Overview Of Online Marketing For Hospitals And Medical Practices
Internet marketing for hospitals and doctors continues to be a challenge with a plethora of opportunities to attract more patients and increase revenues. Doctors are looking to treat patients from all walks of life and any ailment including ones that get struck with eating the hottest peppers to those who simple have back problems. But how can doctors be found to solve these problems. These opportunities include paid search (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, and display advertising. With the implementation of Obamacare, otherwise known as The Affordable Care Act (ACA), doctors and hospitals are ramping up their physician marketing efforts to leverage the implications of the 2014 new law into both patients and consumers who trust medical brands.
Over the next year, healthcare companies will be well positioned attract more patients as an additional 20 – 30 million patients enter the healthcare market and as hospitals and local doctor offices allocate more of their marketing budgets to traditional marketing, specifically online marketing with an emphasis in search engine marketing (SEM). At Que Commerce, we put together a step by step medical practice and hospital marketing process that is entirely applicable to doctors, traditional and plastic surgeons, physicians, dentists, OBGYN’s, detox and rehab centers, urgent care centers, senior care centers, medical centers, hospitals, and other medical related areas.
- Healthcare And Physician Marketing Objectives
- Healthcare Customer Targets
- Medical Competitors Research
- Differentiation & Value Proposition
- Supporting SEO Online Marketing Mix
- ROI Analytics & Reporting
- Bringing It All Together
Healthcare And Physician Marketing Objectives
First, healthcare companies must determine their core marketing objectives. Are they brand awareness or attracting customers. Each objective is critical as one does have a profound impact on the other. Below is what the typical marketing funnel looks like for most companies, but this is entirely applicable to medical practice marketing.
The two conversion levels not showcased in this graphic that occur after Sale are Loyalty and Advocacy. That is where Loyalty and Advocacy come into play and how Social Media Marketing has a profound impact on these two levels. Do not worry, we have a simple guide on how to leverage social media for advocacy, engagement, and even search engine optimization. The next healthcare marketing strategy goes into branding.
Healthcare Branding – Creating Awareness
Brand awareness makes direct response and targeted marketing easier to accomplish. Before anyone knows about your medical practice or hospital, you must make shoppers and even non-shoppers aware of it. The point of this stage is not to overtly convince shoppers to visit your practice, but instead to know you exist so that when they reach the discovery and consideration stage, they are more likely to consider your medical practice.
This is very similar to the world of cold calling. When you call on prospective buyers who originally did not know who you were and was not expecting your call, they are usually standoffish. But if you’ve connected with them several times in the past and they are aware of your business and what you do, the moment you ask them to consider you they are more likely to be open to the concept of being a client of yours.
The various digital marketing channels for brand awareness building includes display and banner advertising, search engine optimization, paid search, and social media marketing. However for the sake of this guide, we will only into the principles of marketing as well as how to leverage those principles into social media and SEO for doctors and medical centers.
Direct response on the other hand is tapping shoppers at the stage when they are already considering your product or service as a medical practice. At this point, they’ve determined they need to get their teeth cleaned, or they have a pain in their foot and they need to see a podiatrist. If your healthcare branding campaign has already been launched, when they see your advertisement again they are much more inclined to view your business and consider you versus other competitors they have not seen or are not familiar with. In the search below, you want to get in front of shoppers who indicate they “need back surgery” because they are likely shopping around for various back surgery centers and experts. They have reached the discovery and consideration stage, you just need to get in front of them.
Tips For Targeting Healthcare Patients
Understanding healthcare customer targets is important to taking advantage of the marketing budget, proper messaging, and laser targeting the potential clients that would be prime to your medical practice.
Geography and demographics are simple. You want to know where your medical patients are likely to come from. In this instance, it is best to micro target at the level of county and zip codes. If your medical practice or hospital marketing efforts contain multiple locations, you may have opportunities to scale your business to city and maybe even to your state. Finally, if a portion of your business is internet-based, then you can target multiple states. Internet based medical websites that sell eye glasses are a prime example.
Ultimately, marketing for doctors should always begin with geography and demographics and expand out to city and other ancillary areas. If your medical practice deals more with traveling to your patients’ homes, you can expand your geographic targeting a little more. As for demographics, you know the makeup of your clients. This can be important in the types of messages you portray to your potential customers.
This one can be a little more challenging for hospitals and doctors to discern. There is a host of articles and posts on psychographic marketing. These are essentially groups broken down to the psychology of why they are buying your product or in this case becoming your patient. At Que Commerce, we traditionally ask a host of questions to understand the buyer behavior and consumer breakdown by various psychographic groups. A great post on psychographic marketing can be found here.
Medical Competitor Research
You want to know who your competitors are. At the end of the day your potential patients are shopping around and considering them versus you. Unless you have a monopoly, as a physician marketing professional you must know who your customers are likely to go to instead of you.
