In this Founder's Corner episode, Ajay speaks about Google Ads strategy to reach the target audience for a membership model primary care service with Rebecca Berens, owner of Vida Family Medicine.
Rebecca Berens is the founder of Vida Family Medicine, a direct primary care practice in Houston, TX. She provides affordable, accessible, personalized primary care services to individuals and families throughout the Greater Houston area under a membership model that does not require any insurance. She also provides lactation and breastfeeding medicine consults to non-member patients.
Speaker: Hello and thanks for joining today's episode of the Founder’s Corner Podcast hosted by Ajay Prasad. Join Ajay as he sits down with healthcare professionals to discuss ways of improving their marketing efforts. As an entrepreneur and proud owner of several seven-figure based businesses, Ajay has now dedicated himself to helping healthcare professionals in building up their practices. If you would like to contact Ajay and become a guest on the Founder’s Corner Podcast, fill out the form on our website. In today's episode, Ajay will be speaking with Rebecca Berens, founder of Vida Family Medicine in Houston, Texas. Vida Family Medicine in Houston, Texas.
Her goal is to provide affordable, accessible, and personalized primary care services to individuals and families under a membership model that does not require any insurance, and provide lactation and breastfeeding medicine consults to nonmember patients. Enjoy the show.
Ajay: Hi, Rebecca, how are you?
Rebecca: Hi, good, thanks. How are you?
Ajay: Good. Good. So, where are you located right now?
Rebecca: I'm in Houston, Texas.
Ajay: Oh, you're in Houston. Okay. So, wonderful. I saw some of the questions that you have. So, like Oliver said, can we just start with this one for my audience. Give them an idea about your background, exactly what you're doing and what kind of challenges you're facing. And as you can imagine, most − a lot of the people face similar challenges. So, what we discuss, the other people, they can also, hopefully, shed some light for them also when they are listening to your − to this podcast. So, tell me something about your − about you and the business and the challenges that you're facing.
Rebecca: Sure, yeah. So, I'm a family physician and a international board-certified lactation consultant. And I have a private practice where I do direct primary care. So, basically, membership-based primary care, as well as lactation consults, and fourth-trimester care for new families. And I started the practice in January of 2020. So, obviously, right before COVID which was not ideal timing. So, I was just kind of picking up some momentum with local networking and everything like that when COVID hit and it really set me back because I ended up basically staying home with my son for three months and just working during his nap times.
And then honestly not being able to go out and do any networking or anything like that. And then I actually had a second child in November of 2020.
Ajay: Oh, congratulations.
Rebecca: Thank you. Yeah, so once I finally got childcare arranged for my son and I was getting back into some momentum, building the business, I had my daughter. And so then I was kind of, again, out of commission for a couple of months. And so I've gotten some momentum back this year, but I feel like I lost a lot of my momentum from initially and I'm not really where I was hoping to be at this point in the business. And I think my biggest struggles right now are just trying to know how best to use my limited time and financial resources to build the practice. And I will also say just because I am not where I was hoping to be at this point, I did have to take also a part-time job for financial support of my family, which is limiting my time further to focus on the business.
Ajay: Correct, correct.
Ajay: So, good. So, on your business − So, you said that you have a membership base. So, is it like a sort of a concierge medicine that you’re − Yeah?
Rebecca: Yeah, it’s similar − So, we don't like to call it concierge ‘cause that always makes people think expensive. Basically, my goal is to make it affordable primary care but under a membership base, so it doesn't require insurance. So, about 70 percent of my patients are uninsured.
Rebecca: And so it's basically − It's similar to concierge medicine, but not as − not with the concierge price tag, I guess.
Ajay: Okay. Okay. So, are you looking for − are you looking to build this business or the lactation business? Which one do you want to boost?
Rebecca: Ideally, I would like to boost my primary care membership practice, because that's recurring stable revenue month after month. And then the lactation side, I kind of do more out of passion rather than − it doesn't really make me that much money to be honest because it’s − the amount I would have to charge for the amount of time that I spend on it is not affordable for most people. So, I think I probably undercharge for that, but I just − I love doing it. So, I think it's more so a passion kind of on the side thing that I do and − but the primary care is sort of the main financial basis for the business.
