All the tips that I'm going to share in this blog post are not from a higher learning or Ivy League Business School program. Rather its a culmination of 20 plus year of experience in the field of sleep medicine. I hope that you get something from my personal perspective on marketing your sleep center.
Build It and They Will Come...Not!
I had the knowledge and know how to run and operate a sleep disorders center. Since I knew how to run sleep studies, score them like nobodies business and communicate well with my patients then surely I knew how to open my own successful sleep clinic...right?
Well, not exactly. I had been successful for the first three years as a start up providing training for other mostly hospital based sleep centers, but I never owned and operated a free standing business of my own with all the risks and challenges that come with it: making payroll, expenses, budgeting, and growing the business. This is where my marketing journey began...
As apropos as it might seem for marketing for a sleep center, the Field of Dreams style of marketing DOES NOT WORK! I share this message not because its a big rookie mistake that I made early on, but rather an important one. Its a lesson that still hits me hard whenever I look back at my journey to where I am today.
Flash back to 1999 (not to be confused with partying like it was 1999). I had just opened my first independent freestanding sleep disorders center. I was running a lean and mean operation with myself as the night tech and the daytime scoring/DME staff. My wife was an RN and had a love for health care, but not necessarily the business of health care. Nonetheless she was the daytime office manager and billing specialist.
I leveraged all of my contacts in the field to help me with the formalities such as policies and procedures, questionnaires, and all the runnings of a successful practice. Minus one thing....the referral base hadn't been established. You see, my assumption was that everyone knew me and knew how great of a service I could and ultimately would provide. Well, you know what they say about assuming...really its true!
Logo, Branding and Marketing your Sleep Disorders Center
Ok, I was blinded by the light (another reference to a song, sorry I love music) of inspiration and
fear at the same time. I knew that I had to hit the pavement and let everyone know how great I was. There was a few things that I knew I needed first: A logo and some marketing materials to get out to the physicians, after all they were the gatekeeper to all things critical to getting my sleep disorders center off the ground (this is almost always true at first, but hang in there with me as there is a step by step process that I've repeated time and time again).
How to get a great logo for your Sleep Center
A logo is an important part of your company and it part of your identity, and ultimately for brand. Your logo to me is like a first impression. A poorly designed logo may be perceived a poorly run company or business...whether its true or not often times the first impression may mean the difference from a physician or patient giving you a chance for their business.
Options to get your logo designed:
- A full fledged branding agency: The pros of going this route is they may have the all in one resources from a logo to marketing materials, to web design, and radio and TV support. They may or may not be a cost effective option for those that are looking for just a logo design
- Smaller Boutique Graphic Design Company: These companies usually offer everything from logo, to identity, to branding support and are able to break out chunks of the process...a company that I used in the early days, Tribe Design, based out of Houston, Texas was my choice back in 1999 with Sleep Technology Institute and again in 2002 when I started the Alaska Sleep Clinic and they have evolved with the inbound marketing methods that we follow today ( a shout out to Tribe!).
- Online Crowd Sourcing Options: I almost always recommend a new business who's looking for the most cost effective means to get just their logo design to go this route. I've personally used 99 Designs for the logo design for the inboundMed logo. They literally have thousands of graphic design artists world wide who compete for the creation of your logo. 99 designs has different price points for access to different levels of experts for as little as $299...tough to beat!
Branding Your Sleep Center
Quite simply put branding is the messaging and communication between your sleep center and your audience. Its the culmination of the logo, the identities and your general message to your audience whether it be through Outbound or Inbound methods. A great example of a wonderful brand is Nike. From the swoosh, to the tag lines like "Just do it" or "Is it the shoes?". To joint ventures with other brand icons like Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter, Nike has understood the importance of brand and owned it like few others.
Outbound Marketing Your Sleep Clinic
While all the rage today is on Inbound Marketing, Outbound marketing can still play an important role in your sleep center marketing strategy. Outbound marketing is the old school method of marketing where we would leverage Television, Radio, and print advertising in order to get our message out.
The current challenges with these outbound methods are:
- Television: DVR's allowing viewers to skip over the commercials
- Radio: The advent of commercial free radio with XM/Sirius, podcast (an inbound marketing opportunity), and the iPhone allowing users to listen to their own play lists or even iPhone radio with mostly commercial free listening
- Print Advertising: Less and less people are getting their news from traditional print...but that leads to other opportunities within this medium
- Television: The opportunity to geo-target audiences through the cable markets makes it a difficulty opportunity to leverage. IF the price is right and it makes CENTS. The opportunity to increase you brand effectively through Television is almost second to none. While you can build great brand credibility fast with TV, you can also do harm by a poorly produced advertisement (see below and example of TV done right for a sleep center)
- Print Advertising: It seemed like everyone at one point thought the advent of digital marketing meant the death of all things print. There are time when having that tangible piece of paper or magazine in your hands is still preferred. While there has been a consolidation and reduction in the traditional newspaper companies globally, the ability to leverage local print and even magazines has become a a cost effective option at times for both local and national advertising.
