Healthcare patients have more options than ever before. With so much information available online, these patients no longer feel the need to visit the closest hospital, a medical practice nearest to their location, or even healthcare practices with multiple locations in the community.
That’s why it’s so important to have a planned, budgeted healthcare marketing plan to reach new and returning patients in your area at the right moment.
Healthcare Marketing, even if you’re happy with your current patient volumes, can’t happen without a planned medical marketing strategy to keep your healthcare brand at the forefront of people’s minds. Think of all the reasons someone might decide to switch healthcare providers: changes in the type of healthcare insurance, relocation, dissatisfaction with wait times, or just one negative experience. You are not guaranteed to keep up your patient volumes forever.
Planning Your Healthcare Marketing Strategies
Doctors tell patients all the time that an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. It’s better to have a marketing strategy in place now than to wait until you find out your patient marketing CRM database is nearly empty.
What is healthcare marketing?
Healthcare marketing is a strategy for doctors, hospitals, healthcare networks, health practitioners, caregivers, healthcare providers, and healthcare marketing executives.
It is a process of strategic outreach and communications built to bring in new healthcare consumers, shepherd them through their healthcare journey, and keep them engaged with the healthcare system.
The best healthcare marketing plans integrate omnichannel, highly-segmented, and specific online and offline efforts to drive engagement and growth, all focused on certain market-specific key performance indicators and return on investment.
Healthcare marketing, when done properly can help your practice:
Keep patients engaged with relevant, personalized, and timely outreach during their journey
Retain patients over the long-term and improve loyalty in your healthcare community
Drive more qualified leads to generate revenue
Evaluate your productivity and re-align strategy
Increase your strategic advantage to attract patients in an increasingly competitive marketplace
Rapid changes in the healthcare industry markets require agility and focus. You may have to hire outside help and plan for a larger budget than you have in the past. But in the end, it’s worth it for that peace of mind–and to see your patient population volumes grow faster than ever before!
To help you along, we provided our top 15 items to include with any well-planned healthcare marketing strategy.
Related: 6 Ways to Market Any Healthcare Organization
It may take time to figure out what works for your brand. But eventually, your doctor writing a healthcare marketing strategy on laptopHealthcare patients have more options than ever before.
Healthcare marketing is an investment for doctors, healthcare networks, and healthcare marketing professionals. You may have to hire outside help and plan for a larger budget than you have in the past. But in the end, it’s worth it for that peace of mind–and to see your patient volume grow faster than ever before! To help you along, we provided our top 15 items to include with any well-planned healthcare marketing strategy.
15 Things to Include in Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy
1. Use consistent healthcare branding
You might feel confident your expertise sets you apart from other healthcare providers, doctor practices or hospitals. But let’s face it–to a patient, one white coat looks just like the next, and consumers famously are unwilling to buy a product or service from someone they don’t know or trust.
When you build a strong and recognizable brand and promote awareness of your brand, you go a long way towards bringing down your overall cost-per-acquisition.
You need to first figure out what your brand is all about. What’s unique about your healthcare network, hospital or medical practice? Is it the way you treat patients? Your family-friendly office? A spa-like environment? There is at least one thing that makes your medical teams unique, and that’s what helps patients remember your healthcare organization’s name.
Promoting any awards for sort of achievement is one great way of building trust in your brand when you’re essentially asking consumers to trust you with their health.
It may take time to figure out what works for your brand. But eventually, your healthcare marketing strategy comes together smoothly because you learn how best to represent your brand with any marketing materials.
2. Evaluate the online patient experience
A decade ago, simply having a website was enough to impress prospective patients and help them find your healthcare brand identity. But now, a website is healthcare’s new front door. It’s the first thing patients often see, and if it’s not optimized for user experience, it may also be the last time a person considers your hospital or healthcare practices.
Put yourself in a patient’s shoes. If someone were to land on any page of your site, would they know your practice’s location, or your medical practices‘ multiple locations, and primary services in about 5-10 seconds? Would they be able to contact the right person quickly? Do the imagery and wording represent your healthcare clinic’s, or practice’s, average patient?
User experience is an important consideration in website design. But sometimes, designers are so focused on making the website look good, they forget to focus on the patient experience. We often find that websites need to be completely redone. However, it might help to make small changes, like positioning the “Contact Us” form higher up on the page.
Patient experience also means taking note of how patients typically begin engaging with you, which could include channels such as your website-a third-party listing service, online ads, etc. Consumers these days want to interact with you on their own terms, and your healthcare marketing strategy needs to account for the different ways people can connect with your business.
Examine the path consumers take after first engaging with your health system, whether they end up calling you or signing a form or not. Mapping your patients’ journey can give you a better understanding of what consumers are looking for and what can trigger a conversion.