Ajay: Oh, okay. That's − So, right now tell me when you have − How many members do you have in the membership that you have?
Rebecca: So, I have about 100 and − I think it's about 118, maybe, right now.
Rebecca: Yeah. And it's − I was at 120 about a month ago, but I’ve − every month, the last couple months, I've lost a few patients and then gained a few. And so I haven’t really been able to get over this, like, 115 to 120 hump. That's kind of been my last four months.
Ajay: So, that is interesting. So, you have 100 − And how did you find − How did you find these patients? How did they come to know you and then sign up for the membership?
Rebecca: It's sort of a mixture of some word of mouth, so through like personal networking, and people that I know, personally, referring people to me. And then also I do pay per click Google ads, and that brings in a not unsubstantial number of patients. And then a lot of social media. So like posting in local, like neighborhood groups, or in parent groups, that sort of thing. I've gotten some patients that way.
Ajay: Oh, okay. Okay. So, that is interesting. So, you are doing − essentially, you're doing your marketing on your own.
Rebecca: Oh, yes.
Rebecca: I did hire a social media agency recently, I think probably about three or four months ago, because I was having trouble keeping a consistent presence on social media channels. And I wanted to have a little bit more consistency. And so I hired them, and they've been helping me. They make posts and content and plan it out month to month and post on a − like kind of schedule posts for me so that I can maintain some consistency. And then I'll do some, like on the fly more personalized posts, when I have a chance or when I have time.
Ajay: So, that is a smart thing to do. I always tell people that you should focus on the thing that you are good at, which in your case, is to taking care of the patient. It's really difficult to do a very good job of marketing, while − if marketing is not your main job, right?
Ajay: Because some − So, what you have done is pretty smart. I know it always kind of stinks in the beginning, right? Because it costs money. And when you don't have money, unfortunately − you need marketing most when the money is scarce. But then it is like one of those bitter pill that you need to take anyway. So, it's very good that you are already doing that. So, that's good news. And I'm assuming you have a website and everything, right?
Rebecca: Yeah, yeah. I have a website, and I have Instagram and Facebook pages. That's what the social media company posts to. They also post on Google My Business. So, I have that setup.
Rebecca: And then I have a different person who helps me manage the Pay-per-click ads because I don't know how to do that. So, somebody else helps me with that.
Ajay: Okay, that’s good. Again, that's very smart. And how much are you investing on Pay-per-click right now?
Rebecca: My ad budget is $250 a month.
Rebecca: And then I pay the person that's managing them about 150 a month.
Ajay: Okay. And are getting decent number of − that $400. And are you getting decent number of at least the contacts from there or inquiries through the Google ad?
Rebecca: Yeah, I'm definitely getting − A lot of people who I don't know personally, or who weren't referred to me, tell me that they found me on Google.
Rebecca: And so − but I don't know if that's necessarily the Pay-per-click ads, or if it's Google Maps, because of my Google My Business profile. I'm not sure which of those is putting me in front of that, but
Ajay: You know your company should be able to give you the analytics, the one who is managing that company. But if not, just have someone you can − and those are the kind of thing where maybe again, one time someone can − will need to go and set up the analytics right on your website. So, that all those information you can get. Google has become very friendly now that way. They will give you − you will get a lot of information from Google. You see, what happens that if someone is calling from Google My Business, right, if it shows up there on the local search, and then someone taps to call Google knows it, right? So, it can − if you have someone set up the analytics, right, you will be able to −
And which, by the way, even the students can do that. So, a lot of people − it's not a very expensive deal. So, and I'm pretty sure that even your − the social media people or this Google AdWord guy, especially, or girl. I'm not saying − Should be able to set it up. So, that should not be a problem. The reason I'm saying is, it always helps to track, right? What is working, what's not working. So, that you can double down on the things that are working, and start to cut out the things that are not working. So, that's why. And digital marketing is very good that way because you get − you really know what − where you're putting the money, where it's getting wasted, and where it's generating some benefit for you.