A simple way to execute this research is to go into your Google browser. If you are an OBGYN, literally type in OBGYN based on where your office is located or within a certain mile radius. Take down the 10 – 15 other OBGYN’s your competing against. What does their pricing look like, what processes are they implementing in their practice, how are they marketing their practice, how does their website look versus yours, and most of all if I were a shopper would I call their medical practice to schedule an appointment versus my practice. Another good idea is to get some of your business associates to perform a similar search and determine which business they would call. This insight is incredibly important and will likely lead you to attracting more calls, emails, email signups, and ultimately more patients. Overall, this competitor research is paramount to how you market and strategize against your competition.
Healthcare Marketing Strategy
So what is your core strategy? How will you set yourself apart from your competitors? There remains a number of ways to differentiate yourself, but the top three includes price/cost, value, and brand. Brand becomes a bit more challenging if you don’t have as much history but because the medical profession is well respected you can develop your brand quicker than other non-medical based brands.
One thing our agency has done in the past for clients is issue surveys to potential buyers in target markets and simply ask them their top 10 attributes critical for them to choose or at least consider our clients. You can do this with a doctor’s office or hospital for that matter. If you decide to issue a survey to your existing customers or your primary customer target, think about who you want to be as a medical practice and the services and features you plan on providing. Based on that, issue your survey and you will receive great data and information on how to better differentiate your medical value and even showcase your two to three value propositions.
Differentiation & Value Proposition
Regardless of how much competition you have in your market, you must find ways to differentiate your practice and showcase your value proposition. You want to differentiate yourself by pulling from your core marketing strategy. Naidu Ortho, has branded itself as the premier family friendly orthodontist’s office in Pembroke, FL.
Understanding your own value proposition keeps you grounded in the both the vision and core areas that set you apart from your competition. This strategic marketing gets peppered into all of you online and offline marketing collateral. Don’t overlook this step.
Supporting SEO Online Marketing Mix
Now that you have the proper branding and messaging, you can now begin crafting great content and moving forward with the ideal SEO strategy. Instead of giving you intimate details on how to market, we want to provide 6 simple SEO marketing channels you can take advantage of to get more exposure and rank well for your medical practice. Before we go into those areas, lets explain what search engine optimization is and why it’s critical to any medical practice.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting traffic from free, natural, and organic sources in various search engines. Search Engine Land provides a great explanation of it. Given search engines are algorithms, they must determine what your website is about based certain on-page and off-page website elements.
On-Page SEO covers 10% of the SEO process. This is how Google, Yahoo, and Bing determines what your website is about. The SEO Periodic Table explains this in detail. For example, if you are a podiatrist in Jersey City, you may want to add that information to one of the url’s on your website. There remains a myriad of other ranking factors. Feel free to consult with SEO marketing agencies to make the proper changes or enhancements to your website.
Off-Page SEO (link building “earning”/marketing) covers 90% of the SEO marketing process. These links are similar to votes websites get from around the web. The power of these links have to do with the page rank and traffic those websites attract. Without link building, businesses, content, and websites cannot rank well for those keywords that are contextually relevant to their business. For hospitals, medical practices, and doctors you will want to begin the process of attracting links and getting content published so you are increasing your rankings and getting traffic from these sources. Now we can go into 6 simple SEO strategies to attract links, shoppers, and traffic to your website.
Blogging For Doctors
Do not underestimate the power of blogging for hospitals, medical centers, or doctors. If you run a medical practice whether it’s a hospital, urgent care center, detox center, or local doctor’s office, having a blog is what allows the search engines to give your business more credence and rankings for certain keywords and information you want to share with your readers. The key is to produce content that is in fact valuable to your potential patients. Write from the point of view of the patient, the services you provide, and the likely information the end user would want more information about. Two to four times a month of blogging is more than sufficient. Remember to provide unique content, not syndicated or duplicated content. Although syndicated content is OK, you must produce unique content in order for you to begin ranking well for specific keywords and phrases.
This adds both to credibility, link earning, and traffic sources in your local area. What are the top 20 medical related magazines you want to be showcased in or display content such as an article, case study, or whitepaper? Maybe there are some particular hospital marketing magazine you can get published in. Here is a list of the most widely viewed medical magazines in the United States. This becomes another back linking source and once you have created content that is published you then get to add to your website and personal profile you’ve been published in many of these magazines.
Local Medical Blogs
Similar to medical magazines, there are many medical blogs doctors and hospitals can target as potential traffic sources. One way to find many of these blogs is to go to your most frequently used search engine, and type in “medical blogs.” Some more advanced search queries we use to find specific blogs is the take the specific keyword term and locate blogs specific to my specialty and even specific to my area of interest:
- allinanchor:hospital blogs
- allinurl:Atlanta doctor blog
- allintext:local dentist blog
Once you’ve located these blogs, view the blogs that are most relevant to your medical practice. The blog must have real potential to generate traffic back to your website. Consider writing 300 – 500 word posts related what those readers would be interested in. Contact the webmaster and ask if you can submit a blog post to them. More times than not, they would gladly accept because it is unique content that is adding value to their readers and followers.
