Healthcare marketing strategy
Attracting patients is more challenging than ever before. A successful marketing strategy is key to setting your organization apart.
Why is healthcare marketing important?
Traditionally, many healthcare organizations relied on word of mouth in order to attract patients—or, often, a healthcare facility might have been the only real choice in the area for patients.
Now, consumers have more options and rely on more than simple word of mouth to find the right provider. To ensure your organization has a fighting chance to attract patients, it’s necessary to have a comprehensive healthcare marketing strategy in place.
—but why else is a healthcare marketing strategy important?
An on-going marketing program is key for building trust with patients and the community. A successful marketing strategy will employ key messages that are repeated and reaffirmed throughout various marketing assets.
Those key messages will start to build your organization’s reputation—they will become the messages patients believe about your organization. Overtime, they will build trust with patients and cement your organization’s reputation within your community.
Keep up with digital-first consumers
In order to grow your organization, it’s necessary to attract new patients—not just retain existing ones. Patients quickly switch providers if they’re unsatisfied with their experience, and when they do switch, they look for information online.
In fact, Google found that 75% of users find information online through their smartphones to help them make a decision about a healthcare provider. Grow your organization by using marketing strategies that get your organization in front of patients searching for new providers.
Healthcare marketing is a competitive space, and you can bet your rivals are using savvy marketing strategies to cement their reputations and attract new patients.
Not having a marketing strategy can harm your organization, as you’ll quickly forfeit ground to competitors who are out marketing you.
Get started with your healthcare marketing strategy
Before jumping into tips on how to optimize your healthcare marketing strategy, it’s important to get a solid foundation in place. Get started with these steps.
Understand your target audience.
While this step sounds simple, it’s critical to get it right in order to run a successful marketing program. It’s helpful to divide your target audience up into different segments or personas. For example, you might want to have a segment for different treatments or operations—or you might want to create different personas that represent different patient groups, like parents, elderly, young men, etc.
Identify what your different personas or segments want to know and understand at each stage of their decision making process, then you can target them with different content that addresses those needs at the right time.
Assess what your competition is doing
Make sure your marketing strategies are competitive and stay inspired by looking into what your direct and indirect competitors are doing. Look at the social media channels, organic and paid search results, blog/resources, and media coverage of both your local and non-local competitors.
Take a look at the personas they target, the messaging they use, the keywords they rank for, how their ads are structured, what their Google reviews look like, what types of campaigns they’re running, etc. Nonlocal competitors can help inspire your marketing strategy and keep you informed about best practices, while local competitors will show you exactly what your organization needs to do in order to attract patients.
Focus on your differentiators
While looking into your what your competitors are doing is important for keeping up with the market, to truly stand out, you need to focus on what sets your organization apart.
For inspiration, look into reviews of your organization, talk to frontline staff about why patients choose you, and interview patients (if possible). This will help you hone in on your differentiators. Once you’ve done that, make sure to incorporate those differentiators and why they matter into all of your key messaging.
Define your marketing goals and objectives
You can’t know whether your marketing program is a success unless you’ve benchmarked your current standing and know where you want to go from there.
Start by setting a few larger goals for your marketing strategy (e.g. increase self-service online). Then, for each goal, identify key performance indicators (KPIs) (e.g. increase number of appointments booked through the website by 15%).
The question of budget is a big one! Think in terms of actual spend (e.g. on PPC or ads), as well as resources (e.g. salary for marketing employees, tools, etc.). Once you identify the marketing budget you can use and the cost of your resources, then you can start to allocate budget according to priority. Try starting small with certain initiatives, so you can test what works and what doesn’t.
Healthcare marketing strategy tips:
Now that you have a foundation in place for your healthcare marketing strategy, you can move into practical execution tactics.
1. Develop a strong brand
Healthcare organizations live and die by their reputation, so it’s important to develop a strong, trustworthy brand. Going back to the marketing strategy fundamentals discussed earlier, start creating your brand pillars with three steps:
- Get a thorough understanding of your audience
- Research what your competitors are doing
- Identify your brand differentiators
Once you’ve done those three things, you’ll be able to identify how your brand can uniquely address your patients’ needs and pain points, then you can build messaging and guidelines around those pillars.
