We reached out to some of the top healthcare marketing and social media experts to learn how you can better market your medical practice in 2017.
Top 24 Healthcare and Medical Marketing Tips
1. Focus on a Better Patient Experience and Nice Audiences
Two major themes come to mind when thinking about the future of healthcare marketing: prevention and personalization. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to reform or repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving many organizations in the dark about the future of the healthcare industry. In 2017, however, hospitals and health systems should continue to up their game in customer service and preventative care.
Despite impending changes to the ACA, there will still be a cohort of the population with high-deductible health insurance plans. These consumers are more apt to shop around for healthcare. The way to stand out in a crowded marketplace is to provide a superior patient experience, from the information available on your website to the way the staff treats patients. A better patient experience is still the way to compete in 2017.
Additionally, medical practices should step back from big-picture strategies and focus their marketing efforts on specific groups of people. Niche audiences tend to be passionate about their interests, beliefs, and hobbies. Healthcare practices can plan marketing campaigns that zero in on their passions and engage them on a more personal level. For example, your next maternity campaign can target mothers who are into wellness and fitness. Or, your next orthopedic campaign can target student athletes. Your audience may shrink in size, but your variables of engagement will increase.
2. Strong Referral Program
We work with hundreds of audiology clinics around the country. For local businesses without the digital marketing experience, the number one ROI activity is providing excellent service and having a strong referral program built in to every touch point.
3. Valuable Offer That Patients Can’t Resist
Valuable content is still king, but for healthcare practices looking to get new patients immediately, look no further than Facebook and Instagram advertising. I’m not talking about “boosting” a post about your office staff’s Halloween party. I am talking about crafting a valuable offer that your target patients can’t resist.
I recently helped an orthodontics practice run a, “$500 Off Braces” offer for two weeks on Facebook and Instagram. The ads sent people to a custom landing page designed to collect contact information. Once the contact information was submitted, the office staff received an email notification and would call the lead within 5-minutes. It’s not a pushy “sales call,” but simply a follow-up call to schedule a free exam.
We noticed that a call within 5-10 minutes proved to convert leads into appointments 70% of the time. This simple process of offer, Facebook ad, landing page, and phone call proved to bring in 12 new customers during the two-week ad campaign. At approximately $5000 per new braces customer, the ROI on a Facebook campaign was well worth it.
4. Implement Formal Patient Experience Strategy
There is no question that the number one way to grow a medical practice is through developing exquisite Patient Experiences (PX) that result in positive comments on influential social networks. It turns out that patients do not have a clue when it comes to clinical efficacy.
What they do know to the depth of their soul is, rather or not they loved the human experience that they received. Studies show that when a practice goes from a five-star to a four-star rating on health grades, yelp, Google or other rating sites, it can be the difference between bankruptcy and massive practice growth.
The take away here is that most practices do not have a Patient Experience strategy that looks at all of the touch points that patients will experience throughout their practice journey. Gain insights about what your patience love and hate, create a comprehensive and formalized Patient Experience strategy and you will lead your market in growth.
5. Don’t Forget About Local Media
Medical practices should consider advertising in various local media as well as online. They can run ads. They can do advertorial. They can also target and retarget by keyword searches related to symptoms, treatments and various conditions and diseases.
For an advertising budget, they might want to consider using a budget of about 3-5% of sales for advertising.
R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations
6. Optimized Website with Fresh, Consistent Content
As we move into 2017, it will become even more critical for medical practices to invest in search engine optimization for their websites. As more and more doctors advance into the digital marketing space, website ranking and visibility will become increasingly competitive.
If you plan on reaching new patients through your newly designed and developed website, make sure you invest the time and money into SEO as well. Do your research and select a company that employs “white hat” strategies and tactics, and your return on investment should be desirable.
Content marketing is also huge in terms of website ranking, as Google looks favorably on websites that push out fresh, relevant content on a consistent basis.
7. Don’t Get Distracted By Design – Focus on Great Patient-Focused Content
Create content that truly serves your audience.
It’s easy to get caught up in your website design, SEO, and social media, but the thing that you should always come back to is: Are you creating content (video/blog posts/resources) that actually improves your readers’ health?
I see a lot of healthcare practitioners fail at this by talking about themselves, their credentials, and their work. Talk about your patients, THEIR symptoms, THEIR struggles.
And create the best content on the web to address their health concerns. Focus on that, and everything else will follow.
8. Cultivate Your Personal Brand
Focus your efforts on building your personal brand online by creating content regularly on industry specific topics, getting published in industry journals.
You can self-publish your content through LinkedIn’s blogging or posts section along with other social platforms.