Rebecca: Yeah. I mean, he does give me a click-through rate. But I think the issue that I have is that people − the primary way that people contact me is through − I have a form on my website where they can submit that information, and then we − And I don't know how to track − Maybe he knows how to track. I guess I should ask him if the person clicking on that came from a Google ad or came from Google My Business or where they came from. So, yeah, he probably can track that. I should just ask him.
Ajay: Yeah, yeah. I think that we − And just ask. Again, it will just help you the − understanding where is the money? I mean, if $250 − if it turns out that this 250 is generating 500 for you, then it's worth trying to making it 500 to see if it will generate 1000. Right? I mean, people will do it all day. So, it's just a matter of once you know what it is − For marketing, Rebecca, I always say that the focus should be on the return not on the cost. So, which is the hardest thing for someone who's not in marketing to do. But I can tell you that this is how the big corporations beat out the small ones because they don't care about what's the cost of marketing, their big focus is return.
And I know. I've been head of marketing for some really large corporations, they didn't care. You go and you ask for the budget, they will say, “What do I get out of it for that budget?” And that's what they put − they hold you to that kind of results. So, that should be the focus. So, on marketing. So, that's a reason − when if − again, the more you understand − that is where, as a business owner, your focus − you can focus and say, “What kind of results you're generating?” So, if the social media is posting, they can − they have a lot of analytics − By the way, Facebook advertising sometimes, or Instagram advertising, has − could also be a pretty good idea for you, by the way, in terms of cost per lead.
Ajay: The people − is pretty low. So, you should think about that, also, for that. So, but again, I think that now I have a very good idea. So, I just want to answer your specific questions that you have.
Rebecca: Yeah. I think the biggest issue that I have is, I don't think that I get a − the return that I get from the marketing is not probably the same or more than what I spend on it. Because like when − so, I get a lot of leads, but I think because it's a membership, it − someone has to already be interested in doing something like that before they − a lot of times the ads it's just people who are looking for a general doctor, or a general −
Rebecca: Or they don't have insurance. Which, my ads right now are targeted towards people who don't have insurance, because that's people who, I think, would benefit the most from it. But I'm − most of those people, I don't think are interested in a membership. So, a small subset are, but the number of people that click on my ad may − very few of them are actually interested in the membership once they get to the website.
Ajay: So, Rebecca, then I would say the − then there is a problem with the ad copy, right? So, the ad should make it very clear. And this is where, on the paid advertising, this is where sometimes it becomes confusing. And by the way, you may find Instagram or Facebook to be more successful. Because I think that if he's focused or − I keep on saying he. If the person who is managing your account − is it he or she?
Rebecca: Yeah, it’s he. Yeah, he.
Ajay: Okay. So, that is where the click-through rate, it really doesn't matter, right? You don't care. Click-through rate is not the client. So, my approach would be to really make it − tweak the language. Just ask your advertiser to say, I really want the ad to talk about the membership, not that you're looking for a doctor without − you don't have insurance and are you looking for a doctor, kind of thing. So, the more − You may get fewer number of calls, but it doesn't matter because the calls − again, no one takes calls to the bank, right?
Ajay: So, you would rather have fewer call and higher conversation and much higher conversation. So, the one thing that you can do is definitely copy. And the second thing is will be always also worth looking into is to see, are you using the right keywords for that? Because what happens is that there are some regular key general keywords, right? So, if you have, like family medicine doctor, I mean, of course, that's a very lot − there will be a lot of searches for that. But then, like you said, your − there’s a very tiny subset of people who would be interested in that. But if someone is interested in, for example, a membership program or even the concierge medicine, for that matter, but − it's a keyword.
And you can say, “Get concierge medicine without the cost of concierge.” I mean, that's a darn good ad so far as I'm concerned like you said. So, that − so, my thing would be, ask this person to focus on the what we call long-tail keyword, so the smaller subset. And see if people are searching. So, it's possible that if there are 1000 searches of family medicine doctor − I mean, just − I'm just saying your brand family practitioner, suppose there's 1000. But if you look at the primary care medicine membership or concierge medicine, could be only 50. But those 50 are the most relevant for you, right? So, those are the two things you may want to look into − ask him to look into.
