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Why Healthcare Providers Need An Inbound Marketing Strategy

It’s commonly known in healthcare that over 90% of all non-referral based leads originate from the web. Therefore, if your practice has not made the investment in digital marketing, it’s a high likelihood that potential patients will go to more visible competitors.

Over the last 21+ years, we have helped some of the most innovative healthcare companies generate new patient leads, nurture those patient leads, and then convert those patients into raving fans of their mission, values, and services.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through the critical things you need to know to begin your digital marketing journey or transform your current approach. We’ll also discuss how digital marketing in healthcare is different from other industries.

A word of caution: digital marketing is moving so fast that it’s beyond a one-person job. So if you want to attempt these strategies, make sure that you’re utilizing an internal team or partnering with an agency that utilizes a team-based approach.

 

What Digital Marketing Means For Healthcare

Healthcare providers are facing increasing competition from other industries. They need to attract new patients and retain existing ones. The good news is that they can leverage inbound digital marketing strategies to improve their bottom line.

Inbound digital marketing is a strategy where companies promote themselves through various channels such as blogs, social media platforms, email campaigns, etc. This type of marketing has become very popular because it generates leads and increases sales.

According to HubSpot, healthcare marketers collectively spend $1 million every day on advertising. That means they have plenty of resources at their disposal. If you want to succeed in this competitive environment, you should consider investing in inbound digital marketing for the following reasons:

  • Increase brand awareness through online advertising
  • Establish your physicians as thought leaders
  • Expand your authority and visibility on search engines
  • Ability to engage with potential patients through social media
  • Humanize your brand through video
  • Make data-driven decisions
  • Reach potential patients where they are searching
  • Generate patient leads and relationship opportunities
  • Improve patient experience
  • Reduce costs associated with traditional media

Breaking Down the Practice Management Arc

Probably the most important but neglected part of new patient acquisition is understanding the ideal Practice Management Arc.

Most practices have portions of the arc, but very few know how to implement the entire arc. The result is that patients slip through the cracks, don’t get the critical information about your organization that they need to make a decision, and are therefore less likely to schedule an appointment.

The Practice Management Arc consists of three critical elements:

  • Pre-Website Visit Experience
  • Website Engagement
  • Client Acquisition

Let’s break these down one by one.

Pre-Website Visit Experience. When potential patients begin to look for a physician, typically the large majority of them will query a search engine for a doctor in their geographical vicinity. They’ll get this information from Google or Bing’s search engine page results, commonly connected to Google Maps. In this scenario, the potential patient has never and may never visit your website. They’ll simply call the number provided within the Google Maps result.

If this sounds familiar, there are critical things you must do in order for your practice to place first in those Map results.

  • Optimize your Google Business Profile
  • Make sure your name, address, and phone number are included on critical directories according to your industry
  • Develop an internal process that consistently garners fresh patient reviews
  • Physician reputation management services
  • Other factors related to local SEO

Here’s a before and after picture of the reviews we were able to generate for one of our healthcare clients using our unique process.

Website Engagement. These are essentially all the digital marketing tactics that are required to generate, nurture, and convert new patient leads, including:

  • Developing ideal patient-specific, SEO-optimized content
  • Optimizing your website for SEO
  • Connecting your content to HIPAA-compliant automation platforms & drip marketing
  • Establishing and maintaining a social media presence that engages with existing and potential patients
  • Establishing greater thought-leadership and humanization through video and micro-content
  • Using analytics to make data-driven decisions such as Google Analytics (GA-4)

Client Acquisition. You’ve heard the expression “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? This phenomenon is characteristic of digital marketing, particularly in the healthcare industry. What I mean by this is that your digital marketing approach pushes leads to the appointment form on your site, but the actual booking of the appointment is an internal bottleneck whereby patients slip through the cracks.

With our approach to technology, we’re able to seamlessly connect forms and phone inquiries to a unified system that connects with the most common EMRs. What this technology will do is enable practices to be 76% more effective at scheduling relevant new patient opportunities.

