Marketing A Medical Practice: Cultivating Patients Through Digital Marketing
When medical practice competitors are just a click away and prospective patients rely on a website to judge an organization’s healthcare services, digital marketing strategy becomes paramount to success. 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 patient 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 healthcare providers needing to prepare for a digital-first future. 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.
Digital Marketing Begins With Your Medical Practice Website
To attract new patients, creating a stellar website customer experience must be made a top priority. When not a focus, a lackluster website can actually become a liability to practice growth.
Here are some common website issues that we see over the course of our work with our health and wellness clients (and specifically working alongside medical practices):
A generally outdated site. Prospective patients can easily tell if your website hasn’t kept up with the times. If they find that yours is lacking – if it’s not clean, well designed, well written – this can actually hinder your ability to grow your practice. A clean and minimally designed website is easier to scan and understand, more accessible, loads faster, provides a satisfying prospective patient experience – and most importantly, builds confidence and brand trust.
Branding that distinguishes your organization. Your unique value proposition (what sets your practice apart) should be front and center on your site – and be reinforced throughout your website copy, design and navigation. Visual branding and voice should also be consistent across your website. Consistency builds credibility and reinforces professionalism, and helps prospects trust you.
Making your website mobile responsive. As mobile screens are smaller, navigation and CTAs need to be optimized accordingly. For example, try to keep the main CTA on the main screen as well as at the bottom of the screen. Also, vertical scrolling is more effective than horizontal. It is important to optimize the e-commerce function on the mobile version of your design as well, giving your customers instant access.
Ensuring easy site navigation. Among your top priorities when you think website design is the ease of navigation. Your visitors will use the navigation to find any relevant information they are looking for. Without clear navigation, you end up with disappointed visitors that exit your website for better alternatives. A great navigation experience is clear and predictable, user-friendly and simple, with a design that uses harmonious colors and shapes for a pleasant visual experience.
Adding strong and clear CTAs. A call-to-action is how you get prospective patients through the sales funnel. Without clear CTAs, your prospective patients have no idea where they are supposed to click next. Ultimately, a well-designed website has clear CTAs that push conversion rates higher. It is the job of the user experience team to do a lot of A/B testing on various landing pages to see what works best. Great CTAs are easily visible without disrupting the user’s browsing experience and contain an easy clear message such as, “Download for Free,” or “Learn More.”
Making your site accessible to all. Ideally, all of your website visitors and prospective patients should be able to use your website. It shouldn’t matter what hardware or software they use. This is the main concept behind accessible website design. In general, when websites are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can use them. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 15% of the population is dealing with some form of disability, which many times prevents them from utilizing the web.
Optimized search engine optimization (SEO). It’s clear that consumers are searching for practices online. But the ability to find your website hinges on on-page SEO (content optimization), technical SEO (crawling and indexing) and off-page SEO (referring domains, inbound links, website promotion). SEO is an area in which you should seek assistance from outside professionals who can audit your website and provide recommendations to ensure that your website copy includes keywords and phrases that will help your practice appear at the top of search results.
Your website serves as your first impression for a growing number of patients. What they find plays a significant role in whether the choose to seek care from you or seek it elsewhere. Your bottom line depends on your website’s performance.
Strengthening 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.
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.
Digital Strategies That Are Working
We recently completed the annual marketing plan cycle for one of our medical practice clients. As part of this process, we reviewed with practice leadership 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.
Healthcare organizations who had a well-rounded digital marketing program of paid and organic going into the pandemic – and who persevered throughout – 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.