So, one thing is, of course, look at the ad, make sure that the ad clearly says what you do, so that there is no confusion in the mind of people who are clicking. And then the second thing would be to go − to search for some long-tail keywords that are very specific to what you do. Again, you will have fewer clicks, but it doesn't matter, because all those clicks will be most relevant.
Rebecca: Right. Okay, yeah, that makes sense.
Ajay: And by the way, when you − the moment, you told me that you have a lot of calls, but most of them are irrelevant, that's the red flag, in my mind, clearly, that − okay, what it is, is the ad copy needs to be adjusted, and then maybe the keyword focus needs to be changed.
Rebecca: Yeah. I do also wonder like, I'm not sure if my messaging is maybe not clear through my website or through my social media presence. Like maybe it's not clear to people what I do. I do feel like I'm kind of all over the place because I have some stuff about lactation and some stuff about primary care and it's − I do feel like sometimes it's all over the place and I'm not really sure how to narrow that.
Ajay: So, on the website, you can make it very easy, right? Because you can just divide it very clearly. Say expertise in family care and you have like on the family care is here, click here, and lactation, click here. Right? So, the website, you can make it really obvious for people that you are a family care physician with expertise in this also. With a specialist in lactation. The website should be easy. Social media, I would say that you may want to create two different profiles for that. So, you can have one as a lactation specialist and one as a primary care physician. Because I can see that on social media there would be a sort of disconnect, right? If someone is following you or starts to see something interesting − lactation and that’s the issue that they have.
And then the next one if it is about family medicine, typical, like have you taken your COVID shot, then it may not resonate with them. So, that would be my suggestion, is you definitely want to have a very consistent messaging going to people. And by the way, if lactation is your passion, then I would suggest, create a different − do a − join some forum, or create your own forum on social media, right? And on lactation. Invite people and just do it more as a hobby. So, whatever is your primary business, it should be all about that, would be my thing. So, this − and this is like, should be − so, I would suggest, focus on it. Actually, that's easy. You can do that, right? On your own.
Rebecca: Right, right.
Ajay: But, yes, if you can − I would say lactation because it's a very specific situation and specific problem that you're solving. It should have its own social media, for sure.
Rebecca: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, ‘cause I do think that's probably − I mean, I did wonder about that when I started the business if I should create two separate, like profiles about that. But I just − I did − I felt like I barely had the bandwidth to manage one. So, managing the other then is −
Ajay: Yeah, because you are managing it, right? If you have someone else managing it, then life becomes pretty easy.
Rebecca: Right. Yeah. Okay. I'll have to think about that. How to do that.
Ajay: But again, if you − suppose you don't see that you have the bandwidth right now, then I would say just lactation, if that is not the primary business, just keep it as a secondary. Don't do too much. And frankly, if you ask me, paid advertising is probably the ideal for the lactation, because very specific, there is absolutely no confusion, and then you have a big competitive advantage there.
Ajay: If anyone who finds out. So, if you don't see you getting a lot of − Again, I'm not saying that just because it's not working, it will not work. I already suggested some things to do for paid advertising. But your lactation would definitely be the right one to do for the paid advertising.
Rebecca: Yeah. And that's, I guess − I kind of was hoping that the lactation piece would then transfer into patients joining the membership afterwards. Like, if I saw them for their breastfeeding problems, then they would want to sign up for primary care after that. And that's what I was kind of hoping would happen, but it really has not gone that way. So −
Ajay: But you know, I think that − which is − I totally understand. And the thing is, it always takes time. So, so long you have like, more patients coming in, and you're taking care of them, they're happy, you just have to just ask them for a referral. Don't worry about − it's much easier to ask and say, “Hey, by the way, I have a membership. If you know anyone who doesn't have insurance, and interested and it will be good for them,” it's − all they will say is they will have − so long they're happy with you, they're always trying to help, right? So, I always suggest to especially the healthcare providers, and the physicians, that you should have a − almost like a automated system of asking for referrals.