This will not only build your reputation through Google search results (Google yourself and see what pops up), but also position you as an industry expert, which is invaluable in healthcare where your reputation and credibility are everything.
9. Automated Price Estimator for Patient Services
Patients scroll through the different procedures and services, add them to their wishlist and then submit the wishlist along with their contact info. They don’t see any prices until we see their name, email address, phone number and ZIP code.
This is all automated. They submit the wishlist and instantly receive an email with a breakdown of costs for those specific procedures from our cloud database. At the same time, my front office staff gets the same email with the consumer’s contact info for follow up.
We found that over 80% of consumers want to know cost before they even come to the office for a consult. Pricing isn’t the only pain point but it is the ultimate pain point. This weeds out the price shoppers and lets serious patients know what their financial responsibility is before coming in.
In my first year in San Francisco with no marketing budget, I found that 17.8% of consumers came in for a consultation after they submitted their wishlist. 62% of those that came in, booked a procedure. We found that price-aware consumers were 41% more likely to book than non-price aware patients.
In the process of using this Price Estimator, I’ve built my email database from 200 emails to over 5,800 in 3.5 years. With monthly e-newsletters, we have 12 touch points throughout the year to get those patients that submitted a wishlist to finally come in for a consultation.
In essence, we’ve married price transparency with lead generation. To be clear, this isn’t just for plastic surgeons or those only offering cosmetic services. This is for any doctor that offers medically necessary services that are typically paid out of pocket before a deductible is met. Which is pretty much any doctor now.
10. Google My Business Listing
Take advantage of a free Google My Business listing, ideal for a brick and mortar medical practice. Once you have created and claimed your page, you need to make sure that all of your information is consistent across web directories and citations. I highly recommend using tools like MOZ Local and Yext to save the time and hassle of updating the information manually. The tools do come at a price, but in my opinion, it’s well worth it in the long run. It’s also important to make sure that doctors are signed up on review sites like RateMDs, Healthgrades, Vitals, BetterDoctor, ZocDoc, and other niche sites. Being listed and having positive reviews will make them stand out above others.
Another important strategy is to make sure that each doctor is listed on their respective organizational websites. For example, a cosmetic surgeon should be listed on organizational websites like the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and so on. These are highly authoritative links that can really boost the rankings of your website.
11. Interactive Content
For 2017, I think health care marketing will shift towards more interactive content where the reader has to make choices that influence the outcome of the content. You’ve already seen this with quizzes and tests which were the most shared pieces of content in 2016. In 2017, however, this will go further and delve into interactive videos and blog posts. When readers have a direct impact on the content they are more engaged and this increases their brand recall.
Imagine healthcare firms with pieces on content that change based on user responses. Content that applies to a person with flu symptoms will be different than content that applies to a person with bronchitis symptoms. While this takes a bit more work, it allows for the brand to be at the forefront of the consumer’s mind. The consumer is getting truly personalized information in an age when everything is generic.
12. Genuinely Follow-up with Your Patients
Medical marketing is tricky territory. Talking about diseases that the practice solves isn’t really fun content for most. Moreover there’s tons of information already available on the net.
The best way then for a medical practice to market itself, in my opinion, is by taking care of its patients. And doing that well. If the patients are happy, you are sure to get a positive word-of-mouth, and that’s the best possible promotion anyone can have.
Create a digital follow-up program. Segment patients according to the disease and treatment they received. Schedule emails for getting monitoring feedback, informing them of health tips they must follow post their last visit, reminding them of upcoming appointments, etc.
Just make sure your patients are taken care of!
13. Preventative Health, Fee Growth, Word of Mouth, Referrals
1. Schedule health care vs crisis care
We need to focus on preventative health. The best marketing you can do is to educate clients on prevention, schedule prevention checks routinely and make booking patients in for at least quarterly visits.. Every patient needs at least a quarterly check-up and these should be scheduled at the beginning of the year. Toxins are impacting health – environmental, emotional, physical and chemical – and averting a health care crisis is about talking to every patient about the toxic pond we each live in. Patients who receive regular check-ups tend to receive a higher quality of health education. In turn, this flows on to the choices they make and these choicesbecome visible to family, friends and community.
2. Increase your fees and lead by example
The best marketing you will ever do is stand in your own light as an esteemed medical professional, sought after by patients and living in honour of your own true self worth. Each year you spend money learning and passing this knowledge to your clients. As such your fees need to grow by 7-10% every year. How you present yourself to your patients and your community matters. This means honouring yourself, your income and your own health as a priority. The non-conscious is responsible for about 97% of our thought processing, so when you post on social media, walk the streets and see your patients everyday be the person they aspire to be always and in all ways. There’s no need to “sell” to anyone when you are a magnet of the truth about what it means to be truly healthy.
