In many aspects, the healthcare industry is innovative, but marketing strategies continue to lag behind other consumer-centered industries. With HIPPA laws being closely monitored and the FDA regulating marketing efforts, it is difficult for healthcare companies to keep up with marketing advances from other sectors.
That said, a recent study found that, before booking an appointment, 77 percent of patients conduct online research. Much deeper, another study carried out by the Pew Internet & American Life project found that 93 million Americans (about 80 percent of Internet users) were searching online for a health-related topic.
It has become apparent that customers and patients benefit from online resources both during initial research and ongoing care–thus, it is increasingly important for organizations to take advantage of digital marketing to improve patient engagement and, eventually, care outcomes.
1. Optimize for Search (SEO)
Search engines push to hospital websites three times as many visitors as other outlets, according to a Think With Google Report. The study also found that 44% of patients looking for hospitals on a mobile device end up booking an appointment. As a result of the widespread use of search engines by customers to find facilities or ask about their health, healthcare marketers must be front-of-mind with search engine optimization (SEO) when contemplating digital strategy as a whole. Healthcare marketers can help search engines identify and rank their organic content — such as blog posts, patient testimonials, and informative photos or videos— by marking a website with specific keywords, writing concise product descriptions, and developing strategic HTML names, among other techniques. In particular, with the emergence of voice-activated search, marketers should ensure that content is generated that is likely to fit with these queries ‘ specific phrasing and structure. Moreover, since mobile searches account for over 50 percent of overall web searches, it is also important that your site is designed for easy mobile navigation. It means optimizing mobile search and browsing web pages, prioritizing a responsive interface, and maintaining fast load times.
2. Create and publish Video Contents
The next major opportunity to engage consumers–particularly in healthcare–is video marketing. According to a report by Eyeview Digital, conversions can be increased up to 80% by using video on landing pages. Because healthcare is an industry that is innately personal, rich in narratives, video can have incredibly powerful applications. Through immersive storytelling and imagery, patient experiences are brought to life, allowing new site visitors to develop a sense of trust in the company even before an appointment is made. In addition, video is an ideal medium for providing information in a simple, easy-to-understand visual format on complex health issues or diseases. It can be used to disseminate important information on community health programs, clarify protocols for post-surgical rehabilitation, and educate the general wellness public. Although video tends to be a successful (and therefore relatively expensive) time-and labor-intensive medium, the investment is well worth it–especially due to the degree of saturation in written medical content. For example, because there are already so many articles and blog posts containing the same exact information on the web, it’s hard to create a new, top-ranked blog post about asthma symptoms. Nonetheless, a video can be a lot more dynamic. Even if the message is the same overall, a well-produced video is likely to outstrip a traffic blog post and deliver more conversions.
3. Engage via Social Media
Social media can be used to involve patients, support doctors, and improve the health outcomes of the community. Social media marketing techniques for healthcare may include engaging in community discussions, networking, and sharing population health knowledge. A positive presence in social media also tends to draw patients. A recent study found that 57 percent of consumer choices to receive treatment at a healthcare facility are strongly influenced by the social media interactions of that provider, showing that patients trust online healthcare organizations. Doctors can also use social media networks to communicate, share knowledge, and work together–thus potentially improving patient outcomes. It’s crucial that health systems don’t silo themselves into a solely organic social media strategy: paid social media advertisement is also incredibly valuable –and it can be a great way to target and reach the organization’s exact audience. Social campaigns paid out must, like any other campaign, be formulated on the basis of research and historical data. Successful, they are an excellent tool to re-engage existing and potential patients who may have already visited your website or are looking for the type of services that your organization offers.
4. Create Personalized Campaigns
Health is a personal matter. It therefore makes sense that the marketing of healthcare should be highly personalized. A conventional, cookie-cutter solution will not work–after all, the reasons that any person can seek medical care may vary from a desire to achieve general well-being to a life-threatening emergency or illness. Similarly, health marketing can be deeply emotional, so advertisers must be just as vigilant not to target the wrong patients as they are to reach the right ones.
Knowing the target audience is the first step towards creating ads and content that will resonate. The healthcare CRM (HCRM) platform is perhaps the most important tool for marketers to have at hand: using extensive patient data stored on the database, healthcare marketers can create ultra-detailed target people to build their campaigns. Ideal populations are developed using key demographic information (e.g. age, gender, and residence), existing health data (e.g. diagnostic and prognosis details) and propensity models.
5. Prioritize Analytics
One of the great things about digital marketing is the ability to keep track of results and make real time changes if the campaign is not going as planned. Marketing analytics will control the decision-making process for each campaign – both during planning and execution. Healthcare marketers should, at a minimum, have access to and frequently track brand awareness data, blog traffic, social engagement, click-through levels, and conversion metrics. This can amount to a lot of data, so it’s equally important to have a reliable method or system in place to sort through and make use of it. An HCRM or other unified analytical tool is a good place to start. On the other hand, healthcare entities must ensure that automated monitoring and data collection comply with the rules laid down by HIPAA as well as the data privacy legislation imposed by Google Analytics. There are strict limitations on what (and how) health marketers can monitor, and PII (Personally Identifiable Information) must be protected at all times in order to prevent violations.To collect valuable, actionable insights through Google Analytics without infringing on patient privacy, advertisers can use GA’s Custom Dimensions to capture more common user characteristics–such as whether or not someone is a current patient(‘ patient’) or a new visitor(‘ non-patient’). Smart use of Custom Dimensions helps advertisers to deliver the right content on the right channels to customers most likely to be sensitive–even if personal demographic information are left out of the picture.
6. Update Your Email Strategy
Email marketing is still alive and well, given what some might say. It’s a relatively low-cost, efficient and immediate form of communication with plenty of incentives for narrow-minded personalization. If executed correctly, the ROI of an email marketing campaign may be substantial–but there are a few factors that health marketers need to keep in mind if designing an email strategy. First and foremost, optimizing mobile delivery is important. According to IBM Watson Marketing’s 2018 study, 47.6 per cent of healthcare emails are opened via mobile devices, while only 25.9 per cent are opened on a desktop computer. In order to make your emails impactful and, more importantly, readable on the mobile interface, responsive design is critical. As far as email content is concerned, several studies have shown that educational content works best in the healthcare sector as a whole. Emails with health tips, ideas for symptom relief, or updates on common conditions tend to drive conversions better than generic hospital newsletters. Educational emails should also provide a simple, concise CTA that allows readers to do so. Eventually, email marketing strategies must give priority to privacy and take care to handle personal information in a way that does not infringe confidential patient information. Hospitals and healthcare providers do not want to instill unnecessary fear or push prospective patients to rivals–such as emergency care services or retail health clinics–by making them feel that a specific symptom is present.
Digital marketing has enabled the healthcare industry to grow. By using search engines as a resource, developing tailored outreach with high-quality multimedia content, engaging patients in social media, and taking advantage of campaign data analysis, patient engagement and loyalty are rapidly improving. As a result, health marketers are more comfortably able to prove their importance to the C-Suite–while also promoting improved patient care as a whole.