A recession is defined as a steep decline in economic activity across our economy that lasts for a few months or more.
The word ‘recession’ can be frightening to business owners and consumers alike. With whispers and hints at a possible recession in 2022 or 2023, now is the time to prepare (without panicking). With proper preparation, you can market your medical practice, promote your brand, and gain patients.
Continue reading to learn how and why digital marketing is an optimal marketing strategy amid recession rumors for the coming year.
How to prepare your medical practice amid recession rumors
There tend to be patterns to consumer behaviors and business’ marketing strategies during a recession. By looking at these patterns and previous economic downturns, patterns and strategies have been noted that can help or harm your business.
How recession rumors impact patients
During recessions (and even amid the rumors), patients tend to tighten their purses, restricting spending and re-examining their priorities. As a result, sales or patient traffic in the medical office tend to drop or slow.
Medical practice owners then look for ways to cut costs; postpone new investments in equipment, technology, or office space; and stop marketing. This leads to less earnings and impacts that can last beyond the actual defined recession period.
Understanding changing patient behaviors
Your patients typically fall into four groups when a downturn approaches. By understanding these patient behaviors, you can tweak your marketing and business strategies to adapt and succeed.
These patients are often hit the hardest financially. They react by trying to eliminate as much spending as possible. They tend to postpone or substitute purchases that aren’t absolutely necessary. Although lower income patients usually fall in this bracket, anxious higher income patients may as well, especially if there are changes in their health or income.
This group of patients are slightly less vulnerable. They are resilient and optimistic about the future but may be less confident about maintaining their standard of living in the present. Pained-but-patient consumers also tighten spending in all areas but do so less aggressively. However, as recessions worsen or wear on, these patients migrate to the slam-on-the-brakes group. All income levels are represented within this grouping.
These patients have saved and feel secure about riding out any economic twists and turns. They continue to spend as normal, although they may be slightly more selective. This group tends to include patients in the highest income brackets or those who may be comfortably retired and/or confident in their savings and investments.
This segment of patients carries on with life and spending as they always have, often without concerns about saving. They respond to downturns by extending their timeline for larger purchases. Patients in this group are often younger, tend to rent rather than own, and spend on experiences. Unless they become unemployed, their spending remains unaffected.
Recessions hit doctors differently
As shown by the image above, the healthcare world fares differently during recessions. Looking back at the Great Recession in 2008, compared with other industries that suffered significant job losses, healthcare jobs were actually created during the recession and the recovery period.
In fact, healthcare is sometimes considered ‘recession-proof.’ The reason is simple. People still need doctors and medical care.
However, recessions still have an effect on your patients, how they spend, and how your medical practice with weather the storm.
There is a domino effect when a recession looms. It spurs unemployment which leads to loss of healthcare benefits, meaning patients avoid unnecessary medical care. However, avoiding routine care means small problems can grow and there may be an uptick in larger medical procedures or more serious care of diseases and health issues. Some patients avoid hospital-based treatments and turn to outpatient or office-based care which tends to involve lower fees.
How to use digital marketing for success in a downturn
Knowing more about recessions and how they impact your patients, how can you maximize results with digital marketing?
What changes, if any, should you make?
How do businesses grow during periods of economic fragility?
In years past, the practices that succeeded learned to adapt to changes, understand their patients, and embrace marketing even when financial fears started creeping up. They didn’t follow the masses. They rolled with the punches and made their own way based on their patients’ needs.
Remember your loyal patients
Enticing patients to come in and spend money can be challenging during uncertain economic times. However, it is often easier (and less expensive) to retain existing patients than attracting new ones. When life is uncertain, most people return to what is familiar and comfortable. It’s reassuring. This presents an opportunity for doctors to invest in long-term loyalty strategies.
Consider a rewards or membership program, establish an emotional connection with them, and simply show that you care and remember them. Stay in touch with newsletters or an email on their birthday. Reward them for referring a new patient.
Understand that this is a cycle
Recessions come and go. There are ups and downs, with a recession approximately every three-and-a-quarter years.
Knowing this, you can prepare. In good times, save. Put money aside to be financially secure during tough times. Ideally, you have enough set back for 6 months or more of expenses.
