrative practice.
How I would initially start off a campaign structure would be to find something with high traffic that would be a very common procedure or a problem someone might have, which they would go online to research. They would then find a doctor who could solve that problem for them.
Once they have that resolved, now it’s not so much about acquiring the customer or having to factor in the cost of acquisition because any future surgeries or the future health care could be provided by a specific doctor.
I think ingrown nails are definitely one of those procedures that I want to do because the problem is now, I’m competing with not just podiatrists for ingrown nails, I’m also competing with urgent cares. If somebody searches for “ingrown nail,” I definitely wanted to be the one that pops up.
Aside from the website, I would have very specific landing pages built out, but written in such a way that anybody could have a clear understanding of what that procedure would entail, how it works, who it’s for, etc.
So, if someone looked up “ingrown nails,” they would not find anything to do with a diabetic foot problem on that landing page. We would build individual landing pages that go into a lot of depth about, “This is exactly what this service is. This is who it’s for. This is our process. This is the whole production,” as much info as possible to educate the consumer. The good thing is if you’re in the process of building out a website at this time, you can incorporate a lot of these needs into the actual content pages on the website.
But let’s say you already had a website, and you’re going to do an advertising campaign. You could focus on landing pages, which are where you’re going to ultimately drive the click. So, if someone types in “ingrown nails” your ad pops up. Then if they click on the ad, what do they see?
You want to make sure it’s really targeted to answer their questions, to highlight any element, any concern that they might have. You want to make sure you’re highlighting that point. If it’s more affordable then show the savings, maybe with a chart at the bottom of the page to show the difference in costs.
From a 30,000-foot view, as we always like to say, there’re two tracks that we’re going down here. The first track is content education, which at the end of the day involves search engine optimization. The second track is paid search.
But these paths certainly blend across the channels because, as the consumer is doing research, you want to make sure you’re positioning yourself to be that single point of reference that’s going to address all of their questions. Make sure they’re not going to need to continue to do additional research about their problem.
So, we build out landing pages that are specific to every one of the higher-level services that Dr. Masood named, but there’s a benefit for search optimization. Google will pick it up, and the whole point is to show up for relevant search terms for those particular procedures. But we could use those landing pages to direct paid traffic to.
And we could intertwine these calls to actions that would highlight very specific value propositions to the patient. Throughout the journey, as they’re scrolling down and down, you want to make sure the customer is almost self-reassuring that, “This is what I need. This is what I need.”
At the end of day, patients want relief and they want to know it’s going to be done in a timely manner, because a lot of podiatrists here are pretty booked out. Obviously, with what’s happening with COVID-19, it’s put a damper on everything. But when it finally gets going, we can offer them same-day service.
I think that should be highlighted in the landing page, and it should have all the information that the patient would need in a manner that they would understand.
Yes. Written to them not to, for example, another doctor.
Right, because I think sometimes, we do that. We start writing to other professionals rather than to our patients.
Very often, we see videos that would be an excellent use case for a landing page like this. Videos are a great way to have the doctors simply explain in layman terms to the prospective patient what the process is like, how it works, and to give that reassurance.
The amount of content you could fit into a 30-second video or a minute-long video would surpass the length of a page you would need to have in order to get that same amount of content to the patient.
I think we’re going to start doing that, having a few videos that are simple, clean, and easy to read. They shouldn’t be so long that the patient’s thinks, “All right, when is it going to happen?” Even if they link to YouTube, some doctors have five-minute videos for something that should be only a minute long.
With respect to paid search, how could we direct relevant traffic to Dr. Masood’s website? For starters, you’re going to have a significant amount of overlap as far as the keywords that you want to target. But more importantly, you should know the keywords that you do not want to show results for.
With Google, you can target certain keywords that you want. With the way the algorithms work, it’ll adapt to what they believe is natural language. It can sometimes substitute certain words you didn’t want to change. For example, it can take a singular word and turn it plural, where oftentimes, you might not want that.
And if you were to want to exclude certain procedures or certain body parts while building out a paid search campaign, one of the most important aspects is going to be knowing what you don’t want to target. It will save you a significant amount of money and certainly drive you better results.
I see, interesting. Especially with ingrown toenails again, people also search, “infected nail,” “painful nail.” Those are some of the keywords that we would want to target. But I think it’s harder for me to figure out what I would not want them to type.
I think that’s kind of harder for me right now, especially since I’m newer and I don’t know exactly what people are searching for when they do, but that’s what I assume they would be searching for.
