Medical practice marketing in the digital era requires the use of new tools, approaches, and strategies to stay competitive.
While most medical practices have undergone a digital transformation when it comes to handling their patients’ personal information, many still rely on old-fashioned marketing approaches — such as mailing lists, postcards, billboards, and brochures — to drum up business.
These tried-and-true tactics still have value, but they are difficult to measure in terms of lead generation and return on investment. One of the biggest advantages of digital marketing over traditional advertising is the ability to gain a deeper understanding of which activities, campaigns, and projects are generating a business return for your medical practice. This data can, and should, inform decisions about your marketing spend.
This guide will evaluate various digital marketing channels and tactics to help medical practice marketers and healthcare practitioners determine the right new patient lead generation strategy for their practice.
SEO and Content Marketing
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of earning trust, visibility, and traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. SEO has many moving parts, which all help the search engines deliver the most relevant content to the searcher at the right time.
SEO is not a quick process, but the continual improvements that come over time build trust with search engines, which gets rewarded with traffic, rank, and visibility in future searches.
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your site’s content so a search engine can better understand its value. Technical SEO focuses on improving a site’s performance, relevance, and structure in order to provide the best experience for users while making it easy for search engines to access and understand.
Local SEO is similar to a company’s listing details in a phonebook or business directory. Local listings help the search engine provide details about your medical practice, such as location, hours, specialties, etc. The more reviews, comments, and interactions your local listing receives can improve future visibility in searches in your area.
A link profile is the collection of other websites that link to your website and what context they provide about your site. Are you being mentioned and linked to by reputable organizations, or spam websites? A link profile will tell you.
Conversion rate optimization or CRO is the structured testing of various elements within your marketing funnel in order to find variants that convert more frequently than the initial version. For example, a CRO process for a landing page would focus on improving conversion rates over time by testing offers, headlines, button copy, and other page elements, and finding variant pages that convert better.
Content creation is another term for creating posts, guides, graphics, or other media that help educate, inform, or entertain visitors. By building resources that help people identify problems and then solve them, brands can make their website “sticky.” This means visitors will stick around to read the content (and other site pages) and share the link with others.
How does this impact SEO? Good keyword strategy in content can improve Search Engine Placement Ranking (SERP). Also, search engines pay attention to how users interact with a page — quality interactions will help the page get served more frequently in the future.
Focus on creating a few high-quality pieces of content like guides, infographics, or other original ideas that serve a purpose, instead of a high volume of short posts that merely gloss over a topic. Quality over quantity wins in the content game.
Content Promotion with Social Media
After you have created content that matters to your audience, you’ll want to deliver it to that target audience directly. Updates to social network algorithms have made it very difficult to get branded content on newsfeeds organically. Paid social media promotion is a great way to maximize the reach of your content and your overall medical practice marketing strategy.
Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn offer ways to target subgroups of its users and share your content with them. Most of the platforms offer precise targeting segments to reach people, patients, and partners most likely to interact with your organization.
Consider this a long-term approach to building your medical practice’s brand, and use it to build relationships with those people likely to need your services in the future. In addition, be sure to monitor the quality of the traffic you receive from the campaigns in Google Analytics. If the page isn’t generating quality visitors, try promoting it again with a different or more refined audience.
Paid search reaches people at the moment they are searching for something your medical practice provides. Paid search ads appear at the top of a search page, and can be customized to deliver the right message at the right time, no matter what device. When you’re up against competitors with a lot of reach, paid search is critical to your medical practice marketing.
Paid search can also be used to deliver phone calls directly to your office from mobile visitors looking for a solution. One downside to paid search is cost. Without an experienced PPC manager to build campaigns, initial testing costs can be expensive, as health-related terms can sometimes run over $75 per click or more!
Be careful and selective of the terms you bid on, your budgets and targets, and be sure to monitor your progress and results frequently to avoid wasted spend.
Through the Ad Display Network, your organization can reach visitors through a wide array of popular 3rd party portals like news, sports, or business related websites. Traffic from the Display Network is typically low cost, but the quality of traffic varies wildly. Focus on reaching people in a small geographic area close to your practice for best results.
