Essential Digital Marketing for Healthcare Practitioners
Your goal as a healthcare practitioner is to guide others in their wellness journey. Although the path to health and happiness may not have changed much in the preceding decades, how patients find the trailhead certainly has. The key is to meet these potential patients where they are in their search for help. More often than not, this is online.
This means expanding your scope and presence across digital platforms so those in need of help can find you fast and find you first. These strategies will not only connect you with plenty of new patients, but help you stay connected and involved with the ones you treat already. In this resource, we aim to help you help others — better, faster, and more effectively.
Why go digital?
Your patient records are no longer relegated to paper, neither should your outreach strategy. Not only will the strategies discussed below reach those in need of immediate care, and educate people in need, they are also a necessary and helpful lead generation tool for your business to acquire new and loyal patients.
To put the importance in perspective, Google alone receives 1 billion health-related searches daily – that’s an average of 70,000 searches per minute, or 7% of all Google searches! If you’re relying solely on personal recommendations and a listing in the phone book, your business model is not only prehistoric, it will likely meet a similar fate as the dinosaurs.
Before we get into the technicalities of marketing tools themselves, let’s broadly identify and explain some of the most important strategies for healthcare practitioners. Afterwards, we will see how these can be used in conjunction with the most effective digital marketing tools. You will find helpful links embedded in the text that lead to relevant and thorough how-to articles throughout.
Having a website is not enough
We’re going to assume that you have a website. That’s a great start. If you’ve consistently updated the site since it was created in 1999, you’re getting closer. But there are a number of absolutely critical elements that must be present on your website today in order to make it perform at the level of care you provide. Here are a few elements you can accomplish yourself:
- Find your Brand Voice. Be consistent and purposeful with how you engage your patients with your message.
- Keep navigation simple. Have a logical tree- like structure, starting from the header menu options. This improves the user experience when pages and information are easy to find and exactly where they expect to find them. If users can’t find the information they need fast, they quickly abandon ship.
Below, find an example of a simple, logical site structure for a local practice:
- The aesthetics should reflect what a patient expects from a healthcare professional while being consistent with your brand voice. It should be clean, direct, and informative, while also capturing the personality of your practice. Give it a unified look and consistent feel. Utilize negative/white space and bullet points for readability. There is no need for fancy widgets that may distract and confuse.
- Optimize for speed. Searchers expect immediate results. Today, when a site fails to load immediately, the user abandons the page for another. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool for personalized tips. To emphasize these points, just have a look at the ‘bounce rate’ among mobile users in relation to load times:
- Include pictures and profiles of you and your team — this both humanizes your practice and puts the potential patient at ease. Original, high-quality pictures are also good for SEO (which we will touch on later).
- Track all your website goals by creating end-to-end setup and set up via Google analytics. This ensures that marketing goals are quantifiable.[not sure this sentence makes sense, or maybe I’m too dumb]
- Have appropriate and effective call to actions (CTAs). Call to actions are prompts that encourage the user to take a desired action, such as ‘Book Appointment’ or ‘Subscribe’ to a newsletter.
- Landing pages – First impressions are everything. If a user clicks onto your site and lands on a page that is irrelevant to their search inquiry or the ad/link they followed, they will most likely abandon you site for another with more relevant content.
Important Strategies for Healthcare Practitioners
1. Target Locally
This is arguably the most important part of your entire digital strategy as a practitioner. Since your business is limited to a specific geographi- cal area, so is your base of potential patients. In fact, 46% of all Google searches are local.
Marketing your business nationally, for instance, will be an unnecessarily expensive and time- consuming exercise that will most probably not yield customers from outside of your geographical area. Thankfully the tools discussed later make it easy to target exactly the right audience, in exactly the right geographical area.
2. Become a knowledge source and thought leader in Health
As a health practitioner, you’ve made a career out of your desire to help. Your expertise puts you in a position to become a source of knowledge for the local community and abroad. This is often achieved by creating and sharing useful, relevant, and compelling content that is not only helpful for those who read it, it is useful on almost every level of digital marketing. Later, we’ll see how this content creation can be used as part of your digital marketing on every level.
Much more on this later in the section addressing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) here. Becoming a thought leader can take time to cultivate, but once you put in the hard work, it will transform your practice.
3. Understand your target audience and typical patient
With digital marketing you have to obtain a particularly in-depth understanding of your target market in order to communicate in a way that encourages engagement. Pin down your target customer by exploring not only why they need your product or service, but what motivates them in the form of social and cultural values.
This may be easier for the average healthcare practitioner than the typical business owner, as practitioners experience face-to-face, personal contact with their patients on a daily basis — learning about their health history, lifestyle, and preferences.
- Create ‘personas’ for your typical patient types. What motivates them? What services does this persona typically seek? How do they reach out for treatment?
- Find the most effective channels of communication for the particular group. A retiree with back pain will find your practice very different way than a millennial athlete would.
- Speak to your patients in their own language and tone.
- Connect on a personal level by showing cultural awareness.
- Discover key influencers in the field, and establish partnerships.
- Focus on what the specific end-goal of using your product or service (treating symptoms) will be.
4. Don’t Neglect Mobile
The importance of mobile as part of a digital strategy cannot be overstated. In 2016, for the first time, more people accessed the internet through mobile phones and tablets than desktop. By 2018 the mobile share of the market reached 58%, and continues to grow.
What percentage of online traffic does each device type account for?
It is becoming normal for people to use their phones to search for restaurants when they’re already out the door, grocery stores when they’re on their way home from work, and services like doctors or dentists right when they need one. This creates huge opportunities to promote your practice.
Here are a few ways that you can use to take advantage of this new ‘normal’:
5. Utilize Data
The internet is vast ocean of data. Harnessing this data in the right way allows you make great digital strategies, as it enables you to analyze your campaigns to see what’s working and what isn’t. This allows campaigns to become more effective over time.
When planning a campaign, you need to be very specific about which metrics you will use to determine the campaign’s performance, so you can use the feedback quickly and effectively. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind which we will discuss more in detail later:
- Monitor only appropriate metrics. With so much data available, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia.
- Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your campaign, but keep them flexible.
- Determine intervals at which you will analyze data, interpret it, and report on it.
Understand how to drill into specific data when a campaign isn’t performing as expected.
More detail on these can be found in the specific ‘Tools’ sections, as well as in the provided resources. Let’s move on to these specific tools, shall we?
Some form of digital marketing for your practice is no longer a choice. A listing in the yellow pages or word- of-mouth, while potentially useful, will no longer cut it to grow your business in the digital era.
Start small and scale up if you need to, and reach out for external support if necessary. Hopefully this guide and the resources provided are enough to give you insights into how to initiate new strategies of patient outreach or optimize the ones you already have.
At the end of the day, a better outreach strategy makes you a better.