I’m getting ready to go to an industry conference and I know that the online directory sales people will be all over me. How do I make a smart choice about which directories to invest in for my practice?
Over the last ten years we’ve analyzed in detail hundreds of websites offering to send patients to doctors (hereafter “referral sites”). So what have we learned? More often than not, the referral sites profit and the doctors do not. In our experience, there are only a handful of referral sites that consistently deliver a strong value to participating physicians.
Not sure what I mean by “referral sites”? Some are free, others charge a fee, but all offer topical content and physician listings.
Ours is a learned skepticism. We’ve seen surgeons get burned more often than bolstered by these services. So do we advise you stay away from referral sites altogether? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Referral sites can pay off big for your practice when you shop smart.
Here are seven Do’s and Don’ts to consider before you subscribe to a referral site:
- Don’t invest with a referral site until your site is ready.
First, your site should be attractive, complete and free of errors. Second, you should be sure to include a representative sample of before and after photos on your site. Last, your site should offer at least one system designed to capture lead information, such as a contact form (not an email link), a consultation request form, or a newsletter subscription form. Taking these steps to ready your site will help you make the most from every dollar invested online.
- Don’t invest with a referral site until your staff is ready.
If your staff is not ready to respond to emails promptly during normal business hours, preferably in less than an hour, don’t waste your time promoting your site. In our experience, your chance of turning an email lead into a patient is cut in half every 24 hours.
- Don’t invest with a referral site until you can track the return.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen a surgeon refuse to renew with a referral site that was actually making them money. Bottom line, every decision will be a bad one if you make it without reliable data. Be sure you track which referral sites are responsible for which leads you receive (Yes, this is possible. Call us if you want to know how).
- Don’t trust their traffic numbers.
Visitor count is an easy number to fudge, and if the number your given is for the whole referral site, there is no way to tell how much of that traffic is from your market. Do ask how many unique visitors or named leads you should expect from your listing each month. If they don’t know or won’t share, walk away; the good referral sites will know and will share.
- Do consider how the referral site delivers visitors to your practice.
Some referral sites link out to your site others don’t. Some referral sites capture leads on their sites before passing them to your office (to help them prove their value). Some referral sites share leads with several surgeons in one region. Ask the sales representative to detail all the ways that they will direct interested parties to your practice and disclose who else will see those leads.
- Do know what the referral sites have that you don’t.
Referral sites do at least one thing most surgeons can’t — they filter “generic” web searches to local surgeons. Most people search using generic terms such as “breast augmentation” or “cosmetic surgery”. Most surgeons couldn’t afford to compete for top search engine placement on these terms. Referral sites can pool money from doctors for nationwide advertising online and help get the people searching for the generic phrases back to your site.
- Do work the referral site for all its worth.
So you pay your money and wait for the patients to roll in, right? Wrong! Call your sales representative regularly to review any new ways you can increase your visibility at the site. Most referral sites are hungry for your photos and articles. Many want you to respond to questions by email or participate in discussion groups. All of these things are great ways to increase your visibility at the referral site. We’ve seen surgeons who participate in this way receive 10-times more leads than their passive counterparts in the same region.
As we mentioned at the start, there are only a handful of referral sites that consistently make money for plastic surgeons. While we would love to share our list of proven performers online, we reserve that valuable information for the benefits of our clients.