And then just ask people and say − once they're happy, just let them know. And the thing is that whether they would consider or not, it depends like you already said that if someone has insurance there's no point. And if someone is coming for lactation issue, most probably she has − if she doesn't have insurance, that's a different thing. If she has insurance, then she would have no reason right, to think about becoming this − joining membership. But having said that, if − so long, they're aware that that's what you do, and what kind of people that you're looking for, just make it easy for them to refer. Just make it easy for them to just send them a − just click and send them a − either add name and email addresses of people they know, and you just shoot the email or something.
So, there are a lot of those kind of referral platforms that are there, referral services, which is automated. And those are not expensive at all. So, that's what you may want to do is look for that, and ask them. Because the best thing that you can do − especially I know that doctors 95 percent, if not more of the patients are happy with their services. So, the best thing to do is just have a automated system where you're asking them for referrals.
Ajay: And you will start to get drip drip. I mean, even when in small, or for that matter, large business also, you almost never − I'm saying almost never because you see the result, which is, unfortunately, those are the only thing that are shown on CNBC. That how this company started, and in two years, they become, whatever, 100 million dollars. I mean, most of the companies grow slow. But you would get − it will start always drip drip. But as you start to have a bigger base, and you have a process in place to asking for everyone, you will start to see those drip drip will become like a regular flow, pretty soon, of new patients. So, that would be my suggestion, is just don't focus on converting them immediately, because we don't know their situation. Now, you do take insurance, right? Or you don’t take insurance at all?
Rebecca: No. I don't take any insurance.
Ajay: Oh, so even for lactation if someone comes in they have to pay.
Rebecca: Yeah, yeah. And I mean, that's how it is for most lactation practices because the billing is really complicated with insurance. I give them a superbill.
Ajay: Okay. Okay. Okay.
Rebecca: Yeah. I give them a superbill, and they can submit it to their insurance themselves. But I don't fill it myself.
Ajay: Yeah, so again − so, that's the main thing is if they have insurance − because they have a very − just because someone has lactation problem − having no insurance and saying that, “Okay, if you have no insurance, I'm the right doctor,” is straightforward, right? But then someone who has a lactation issue, and also no insurance could be a very small portion of the patient you see, right?
Ajay: Who have − So, in that case, as you can see yourself I mean, they don't have any reason to come to you, but so long they know − and that's where − I don't know if you have some kind of platform that you're using to keep − stay in touch with the patients on a regular basis. If you had that then, from the same platform when you ask them and say, “How was everything?” And when they say, “Oh, everything was good. I'm happy,” then you can ask them, right? And say, “By the way, in case you don't know, I have this other practice which is membership only based, and the people who don't have insurance are the ideal patient for me.” Just asking.
Again, out of 10 people if one or two know someone all of a sudden you will start to get, like I said − It will start with drip drip. It won't start with you’ve ask and then suddenly you get flooded. But over a period of time, it will just build momentum.
Rebecca: Yeah. Yeah, I do have − The scheduling system that I have right now, I have it set up so it sends an automated email after the appointment to ask for a review on Google. So, I could probably add another email like maybe a week or so later, like −
Rebecca: Yeah, and that would be easy enough to just do with what I already am using. Okay, that’s a good idea.
Ajay: Yeah. And just add in there the content so that you just explain to them what you do, right? And just slightly, I would say, with more information about you. And this is just − it goes from there. And by the way, since you already have the scheduling system and you have a database, do stay in touch with them on a regular basis. It can't hurt to just send them happy Thanksgiving, right, at the Thanksgiving time.
Ajay: So, that if you −
Rebecca: I guess, I was worried about spamming them. I don’t wanna be spamming them.
Ajay: No, but you are not spamming. First, let me − but if − in − it looks like almost every profession is getting these days, starred. People are like − but luckily your profession is one where right now which has the most trusted profession, right? People in general, they trust their doctors. So, no one − Not like hearing from doctor. You're not saying anything. Yeah, if you're just sending out and saying, “Hey, I have this new pill by the way. I am Dr. Rebecca. This new pill, would you like to buy?” Then they will get turned off. If they are getting just a happy Thanksgiving from their doctor, I think that most of the people will be surprised and say, “Wow, she remembered.”