Other features include:

  • Seamlessly integrates with the most prominent VOIP & telephonic systems in the healthcare industry
  • Incredibly intuitive dashboard that communicates conversion data, marketing efficiency, and customer service impact
  • Speed to lead functionality: allows customers service to reach out to web forms and missed calls within 60 seconds of a potential patient scheduling inquiry
  • Ideal messaging and script development for patient booking
    • A dashboard to figure out which representatives are booking the most patients by utilizing the nine critical steps for patient acquisition.
    • Monitors improvement and impact of coaching over time
  • Displays data for peak call times, number of voicemails according to day and hour, and web inquiries received vs. coverage gaps
  • Enables providers to figure out which patients booked, when they booked, and which treatments they are scheduled for in addition to which specialists or primaries they booked with.
 

Our Unique Process

Just as no two healthcare practices are alike, the same goes for digital marketing. This means that your approach, access to technology, and expertise of your digital marketing agency can make all the difference. What we’ve found in our experience is that the #1 differentiating factor comes down to your agency’s unique process.

Here’s a diagram of our unique process, and while we can’t outline every part of it in this article, we have developed our entire process that we’ve built over the last 21+ years on the following page. Please note, that much of this presentation outlines case studies from Rothman Orthopaedics Institute & EmergeOrtho, two of the top 20 healthcare practices according to U.S. News And World Report.

Here are the relevant highlights for your industry and what makes it unique for healthcare. We’re going to break this down into three parts.

New patient lead generation

Assuming we’re not talking about referrals, the common sources of new patient opportunities derived from digital marketing come by way of:

  • SEO
  • Social media
  • Paid advertising
  • Email & newsletters
  • Links from associated websites

We won’t get into all of these here, but we will cover the first three.

  • SEO. SEO (or search engine optimization) is an art and a science and, transparently, very few companies are effective at it. Google is constantly changing the dials, minute by minute. To win in this landscape requires true subject matter expertise and knowing what is under your control and what isn’t. It’s imperative that you concentrate and do everything possible to do what is required to rank. Here are the critical factors you need to know about SEO:
    • On-page SEO. The first thing you need to know is that this is entirely within your control. It will be very important for you to do the following:
      • Speed: get your website on a server that is as fast as possible, because speed is a critical ranking factor.
      • Optimization: optimize your website strategically by honing in on keywords and metadata that address your specialties and treatment areas that will drive qualified traffic to your website.
      • Structured content: utilize Google’s best practices to structure your site’s architecture so that each page is part of a hierarchy that is linked internally to relevant pages and compounds.
    • Off-page SEO. This is the approach that is also referred to as “backlinking”, which is the idea that high domain authority websites that link to your website will increase your site’s domain authority. That domain authority is used by Google to determine whether or not your website ranks for certain keywords and phrases.

  • Certain backlinks can make or break your website’s ranking potential. The more physicians that can get published on websites (assuming they link back to your site) that are .edu, .org, or high authority and reputable .coms, the better.
  • It’s best to work with a digital marketing agency that utilizes best practices when it comes to backlinking. Less than reputable agencies can get you penalized if they use tactics that don’t accord with Google’s best practices.
  • Content-based SEO. For this part, we recommend a proactive approach to content by developing an editorial calendar that breaks down deliverable pieces of content by month, quarter, etc. This way, you have a roadmap for which pieces of content are to be written next without any guesswork. The development of consistent content is a signal to Google that you’re an established thought leader.
    • Having content ideas laid out for the next 30, 60, and 90 days helps your practice to stay on track with deliverables and indicates to your marketing team where they should be in terms of published content.

  • Social Media.

In order to win with social media, it’s important to use the platforms effectively. The first thing that you need to do is figure out which platform works best for your organization. Focus on one platform with 80% of your energy and syndicate to the remaining 20%.

  • Resist the urge to be a megaphone. One of the primary mistakes that most healthcare companies make is that they use social media simply as a megaphone. Social media is about engagement. Companies that just use the platform to communicate who they are and how great they are often lose the engagement necessary to generate leads.