Be cognizant of regulations when setting up your medical practice marketing funnel. Retargeting, the common marketing practice of running display ads to previous visitors of your website, is not permitted for many medical professions, as it violates HIPPA patient confidentiality.
Just like in real life, making connections and partnering with other businesses can help you become more visible in a local community. Be sure to add your business listing on local directories such as Google My Business, Yelp, local news sites, and other community pages. Check your listings frequently to make sure the data they have is accurate. Encouraging patients to leave a review on Google or Yelp can help your business in several ways:
- Social proof that others think your practice is worth visiting
- Businesses with positive reviews tend to be higher on the list for searches
You can maintain a steady stream of reviews by adding a review card during your exit process to remind patients.
Encourage patients to leave a review from their smartphone or home computer. Do not install a tablet in the waiting room for patients to do reviews at your office, as it can appear as if one computer is trying to game the system by adding multiple reviews.
Now, not everyone is going to leave a glowing review. In fact, you might even get a negative review every once in a while. How you handle the response, however, is everything. Respond to bad reviews professionally and offer an opportunity to make it right. Show in your reply that you are willing to make it right and address the concerns that they have.
Newsletters and emails are a great way to reach clients at a low cost. However, each one needs a specific purpose. Don’t overdo the frequency, or you’ll get marked as spam by mail providers, or worse, ignored by your audience. Your medical practice marketing should be helpful above all things. Success will flow naturally if you commit to helping patients and potential patients at every step, including with the emails you send.
Make sure you have an opt-in from a person before you send anything to them. Never send mail to rented or purchased lists, or add someone to a list without consent. This violates various CAN-SPAM rules and can get your business in legal trouble with financial consequences.
Add value to your patient relationship through email; don’t make every email a promotion. By filling the email or newsletter with useful information, your audience will continue to open and engage with your messaging. If you send only promotions, your audience will flag it as spam, or unsubscribe, and you’ll lose them as an audience forever.
Offering your expertise to an online community is a useful way to help others and find clients. There are thousands of forums, communities, and sites — from survivor groups to those living with conditions — that value expert answers and advice. This presents a great opportunity to build a name, share content, and gain a reputation among those you can help. This is a long-term approach, so don’t expect patients to seek you out after making your first few posts.
Niche communities can be found on dedicated forums, aggregator sites like Reddit, and on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Listen and learn the rules of a community before promoting your own practice. Almost all communities have rules of engagement. Many require you to earn status in the group by making comments or staying engaged for a period of time before you can make your first post. Understand that this is to prevent unscrupulous marketers and new members from spamming the forum with ads and offers.
Keep an eye out for sponsorship or advertising opportunities within the group, after you have established yourself. If the members of the site throw events in your area, offer to help and volunteer. This can be a great way to meet with new people while building rapport with the group.
Before offering your knowledge and expertise to a community, discuss the strategy with your legal team to avoid any liabilities, and understand the limits of what you can and can’t offer as advice to a person who isn’t a patient.
Helpful tools for digital marketers in the healthcare space
In order to gain better insights into your visitors and the results of your digital marketing efforts, these tools are a must-have for any successful digital marketing campaigns:
- Google Analytics — Understand website visitors’ behavior, study demographic data, and gauge the effectiveness of campaigns.
- Keyword Planner — Check on the volume, costs, and competitiveness for various keywords
- Promoter.io — Gather Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and determine the sentiment of your patients and clients.
- Hootsuite — Schedule social media, respond to audience interactions and review results from your posts.
- DataBox — Generate custom reports, view high-level marketing stats, and track performance week to week, month-over-month, and year-over-year.
- HubSpot — Use a full marketing automation suite to send emails, create landing pages, develop workflows, schedule content across social channels, and manage your marketing campaigns.
Digital marketing offers medical practices new ways to reach potential patients. Quantifying the results allows medical marketers the insights needed to make better marketing decisions. If you have any questions about digital marketing for your healthcare business or are looking for help in building your marketing program, drop us a line. We’re always glad to help!