Once you have messaging in place, create brand guidelines around them. What does your brand identify look, sound, and feel like? How can your messaging be reflected on your website, social media channels, videos, emails, etc.? Creating these guidelines will make it easier for the wider marketing team to consistently represent your brand.
Consider using a brand compliance tool that will help you enforce brand and messaging guidelines by catching instances where your marketing materials are out of alignment with your guidelines.
2. Track progress with an analytics tool
If you look back at one of the fundamentals of your marketing strategy—define your marketing goals and objectives— it’s easy to see that in order to effectively track progress towards your objectives and understand what’s helping you succeed or not, you need to use a tool that allows you to see that data. That’s where a website analytics tool comes in.
An analytics tool will allow you to track the KPIs you’ve outline for your healthcare marketing goals. But more than that, an analytics tool will give you context around that KPI.
A web analytics tool can shed light on how patients behave on your website, including how they find your website, how they move through the site, the pages they visit, and whether they’re completing the actions that feed into your marketing goals. With this information, you can track progress towards your goal and gain an understanding of what steps on your website are working and which ones could use improvement.
3. Create high quality content
High quality content should be a key part of any healthcare marketing strategy. Use quality content to:
- Improve your SEO. Arguably the most important factor in a solid SEO strategy is high-quality content. In order for your site to appear in search results, you need to have content that search engines can show users.
- Attract more users to your website. You can use content as a way to attract more users to your site. By creating a blog or resource center on your healthcare site, you can add helpful resources for patients and widen the possible searches you can show up for.
- Build trust. About 83% of adults on the internet have searched for health information. Providing users with high quality information that solves their problem or gives them more information is a great way to build trust with potential patients.
- Use content as the core of your marketing program. High quality content pieces should serve as the core of your marketing program. Use informational pieces to educate patients, while also introducing them to your brand.
4. Take a local approach
Many patients search for terms that are specific to where they’re located, like “pediatrician in Seattle.”
In order to show up for those geographic-specific searches, you can use organic SEO, paid search ads, or optimize your Google Business page:
- Organic SEO. Do keyword research to determine which local keywords have the most volume. Look into keywords for your city, metro area, state, etc., plus key services you offer. From there, you can either create content-rich landing pages optimized for those local searches or optimize existing service pages with local keywords.
- Paid search. Add local keywords, including “near me” and your city, state, and metro area to your paid search strategy. On your paid search landing pages, make sure to include local reviews, media mentions, or awards to build on local trust and presence.
- Google My Business. Start by creating a Google My Business account and claim your business listing. From there, create a detailed business profile with photos, your website, opening hours, and an updated address and phone number. You can also build patient trust by responding to customer reviews. This will help ensure your profile shows up for local searches.
These strategies will help you start tapping into highly relevant, local searches from potential patients looking for services like yours.
5. Focus on search engine optimization (SEO)
A recent study found that 80% of US adults conducted a healthcare-related search in the last year. That’s a huge market of potential patients you can tap into, but to do that, your site needs to be correctly optimized to show up for online searches.
By focusing more efforts on SEO, your healthcare organization will be able to:
- Grow your patient base. Most patients turn to search engines when it comes to researching healthcare providers. Make sure your website provides an easy way to book an appointment or get in touch, has clear opening hours, a phone number and address, and has high quality content that answers their questions. This will ensure that when patients find your site via search engines it’s easy for them to convert and get the information they need.
- Stay competitive. Healthcare is a competitive space, which makes investing in SEO critical for your healthcare marketing strategy. If a patient searches for a hospital in their area and your main competitor shows up as the first or second search result, while your facility isn’t even on page two, you’re going to lose valuable opportunities for patient growth.
- Cement your brand reputation. Patients will often discover your brand for the first time via a search engine, so it’s critical to have your high traffic pages optimized and in-line with your key messaging.
If you need thorough, practical tips for your SEO, check out this resource on SEO for healthcare.
6. Improve your website’s speed and mobile usability
According to one study, almost half of visitors expect a page to load within two seconds and 64% of smartphone users expect a website to load in four seconds or less.
