Put a Ring on It: Turning Inquiries Into Lasting Patient Relationships

May 19th, 2017 by Ann Wanserski

Let’s envision an ideal scenario. Your private practice has a dynamic social media campaign, your website is optimized for all the right keywords, your blog showcases helpful and engaging posts, and maybe you’re even showing up on page one of Google’s search results. Basically, you’re an online marketing all-star. Well, to be honest, the real payoff relies on what you do next.

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How do you respond when all of this great marketing generates a lead? After all, you put a lot of hard work into building new patient relationships. But while all of this marketing could be seen as the courtship, handling the inquiry is the proposal. You better time it right and create an experience worth remembering.

At this point, the prospective patient is taking the initiative to make contact, which means they are serious about taking action—they’re ready for a commitment. Even if you’re just posting your first Facebook status or still need some SEO guidance, every inquiry is the potential for a new patient to make the jump from interested to committed.

Responding to inquiries is your first real engagement with a prospective client. They responded to your presence online, but how does it stack up to your presence IRL? In the healthcare industry, competition is high, and patients may be willing to travel great distances for the right provider—but that prospective patient may just move on to the next option if they don’t hear from you quickly or get the right answer.

So, what’s the best way to ensure a “yes” to your proposal? Here are three tips to turn inquiries into actual patients.

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Respond Quickly

Quickly can’t be overemphasized. In fact, according to The Lead Response Management Study conducted by Dr. James Oldroyd of MIT, the odds of qualifying a lead are 21 times less likely when comparing a response rate of 5 minutes vs. 30 minutes. Similarly, according to research from Harvard Business Review, companies that follow up on leads within an hour are 7 times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with the decision maker. This isn’t all that surprising when you consider our fast-paced culture of instant gratification. That same person who reaches out to your practice is likely contacting your competition, scouring through Google results and online directories to weigh the best healthcare options. They may already have their appointment scheduled at the office next door if you don’t respond quickly.

You can increase your response speed by creating a short cheat sheet or script for answers to common questions, especially pertaining to pricing. This will empower an administrative team to handle inquiries confidently and quickly without consulting with the doctor or dentist before every response. Don’t forget that inquiries on social media, like questions through Facebook messaging, should be treated with the same level of professionalism and timeliness. Other features like online chat and online appointment scheduling make the conversion happen even more quickly. Many users are opting for digital communication, and it’s important to talk to your prospective patients in the format that they prefer.

Track Your Leads…and Your Successes

So how do you know what your patients prefer? You can start by collecting valuable information about the behaviors of your current and prospective patients to meet their needs better and make communication as seamless as possible. Online and call lead tracking will allow you not only to understand which communication methods work best, but also what led interested parties to your practice in the first place. Are they interested in a specific treatment page? Are they looking for plastic surgeons close to a particular location? Tracking this behavior can help tailor your response and deliver the right information.

A tracking system also allows you to keep a detailed record of your correspondences and successful conversions. Use these metrics to determine what’s working and where to focus your energy. Maybe you see the biggest conversions through your online appointment scheduling feature, or maybe most of your new patients are searching on mobile and calling the office—use the data to build on your successes. For example, if you see a lot of phone call conversions, you can tailor your online marketing campaign to feature your phone number more prominently in your ads and website copy. Either way, you can’t make improvements if you don’t have the data. Learn more about the value of lead tracking and analytics.

Listen to Their Needs and Make It Personal

Now that you have systems in place for generating prompt replies and tracking your successes, you can focus on the actual response. This part might seem obvious, but it’s the most important aspect—especially in the healthcare industry where your customers are trusting you with, well, their health. Make sure your response includes questions, and spend more time listening to the inquiry than dishing out information. While phone scripts or automated email responses are great timesavers, be sure you consider multiple lead types and create responses that can fit different common inquiries like procedure costs or consultation requests.

Remember that your response should show that your office is competent, knowledgeable, and compassionate. This extends beyond the healthcare professionals to the caring and attentive administrative staff answering the phones and making the appointments. Each employee is a representative of your brand and can create a memorable first interaction—whether it’s a phone call, email, or social media post. Your staff or a marketing agency should be equipped and ready to handle responses appropriately through multiple channels.

Essentially, your response should be crafted to potential patients’ needs from the very start. While it may seem simple, ensuring that these steps are built into your systems and training will result in consistent and successful conversions. When it comes to healthcare, patients are looking for the gold standard in quality. So if you’re popping the question (you know, the “do you want to schedule an appointment?” question), be sure to time it right and execute a thoughtful, personalized message. Of course, if you’re still working on your online marketing all-star status, we’re always here to help.


Ron Burgundy