3. Let people know that you are a “word of mouth” practice
In my practice we talk about this to our patients all day every day. It is so simple to do. Any patient who says “thank you” needs to be told in that moment, “We love looking after people just like you, and as we are a word of mouth practice please share your positive experience with friends and family.” In 25 years of developing a successful healthcare practice this has always been (and will continue to be)the best marketing we do.
4. Give to receive
Philosophically the outcome for every patient is for them to find the highest level of health possible. Be generous in your care and refer patients to trusted colleagues and specialists when you know that their health is going to be better served by another. When you create a network of professionals who each have the mindset of collaborative healthcare your practice grows. Take an honest look at how you go about connecting with other doctors. Do you look and feel desperate to receive referrals? The energy of interacting in this way may be exhausting. Instead think laterally and be the “specialist” who consults peer-to-peer with others. These interactions from a mindset of generosity, best care and you being the esteemed professional that you are may shift referrals from others up the notch you are seeking. No doctor refers to any doctor who he or she feels (even intuitively) is desperate for patients.
14. Publish relevant, quality content that answers their questions
The thing with healthcare marketing is that it can seem like more of a challenge getting your content found. The best solution I can give you is to create regular, quality content that answers the questions patients are asking, and also to create more customer-focused content on your website, rather than just talking about your own products or services.
These days, consumers are doing their own research, and it’s your job to help them do that – especially with something as sensitive as healthcare, where they want to know the facts before speaking to someone. Try to keep your content as relevant and valuable as possible to help establish trust and a connection with your readers.
15. Innovative Patient Experience
More regulated industries like pharma/healthcare are starting to make great strides in innovation and customer experience. I believe we will see virtual reality continue to emerge as a primary tool used to connect with patients and provide education, and as a selling tool for the pharma industry to use with its healthcare provider customers. I also think we will begin to see medical devices redefined. As previously mentioned, there are currently some health applications that can actually be classified as devices if they provide certain services. This will continue to evolve as developers, marketers and the Food and Drug Administration all come together for the good of the patient.
16. Be Personal, Go Mobile
This coming year will be an interesting year for healthcare. As a marketing professional working with leading healthcare brands including Blue Shield of California, Delta Dental and others, there are three top tips for the medical industry to be better in 2017.
- Make your email communications personal to the patient; Personalized emails are 6X more effective and currently nearly 40% of practitioners use email to stay connected with their patients.
- Be mobile accessible (online and with apps); 60%of consumers are willing to have a video-visit with a provider through a mobile device. In addition, drug companies have now launched 700+ consumer apps and 1in 3 patients use mobile health apps.
- Go beyond virtual solutions and consider wearable/portable hardware for marketing; It is projected that within four years, there will be 78.5 million connected personal-health devices in the U.S.
* Note: Data included in the tips was pulled from outside resources including Tractica.
17. Live Streaming and Snapchat
Social media will continue playing a very important factor in how medical practices market their businesses in 2017. Choose your social network wisely and make sure to dedicate time and resources to marketing the RIGHT way on social. If you really want to stand out and build a following quickly, hop on the live streaming craze.
Snapchat is hot right now and practices who are taking advantage of this platform are winning big time. Having an active presence on Snapchat is a great way to stand out from the fierce competition and build a following of brand advocates. In turn, this will drive new patients to your practice.
18. Combine Social Media with Outstanding Content
I think a combination of social media and outstanding content is the best way for medical practices to attract new clients and engage and retain the ones they already have.
Social media has become a powerful tool in a company’s marketing arsenal, but it has to be utilized properly to maximize value. For example, a medical consulting firm may find that usingLinkedIn and its publishing platform may be the most effective way of branding the company and attracting professionals. I use that platform to create content that is authoritative and helpful, and I find that it can attract the professionals I’m looking to get into business with.
But that can only happen if you write high-quality pieces that are informative and actionable, because when it comes to medical advice or health advice, end-users want facts and recommendations, not opinions.
But on the other hand, a pediatric practice with a target market of mothers may find that Facebook offers a better branding opportunity through the creation of education content and personalized videos that appeal to mothers who are looking for useful information when it comes to the care of their children.
The truth is, social media and content creation are so interconnected when it comes to marketing that you can’t really implement an effective strategy by separating the two. What I mean is that your goal should be to create valuable content that will appeal to your targeted market, and then publish and disseminate that content on social media sites that conform to that market.
19. Deliver on Brand Promises
Unlike just a couple of decades ago, today’s patient is now also a healthcare consumer, more willing to take control of their personal health and responsible for an increasing portion of the finances related to their care. This means that patients are much more deliberate in evaluating potential providers than they once were. They’re also now less likely to remain with a provider if they’re not pleased with the overall treatment they’re receiving.
