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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Spine Surgeon's Perspective: How can a Spine Company stand out in the crowd? Part II: Surgeon Websites

How can a Spine Company elevate itself above the competition? The ever increasing number of Spine start-ups combined with overseas competition, reduced reimbursements, and more government oversight is likely to make the Spine Implant field more and more competitive. Small and medium sized companies will find it more and more difficult to compete. The allure and potential for acquisitions and mergers will be largely dependent on documented sales and the existing customer base, the Spine Surgeons and Hospitals.

This is part II of our series which examines how a Spine Company can succeed in this difficult market, all from a Spine Surgeon's perspective.

Developing and fostering relationships with Spine Surgeons is, of course, one of the centerpieces for success. In our last Blog we introduced the idea of the broadening the Spine Rep's training and knowledge base as well as providing them with the tools to understand the Psychology of Spine Surgeons. Now lets take a look at how a Spine Company can help a Surgeon succeed with their business.

Understanding a Spine Surgeon's business realities and complexities can create the groundwork to develop ways to positively impact on their ability to remain or become successful. In general terms, Spine practices are increasingly forced to compete against each other as well as against non-surgical Spine Specialists such as Pain Physicians and Chiropractors.

One of the focal points and variables of a successful competition is the Spine Surgeon's website. Gone are the days, when you put out your shingle, create a Primary Care referral base and go on to have a successful career. The practice website is quickly becoming the most important aspect for a Spine Surgeon to create a brand, showcase their expertise and provide patient education. The website is not just meant to give existing patients a place to learn more about the practice, but is quickly becoming the cardinal tool to attract new patients. Even potential referrers gauge the website to gain an impression of the Surgeon and his/her practice. Unlike in days past, the practice website has to perform well not just locally, but regionally and even nationally depending on the size an scope of the practice.

Practice Websites need several key items to help the practice succeed:
1. A Brand which is recognizable, identifiable, and sets the tone for the entire operation
2. Content. The content is important to generate size and keywords to be competitive in the rankings.
3. Patient Education Materials to showcase knowledge and expertise as well as the specific treatments offered.
4. Links to gain "authority" and ranking.
5. Smart SEO

So, how can a Spine Company help the Surgeon's website succeed?

First off, most Spine Surgeons hate to deal with their website. They would rather pay someone else to deal with it. That "someone else" typically falls on the practice administrators who outsource this piece to website developers. The developer may or may not understand the business of Spine Surgery and will try to apply general business principles. However, that only goes so far. They often struggle to find relevant content and links in their frequently subpar attempts to provide SEO. They will try to twist the Spine Surgeon's arm to write content and patient information, which they may reluctantly do, but only intermittently and time-permitting. Forget about writing an ongoing Practice Blog...

This is where a Spine Company can step in. Here are some of the options:

1. Offer the Practice Website Links. Links provide "Google authority" for the site. This in turn provides rankings, i.e. SEO. The more valuable the link the better. A large Spine Company website can provide a valuable link. Beyond that, Spine Companies have the ability to provide further links from third parties. These can be based on business relationships, be purchased, etc. Help with Link building can elevate a practice website from obscurity to visibility.
2. Offer patient education materials. Practice website have an insatiable appetite and for patient education materials. Why? Because it helps to establish the Surgeon's credibility. In addition, Surgeons can save time in the office by directing patients to the their website to have further questions answered. Spine Companies can create comprehensive third party patient education websites. They can offer this educational material either as a link from the Surgeon's website or as direct content to be incorporated into the Surgeon's website. The material has to be of the highest quality and contain Images and Video as well as outgoing links to be the most SEO friendly. This, of course applies to disease education and procedural education. However, with regard to procedural education which outlines specific surgeries, a Spine Company has the unique opportunity to link to their own products.
3. Provide Social Media Content. While it is difficult and time consuming for Surgeons to be involved in the practice website creation and maintenance, they are often even less enthusiastic about giving up more of their valuable time to be involved in their own Social Media Campaign. However, the reality is that having a strong presence on Social Media Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is becoming a Must. not an option. Here is another opportunity for a Spine Company to step in and provide ongoing content, images and video.

To go one step further, a Spine Company could invest in, or acquire a website development and digital marketing company, with the sole focus of creating, managing and promoting Spine Surgery websites as a powerful marketing tool to attract and retain Surgeon customers. This company would custom create patient education materials based on a surgical perspective, offer unique custom brands, provide immediate links, ongoing SEO, and integrate the site with the Spine Company to the extend possible. This company would also offer digital marketing and Social Media management to promote the Surgeon and Surgeries offered by the practice.

The website development company can be a stand-alone third party without a direct and obvious tie to the Spine Company. However, their products and services can be a marketing tool for the Spine Company.

In summary, the Surgeon's success is increasingly tied to a highly visible and successful website as well a significant Social Media presence and select digital marketing. A Spine Company can become indispensable to a practice by providing this type of expertise and involvement.

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