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How to Market Your Healthcare Business During COVID-19

Are you struggling to market your business during COVID-19? Are you a doctor, fresh in your career, looking to start a business, and not sure how to begin? Or are you an established doctor with your own business and looking for the best ways to bring more patients to your practice?

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • What is your healthcare marketing strategy during COVID-19?
  • How do you identify the best marketing tactics to grow your healthcare business?
  • The most effective forms of marketing depending on personality type.

Today, I had a chance to chat with Dr. Robert Schmidt, a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon of West End Facial Plastic Surgery. Dr. Schmidt has seen tremendous growth in his businesses over his career while effectively leveraging several marketing tools to identify which ones worked best. His businesses’ have recently been impacted by COVID-19, and once you hear how he has navigated this challenging environment, you’ll want to take a closer look at your own business’ marketing efforts.

Interview script below:

Host: Hey everyone, welcome to RAMSEY Health Care Markets podcast. Today, we have one of our first distinguished guests, Dr. Schmidt.

A bit of background, Dr. Schmidt is a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon. He is an author of several articles and books on rhinoplasty and facial trauma. He received his medical degrees from Baylor College of Medicine and completed his residency at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. Following his residency, he completed his fellowship with one-on-one training with national leaders in his field that represent the highest degree of training in facial plastic surgery. Dr. Schmidt, thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Schmidt: I’m very pleased to be here.

Host: We have had a large number of requests for this sort of podcast that addresses a lot of questions that burgeoning doctors, med students, and established doctors have in this field. So I want to ask you some questions and kind of learn about your career and how you kind of grew your practice.

One question I have for you to kick it off is, what’s one thing you wish you had known when you started your career?

Dr. Schmidt: All the way as you go through school, you sort of get prepared to take the next step. So in college, you’re sort of learning the things that you need to know in order to get into medical school and do well in medical school.

Then once you get through medical school, you’re kind of learning the basics of what you need to know to prepare you for your internship and your residency. And then your residency is to teach you what you need to know in order to be out in the world succeeding as a surgeon.

However, one thing that that really has struck me is that it is virtually impossible to see everything during residency that you’re going to be forced to deal with in the real world.

You know, your residency is five years long. And then I did a year fellowship and for years there were still things that I had sort of heard about but had never come across.

And even now, there are certain things that that come up. And I’m like, well, I haven’t seen that before. But I know X, Y and Z. So let’s figure out what to do for you.

So they talk about an art of medicine, and it’s really true. You just sort of try a little bit of stuff that you do know that would work for a given situation. And you just need to constantly be open to learning new things and making new discoveries.

Host: Definitely. It sounds like that there is quite a bit of a learning curve, especially when you’re kind of just ramping in starting your own business.

Dr. Schmidt: Definitely. Well, that’s a whole separate thing, you know. And medical school and residency, they teach you to be a doctor. But the whole business aspect of things is a whole different animal that that, again, takes it takes years to really.

Being able to run a practice effectively, just like the medicine part of things, is a learning process, the business side absolutely is as well.

Host: Definitely. How did you kind of learn that business material, did you take classes or have mentors?

Dr. Schmidt: So part of why you do a fellowship is not only to learn the surgical skills, but also hopefully get a bit of a business background.

I took some lessons from there. After my fellowship, I took a job with a big hospital group in central Texas, learned a little bit of the business side there.

And then when I started thinking about branching out on my own. I was talking to wife about it. She said, you need to make sure that you take a class to know some more about business. So she was right, much to her credit.

I took an entrepreneurial, business, small business management class, which was useful. You know, it certainly taught me a lot of the terminology that you need, the difference between an LLC and an S-Corp, basics of marketing, the finances of a small business. So that was all very useful.

Host: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy, you go through all this schooling and then you have to go and learn about S-Corps and LLC. You have just some more knowledge you need to know.

Dr. Schmidt: Yes. Yeah. Oh, by the way, there’s this whole other thing, the whole branch of knowledge that will be very useful to you and just figure out it kid, you’ll be all right!

Host: So, you know, with COVID-19, we’re in really crazy times. How has this affected you?

Dr. Schmidt: Well, it’s affecting my practice quite a bit.

Under normal circumstances, I work in my office three days a week. I spend one day a week working at the local veterans hospital and then one day a week I am a medical director of a couple of medical spas in central Virginia, so I will spend one day we get one of those places during consultations at injectables.

Well, we had seen really good growth the first couple months of 2020, and then relaunched our skin care line in the beginning of March. We had a launch event. I had an event to raise some money for a local charity. So all kinds of goodwill and momentum.

And then boom, hard-stop on all that stuff.

