Healthcare is complicated, and marketing it seems like it would be even tougher. We’re talking about a multifaceted industry, one that includes actors ranging from hospitals and private practices to insurance providers, from pharmaceutical companies to medical device manufacturers, all bound by plenty of complicated regulations: HIPAA compliance, FDA restrictions on marketing, and the ongoing effects of the Affordable Care Act.
With all of these variables and parties taken into consideration, it’s no wonder that “the healthcare industry as a whole tends to lag behind other industries when it comes to marketing by about two years,” according to HubSpot.
So, whether you’re a healthcare provider reaching out directly to “payers and patients” or a medical company trying to reach physicians, shareholders, or advocacy groups, digital marketing is the key to a successful, healthy future.
Here are five key elements of digital marketing to keep in mind for your healthcare brand:
1.) Build a Functional, Responsive Website
According to Pew Research, 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year. What does this mean for you?
As is the case for every industry, from real estate to fine dining, consumers are starting their journey to find you online. It’s important to make sure that your organization’s website is up to the task of welcoming curious guests, introducing them to your brand, and converting them into active visitors.
Make sure your site is visually appealing; develop a brand identity through the use of creative, effective images, a singular color scheme, and targeted use of white space. And while you’re designing that new site, remember to account for mobile visitors: According to a Think with Google study, about one-third of patients use mobile devices or tablets on a daily basis for research and/or to book appointments – and 50% of consumers will abandon your brand if its page is not mobile-friendly.
Finally, while it was once OK to have your site act like a sort of static brochure for your organization, that time is in the past. These days, your site should be equipped with value-adding functionality, like engaging video content, a contact or request form, or a blog. And speaking of blogging…
2.) Focus on SEO
Remember what we said about your consumers looking for your services online? Well, it’s important to bear in mind that they’re looking for you through search engines: 77% of patients use search engines prior to booking appointments, according to Think with Google. That’s three times the number that come to hospital web pages through other referral sites. And it’s not just patients: 80% of physicians use general browsers, such as Google and Yahoo!, in the diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care of patients, according to the Wolters Kluwer Health 2013 Physician Outlook Survey.
It’s important to make sure your brand comes up when your potential guests and customers are searching for you online. Tailor your site to your searchers’ needs through keyword research and targeting. And the best way to ensure effective SEO is to…
3.) Create Content
The single most effective way to help your brand stand out to search engines and visitors is to have a site that regularly updates with compelling, original, and useful content. Every business can have a blog: It’s a great way to target searchers’ needs. Answer the questions that your audience is searching for, and you’ll draw them to your site – and keep them coming back the next time they have a question or concern.
Just make sure your blog is regularly updated and appealing – don’t be afraid to write like an author, use imagery, and have a clear, strong point of view. And you certainly don’t have to stop at a blog! Multimedia content is a great way to appeal to your potential users – and, by extension, search engines. Video content, slideshows, photo galleries, an ebook – all of these are excellent, effective ways to drive organic traffic to your site, and guide visitors through your “conversion funnel” once you have them.
4.) Cultivate Community
For digital marketers, and healthcare professionals, community is key.
Social media is a vital tool, and extremely effective to spread awareness about your brand: It’s an easy way to distribute your creative content, solicit and share glowing testimonials from your clients, keep visitors in the loop about your company’s news and events, and give your followers a peek behind the scenes, all while helping to boost your SEO efforts. Trying to reach new audiences? Targeted advertising on Facebook and Instagram has a proven track record of success, and it’s surprisingly easy to get started.
And while social media is proven to be effective at “remarketing” to your clients, email marketing is one of the most powerful retention tools at a digital marketer’s disposal. You can set up email marketing to reach out to patients when it’s time for them to schedule an appointment, or maintain a monthly or weekly newsletter to keep your community informed about your fresh content, news, or community events.
5.) Manage Your Reputation
From the days of the house call and the physician's bag, word of mouth mattered for healthcare professionals. It has long been a vital tool for gaining new clients and keeping old ones, and always will be; the same concept applies to your digital presence, as well, but it goes by a different name – reputation management.
Reputation management refers to the process of controlling what is said and shared about you online. Having a reputation management plan in place comes down to several interrelated parts, including maintaining solid SEO and social media strategies, as we discussed above. That is to say that when you control what searchers and social users find about your brand on ranking pages, you help control the narrative about yourself – and can guide it in your favor!
But there’s another vital aspect of reputation management that too many organizations leave completely to chance. You see, today’s savvy online consumers are also likely to research you on review and listing sites, which range from Facebook, to Google, to Yelp (as well as a ton of other industry-specific review sites).
Fortunately, there are all sorts of solutions you can put in place to optimize these many review pages to work for your firm, rather than against it. With Geek’s help, for instance, you can set up a workflow that lets you reach out to your patients or customers via text or email at any time; establishing this line of communication will help you encourage your happiest clients to post glowing reviews on these review sites, and may give less-satisfied clients a chance to vent, preventing them from ever posting that negative review in the first place.
Sound like a lot? We understand – and we're happy to help! Here at Geek Chicago, our team can take your mind off of digital marketing and reputation management so that you can put your focus where it should be – making our world healthier and safer. Drop us a line for any and all of your web development, content, and social media needs today!