I mean, I know it’s − I mean, when I get it, I know it's automated. But still, the fact that someone took the time to automate the system, add my name, and everything that I'm getting it is still − it's not like I feel bad. So, again, I'm not saying buy − But having said that, if there is a COVID-related issue, if you want to share something, we should be doing it. I mean, even in this country when we have what? Only 60 something percent of the people vaccinated, and the vaccines are just lying, people can go and get. Unfortunately, the people who are trying to force people, literally, now to get vaccinated are the politicians and the bureaucrats. Those are the people who are least trusted.
If the politician had started to − had gone and started to make a request to the doctors and say, “Can you please share with your patients?” I know that it will have a whole different effect, than some politician or some faceless bureaucrat telling me that this is what you have to do. I mean, I −
Rebecca: Yeah, so I do send a monthly newsletter to the people who are subscribed to my listserv, which is all my membership patients, but it never occurred to me to put my lactation patients on there, ‘cause I guess I didn't wanna bother them. But yeah, I should just put them on there. There’s no reason not to. So −
Ajay: No, no, no. By the way that CAN-SPAM law, it is not for − So, they're your customer, right?
Ajay: I mean, they're patient, but technically in the businesswise they’re customers. You can talk to customers. But yeah, of course, you always want to have the unsubscribe option there.
Ajay: That if someone does not want, they can unsubscribe. But yeah, there's absolutely no legal thing. And then so long − and you only know that − I'm sure that you're − because you're sending this general newsletter. So, it's not like you are talking about any personal information about their pain or so. So, there's no HIPAA issue. So no, it's totally legal. It’s 100 percent you are in compliance, by sending it to everyone.
Rebecca: Okay. I think I'm just, like, excessively worried about these things that I just don't need to be worried about.
Ajay: But it's good that you are worried about it. I mean, the fact that you care, that's a good thing. Really, there's nothing wrong with being careful. But yeah, you should be able to do that. And by the way, use that forum, to always remind them. And not all the time, but if it's perfectly okay, that once every other month or so, separately, you just send them an email saying, “I would love for you to refer my − a new member in there.” I mean, so it's perfectly okay. I'm just − I'm telling you. No one will get upset.
Rebecca: All right. That's a good idea. I mean, and that's easy enough for me to just do with everything I'm already doing. It’s like a really easy step to add.
Rebecca: So, that's a good idea.
Ajay: Perfect. Okay. So, did you have any other questions? I mean, I know that I saw two, three questions.
Rebecca: I mean, I have a lot of questions but, I don’t know how much time you have. But, I mean, that was definitely very helpful and very − like, quick actionable things that I can do, that I do think will make a big difference. And so that was really helpful. Thank you.
Ajay: Okay, wonderful. And good luck with your practice. I know it is always difficult in the beginning. But I almost − I know many doctors and just trust me. Two years back, you'll look back and say, “Wow, everything is working.” And so long you have a right process in place, there shouldn't be any problem. So, just take care of the patient. You're already asking for reviews. Everything is great. And good luck. And anything else, ever, you have any question, feel free to just drop it over email. And I know that my time is a little bit constricted, but I can always find some time to talk. Oliver can figure it out. So it's here and we're always − I'm always excited to help, especially entrepreneurs like you who decided not to go and take a job with some large hospital. So, this is wonderful.
Rebecca: Yeah, well thank you so much. I really appreciate what you're doing.
Ajay: Thank you. All right, Rebecca.
Rebecca: All right.
Rebecca: Bye. All right, and yeah, if anyone wants to find my practice, my website is www.vitafamilydpc.com. And I'm also on Instagram and Facebook at Vita Family Medicine.
Speaker: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Founder’s Corner Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to rate and follow us on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and SoundCloud. If you are interested in being a guest, be sure to visit our main page at www.gmrwebteam.com/thefounderscorner.
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