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Marketing and Advertising for Cannabis Doctors

A comprehensive guide to attracting and retaining more patients in today’s digital economy.

Humans are busier than ever — balancing careers, families, and a myriad of other responsibilities. The resulting need for convenience coupled with the proliferation of technology has changed the way cannabis providers need to connect with prospective patients. Patients have new expectations for appointment scheduling, communication, telehealth, and their overall online experience. With medical cannabis programs being broadly undefined, clarity and transparency are more important than ever. 
With restrictions across search engines and social media platforms, marketing plans have evolved from the idea of digital ad placements to direct-to-consumer, multi-channel outreach engagement strategies that touch every aspect of the patient journey. By thinking convenience first, cannabis practices can differentiate themselves from the competition, connecting with patients wherever they are to drive new patient acquisition and practice growth.

The basics of provider marketing

Marketing for unique medical specialties such as chronic pain in today’s competitive landscape requires a strategic approach targeted at patients of all ages. Your website design, online presence, search engine optimization, social media strategy, and online reputation all play a key role in attracting patients who are actively seeking this new resource in medical providers. Ensuring your practice makes a strong impression and rises to the top of online search rankings with a comprehensive marketing plan can help you attract new patients, retain existing patients, and support your long-term practice growth strategy – resulting in a strong return on investment for your medical practice, no matter the size of your business.

Attracting new patients begins with your website

Practice growth starts with attracting new patients. At the same time, attracting new patients often begins with your website and online presence. A strong web presence allows you to connect and engage with prospective patients while they’re doing their research, but putting your best foot forward in an online world requires both the right tools and a comprehensive strategy.
Research shows that three out of four patients go online when searching for a new provider, making your website design and search engine optimization (SEO) key elements of your marketing strategy. But it doesn’t end there. To close the deal, tools such as online scheduling and telehealth can convert website visitors into patients more quickly — while also further differentiating your practice from your competitors.

Elements of a successful marketing strategy

Finding the right marketing mix for a cannabis practice will always include an analysis of certain local or practice-specific factors such as the competitive landscape, services offered, and patient preferences (which can vary by market). From there, identifying the right marketing mix to help practices attract and retain the right patients is critical for long-term practice growth.

Today’s top marketing and advertising strategies for cannabis practices include:

  1. A top-notch website design that’s user-friendly, intuitive, mobile-optimized, and connects with qualifying of all ages.
  2. A comprehensive search engine optimization strategy to ensure patients looking for a  certified physician in your area find your practice first.
  3. A robust online presence that goes beyond your website and into online directories like Google My Business, Healthgrades, Vitals to drive site traffic and conversion.
  4. A social media plan that reaches patients wherever they are with meaningful and engaging content from your practice and providers.
  5. A focus on reputation management to reassure savvy cannabis patients that your practice puts patients first and delivers exceptional patient care.
  6. A patient retention strategy that keeps your practice connected with existing patients in between appointments through regular outreach, routine appointment reminders, and more.

The value of practice marketing and advertising

Marketing for cannabis practices isn’t just about attracting new patients — it’s about facilitating long-term practice growth. Aside from new patient acquisition, marketing and advertising campaigns can support patient retention, help strengthen the patient/provider relationship, and improve patient and provider communications. Combined, all of these elements can help cannabis practices grow over time.

Grow your medical cannabis practice with an impactful website design and a strong online presence

Patients today spend more time online than ever before. From the widespread use of mobile technology and the proliferation of social media into nearly every household in the US, establishing and maintaining a strong and visually appealing online brand and web presence is a must-have for cannabis practices. Likewise, a search engine optimization strategy that helps drive patients directly to your website is just as critical, if not more so.
Elements of a powerful online brand include: an easy-to-navigate website that connects with prospective patients, engaging blog and social media content, and exceptional patient reviews and testimonials, to name a few. Creating a memorable brand also involves a strategic approach to website development and website design. This means being consistent in your use of colors, imagery, and tone — all of which should be designed to connect with your patients.
Finally, establishing a powerful online presence requires an ongoing commitment to showing up wherever your patients might be spending time. This could include a combination of your patients’ email or text inboxes, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.

Reaching patients where they are

Today's healthcare consumers often turn to their internet browser’s search bar when looking for a medical provider. With approximately 88 percent of the market share, Google ranks at the top — making it critical to optimize your website and directory listings to ensure the search engine giant serves up your cannabis practice near the top of the search results. These are critical elements of your SEO strategy.

Your reputation management strategy helps reaffirm direct referrals

Some cannabis practices get a lot of new patients from direct referrals. In these cases, reputation management still plays an important role. That’s because in most cases, even women with a direct referral will conduct online research before selecting a provider. These prospective patients will be reading your online reviews and looking for your star rating on Google, which uses a five-star rating system.
And, since most patients (59%) only give consideration to those practices with an average star rating of four or higher, the importance of stellar patient reviews and a positive online reputation can’t be underestimated.

