Small business advertising

Rather than Small Business Advertising, I was going to title this post, “Eating your own dog food,” but I decided that a more descriptive title would get the benefit of SEO.  I recently took on the task of advertising for my wife’s small business, here’s our story.

Small Business Advertising for Leslie Smith MD

Leslie Smith MD

My wife’s acupuncture practice recently moved into a larger space; her patient capacity almost doubled overnight from one to two treatment rooms.  I say “almost” because she’s still just one practitioner.  With acupuncture, once the patient has been needled, they simply rest comfortably in pin-cushion mode.  The practitioner doesn’t need to be in the room.  That’s where my wife takes the opportunity to start treatment on a patient in room number two.

I took it upon myself to do some online advertising for her practice to fill up that second room as frequently as possible.  Now, my wife is not your typical acupuncturist.  She’s an herbalist, a holistic medicine practitioner and, most uniquely, an MD.  One would think that her résumé would do the marketing for her.  That’s not the case, obviously.  We have to let people know just how fabulous she is.  So, here’s the long story of how I used my background in advertising, my wits in video production and my fabulous wife’s personae to kick off her marketing push for the new office.

Leslie, my wife, had already established a solid Facebook following and she’s very diligent about posting articles and updates several times a week.  She also established herself on Twitter and was a hairs breadth away from getting Yelp sorted out when the office move happened.  Her website already had great information about the different types of medicine she practiced and we had produced a 36 minute video from a talk she gave at the Integrate Chicago medical conference held back in January.

The video was no small task.  I had a stable camera on a tri-pod taking audio from a blue-tooth microphone on Leslie’s lapel.  I bounced around the back of the presentation room with a second camera getting other angles of her and taking shots of the room full of doctors.  She was presenting using a Prezi presentation, which I later recorded to a video file.  I took all three sources and spliced together a 36-minute video, which we reviewed several times before posting to YouTube.  I would estimate that post-production on the video took about one hour per minute of final video.  You need to jump through a few extra verifications with YouTube in order to post anything longer than about 15 minutes.  It’s not difficult, but it’s not turnkey either.

Her talk at the conference covered the parallels that exist between Eastern and Western medicine.  She was speaking primarily to Western physicians so that’s whom the talk was directed toward.  Coincidentally, the talk also resonates with Western patients as well.  The video is now featured on her homepage.  I’m amazed and delighted that new patients are known to have watched the whole thing.

So that’s where the stage was set as I started the marketing push.  I went with a shotgun approach for the first month (August): Facebook Page promotion, Google AdWords, Yelp Ads, and a small display campaign.

The Facebook Page promotion is fairly simple.  You set up an advertising account and the tools are enabled right there on the Facebook Page.  I started by promoting the page to people in the Chicago area.  That got costly really quick, though.  A $10 per day promotion turns into $300 per month.  For a small business that’s not doing online transactions, it’s difficult to see a solid ROI from Facebook at that rate.  Where we’re getting better results is in promoting particular posts.  They seem to have a longer lifespan and are more engaging than a general Page promotion.  So now we pick and choose good posts to promote and spend about $10 per week with similar results to the Page promotion.

Google AdWords, the old standby of small business advertising, is giving us solid traction and we’re ranking very high with important keywords like: “Acupuncture in Chicago.”  This is yielding clicks to the website where people tend to click on About Dr. Smith quite a bit.  We’re lacking a perfect Google+ page but we’re working toward fixing that.  With a Google+ page you can get your business address and star rating listed in the search results.  That’s free exposure when we get it done.  We’ve had at least one confirmed new patient from the AdWords campaign.  To be fair, they looked her up on Yelp as well, but we got some ROI and that’s what matters here.

On Yelp we had a hard time at first.  Her businesses name is LeslieSmithMD but she’s doing business as New Leaf Acupuncture.  I’m inclined to downplay New Leaf because of the Yelp problem.  Her website is LeslieSmithMD.com, so Yelp wouldn’t acknowledge the business name of New Leaf Acupuncture.  We had these great reviews that were stranded on a business that we couldn’t get listed in the search results.  So we dropped New Leaf on Yelp and went to Leslie Smith MD.  That did the trick, we started showing up in searches.   I went into her account and claimed the business entry.  To do that, you have to verify the phone number.  I changed the address in Yelp and fleshed out the businesses profile as well as the owner’s.

Yelp does CPC advertising.  You can’t direct the clicks just anywhere, though.  It’s a very tight system.  The clicks go to the Yelp business entry in their directory. Clicks for Leslie’s type of business are going for around $2.25.  There’s no good visibility into how they’re coming up with that number except for the Revenue Estimate, which is available in the Activity section of Yelp for Business Owners.  I am pretty sure they’re taking credit for quite a bit more business than they’re originating.  Of the patients that have mentioned Yelp: one discovered Leslie in organic search results, the other was doing secondary research after finding her on Google.  That being said, we both think that paying for the Yelp results has done enough to raise her profile to justify the cost.

For the display campaign I used a self-service DSP and took the same shotgun approach by targeting all Chicago Newspapers while leveraging some 3rd party data that let me target people who are interested in health.  I tried two different data providers and one of them, of course, came out as the clear winner in terms of reach.  I also placed a pixel on Leslie’s site and am retargeting all those visitors regardless of where they happen to be on the Internet.  By far, the lowest CPC we’re seeing is with the retargeting, but that’s not saying much given the volume (low).  We are getting traction with the display campaign, and the CPC is getting close to the other channels we’re buying through.

Next month we’ll be refining our strategy.  She came up with a great new tag-line as well as a set of monthly promotions.  We’ll probably leave the AdWords campaign as is, instead we’ll be using the Yelp Deals feature, a new display campaign, Facebook promoted posts, Twitter announcements, and maybe even paying for some Twitter ads!

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