2021 felt a lot like 2020 with a significant amount of uncertainty and volatility. But despite the challenges, we saw reunions with loved ones and renewed hope for an end to the pandemic with vaccines.
For medical practices, business was in constant flux. Virtual consultations and employees working remotely became permanent ways of operating. With doors re-opening, we saw a surge in patient volume putting pressure on practices that were quickly trying to rebuild. At the same time, with the highest “quit rate” among employees, practices experienced first-hand the Great Resignation where staff was disengaged or quitting like never before.
With so many factors, good and bad, at play – it’s hard to anticipate what will come next. But, we hope looking at data of what drives prospects to become patients can give you some insights.
Every year, we release our Medical Marketing Outlook, which brings together data from millions of patient phone calls and web leads to evaluate the most effective ways medical practices are attracting and converting more prospects into booked appointments.
We typically assess traditional and emerging marketing channels and compare them to performance in previous years to reveal key trends. But we’ll also expand to cover some of the other trends we’ll likely continue seeing for 2022.
Let’s dive in.
2021 Lead Results
Booked appointments went from 74% last year to 75% in 2021.
That combined with a reduced number of people who were sent information could mean a few things:
First, it tells us prospects are still converting even with constant changes.
Second, the higher appointment rate could be due to consumers having more money in their pocket. It’s possible that government stimulus checks and extra cash that would have been spent on activities such as traveling, going out, or entertainment could have made it possible for more consumers to afford elective medical procedures.
Another reason could be the convenience of virtual consultations. Not having to meet in person reduces the time and effort needed to take the next step toward a medical procedure.
Finally, consumers have more flexibility with their time. It used to be people preferred to book appointments before work, during lunch, or after work. Now remote work and the subsequent shift in culture has given many consumers the ability to take care of personal things between Zoom meetings.
So with more booked consults, let’s look at the marketing channels driving demand.
2021 Marketing Channel Performance
There are several aspects to consider in marketing. With any given marketing channel, your marketing team is assessing:
- advertising impressions
- engagement such as likes and clicks
- visits to your website
- responses – whether that is a phone call or website lead to your practice
All of those performance metrics are important in understanding what contributes to the full journey of a prospect converting to a patient.
However, for the purposes of this report, we focus on the marketing channels that drove the most booked and kept consultations.
In 2020, we saw a trend we’ve never seen before. Historically, we’ve known Referrals to be by and large the single most powerful marketing tool for practices. In fact, in 2019, about 47% of all booked consultations were a direct result of a patient referral.
But in 2020, and for the first time ever, we saw Internet leads surpass Referrals at a staggering rate.
We saw this trend continue into 2021 with an additional increase of 3.03%, so 2021 saw another milestone with Internet leads now making up over half of all booked appointments.
The Internet as the New Dominator
It’s really no surprise that Internet has been such a force in driving leads. It would be odd in this day and age to think of someone who wouldn’t have searched the internet or visited a practice website before booking an appointment. But again, we are measuring the increase in conversions so it’s these activities that are actually driving people to book more than ever before. So it goes without saying (as we do every year) focusing on your online presence or as some call it “storefront” is never a waste of an investment. Just like making the best first impression and client experience in person is critical, ensuring people can find you and your website is delivering the best user experience is pretty critical in the digital age.
But Wait, Referrals Also Increased
We’ve typically seen Internet and Referrals rival for the number one spot, and certainly it’s seemed they take away from each other in order to claim it. But this year, though Internet dominated, Referrals also increased. It seems the two bohemoths get their strength from continuing to pull from other channels. It could be all other channels continue to assist in marketing efforts, but prospects feel the reassurance from a recommendation, doing their research, and getting to know you on your site in order to actually make the move.
While Social Media pales in comparison to Internet Search and the Practice Website as it relates to booking appointments, and fell slightly further in 2021, it is part of developing a full-funnel marketing strategy for its ability to drive awareness and engagement among consumers.
Yelp consistently remains a top platform for reviews and commentary on personal experience, but took the biggest dive from 2020 to 2021. Though Yelp remains the leader, it’s not by much when compared to Facebook which is also becoming a key resource for consumer reviews and comments from consumers of all ages. Instagram remains at a distant third and also saw a decline.
However one channel within the Social Media world actually increased: YouTube. It makes sense since YouTube has now become the Internet Search of video, where users frequently search just as they would on Google, as part of their research. Some may want to view videos to get to know the physician, watch patient testimonials, or even get a sense of what their medical procedure would entail.
It used to be you had to have a production team to make high-quality videos in order to look professional. These days, videos shot with an iPhone are just as good and they’re free! The key is quality content that is personal and speaks to what prospects may be considering in order to make their decision. So in short, make 2022 the year you focus on creating a library of videos on YouTube and promote on other channels like social media and email.
In summary, how can you better cater to your prospective patients going forward?
As we’ve seen in the last couple of years, the only real constant is change. But, some things continue to be tried and true:
1. Maximize the client experience
From the first impression to post-surgery, you will never go wrong if your priority is delivering the best patient experience. We would just add that it’s becoming just as important to focus on your digital experience as it is the human experience with customer service and within the office. Whether online or offline, the messaging, immediate response, and personalization should feel seamless.
2. Stay in touch
It’s great to see conversions from phone calls and web leads are up this year. But that does not mean it will stay that way. Practices need to capture key information from every prospect – such as name, phone, email – in order to be able nurture those who aren’t ready to book. Our Capture Web Response program has a systematic, automatic, and proven process to stay in touch with prospects over time and has shown to significantly boost conversions who weren’t initially ready to book an appointment.
3. Agility and adaptability have been the two greatest super-powers
Practices spent a lot of time this year rebuilding. Yet they were still faced with the uncertainty of having to close their doors at a moment’s notice. This volatility made it especially difficult to hire and retain staff. Combine that with the Great Resignation where employees had the highest quit rate, and it can feel like you just may not be able to weather the storm. It’s the practices that have been able to have flexibility with outsourcing that seem to be having the greatest stability in volatility.
Clients who have chosen to outsource their inbound phone calls with First Contact have been able to ensure they never miss a phone lead and they get that amazing client experience upfront while also allowing their onsite staff to focus on existing patients in the office. Our Capture Web Response can ensure every single inbound web lead gets an immediate response and if they aren’t ready to book, they are automatically put on a nurture program.
No matter what program you choose, you can customize to your needs – managing your fluctuations in volume at a lower cost by leaning on highly trained counselors who are set up to work remotely and are available during extended hours.
4. Keep a pulse on practice is performance
Data can be your best friend in helping you navigate all aspects of your business. Keeping a constant eye on a variety of key performance indicators and regularly reporting results is one of the best ways to ensure sustainable growth. Many practice owners we speak with each and every day think they know their business, but there are inevitably blind spots.
They’ve benefited from taking advantage of our practice assessment for objective, data-driven insights that can help identify areas of improvement. And we’re offering the same assessment to you at no charge. Start taking control of your business in 2022. Complete the fields below to request your free practice assessment:
*This was the combined 2021 average conversion % across all the medical specialties we work with, including Ophthalmology, Plastic Surgery, Bariatric Surgery, Stem-Cell Therapy, Cosmetic Dentistry and more.