3. Build a responsive healthcare website
A responsive website is one that automatically adjusts to the size of a screen, so the experience is the same whether the site is accessed on a computer, tablet, your phone, or any mobile device. It’s the norm [FYI: Google has committed to a mobile-first index all websites, including Healthcare websites, since September 2020] in website design today–but more than that, it’s something search engines are looking for when crawling any medical website to determine how and where you’ll rank.
Google cares about the user experience, and it will prioritize competitors who have a site optimized for mobile users. In general, responsive sites work best for the mobile digital healthcare experience. But even if you currently have a responsive site, you should check that both your content and imagery continue to load properly (and promptly!) on mobile devices.
4. Test site speeds
Healthcare marketers who study user (that is, prospective patients) behaviors online have proven that patients today are less willing to put up with slow loading times than ever before. It only takes 5 seconds to lose a prospective patient who decides to navigate elsewhere to their healthcare thanks to your slow site.
In fact, it’s another user experience (or patient experience) issue that may cause your medical or healthcare website to fall in the search engine results. You can test your site speed at Google’s PageSpeed Insights here. If load times are slow, speak to your web developer about ways to speed it up. And, another healthcare marketing tip, to remember — check the site speeds of your competitors, within your “healthcare neighborhood”, or within you medical services niche.
5. Optimize for prospective patients search engine results
Search engine optimization is a powerful tool for getting your medical practices or hospital network to the top of the search engines. However, it’s a lot more complex than most marketing professionals realize. You cannot simply use the term “healthcare practice” 100 times throughout your website and hope to rank #1 on Google among doctors providing healthcare services in your area.
A large part of SEO involves using the right optimal phrases and keywords so that Google can understand your healthcare organization‘s websites and be sure you rank for the proper, relevant and pertinent healthcare-related search terms (e.g., medical conditions, healthcare professional treatment of any type). But it also means using those terms naturally throughout your content, as Google cares about readability first and foremost. And this is only the beginning of healthcare marketing best practices for SEO, which also include:
Having links pointing back to each page on your healthcare website.
Gaining backlinks from reputable health sites.
Managing your site index or sitemap.
Claiming your healthcare website on Google My Business.
Submitting your website to Google.
6. Utilize PPC and display ads for Healthcare Marketing
Google web page displaying dentist in Tulsa search result
Pay-per-click advertisements appear first in search results.
Search Engine Optimization (i.e., “Healthcare SEO) is the organic marketing strategy to earn a healthcare practice, hospitals, or hospital networks (or hospital systems) greater visibility online. However, even if your site ranks number one for a search term like “dentist in Tulsa,” there are still 3 or 4 paid advertisements above that number one search that people will see first.
These are pay-per-click advertisements, paid advertisements that are laser-targeted to appear first for a set of search terms. With pay-per-click advertising (also known as PPC or paid search), you can manage your budget and decide what you’d be willing to spend to keep your site visible at the top of the search engines. Your return on investment is clear and defined with both PPC ads and display ads that appear on the sidebar or top of other websites.
7. Leverage social media (the right way)
Too many hospitals and healthcare practices rely on organic social media for a large part of their digital healthcare marketing strategies. Organic social media means posting photos, updates, events, and more directly to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, and it’s a valid strategy to build your brand and let patients know what’s new. [Speakingof new, or topical Social Media and YouTube, here’s a Healthcare Marketing during COVID webinar.]
However, it shouldn’t be your only social strategy. Paid advertising on social media is a better way to reach the right people who may be looking for your services—even if you’re not already connected. Let’s face it: few people share posts from local healthcare organizations online unless they are already engaged with that group, or better yet, employed by it.
Paid social media is about more than pressing the “Boost Post” button that appears when you post from your business page. Like PPC or display advertising, it involves strategizing and budgeting to target the audience you want.
8. Ask for reviews from patients
More than half of Americans report that patient reviews are at least somewhat important when choosing a physician. Consumers want to see that others like them have had a good experience with you before scheduling a visit, making it critical that you obtain positive reviews from your satisfied patients.
Typically, patients only leave reviews when they are motivated to do so, or if they had an above-average (or extremely poor) experience. Unless you ask for reviews of your healthcare services, you miss an opportunity to feature positive feedback from patients who were satisfied with their office visit. This might be difficult for your front office staff to do–and they should not be required to evaluate each patient’s level of satisfaction as they walk out the door.
That’s why we recommend automated reviews as part of hospitals and medical practices’ Healthcare Marketing strategy. Here’s a brief overview of automated reviews: patients use a computer or tablet at the office to rate the quality of service they received on a scale of 1-10. High scores automate a follow-up email asking the patient to leave a review on their site. Those positive reviews show up directly on your website and can potentially counteract any negative reviews left elsewhere online.