If your site is slow, potential patients will abandon it, which makes the work you did in your marketing strategy all for nothing. Web speed impacts conversion rates, your SEO rankings, how satisfied patients are with your digital experience, and how well you attract mobile users.
According to Statista, about 50% of global web traffic comes from mobile devices (that number is about 60-65% in the US), making it critical that your healthcare website is optimized for speed on mobile devices.
7. Consider consolidating your search efforts
One of the biggest marketing mistakes your healthcare organization can make is running your SEO and PPC efforts in silos. While SEO drive “free” traffic to your site, it can take a long time to see any results. PPC, on the other hand, can get you traffic fast.
A strategic marketing program will use both PPC and SEO, but the trick is making sure they work in tandem. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Cover strategic keywords with PPC until your organic pages catch up. If you want to rank organically for priority keywords, but just created your organic landing page, it could be months before you see any organic traffic. Instead, fill that gap with PPC ads that point to your SEO landing page until it starts ranking.
- Use keyword learnings from PPC for your SEO program. Ads are a great way to test new keywords to see if they convert. Try running PPC ads for keywords you’re thinking about using for your organic strategy to see if your target audience clicks through. This will help you pinpoint keywords with a higher likelihood of success.
- Use PPC for testing. Testing landing pages can be a very slow process with SEO, because you need to wait weeks or months to get enough traffic for testing. With PPC, you can drive traffic to different landing pages to see which one converts better, then use the winning version for SEO. You can also test different ad copy in your PPC ads to see which one gets more clickthroughs, then use that messaging in your SEO landing page.
- Don’t bid on keywords that you rank well for organically. If you rank in the top 1-2 positions for a keyword, then it’s unlikely bidding on those keywords will bring you additional value. Studies have found that consumers generally trust organic results more than paid ones, so don’t waste money on PPC ads when you show up at the top of organic results. This can be especially true for branded keywords.
8. Test and iterate on your website
The digital experience you provide is extremely important for patients. Since your website is the main face of your digital experience, it’s critical that your website provides patients with exactly what they need—and none of what they don’t.
One mistake you should avoid is assuming since your website performs well now, that it will continue to do so in the future. Patient expectations evolve quickly, so make sure you’re constantly testing your website.
Use an A/B testing tool that lets you test different headlines, CTA buttons, layouts, etc. This will help you ensure that you’re making data-driven decisions on how to improve your website.
You can also use an analytics tool to track patient journeys—look at which pages patients visit first, where they go from there, and where they bounce. This will help you spot gaps in the user journey and adjust accordingly. Use heat maps to see where patients click, how far they scroll, and where they move their mouse.
9. Ask for patient reviews
84% of people trust online reviews for healthcare organizations just as much as a personal recommendation. On top of that, 60% of consumers say a negative review will cause them to not use a provider. Google also uses patient reviews as a trust factor that they take into account for organic rankings.
Simply put, reviews are absolutely critical for any healthcare provider, so don’t be shy about asking for them. It’s typically best to follow up shortly after a patient has interacted with your organization, so consider sending patients a request for reviews a few hours or a day after their experience. Make the request as personal and friendly as possible, since you’re asking for a favor from the patient.
Negative reviews will happen, so it’s important that you address them quickly and thoroughly. If someone isn’t happy with their experience, get to the bottom of why and see if there’s anything you can do to remedy the situation. Always pass a negative review on to the responsible person for feedback, so your organization can improve.
10. Invest in your social media presence
Remember that 80% of internet users in the US conduct personal health research online—and a big part of online research includes social media.
If you get your social media presence right, you can use it to your advantage to:
- Build a more personal rapport with patients. By offering educational resources with an empathetic and helpful approach, providers can create a more human connection with their patients. Healthcare can be intimidating and stressful, so build an empathetic and approachable social media presence to put patients at ease.
- Solidify your reputation. Providing genuinely helpful tips and information can help cement your organization’s reputation. Feature your providers to build their profiles and the profile of your practice.
- Create more awareness and less stigma. There are lots of misunderstandings about healthcare, procedures, treatments, insurance, etc. And on top of that, finding credible information online can be difficult for consumers. By providing useful, helpful, and accurate information via your social media channels, you’re contributing to a more educated public who are comfortable with healthcare.