Winning search engine optimization (SEO) starts with local search

Even if you have an exceptional website design and offer all the digital conveniences prospective cannabis patients want, if your website doesn’t rise to the top of internet search results, you’ll lose out on new patient volume every time. Fortunately, by implementing an effective SEO strategy using a proven approach to local search, you’ll keep the new patients rolling in.
Optimizing for local search is critical, yet it requires expertise and a commitment to following a proven formula that’s always changing. Best practices today include a comprehensive search engine optimization strategy that includes enhancing your website for search performance, as well as the use of online profiles and listings such as Google My Business, Healthgrades, Vitals, and more. Each of these SEO tactics will enhance your online presence, thereby building your practice’s credibility with the search engine giants.
Supporting strategies include the use of blogs and social media that incorporate keywords your patients are looking for to drive site traffic and relevancy ranking with search engine giants like Google. Finally, increasing the frequency and volume of local online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, Citysearch, and others signals to search engines that your practice is relevant and worth serving up in search results. These proven SEO and reputation management tactics will deliver prospective patients who need a cannabis provider straight to you.

The link between online reputation management, patient reviews, and SEO

The good news? Your reputation management strategy will complement your SEO initiatives. That’s because a stronger online reputation (measured by the quantity and quality of online reviews) signals to Google and other search engines that your practice is frequented often, has local relevance, and is reviewed regularly. This will drive higher search volume and drive new patient acquisition.

Marketing strategies for patient retention

Cannabis practice marketing isn’t all about acquiring new patients, it’s about developing a long-term practice growth plan. And, no growth strategy can be successful without a plan to nurture, strengthen and maintain relationships with existing patients. For cannabis practice owners, this is just good business sense. After all, driving patient loyalty can help you strengthen your business and improve revenue. That’s because acquiring a new patient costs about five times more than it does to retain one.
Top tactics for patient retention include:
Patient satisfaction surveys. Listening to your patient's signals that you care about their experience, and patient satisfaction surveys affirm that you want their feedback. Asking patients to share their thoughts and opinions can strengthen the patient/provider relationship and improve your online reputation — both of which are good for business.
A modern patient experience. Patients, and especially women, put a premium on convenience. This makes introducing technologies designed to streamline the patient experience a solid investment. From online scheduling, digital registration, and intake to automated reminders and text messaging — offering digital tools for convenience shows your patients you value their time. It also makes it easier for them to schedule and maintain their appointments.
Ongoing outreach. Enhancing relationships with your patients is a sound strategy for patient retention. Tactics such as targeted email campaigns allow you to maintain contact with your patients in between appointments. You can share practice updates and events, promotions, seasonal messages, and education that’s targeted specifically to their needs based on their demographics.

Growing your cannabis practice

Contrary to popular belief, practice growth doesn’t “just happen over time”. It requires a strategy, effort, and constant focus.

While marketing and advertising play a critical role in practice growth, many other strategies and tools are needed to sustain the growth initially fueled by your marketing efforts. Can practice operators set reasonable goals for growth on a quarterly or annual basis, and measure performance regularly.

Keeping an eye on key performance indicators (KPIs) such as the number of newly scheduled appointments, search engine results rankings, and reputation insights (such as the number of online reviews) can help you determine if you’re on track to meet your growth goals. Similarly, optimizing a patient’s potential lifetime value (LTV), which is the potential revenue of all visits for a patient through their lifetime as a “customer” of the practice, is important for cannabis practices with an eye on growth. Doing so requires earning repeat visits through various marketing strategies.

Online basics: Must-haves in a website for cannabis practices

Remember that your website is where cannabis practices will make their first impression on both current and prospective patients. Consider this when developing your website design.
It’s important to think about colors, imagery, fonts, tone, and the words you use — choose those that will resonate with your patients. Original photography is ideal to use when possible, but tasteful stock imagery can also work well.
Make the website design and navigation simple and clean so visitors know where to find key information such as the services you provide, your location, providers, and other key information. Lastly, be sure every page has a clear call to action and make it easy for visitors to book an appointment — ideally with a link to online scheduling.

Cannabis email campaigns

When it comes to email marketing, healthcare practitioners such as cannabis providers are in a rare position because your patients actually appreciate hearing from you in-between visits. Whether it’s a quick email sharing your new practice hours, notifications about flu vaccine availability, the introduction of new services or procedures, a reminder to schedule a routine screening, or relevant and/or timely health information, targeted medical cannabis email campaigns can drive appointment volume and strengthen the patient/provider relationship.
If you’re not sure where to start with an email campaign, consider the list of symptoms or conditions you treat most often, and/or the procedures or treatments you most often deliver to your patients. Also, consider segmenting your audience by age or health history to ensure you’re delivering content that’s relevant. (You wouldn’t want to send an email campaign about what to expect during pregnancy to patients dealing with infertility, for example.)

A blend of digital and traditional marketing and advertising tactics

Thankfully for cannabis practices with limited budgets, the days of relying solely on newspaper, radio ads, and direct mail to drive new business are over. While traditional advertising can and does still drive business, it’s often cost-prohibitive and difficult to measure.

Fortunately, digital marketing offers cannabis practices the flexibility to start small and scale as you realize a return on your investment (which is easily trackable using the right platform). Digital marketing tactics can also be extremely cost-effective and you can typically track their performance down to dollars spent and new patients acquired.

However, a blend of digital and traditional advertising can drive even greater success as you’ll reach a broader audience that spans the generations. Tools such as direct mail, magazine advertising, and radio campaigns can be highly effective for driving brand awareness within your community, whereas your digital tactics can help transition website visitors into new patients.

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