Before the patient experience can ever be controlled, the provider must effectively identify and set brand expectations internally by communicating to stakeholders the importance of value, while defining the specific roles that physicians and administrators play in establishing a patient centric culture. The patient experience must begin from within in order for the medical practice to deliver on the brand promises and be reinforced at every touch point of the patient-buyer journey.
Failing to deliver on promises set by brand communications will only serve to drive away potential patients in favor of competitors that will better meet the patient’s needs.
If you’re not thinking that the branding of your medical practice in this value-based care era is important, you better think again.
20. Responsive Medical Website
One thing I strongly suggest for healthcare providers is to make your website adhere to responsive design principles. At CareDash, we find an increasing number of healthcare related searches are mobile. Not only does it make it easier for potential patients to actually use your website, it provides SEO benefits as Google gives well executed responsive websites bumps over those that aren’t.
21. Blogging is A Great Way to Tell Your Story
Blogging is a great way to tell your story, and if done right, can help take your online marketing to a whole new level.
However, as a busy practitioner, you’ve probably figured out that creating a successful blog also comes with some challenges.
This is especially true if you’re just getting started. Whether it’s coming up with topics to write about or figuring out how to find the time to do it in the midst of running a busy practice…there are some barriers you’ll need to overcome if you want to make your blog a success.
Here are 4 Ways to Make Blogging Easier for You and Your Practice:
- Set Up Your Team. As the saying goes, no man is an island…so think about your nurses, receptionists, pharmacy partners, referral specialists, social workers…all of these people can serve on your team. You may want the assistance of freelance healthcare writers or an editorial specialist, too.
- Developing a Posting Schedule and Stick to It. Something as simple as Google Calendar is a great tool. You don’t need to write a masterpiece! My motto is Done is Better Than Perfect!
- Be Conversational and Keep your Posts Short at First. In fact, many physician bloggers speak their blog post and have a team member or freelance content manager edit for clarity and SEO.
- Write with Patients and Caregivers in Mind. You are not writing to the universe. Your patients want to hear your stories and learn about health recommendations from you and their medical team.
I have found that nothing has helped me organize and clarify my thinking better than blogging. Start Blogging. Keep Blogging. I believe you’ll like it and your patients will thank you.
22. Get Involved in Community Events
At OraBrite, we believe that the four factors of social marketing that lead to success in office marketing are branding, social media, personnel training, and participation in local events. Our research has found that businesses that are engaged in the four social factors experience new patient growth.
Is your office looking to expand your client base and create a positive community image in your community for 2017? Your marketing message should be focused on the presence of the office and doctors in the community while addressing community health issues.
Participating in events in a local level allows your community to get to know you on a social level as well as begin to build a relationship. Giving out promotional giveaways with your office logo and practice information is an excellent opportunity to create brand awareness.
People are emotionally committed to a business they feel they have a relationship with and community events are a great opportunity to start building that relationship.
23. Know Your Competition and Where Your Influence is Most Effective
For medical practices, as for other types of marketers, it’s key to fully understand specifically who they are attempting to influence and, then, to understand as much as they possibly can about their target audience so they can identify the best channels to reach them and the best messages to influence a positive decision.
They need to do this in consideration of their competitors, as well. In healthcare direct competitors are obvious–e.g. other providers offering the same types of services. But considering indirect competitors can help to create more compelling messages. For instance, indirect competition in healthcare can include searching for information online, asking “mom” or “grandma” for advice, or avoiding care altogether. I tend to consider competition as “any available alternative” — or anything that will keep my prospect from choosing me.
Another important point for healthcare service providers relates to who they’re attempting to influence. A cardiologist, for instance, may be more effective in attempting to influence referring primary care providers than in going directly to consumers–the primary care providers are easier to identify/reach than larger pools of consumers and they exert a great deal of influence over the patients they serve.
24. Start Engaging Digitally With Patients
My tip for marketing health care practices in 2017 is to get your head out of the sand and start engaging digitally with patients. There are four key ways:
- Partner with patients. Invite patients to Google their conditions and bring questions to their appointments.
- Publish health content online. You can’t complain about bad health information online if you aren’t publishing good information.
- Track your online reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and Health Grades. Listen to the feedback to improve the patient experience rather than being defensive.
- Make health care more convenient and less scary. Make it easier for patients to pay their bill online, or to learn about your providers, or where to park. Make it less scary by live-streaming on Periscope or Facebook Live.
Engaging with patients digitally will do more for your practice than any marketing campaign.
Good luck marketing your practice in 2017!
If you need help, get a practice marketing checkup which is a complete assessment and diagnosis of your online presence.
Or, schedule a consultation to speak with a practice marketing professional.