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Healthcare Digital Marketing Guide For Hospitals and Doctors

According to the American Hospital Association, there are over 5,500 registered hospitals in the US. What are you doing to build your healthcare brand and rise above the competition?

In the new digital age, patients are already overwhelmed with a ton of information about their life, work related issues, and solutions to their everyday problems – this includes their healthcare needs. Because of the overwhelming amount of information that is readily available online, they have gone form being passive patients, to informed consumers who expect more from their healthcare provider.

A recent sty by McKinsey found that patients have the similar expectations from their healthcare companies as they do from other companies they engage with throughout their day.

They found that patients expect, at minimum:

  • great customer service throughout their engagement with your healthcare company
  • your deliverance on their expectations in all aspects on your business
  • to make their life easier when dealing with your healthcare company
  • a seamless experience when integrating your healthcare services with their life
  • great value not only in price, but in experience

What is Healthcare Marketing?

Healthcare marketing strategy is a marketing process that creates exceptional online and offline experiences that places your healthcare company at the forefront of not only transformative practices, but works to overcome the challenges of a highly competitive healthcare market.

Marketing strategies could include SEO or PPC for your healthcare company, experience design, creation of thought leadership content, and/or optimizing business processes and engagement points – all focused  on the goal of creating a best in class experience that persuades patients to come to you.

When we view the healthcare industry as a business, we find that removing digital marketing or experience building throughout your customer’s life journey, creates a sub-par experience that leaves customers unfulfilled and sends them searching for new options. Having a best in class strategy for your healthcare company allows you to assess the opportunities and competitive threats, and build a road map to truly serve the patients needs. – Bill Ross, CEO Linchpin SEO

Fundamental Healthcare Marketing Services

Creation of a marketing strategy starts with creating goals and objectives that mirror the brand and experience goals of your business. Only after the goals have been defined, can a final strategy be developed to achieve these goals through marketing and internal process optimization.

There are a few categories that you’ll need to create goals for and outline marketing strategies. These include:

Professional Referral Marketing – A reliable and continuing stream of patient referrals from other medical sources is the lifeblood of many specialty providers within the healthcare industry. Building a successful referral network requires planning, and a process to nurture and grow professional referrals.

Content Strategy and Messaging – Having a well defined messaging strategy and executing a best in class content strategy can help boost you brand, increase your reach within Google and other search engines,  and position your company as a thought leader within the medical community.

Inconsistency in brand messaging will cause user confusion and brand fragmentation.

Healthcare Internet Marketing – From creating a great website design and experience, to marketing your healthcare company utilizing search engine optimization, Google Adwords, or social media, online marketing is a powerful marketing channel that can amplify your services and reach new potential patients.

Healthcare Branding: – At its basic level, healthcare branding is about standing out from the crowd in a positive way. Your brand consists of, and is built from, every engagement your healthcare company has with internal employees and external patients – all will either positively or negatively impact your brand.

Current Patient Outreach – This includes all the ways you communicate with people who already know you, primarily present and previous patients. Your current patients can be a rich resource for referrals, additional services, testimonials and/or word-of-mouth advertising.

Traditional Healthcare Marketing – Advertising in newspapers, on radio, television, or billboards is a great strategy to increase brand awareness and reach prospective patients that don’t know you.

The challenge with traditional healthcare advertising is knowing what impact the ads are having on your business. To set expectations, we recommend viewing traditional marketing as a brand building strategy for healthcare companies, rather than a direct response medium.

Public Relations For Healthcare – This includes planning and generating publicity and exposure within local and national newspaper, medical journals, or interviews.

Success within public relations comes from careful planning, proper timing, clear messaging strategies, and creating something that is truly newsworthy.

Healthcare Marketing Trends and Insights

  1. Creating custom and valuable experiences based on the stage your customers are in.
  2. Best-in-class customer service needs to be a top-down business priority.
  3. The website experience in healthcare begins with mobile first – but is not defined by mobile only.
  4. The experience you create for patients will determine how successful your website is.
  5. Consolidation of healthcare marketing tools, strategies and tactics will be under the microscope in 2020.
  6. The standard for healthcare marketing will be personal, individual, and location-based.
  7. Marketing Automation will be a practical and cost effective option to reach more users.
  8. Patient satisfaction will play a large role in hospital reimbursement.
  9. Hospital marketers must enhance and support employee culture.
  10. Sponsored content is, and will continue to beat traditional display ads.
  11. Well done health-related video content continues to be in high demand.
  12. Web apps are bridging gaps between desktop and mobile devices.
  13. Patient portals need an upgrade to align with patient expectations.
  14. Gaining value from data remains a daunting task that needs a strategic solution.
  15. Wellness initiatives are on the rise to help offset insurance costs.

Health Care Marketing Tips and Strategies

1. Use consistent branding

The first step is defining what your healthcare brand stands for, and how it is unique from other hospitals or medical practices. This needs to go beyond “great customer service”, or “best in class services”, and get to the heart of what makes your brand unique and memorable in the eyes of your patients.