11. Digital inclusion and web accessibility
Perhaps more than any other sector, healthcare providers need to pay attention to web accessibility and digital inclusion. All healthcare websites should be usable for the elderly and disabled. Doing this not only provides a better digital experience for your patients, but search engines also include it in their SEO ranking factors.
On top of that, healthcare websites need to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means aiming for WCAG 2 Level AA compliance.
The tools you need to kickstart your healthcare marketing strategy
Now that you have the fundamentals of your healthcare marketing strategy in place, as well as specific tips for executing on that strategy, it’s time to make sure your tool stack is in good shape.
In order to execute on your strategy and track your progress, it’s a good idea to invest in the following tools.
- Web analytics tool. An analytics tool will allow you to track the KPIs you’ve outline for your goals and give you context around that KPI. See how patients behave on your website, including how they find your website, how they move through the site, the pages they visit, and whether they’re completing the actions that feed into your marketing goals.
- SEO tool. In order to improve your SEO rankings across the board, it’s critical to use an enterprise level SEO platform that both your marketing and web teams can use to optimize your site holistically.
- Google search console. Google’s own search tool is a place where you can monitor and maintain your site’s SEO performance. You can also use it to troubleshoot any issues and receive alerts if there are problems indexing your site.
- Website quality assurance tool. Healthcare websites are usually large, complex sites that have dozens or hundreds of web contributors. That makes staying on top of content quality, broken links, etc. challenging at best. Automate your website quality as much as possible by using a tool that automatically scans your site for errors.
- Google Ads. Use Google Ads to manage your paid search campaigns. Google Ads is your one-stop-shop for setting up your campaigns, optimizing for mobile friendliness, managing spend, setting up your bidding strategy, and more.
- Social media platform. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to manage your social media presence through individual social media channels. Instead, use a tool where you can draft and schedule posts across all your social channels.
- A/B testing tool. To truly optimize your site to perform at its best, use an A/B testing tool that allows you to test different components on your site, including CTA, colors, headlines, copy, images, etc.
- Marketing automation platform. A marketing automation platform can help you stay on top of your various campaigns—including emails and landing pages. A platform like this will help you send targeted emails at scale and check up on your click-through-rates and conversions.
- Website accessibility software. An accessibility tool can automatically scan your website for compliances errors and show you how to fix them. A good tool will let you set your own WCAG compliance goals and prioritize issues based on severity.
Siteimprove: An essential component of your healthcare MarTech stack
Siteimprove helps you stay on top of your healthcare marketing strategy from a single platform—driving growth and providing a better site experience.
Our solution is designed to cover the full range of your marketing needs.
- Accessibility. Siteimprove’s web accessibility tools enable you to easily follow and adhere to international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) across all conformance levels. Remove barriers that damage the user experience and safeguard your brand reputation in order to create an inclusive digital presence for all.
- Quality Assurance. Make sure your website content is in outstanding shape by identifying old and irrelevant content, broken links, or outdated branding or wording. With Siteimprove Quality Assurance, you can easily create frictionless user experience that stands out from competition and supports your brand.
- SEO. Strong SEO drives website traffic, brand awareness, and conversions. But between keyword monitoring, optimizing content, analyzing competitors, and reporting ROI, it can be hard to keep track of all the moving parts in your SEO strategy. The answer? Siteimprove SEO.
- Ads. Siteimprove Ads automatically audits your Google Ads campaigns for improvements in ads, landing pages, and budgets so you can save time on the basics and focus on growth. With actionable insights and practical recommendations, you can effortlessly align across teams and start optimizing your ads immediately.
- Analytics. Siteimprove Analytics gives you powerful insights into visitor behavior and website performance with intuitive dashboard and easy-to-use reporting, so you can make data-driven decisions to consistently deliver business results across teams.
- Performance. Siteimprove Performance helps optimize your website’s load time with user-centric audits, easy-to-understand visualizations, and clear explanations, so you can deliver the best visitor experience.
- Data Privacy. Tightening data privacy regulations and increased data handling make it almost impossible to manually keep track of the information you are responsible for. Siteimprove Data Privacy automates how you manage your website’s personal data so that it's easier to protect.