So, COVID affected my practice, both in sort of obvious ways and then not so obvious ways.

The med spa was that I worked with closed down. Fortunately, not forever. But that stopped, my injectable practice in the office. Pretty much dried up. Elective surgeries, of course, were stopped.

I do take quite a bit of facial trauma calls, so of course that continued. It actually changed a little bit, though, from the young drunk people at the bars punching each other to more old people falling. So I’m not sure why that is, but that definitely was a change that I continue to see.

From a nonmedical standpoint, you know, we need to remember that doctors are people, too. And I have four young kids between the ages of four and nine and a half.

The daycare is closed and the schools are closed. So my wife, who’s a veterinarian and I, with our two professional careers, had to all of a sudden figured out how to do homeschooling in addition.

So, I stayed home with them Monday and Friday, was in my office Tuesday and Thursday, and Wednesday, I was going to the veterans hospital. So Monday and Friday, I became a homeschooler, just like the rest of us.

Host: It’s just incredible and kind of scary how this has affected so many different businesses. Have you kind of looked into telemedicine and kind of treating people through their cell phones and computers?

Dr. Schmidt: I had dabbled in doing consultations, virtually.

One of my marketing efforts, and I’m sure we’ll get into this, is I have a YouTube channel. And by far and away, the most viewed video on there is a video of me fixing a broken nose in the office.

And it has like forty thousand views now and I get e-mails from all over the world about it. Most of the time it’s people who broke their nose, you know, years ago.

But every once in a while you get somebody who freshly broke their nose and can’t find anybody in their area to fix it.

So I will do a virtual consultation with them, and make sure that everything is copacetic before they make the trip to Richmond. And eventually they do make the trip, and then we get it taken care of. So I’ve taken care of people from Texas, I’ve taken care of people from Ohio.

When I was practicing in Texas, people would drive six hours for me to do that for them in the office. I had this background of doing telemedicine that way.

I’ve done a few rhinoplasty consultations subsequently, due to COVID, through a voice app and video chat. I haven’t made a huge plunge into it because ultimately people come to me to get something done for them.

Most of the time, they’re expecting something done when they visit with you. And so that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to videoconferencing.

Depending on how things go, I might have to look at a little bit more into that. But, you know, with facial plastic surgery, what you see is what you have, most of the time.

And there’s not a great substitute for in-person, you know, history, physical, laying on your hands, that kind of thing.

Host: For sure, and just playing it safe in general is the best way to go here when treating patients. So, touching on marketing and digital marketing, what are some kind of efforts that you have used to grow your practice?

Dr. Schmit: Well, it’s been a mix of things over the years. I’ve certainly dabbled in a lot of different things.

I started my website maybe five years ago. So wanting to kind of steer my practice more towards facial plastic surgery, create awareness, and by then by that point, I had built up enough of a before-and-after portfolio because people ultimately they want to see that.

We had a Facebook page that I would create blogs for and then spend some money blasting those out through Facebook to particular demographics. And that worked really well for my practice in Texas.

When I moved to Virginia, I did the same things and nothing was working. It was kind of odd. So then I did some pay-per-click stuff through Google, and that I did for probably the better part of a year. And the return was not justifying what I was putting into it.

So then I did work with Real Self, which had been another very good source of referrals for my practice in Texas. I got some in the in the Richmond market. But ultimately, I decided to move on from that because, again, the expense wasn’t justified by what we were getting out of it.

I already talked about the YouTube channel. You know, that costs you nothing.

And if you catch lightning in a bottle and get something that gets enough people’s interest, well, people will fly across the country to see, which is a little crazy when you think about it. But that has definitely been my experience.

I’ve done a little bit of print work, you know, with neighborhood magazines targeted to my neighborhood, for instance.

If you want to fly your flag in a publication doing so in a way that targets to people who would be friendly to what you do is a very useful thing. When I come into my dry cleaners now, they say, oh, you’re the doctor who has all the kids say, yes, that’s true.

But really, the thing that I think for me that has made the biggest difference is last year I started a TV campaign, with a modest budget.

I mean, we were kind of aggressive with the budget for three months. Just hey, let’s try this and see what happens.

And that really got a good response, such as the point where we’re doing that again this year with a little bit more modest budget. But even with COVID, we are seeing people reaching out to us because of the commercials.

I think that with any marketing, you need to kind of see that there are factors about you and there are factors about the market that would kind of determine what is going to work best for your given situation.

So I say to people, I like to think, hey, you know, figure out what you do well. If you write well, have an awesome website, get yourself in some publications, that kind of thing.

