Marketing A Medical Practice: Building Relationships Through Digital Marketing
To quote from GWI’s Connecting The Dots 2021 report – when your competitor is just a click away and your customers are relying on a website to judge a product, what your brand stands for could become a hygiene factor in market competition moving forward. This puts the importance of digital marketing strategy to effectively marketing a medical practice in context. As the need to return patients to your practice coincides with slimmer marketing budgets – knowing the keys to effective, measurable, digital marketing are more important than ever.
What are the digital marketing strategies that are making a difference in medical practice patient acquisition and engagement? And how can medical practices make real human connections with patients through digital marketing? Read on for these answers.
Digital Marketing Backdrop
This chart from We Are Social and Hootsuite underscores just how pervasive mobile, internet and social media use has become – spurred on by the events of this past year. As a percent of the worlds population of 7.83 billion at the start of 2021:
- Mobile usage equated to 66.6 percent of the world’s total population
- Internet usage equated to 59.5 percent of the world’s total population
- Social media equated to more than 53 percent of the world’s total population, growing by 490 million over the past 12 months
As mobile has become our first screen (accounting for a greater amount of people’s time than live TV), users around the world spend more than 4 hours a day using their phones. 70 percent of all usage comes from time spent in social and communications apps (45 percent) and time spent in video and entertainment apps (26 percent).
All trends point to brands needing to prepare for a digital-first future. If the statistics are anything to go by, then consumers and marketers alike are both embracing the digital landscape and its expanding ecosystem.
Indicative of this, just a couple of the digital healthcare players thriving during COVID-19 included Teladoc Health (which saw demand surge to more than two million visits in the first quarter of 2020) and Calm (which reported 3.9 million downloads in April 2020, a rise of nearly 31% compared to January 2020).
As the statistics demonstrate, within this shifting landscape, the new digital consumer is embracing more digital products and services, adopting different modes of communication and forming online communities. And what’s more, they don’t plan on giving these behaviors up.
Building Digital Dialogue Through Social Media
The real and most valuable promise of social media has always been the opportunity to create a two-way dialogue between brand and audience. Now more than ever, patients want—and expect—medical practices to engage in dialogue and to provide answers to some very pressing questions.
This value-building digital marketing dialogue through social media can take many forms, including:
- Being as simple as addressing patients comments in a timely fashion in social media posts
- Educating through the use of streaming video
- Connecting through Zoom chats and webinars
- Engaging through compelling Instagram stories
- Inviting patients to opt-in for email
- Addressing patient concerns, questions and skepticism
- Creating online communities
- Hosting community town halls
When executed with the right end goals in mind, social media continues to be an amazing opportunity to connect through a mutually rewarding value exchange with your patients.
Building Relationships Through Digital Marketing
It’s easy to get carried away with new technologies and digital marketing channels, and forget one of the essential truths about what medical practice marketing is meant to do – build and nurture patient relationships.
A digital marketing strategy should be designed to create a value-building exchange between brand and consumer, rather then clogging up people’s inboxes and social media feeds with incessant pop-ups and interruptions that simply create more noise and clutter. The problem is that the digital marketing vehicles which facilitate patient relationship-building have become as much of an obstacle as a help.
Everything across the digital marketing ecosystem is conducted at such a breakneck speed these days that our attention is too focused on the short-term brand and business gains. The outgrowth of this is that the brand-customer relationships we’re meant to be building often take a back seat and become more fractured through individual tactics that don’t build on one another.
Imperative to long-term brand and business-building, there must be more of a measured balance between brand strategy and digital marketing strategy.
Understanding Your Medical Practice’s Most Valuable Patient
Knowing how to connect with your patient and what they need to hear and experience from your medical practice begins with the creation of a person-centered patient persona. And these personas should be created for each of your medical practice’s most valuable patient populations.
Beyond “target audience” definitions, these person-centered personas should take into account all the real-life factors that impact your patients – recognizing that how you communicate with them is the difference between your message resonating or falling flat.
Showing empathy for and understanding of each patient’s life (beyond that of a “patient”), will create not only patients, but loyalists and advocates for your organization. Person-centered personas do this because they allow you to more effectively influence, impact and improve each of the key stages of the patient journey.
Balancing Digital Marketing with Brand Building
The pandemic, alongside heightened environmental concern and a year of social unrest, has placed new expectations on brands to demonstrate the value they create for all of their stakeholders. In today’s environment, brand building is more tightly-wound with brand purpose than ever before.
Today, it’s incumbent for brands to put their values, not their visual identities, front and center. Consumers have begun to hold businesses accountable for their behavior, and they’re seeking out organizations that align with their core beliefs and to which they can relate on a human level. And these expectations know no boundaries.
Technology has given us the ability to identify performance at every moment. But in doing so, it’s led us to take our eyes off of the long-term goals of brand building and sustained profit growth. Even though we’re in a digital era, old-fashioned brand building leads to stronger relationship-building.
Measuring What Matters
It may feel impressive to be trending upwards in regard to website visits and “likes” on your organic social media posts. But these top of funnel metrics don’t create a complete picture of the success of a digital marketing campaign and your brand online.
Paying attention to the right data will show you how to make adjustments in real time to optimize your content, realize more traffic and clicks, and ideally more conversions. For each metric your medical practice shows interest in, ask why it matters, how you measure it and how it supports your campaign and overall business goals.
Digital Strategies That Are Working
We recently completed the annual marketing plan cycle for one of our medical practice clients. As part of our situation review, we spent time reviewing what digital strategies seem to be working now across the digital marketing landscape – looking at general research, investigating the digital activities of other healthcare role models and our own digital marketing practices on behalf of our client.
Here are some of the high-level takeaways:
- Digital consumption during the pandemic skyrocketed across all generations. The emergence of what’s been widely coined as the ‘new digital wellness consumer’ – has been one of the most well-documented fall-outs resulting from COVID-19.
- Following above, the digital domain has shifted from a niche of early adapters and digital natives to a mainstream consumer movement. According to McKinsey’s April 2020 COVID-19 US Digital Sentiment Survey, 75% of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to “normal.”
Multiple research studies indicate that a brand’s digital capabilities can no longer be viewed as a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘non-negotiable’, as consumers increasingly align themselves with products and services they are confident will be able to serve their needs from anywhere in the world and throughout any crisis.
We found through our research that healthcare organizations who had a well-rounded digital marketing program of paid and organic going into the pandemic – and who persevered throughout 2020 – were the most successful in continuing to connect with audiences. While acquiring new patients certainly wasn’t a key objective during this time, ongoing patient engagement to reduce patient churn to ensure future revenue became the priority.
- Similar to above, those organizations that maintained a consistent content marketing strategy – with scheduled posts and content (but with shifted tone and messaging in consideration of the pandemic) – maintained an engaged customer base.
- All types of video are resonating with audiences right now—especially with people shifting to more mobile device use. Instead of relying on high quality video production, clients and agencies have gotten creative and used assets that are just as compelling, but within lower budgets.
To connect with consumers on a deeper level, all businesses regardless of industry and including medical practices need to put brand culture, connection and community first, with technology playing a supporting role. They must deliver on their value propositions in 360 degrees, and respond in real-time to the changing needs of their audience, to drive the digital experience forward.
Since 1999, our hybrid brand consultancy / marketing agency has partnered with clients across the healthcare and wellness industry to build better brand-led businesses. Reach out for a no-obligation consultation.