Matthew Barby of Wow Internet created a great post on how to create get links back your blog. It is a little advanced, but I would recommend you view his post along with his outreach letter as it could be a great guide for your office manager or the marketing professionals for your hospital.
Local directories still remain an important factor in local rankings. There are a number of important directories worth targeting including chambers of commerce, local search engines, medical directories, etc. Some of these directories require payment while others are free of charge. Another reminder is to consider all of the organizations you are a member of. Ensure your website is listed in those directories as well.
Who are the business partners that hospitals, doctors, and medical centers can get leads from? For orthodontists, it may be traditional dentists who do not focus on installing braces. For OBGYN’s, ideal referrals partners may be other doctors in other practice areas. Think through the people you’ve received referrals from in the past and even request to have your website link placed on their website. This will help with your search engine optimization as well as additional traffic to your business. This may be a simple strategy many doctors are implementing, but you would be surprised how many in fact are not.
Using Social Media For Doctors
More and more medical professionals are working to learn all they can about social media channels and how to effectively use them. The top 7 social media channels are FaceBook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
The key is not to use social media solely for marketing and advertising. Consider social media for engagement, advocacy, and keeping your medical practice or hospital top of mind. Social media is a powerful tool for advocacy and word of mouth because of the connections your brand and content can be shared with after you’ve done a FaceBook or Twitter post.
Another point about social media is that it does have an impact on search engine optimization and your rankings. There may not be causal evidence of this, however there is strong correlating factors pointing to FaceBook likes, Google Plus 1’s, and tweets impacting the ranking of certain websites. The more of each you get “organically,” the better.
Here are our 10 recommendations to effectively leverage social media for doctors.
- Complete all discussed social media profiles:
- Google +
- Interlink with Aggregator tool such as Hootsuite so you are promoting a unified message across channels and saving yourself time on sending out messages to each social media channel.
- Begin the strategic content creation process. Start scheduling and brainstorming for future content pieces that are created and published across your blog as well as social media outlets.
- Join top 15 – 20 groups relevant to your target audience and industry trade across your platforms. For LinkedIn, this can include medical related organizations.
- Add your LinkedIn Profile, FaceBook, YouTube Chanel, and Twitter url’s to email signatures. This increases the likelihood of you gaining more followers and people who view your posts and advocate on your medical practice’s behalf.
- Once or twice a week, begin posting relevant content to your audience segments (your profile as well as the groups you’re apart of). This can be other articles you’ve read or videos you’ve seen.
- Strategically post the emails to the company linkedin pages as well as the personal profile pages of the partners.
- Regarding LinkedIn, spend 15 – 30 minutes a week connecting or requesting connections from your potential customer segments and medical and business partners. As you do this, you will learn that you can find and see the circles and connections your partners and clients have. Sometime those connections aren’t really close but it’s nice to know you have another avenue to engage those future prospects.
- Think about the keywords and phrases people would search for and include in the content creation pieces and social media profiles to allow for searchable content.
- Begin a social influencer outreach program connecting with people who would potentially talk about the brand and promote it to their followers. There are many tools out there including Followerwonk, a favorite used by many SEO marketing agencies.
ROI Measurement & Analytics
We don’t expect doctors to measure the success “or failure” of certain marketing campaigns, however we expect them to hold accountable companies who perform these activities. Marketing is an investment. As a medical practice, you are expecting to get something greater than what you put into it. Without proper measurement, you won’t be able to discern what activities are succeeding and which ones aren’t. Whether you’re measuring social media, paid search, or SEO efforts, ROI measurement and analytics remains one of the most important areas in marketing for hospitals and doctors.
At Que Commerce, we did an hour long video on how companies can measure paid search and search engine optimization.
Overall, there is a marketing funnel for everything. A percentage of people will see your listing, another percentage will call or email your doctor’s office, and then a number of them will become patients. As long as you know your practice’s average customer value, you should be able to measure with more accuracy the success of your SEO marketing campaign. You will even be able to measure the success of any other marketing campaigns including paid search as well as offline marketing channels including newspaper, radio, print, billboard, and T.V.
Bringing It All Together
We discussed the process on digital marketing for doctors. And trust us, we know it’s a lot information to take in. It can be a daunting task as doctors have so much more to worry about in their medical practices. With the cost effectiveness and targeted nature of search engine optimization and online marketing, hospitals and medical practices that don’t make the investment are losing out on potential customers, effective brand awareness and more revenues.
This is particularly true given the affordable care act is coming into effect and more shoppers are thinking about their healthcare more regularly. Whether you hire a healthcare SEO marketing agency or you do it yourself, this guide should allow you to think more strategically about how you market your medical practice and increase the ROI of your marketing investment.
By Justin Croxton, CEO of Que Commerce