2. Evaluate the online patient experience

Your website is often the first engagement point patients have with your medical facility, and if the user experience is not optimized and personalized to their needs, a potential patient may go to one of your competitors.

Evaluating your online patient experience on a yearly basis is a must. A basic test of this, is if someone were to land on any page of your website, would the page load quickly, would they know where you’re located, how to contact you, and what services you offer within the first few seconds?

3. Build a responsive website

Having a responsive website is the norm in website design today. With cell phones becoming the primary device used to search for medical information, and access patient portals, having a responsive website is not an option – not to mention, Google prioritizes competitors who have a site optimized for mobile.

4. Optimize for google organic search

When done properly search engine optimization is a powerful business strategy for getting your practice or hospital to the top of Google and other search engines to increase brand awareness and website traffic.

However, it’s much more complex than most people realize. You can’t just add a keywords to your healthcare website and hope to rank number one on Google. Additionally,  is strong Google rankings typically take some time to achieve – but it’s been shown in many studies that SEO drives positive ROI for healthcare companies who do it correctly.

5. Utilize PPC and Google Adwords

Paid advertisements can be laser-targeted by keyword and geographic area, can inform other marketing channels of the best words to use, and allow you to rank quickly within the search engines – if you have the money to spend.

6. Leverage social media

Many hospitals and practices rely on organic social media as a large part of their healthcare marketing strategy, but organic social media reach has been declining rapidly due to algorithm updates by the leading social media networks.

Since it relies less on connections and more on paid media strategies to reach customers, paid advertising on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is a better way to reach the emerging market of new digital savvy patients.

7. Ask for reviews

Typically, patients only leave reviews if they had an above (or below) average experience. Unless you ask for reviews, you miss an opportunity to gather feedback from patients who were delighted with their visit.

8. Utilize patient feedback

Patient feedback, including negative reviews is a goldmine that directly informs you how to provide a better experience. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback – use it to create new content, improve internal processes, and create better patient experiences.

Remember, one of the most influential engagement points you can have with a dissatisfied patient is following up with them. This proves you heard their problem and you are working towards fixing it. The followup can turn a disgruntled patient into one of your best advocates.

9. Look into traditional media options

Many hospitals and medical practices are afraid to invest in traditional advertising sources like radio, television, billboards, and newspapers. It’s a major investment, and as mentioned above, the marketing expectation should be brand building, rather than direct response.

10. Build a referral base

If you’re not using a liaison to reach potential referring doctors, you’re not optimizing your referral sources. Doctor referrals are one of your best strategies for bringing in new patients. Your physician liaison should be hitting the road daily, scheduling lunches with doctors and physicians, and keeping in touch with potential sources.

11. Regularly engage with current clients

Follow up with patients after an appointment or procedure to see how they’re doing and ask them how their patient experience was. Ask about their families, or send out birthday cards with a personalized touch. Send emails and mail reminders for appointments, and do whatever you can to build a long lasting relationship with your patients.

12. Become an authority

When you establish yourself as an authority in your medical specialty it helps build brand awareness and position your practice (and staff) as a leader in the market.

To help facilitate this, your content strategy should involve internal and departmental messaging strategies, as well as traditional PR strategies when you have news or thought leadership content worth sharing.

13. Track your strategy

You should continuously monitor and build measurement strategies to determine which parts of your medical marketing strategy are working, and which need to be removed or revised.

Each year, you should audit your healthcare marketing budget and adjust it based on an in-depth review of your business and marketing metrics, and their impact towards the goals you defined.

14. Audit your internal operations and processes

You can have the best healthcare marketing strategy for anyone in your area, but if your front desk staff cannot handle calls properly, and your internal processes are inefficient you will lose money and opportunities. An audit of your internal operations and processes may reveal any number of inefficiencies that would negatively impact the patient experience and hurt your brand.

Healthcare Stats Every Healthcare Marketer Should Know

  • Prophet study uncovered that 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience
  • Research shows that 44% of Generation X and 43% of Millennials are likely to switch PCPs in the next few years.
  • Two-thirds of health systems say their content marketing efforts are only “somewhat effective”.
  • The 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey revealed the growing prevalence of technology in the healthcare field with more than half reporting they are using 3-plus connected health technologies.
  • A University of Pennsylvania study found that 1 in 5 patients are not heeding their doctor’s advice and following through on specialist referrals.
  • According to Pew Research: 72% of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year.
  • 77% of potential patients are using search engines prior to ever booking an appointment
  • Of all internet users, 66% look online for information about a specific medical problem or disease.
  • 56% of internet users look online for information about a certain medical treatment or procedure. (Source)
  • 44% of internet users look online for information about health professionals. (Source)
  • Medical Practices that are actively blogging have 97% more inbound links to help with Google rankings. (Source)
  • 92 percent of the time viewers watching videos on a mobile device share videos with others.
  • Video on social media generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined.
  • 88% of Digital Media Consumption now takes place on mobile apps.