This is a very important point because let’s say you had a budget of $2,000 — I’m just throwing a number — and let’s say clicks were $5 each. Could you imagine if you had every day five, 10, or 15 clicks that were incorrect or irrelevant things that had nothing to do with your business? We would blow through the budget in no time and it would be a complete loss to you. That’s why it’s so important.
Right, because you want to maximize the money that you allocated for marketing to the right patient. Even if it’s somebody looking up information, at least I want them to be searching for me rather than something different and then accidentally land on me. What’s the point of that?
Now, once you have a budget you can start breaking it up between having a high-level prospecting campaign versus a low-level prospect on the bottom of the funnel who already knows you and is just looking for your phone number.
There’s nothing wrong with having multiple landing pages for “ingrown toenails” because we would be sending different types of traffic to different landing pages.
If you know that one type of customer, say someone who’s Googling a question, likely they may have more follow-up questions. I would recommend a mini FAQ section that would address a wide variety of related, but broad questions that this prospective patient might have.
I never thought about having a FAQ. Most patients have a hard time reading every single thing I’ve written. I think patients can easily relate to questions and answers like, “Hey, will this hurt?” I think they would like that, so I think having a FAQ for each one of the different problems that we deal with, I think that would be very helpful actually.
Now, depending on how in-depth you would want to go into the subject, there’re bots and automated search results that could pop up and answer a wide variety of questions. Ultimately, it would alleviate office staff from answering redundant questions or having to send out the same type of emails.
The first place I would start when you’re trying to come up with the content for this is to ask your office staff, the people who are actually answering the phones. They’re going to know better than anyone which questions people always have. You could have them checking the email or seeing what questions are constantly being asked.
Then these are some of the points that I’d probably put in bold and really make sure you get across on your website.
I see. During aftercare especially, patients will call up the office and ask, “Hey, what do I do with this?” Because even if I give them instructions, they still would like to be reassured with a voice on the phone.
Sure. Do you offer any sort of financing?
The financing we offer is through CareCredit. It’s basically a credit card designed for patients who don’t want to pay in full for a procedure right away. We can offer them six months, 12 months, and 18 months interest-free financing. And it stays interest free as long as they pay it off within that period. Eighteen months is a long time for somebody to pay off a bunion surgery, which might cost $1,000. Over a course of 18 months, it’s very doable for something that’s really bothering them.
The fact alone that you offer financing is something I would certainly make sure to highlight, regardless of what the offer was. But the fact that it’s 0% interest is something that you certainly want to make sure you highlight.
With Google ads, there’s what’s called an “ad extension,” which gives you a little bit more real estate. It’s free when you’re getting your ad anyway, and in theory, it will push your competition down a few lines lower. And the biggest value there would be on mobile, on smaller screens.
We’re also one of the few offices to accept Medicaid. A lot of doctors don’t like doing that because they feel reimbursement is too low. But I really want to target the lower-income populations as well, so they can get great services too. So, I was wondering if you had ideas about how to target that specific demographic.
As a provider, I don’t mind taking a little less money, especially when I can see patients who really need me. A lot of regular docs don’t want to see Medicaid patients because they feel like it doesn’t pay enough, but we are more than happy to see them.
With Google ads and Facebook ads, there are privacy restrictions as far as who you can target. You can’t target a specific person with a problem. You can’t get too granular anymore to say, target a diabetic medication to someone who you know is diabetic. But you can do it on a much more general level. Meaning, you start layering on filters.
Certainly, we could incorporate keywords like “Medicaid” because chances are the person who has that type of insurance is going to be looking for maybe podiatrists who accept Medicaid. That could get them to a general landing page. But you can also layer on filters for income levels, like targeting lower-income ZIP codes.
Now, Google’s algorithm is pretty good at being able to understand that if you go to a single location every single day, it’s going to be able to target you. Same for Facebook and Instagram, it’s going to have a really good understanding that this is where the person lives; this is where they parked their car every night for eight hours. All the data points can get factored into being able to target a specific user.
What if someone comes to your website, clicked on a few landing pages, all of them related to “ingrown toenails,” or maybe they spent five minutes reading your page and then they leave? This is a great opportunity to use the retargeting elements on Google, Facebook, Instagram, or other paid-search platforms to be able to start to show your ad to them again later on.
Interesting. I didn’t know that you could do that — if somebody’s gone to your page, that you can target them again.
In fact, the way retargeting works is you can set up different groups or different segments of people and then choose how much of your budget you’re going to invest in each one.
The amount of money that I would want to invest into trying to acquire a customer who spent 30 seconds on my website versus someone who spent five minutes on my website would be a very different amount.