Here's an example of how I leveraged Television in Alaska with my former business the Alaska Sleep Clinic:
Inbound Marketing Secrets Shared: Personas, Blogs, and SEO
As you may or may have already summized just by the name of my current business inboundMed, I have a great affinity to inbound marketing. I think the simplest way to define inbound marketing is "creating content online for people who don't even know you exist".
You might be thinking, "how would you accomplish such a task"? This is where I'd say, "Well, I'm glad you asked". Ok enough of the role play...the quick and honest way of creating content for those that don't know you exist is quite simple. Write articles (Blogs) in a way that your audience or "personas" are searching for you online.
This may or may not seem intuitive, so I'd highly recommend the process below and reference this article "Medical Marketing Tips: How To Choose Your First Blog Topics".
- Task all of your employees at your sleep clinic to each write down 10-20 questions in the way that they are asked...I mean exactly the way that they get those questions, you'll be surprised at the insight that you gain from this tactic.
- Now that you've obtained the perspective from various levels in your company (i.e...front office, day technologists, night technologists, sales, and administration) you have gained valuable information as to how they are asking various questions to your business.
- You can infer that from the questions that your existing patients are asking that others that don't yet know you exist are asking the same questions (I hope a light bulb is appearing now).
After you've collected this information you're well on your way to identifying who your potential clients are and you now have a list of the first 50 or so blog articles that you are going to write for those that are searching for you that don't even know you exist.
Frequency of Blog Posts and SEO
I'm almost always asked this question: "How often do i need to write articles in order to get results"? You don't have to be a prolific writer, but writing 2-3 blog posts a week has proven to be the sweet spot for the small to medium medical groups.
Any article that you write has to have targeted keywords in mind. After all, it does no one any good by creating an article that cant be found by the all knowing Google. An SEO example might very well be the way you came across this article. Before I wrote this article, I did a little bit of homework and found that the words "Sleep Center" is searched about 2400 times per month and its a relatively easy way to rank on the first page of Google, if done right. Any article that you write has to have targeted keywords in mind. After all, it does no one any good by creating an article that cant be found by the all knowing Google.
Exponential Growth With Two Sleep Centers and Counting
We've done such a great job with this in the past with the previous company that I founded and owned, Alaska Sleep Clinic, that they have now increased their online traffic from just over 1k visitors to over 200k visitors per month. This all occurred in just over a 20 month period of time and can be found by clicking here to read about their tremendous growth.
Alaska Sleep Clinic's Online Growth Due Exclusively To Inbound Marketing
This method has worked so well, that we have implemented it in another sleep clinic, SomnoSure, based out of St Louis, Missouri and are seeing the same hockey puck growth trend with over 400% growth in traffic in just three months time by implementing these methods.
The Buyers Journey
An SEO example might very well be the way you came across this article. Before I wrote this article, I did a little bit of homework and found that the words "Sleep Center" is searched about 2400 times per month and its a relatively easy way to rank on the first page of Google, if done right. Any article that you write has to have targeted keywords in mind. After all, it does no one any good by creating an article that cant be found by the all knowing Google.
Its important to understand your customer's journey and we discuss the process in depth in the article titled "How To Implement Inbound Marketing Into Your Medical Practice". In that article we discuss the importance of creating the right content at the right time in order to move the potential client through three different stages:
- Awareness Stage: I snore but don't know why I'm tired all the time.
- Consideration Stage: Aha, I may have obstructive sleep apnea. How do I get tested and treated?
- Decision Stage: I can see a sleep specialist, and get a home sleep test, and even be treated by ABC Sleep Clinic or XYZ Hospital.
This process is very important to understand as it allows you to see why and how certain articles and offers are best suited to be placed depending upon where you customer is at in their buyers journey. Specific content offers are more relevant to buyer’s at specific times during The Buyer’s Journey.
If you implement the tactics and follow the tips in the other blog posts referenced in this article you will see significant results in traffic to your site. If you are interested in obtaining a free Inbound Marketing evaluation, feel free to contact us at (314) 833-0565 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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