Poor scores allow healthcare practices or hospitala a chance to ask the patient to elaborate and, hopefully, reach out and resolve the issue.
P.S.: Don’t forget that any client communication, even responding to a review on a third-party website needs to be empathetic and compliant with all HIPAA standards.
9. Follow up with patient feedback in your marketing efforts
You can’t help it when patients have a poor opinion of your practice and leave reviews on outside sites such as Yelp. What you can do, however, is follow up with any patient feedback and show that you are working on the problem. Sites like Yelp allow you to respond to patient feedback directly. With the right follow-up, patients may be motivated to update their review to let others know the problem was resolved in a timely fashion.
Reputation management should be part of any Healthcare Marketing strategy, but this doesn’t mean you should get defensive about negative reviews. It means upgrading processes and equipment and ensuring the best possible patient experience moving forward based on prior patient feedback.
10. Look into traditional media options
Many hospitals, healthcare groups, and practices are afraid to invest in external media opportunities: traditional advertising sources like radio, television, billboards, and newspapers. These are a major investment, and you must be careful about where you spend your money to see the best, tangible results.
Having trustworthy healthcare media buyers to make these decisions for you is the best way to make sure your advertisements get seen by the right people at the right time. A billboard in the middle of nowhere does little to bring in patients, but a television advertisement that runs on a channel with demographics that represent your average patient can do wonders for your ROI.
11. Build doctor referrals into your marketing plans
How does your practice reach potential referring doctors? If you’re not using a physician liaison, you’re not getting what you need. Too many healthcare practices and medical specialty groups trust the front desk to reach out to doctors who may choose to refer their practice–but the front desk simply does not have the time to commit to this!
Doctor referrals are some of your best organic marketing strategies for bringing in new patients. Your physician liaison should be visiting hospitals, licensed caregivers and medical practices every day, scheduling lunches with potential referral bases, and keeping in touch with potential sources.
See also: Grow Doctor Referrals
12. Check in with your current patients
Though it may not compare to digital advertising, word-of-mouth referrals should always be part of your overall healthcare marketing strategy.
Follow up with patients after an appointment or procedure to see how they’re doing. Ask about your patients’ families, or send out birthday cards with a personalized touch. Send emails and mail reminders for follow-up appointments (in-person or via telemedicine), and do whatever you can to maintain a healthcare relationship. Patients will always appreciate that you took the time and may make a point to recommend your local medical practice to their friends and family.
13. Become an authority in your specific field of medicine
Prospective patients remember you when you establish yourself as an authority in your medical specialty. Your PR (public relations) strategy should involve reaching out to the appropriate media outlet when you have something to share–it’s free advertising for your healthcare brand!
Stay up-to-date with your specific healthcare industry niche through LinkedIn groups and other online forums. Consider following sites like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to learn about interview opportunities. Submit healthcare community press releases from time to time–and consider hiring outside help to boost your visibility.
14. Track your marketing strategy
You should continuously monitor how your medical marketing strategy pays off in terms of ROI. Each year, your Healthcare Marketing budget should adjust in terms of what you want to focus on this year, based on a careful study of your metrics (performance analytics) so far. There are many ways to do this type of patient marketing tracking:
Use a CRM (customer relationship management system) like HubSpot to track how patients engage with your campaigns, via emails, call centers, or targeted landing pages.
Use Google Analytics to find out what terms you rank for in the search engines, and which terms you’re missing out on.
Track your pay-per-click campaigns by setting up Google AdWords.
Use a HIPAA-compliant call-tracking system to see how paid advertising is paying off and to monitor your front desk.
See also: The HHS/CDC’s Gateway to Health Communication.
15. Audit your front desk’s response to your healthcare marketing initiatives
You can have the best healthcare marketing strategy for anyone in your area…but if your front desk staff cannot handle calls properly, you lose money and opportunities. An audit of your healthcare patients‘ front desk, or your call centers, may reveal any of the following:
Long hold times for potential patients
Confusion or patient misinformation
A slow patient scheduling system
An inability on the part of your staff to discuss, or “sell”, your healthcare services
No strategy in place to get patients to book an appointment
We strongly believe that no Healthcare Marketing strategy is complete if you don’t take the time to train the front office staff properly! strategy comes together smoothly because you learn how best to represent your brand with any marketing materials.
At Healthcare Success, we work with clients from across the healthcare industry, from private practices and hospitals to medical device manufacturers. Trust our experience to transform your approach to marketing to attract new patients and retain current ones.
Reference: Healthcare Success