If you speak well, then get yourself on a lecture circuit with speaker groups. Go talk to Chambers of Commerce. If you are good on camera, do that. Have your YouTube space, get on TV. Use some commercials. Local TV stations will want experts from time to time to talk about various things.

So I’ve been on our local NBC stations several times talking about skin cancer, beauty maintenance, that kind of stuff. To really be honest with yourself, hey, what am I good at? And then do that.

Host: That’s fantastic. I mean, the best ways you’re really measuring kind of where you get your highest return on investment. And what we see is a ton of thought leaders and a ton of people like you that have this expertise and, you know, this ability to speak on camera. It’s so effective in just generating publicity and generating interest, especially with someone who knows their stuff.

Dr. Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. And anybody who has gone through the training, you’re going to know your stuff, but you have to be you have to be comfortable in front of a camera, which is definitely not for everybody, but for me and my personal situation, that has definitely been the most powerful marketing tool that we have.

Host: Definitely. So when it comes to search engine optimization, we have a lot of clients trying to figure out how to beat out their competitors and how to rank certain keywords like “best plastic surgeon” in a certain area. How would you say your search engine optimization efforts have worked? And is there anything that’s works better than other ways? What sort of results have you seen, especially when it comes to dealing with competitors.

Dr. Schmidt: Yeah. I’m going to preface my remarks by saying that if you spend all day long worrying about what your competition is doing, all it’s going to do is drive you crazy. And you’re going to be worrying more about them than about yourself and your products.

I was the new fish in town in 2017, you know. Nobody knew who the heck I was. Nobody ever heard of me. And in my market, it’s very much a word of mouth kind of place.

My website is a WordPress site. I had generated, golly, 70 something blog posts over the years. There was a time when I was generating two a month easy.

And I would use the word press software to make sure that things were optimized for a search. When I moved to the area, I worked with a local company that that specializes in SEO and then targeted pay-per-click ads based on demographic factors.

Despite throwing a lot of money at it, I was really only ranking highly on a couple of blog posts that I wrote that somehow caught traction with people and were right up there on the first page of Google, along with like the Mayo Clinic and the National Health Service in England.

But you want to know what those were? It was ‘how to take care of stitches’ and then ‘the difference between absorbable stitches and non-absorbable stitches. And it’s like, I didn’t spend any money on that, but that’s the stuff that people wanted to read.

And it was it’s also crazy, like I would get e-mails across the world like, “hey, I got these stitches. I’ve got this issue with it, what do you think?” I don’t. “Thanks for reaching out to me. You want to talk about a facelift?”

I wish that I had better advice for people. But eventually I had to be very honest with myself in my situation is like, hey, I am not seeing a return for all these dollars that I’m putting into this.

So I just put a hard stop on that and decided to put my efforts elsewhere.

So according to the software, my site is definitely optimized for search. Is it really doing all that great? I don’t know. Certainly there’s plenty of people that come and look at it.

But I think that it’s because, it goes back to that word-of-mouth thing.

Either they saw me on TV or they their friend was talking about me, or something.

And the numbers certainly have gotten a lot better over time, but I can’t say how much of that is because of my search engine optimization efforts and how much of it is just organic growth, because I’ve been around for a little bit now.

Host: Yeah, that’s a great point. And, you know, another question, during COVID-19, I know you mentioned that TV ads is something you might still be running. Have you been kind of pulling back on any marketing efforts or have you felt pretty comfortable kind of keeping the same steady rhythm that you’ve been having?

Dr. Schmidt: That’s a great question. The instinct when the phone started ringing is to just, like, completely pull back from all your marketing efforts for that so that money is not going out the door.

Well, I kind of thought, especially with the TV aspect of things, people are just stuck at home with nothing to do. So they’re thinking about this kind of stuff anyway, so why not have a presence where you’re just kind of making yourself available.

Let’s put ourselves out there the same as we have been during COVID so that when everything is now opening back up, you position yourself in the market to be the go-to guy. So that was my thinking on it.

We’ll see the results, three-to-six months now.

Host: That’s awesome. Well, great. We’re running short on time. So, you know, you have provided such valuable insight and I know a lot of people are going to appreciate it. Where can people find you and where can they contact you?

Dr. Schmidt: So the easiest way is the website which is WestEndFacialPlasticSurgery.com and so there’s a contact us link and I’m happy to share any advice that I might have for people.

I also have my YouTube channel, which is Dr. Robert Schmidt, West End Facial Patient plastic surgery. We’re on Facebook and on Instagram. Dr. Robert Schmidt West End Facial Plastic Surgery. Feel free to reach out. I would love to provide some advice for anybody who needs it.