Tailor your tactics to maximize your marketing strategies
You don’t have to wait for financial security to take action. As many saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, tailoring your marketing strategies can make a difference in success or failure. Start today by pushing forward with digital marketing. If you don’t, your competitors may.
Review your marketing strategies. Now is not necessarily the time to do what you have always done. Take a look at your patients and their recession behavior type (listed above). What has changed for you and for them? How can you update your marketing techniques to meet their spending habits?
Focus on the following:
- Streamlining your services to meet your patients’ needs – Overly broad services and products consume marketing costs, practice resources, and working capital. They may make your team less productive. Realign your services based on your typical patient type and their spending habits.
- Improving affordability of services – Remember that financially insecure or anxious patients will shop around and put big expenses or procedures on hold. Your prices should be competitive but still in the realm of ‘normal,’ as prices that are too low will affect your recovery period.
- Bolstering trust with your patients – Worried patients see trusted, familiar brands as being safe. Make sure your marketing conveys a safe, comforting message. Make sure your actions as a medical practice maintain that message to show that you are empathetic and on your patient’s side.
Assess opportunities related to your primary patients’ behaviors
If your patients tend to fall into one category or another, take a look at their spending habits. Their purchasing affects your growth as a medical practice.
For example, if your largest patient base is from a lower income area, many of them will put off medical care unless it is absolutely necessary, especially if they have high copays or deductibles. In these cases, consider payment plans or patient savings programs.
These same patients are less likely to worry about cosmetic, spa, or luxury treatments that are seen as expendable or unnecessary. Focus instead on the importance of routine physicals, blood work, and exams and why these are not expendable but maintain one’s health.
Panicking and making a bunch of changes doesn’t solve any problems. In fact, it can just create more if you don’t evaluate your possible solutions first.
When faced with a change or possible economic downturn, take a step back and breathe. Schedule a meeting with your marketing company to discuss your current strategies. Look at your options. See if there are strategies that aren’t working as well, and find out how to modify or update your digital marketing in a way that makes financial sense for your medical practice.
Reasons doctors should use digital marketing strategies during amid rumors of a recession
Remember that although people may spend less, they still spend time online, even amid recession rumors. Even during the height of COVID lockdowns, online traffic soared. The internet is still your best marketing channel!
Reach new audiences and grow your practice
Patients search online for doctors. They get recommendations from friends and research online. This allows them to get to know you first. You must have an online presence to reach these potential patients, especially for your target demographic.
If you are trying to reach patients in a particular area (and remember that patients search for physicians by area), local SEO is a necessity for doctors. This digital marketing strategy combines keywords with a specific location to ensure your medical practice lands at the top of Google search engine results. Showing up in Google’s local 3-pack increases your chances of clicks and website views.
Stay visible and maintain brand awareness
Since patients continue to browse the internet and social media even with lower spending budgets, digital marketing is a great way to keep your practice visible. Use social media posts to stay in front of your loyal patients and make your posts shareable. Use email marketing and newsletters to keep patients up-to-date on your latest services or practice changes.
Don’t go into hiding. Maintain your presence and continue to build trust with your patients. Show them that you are human too.
Those who are ready will schedule their appointments. Those who are afraid to spend right now will remember you when they loosen their purse strings again (or when their health demands it).
Lower other marketing costs with organic traffic from Google
Search engine optimization (SEO) drives patients to your website through simple search results. This means that if you attract the right patients using keyword and optimization strategies, you can convert more potential paying clients without shelling out a fortune in marketing or ads. Determining what your patients want, how to promote it, and optimizing your website for those keywords will help drive more traffic (and potential patients) to your website.
This requires little work on your part and can produce big results when you land atop Google’s search results.
Embrace opportunity with digital marketing for doctors!
Plan now, be willing to adapt, and use digital marketing to stay ahead of the curve if or when a recession hits. Consult the experts at Med Rank Interactive, a digital marketing company that works exclusively within the healthcare industry. We stay on top of the latest techniques and strategies in online marketing and local SEO to help your medical practice grow and convert more patients.
Book your FREE consultation today!