The same goes for a person who came back to my website the next day. If someone came to my website, looked at a landing page for two minutes and then they came back the next day, that’s a much more “bottom of the funnel” type of customer that you could potentially acquire easily.
During the retargeting, you could show different messages. Let’s say they came in for an ingrown toenail. That might’ve been the ad they clicked on, but now what do you show them on Facebook? You don’t need to show them the exact same info that they searched for on Google because they got that from your landing page.
I would show them a customer testimonial for someone who had an ingrown toenail fixed at your office, or I would highlight how clean and safe and noninvasive the surgery process was to sort of give them that reassurance. Too often, people use Facebook or Instagram for the hard sell when if that person came initially on Google, you could show them an ad on Facebook completely opposite. I think that’s where a lot of people drop the ball, there’s huge opportunity in there and it just helps reassure the person, “This is where I want to go.”
You can retarget them even by time they spent, how long they were on, if they’re repeat or not. We can do all of that very specifically, and it actually becomes cheaper to retarget that person than to have them initially click.
Dr. Masood, can you talk to us about maybe some things you’ve tried but have not worked out from a digital marketing perspective? We’d love to hear from you about that perspective.
I don’t think we have had a consistent marketing presence. We did it for like two months, then we haven’t done it for like three. We are too new to exactly say, “Hey, this 100% worked.” But I do know that when it did work and we stopped doing it, we saw a significant decrease in the patient calls we were getting.
Sometimes reports get passed along and you see, “Oh, I got this many clicks, this many impressions.” For the most part, those are vanity metrics. Often, the wrong metrics are being reported. That’s why it’s vitally important, when you’re initially setting up your campaign and choosing a marketing partner, to really have a clear understanding of what are you considering success. Is it a phone call?
Obviously, the ultimate value is on getting someone to come into the office and pay for whatever procedure. But there’s also a value on getting someone to sign up for a newsletter or to make a phone call.
A clear understanding of what success looks like before you get started will ultimately dictate how successful that campaign is. Because if a marketing company is looking just to drive traffic and you’re getting a hundred clicks a day, that’s great, but not if those people don’t turn into phone calls.
The same goes if you’re getting all these phone calls, but they’re not the right person. At that point, now you’re not only wasting your ad dollars, but now you’re wasting staff resources answering the calls that are for the wrong thing or for the wrong insurance. Certainly, we’ve seen these types of mistakes in the past.
There’re tools and resources that are easily available to track phone calls. It’s very easy to tie in with, it’s called “dynamic call tracking,” where if someone came in on a Google ad, then one phone number would automatically swap out. It’s a simple line of code that goes onto the website. When someone clicks from Google, it’s going to show one phone number. When someone goes directly to your website, www.website.com, it’s going to show another phone number. Someone comes in from Facebook, it’ll show another phone number.
Why is something like that important? Someone can be on their desktop and then they pick up their phone and then they call, but how do you know where that call’s coming from? You need to be able to attribute a specific call with a value. We’re measuring the actual cost of a phone call because not everyone who comes to your website is going to call.
In order for someone to call, let’s say it costs you $60 on Google, but you get the same phone call for $30 on Bing. Certainly, if you’re limited on budget, you might want to shift more over to Bing until you get to the point of diminishing returns where you just can’t maximize the budget within a specific channel.
My main goal is what a lot of the very, very top-end people in podiatry are doing is getting people to come from different parts of the United States or even across the world to get bunion surgery done in this specific manner, which is minimal-incision surgery. People are flying from all over. If you look up “bunion king of New York,” people are flying from everywhere if they have a bunion, which is no different from what I do. The only thing is he just has the clout and the buildup, so that’s what we want to lead to. I think having a good marketing campaign is vital.
Sure. You certainly have your prospecting campaigns and you target people at a higher level for more branding awareness, and you do the retargeting to keep your name on top of mind. But you certainly want to make sure that the core of your campaign is at the bottom of the funnel, focused on the people who are looking for very specific things.
This post was adapted from a conversation with Sage Digital and Dr. Hasan Masood, an expert in minimal-incision podiatric laser surgery. Dr. Masood graduated from the California School of Podiatric Medicine at the top of his class. He then entered a three-year surgical residency at Lorde’s Hospital. He emphasizes training in minimal incision surgery. This powerful technique allows for the correction of even very complex deformities through a very small incision. This decreases pain and reduces tissue damage and allows for a faster recovery. He has more than ten training qualifications and is a Las Vegas primary podiatric surgeon.