Developing content specifically designed to engage should be your most important takeaway. This deep engagement allows your readers to better know and connect with your brand. When it comes to marketing, people will typically buy from organizations they “Know, like, and trust”. In healthcare, of course, the trust part is paramount.

  • Paid Advertising.

Paid advertising (Google ads, social media ads, and programmatic ads) can be very effective for healthcare marketing. It has a ton of benefits including the ability to target and reach audiences that may not know your organization exists. It’s also very trackable, so it’s easy to understand the ROI of a campaign and it makes it easier to establish your CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) of a potential patient.

Compared to SEO, which often moves at a snail-like pace, Paid Ads are all about speed. They can be placed and optimized in days or weeks rather than months or years. One of the drawbacks is that it can be expensive if you don’t understand how to leverage your ad budget effectively.

When done effectively, you’ll have developed a target audience that you can advertise to. The goal is to get your ads placement price to reduce over time so that your impressions, click-through rate, and conversions should improve.

Lookalike audiences. This paid advertising feature will allow advertisers to target specific audiences based on demographic data. For example, someone looking to provide orthopedic services might want to reach men between 45 and 65 years old living in New York City who are considering a knee replacement, for example. Now, they’ll be able to see ads targeted at those same demographics.

New patient lead nurturing

The key to understanding this topic is that it is probably the most neglected part of marketing. It’s made even more difficult for healthcare because of HIPAA compliance. It’s very hard to drip market to an individual about your specific specialty treatment areas without invading their privacy.

Just because it’s more difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We utilize a third-party program called LuxSci that enables organizations to communicate securely at scale while protecting sensitive data with HIPAA-compliant email and web solutions.

Common forms of lead nurturing include drip marketing tactics such as:

  • Overview of the practice
  • Features & benefits
  • Cost of procrastination
  • Testimonials/case studies
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Taking the first step

Converting new patients

As discussed above, you’ll want to use technology to make sure that leads that are derived from your website and phone inquiries actually convert into booked appointments. A great practice is obsessed with its analytics. These analytics are great tools to help you make data-driven decisions and convert potential patients into actual patients.

These analytics should also be connected to ROI all throughout your marketing strategy. For example, when we first started working with Rothman Orthopedics, we were able to connect goal conversion tracking to their blogs. From there, we were able to figure out what new appointment forms originated from blogging:

  • In a two-year period, we were able to understand that we generated 2,911 conversions from blogs that led to over $873,000 worth of first-time appointment revenue (our ROI metric was $300 for the net value per conversion). This put their marketing ROI well north of $13 million for first-time appointment revenue with all digital marketing efforts including blogs. Please note that none of these numbers include follow-up treatment, surgery, or physical therapy.

To get the full case study, you can follow this link.

Your metrics should tell a story. Once you know that story, we recommend that you double down and hone in on the parts of your approach that work. You also shouldn’t be afraid to discard what isn’t working.

Taking the First Step: Starting Your Gap Assessment

Whether you’re just embarking on your digital marketing journey, or you’re thinking of working with a digital marketing agency for healthcare that can help you scale your visibility, it’s essential that you develop an understanding of how to generate patient leads, nurture those leads, and convert those patients into raving fans of your brand.

All of this should fit into a well-organized system where all of its parts work in synergy with one another. Oftentimes, this is extremely difficult to do from within your own organization. It is our firm recommendation that you look at your marketing strategy and a 3-5 year road map to scale your company’s marketing potential. The first step in this journey is to develop a Gap Assessment.

Our Gap Assessment is typically a 150-page book that outlines the exact approach you need to transform your marketing and how using an agency with a team-based approach can help you achieve those goals more effectively. Included within the book is an interactive scorecard that serves as a measuring tool to illustrate the overall health of your practice’s marketing efforts and which digital marketing services you may need going forward.

If you would like to know more about this, please click on the following link. We’re ready to build a customized solution to scale your marketing and prove ROI to your practice.

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