Christopher Powell

How patients seek out new health care organizations has dramatically changed since the advent of digital marketing. In the past, people might’ve been content just looking up the closest provider that takes their insurance and heading there. Because what else do you need to know?

Or, maybe the better question is, what else could you know?

Therein lies the new problem that health care marketers have to deal with: Patients want a lot more information before punching it into their GPS. Not only do they have questions, they want answers now. And they expect you to have those answers ready.

That’s why you need a health care marketing strategy. Prospective patients are more likely than ever to research a facility and its practitioners ahead of time. They want to see an appealing and informative website, positive customer reviews, a prevalent search engine presence and more. If they don’t like what they see, they’ll move on to the next one that does have those things.

Of course, getting the patient through the front door is (literally) just the first step in their journey at your facility. Your patients need to become your proxy marketers, able to recommend your practice in both an online review and as a word-of-mouth referral. They also need a platform and a reason to do so.

If this sounds complicated, don’t worry. Digital health care marketing is, in many ways, a complex science. This piece is here to break it down for you. By the end, you’ll have a solid foundation for your new digital marketing strategy and an idea for success that proves your efforts were worth it.

The Importance of Digital Marketing to Today’s Health Care Facilities

To put it succinctly, health care has become more competitive. Patients expect more from their providers and they’re far more likely to shop around. This makes digital health care marketing more vital than ever.

Even if you already feel your practice has enough patients, you can’t guarantee they’ll stay patients once an opportunity arises for greener pastures. Also, you won’t be replacing your patients as effectively as you would with a solid digital marketing presence. All it takes is one negative experience — which might be shared with the world on Google, Facebook and/or Yelp — and prospective patients will be less inclined to look your way.

At the risk of stating the obvious, marketing works. A health care facility with a successful, comprehensive marketing strategy is always going to be better at bringing in patients and establishing itself as a high-quality and reputable institution.

However, there’s a lot more to health care marketing than bringing in new patients. You also want to:

  • Reach out to your patients and keep them engaged.
  • Attract physician referrals.
  • Build a solid online reputation.
  • Position your physicians as thought leaders.
  • Help your patients feel empowered about their health.

How do you accomplish all that? By crafting and deploying one of the best health care advertising strategies out there. We’re happy to explain how.

The 3 Pillars of Successful Health Care Marketing

Search for the pillars of successful health care marketing and you’ll get the same answer across many web pages. Here’s how the health care marketing agency GMR Web Team defines them:

  1. A satisfied and loyal patient base.
  2. A stellar online reputation.
  3. A robust internet presence.

Note that these 3 pillars are interconnected. To gain a stellar online reputation, you need a satisfied and loyal patient base. To get those patients in the first place, you need a robust internet presence. Only after you satisfy all 3 criteria can you have a successful marketing strategy.

8 Health care Marketing Strategies That Work

1. Content Marketing

Because content marketing can refer to practically any type of online content, this sort of marketing admittedly can mean a lot of things — blogs, landing pages, videos, social media posts and white papers are all varieties.

But that doesn’t really explain what content marketing is: online media that stimulates interest in a brand, product or service.

Health care content marketing is, practically by definition, a multifaceted strategy. You don’t do just blogs or just social media posts — you tie a bunch of content together as part of a larger marketing ecosystem. For example, your social media posts lead to one of your blogs, which might lead to your website, an eBook or a white paper.

2. Build an Appealing, Informative Website

If potential patients are scoping you out, you can be sure they’re interested in your website. People judge websites very quickly, and the slightest flaw in its aesthetics or ability to provide information quickly can lead to one — or, more likely, many — that got away.

Building the perfect website is no small feat. However, you should be able to predict what consumers want to see as soon as they see your homepage. Make your contact information readily visible: Phone numbers, locations, primary services, and a contact form should all be there.

If you’re not yet familiar with the term “brand voice,” now’s the time to learn what that means. Everything on the page should reflect your brand’s personal styling. This means a design and imagery that flow consistently, with a tone that matches how you want to sound. Do you want to be strictly formal and professional, or would you rather add a bit of a conversational tone? Whatever you choose, stick with it for all your marketing materials.

Once you’ve decided on that, focus on your consumer experience (CX). Find a professional who knows what that means and how to get there. Utilizing CX tools can enhance this experience. Using your website should be a seamless process for the customer: If they’re looking for contact information, put it at the top of the page in big, bold lettering. Using your website should be a seamless process for the customer: If they’re looking for contact information, put it at the top of the page in big, bold lettering. If they want to book an appointment online, don’t make them search for the form. Whatever your customers most often want to do when they visit your website, they should be able to do it without any frustration. Anything less and you could lose them forever.

Make It Snappy

Page load speeds can mean the difference between a new customer and a lost one. Get your web developer to reduce the time it takes to load your home page and reach the end of any link. If a page takes longer to load than a customer expects, they may leave.

Page load speeds also affect your search engine optimization (SEO) rankings. Consider what a search engine like Google wants its top results to be. Slow loading times will cause your page to sink in the rankings, potentially making it virtually invisible to prospective new patients, or at least less visible than it could be.

3. SEO-focused Marketing

Many, if not most, people experiencing potential symptoms will do a little digging to get a basic idea of what sort of diagnostic possibilities they’ll encounter. “Symptoms of X” fight for the top of search engine result pages (SERPs) as much as anything else does.

If you want to position yourself as an authoritative and trustworthy leader in the health care industry, you can use SEO-focused marketing to put your articles at the top of SERPs. This makes information-seekers much more likely to click on your material; if they find your page helpful, they’ll be more likely to come to you for professional advice in the future. Also, make sure you include the wisdom of visiting a health care professional for a far more educated diagnosis on any page matching symptoms to illnesses. We may all be vulnerable to self-diagnosis, but the bigger part of our brains should know better than to trust our unprofessional opinion.

4. Social Media Marketing

If there’s any place where attention spans are brief, it’s social media. When you’re scrolling through your social media feed of choice, you’re unlikely to read or click on everything you see. Instead, you’re looking for something that immediately jumps out at you and makes you stop to read more.

Scrolling through social media posts looking for a hit is like trying to find Polaris when stargazing. Think of Polaris as a post that leads to a blog (or landing page, or website or whatever) the reader is curious enough about to stop and read. You probably have a vague idea where it is (thanks to how social media personalizes feeds and shows you content it thinks you’ll be interested in), and you’re looking through your telescope’s lens (your feed), coming across many other stars that you can tell aren’t Polaris (stuff you pass over). So you move past them until you find signs of the Ursa Minor constellation, where you can find Polaris. You’ve gotten this far, so you know you’re close to a hit. Eventually you analyze each of those stars to identify the constellation and find Polaris — this is the post that gets your attention.

Your social media post is Polaris in an endless universe of other content. Hire a professional content marketing team that knows social media; the return on investment (ROI) can be infinitely worth it.

5. Email Marketing

Email marketing is known for being effective, easy and relatively cheap. The only things you need for an email marketing campaign are a list of addresses and a well-crafted email they’ll want to open and read.

This, like other forms of marketing, requires a strategy. Consider:

  • How often should you send out emails?
  • What information will you put in them?
  • What should the subject line be?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Why should the reader stop and read your email?

The key component when crafting your emails is “value,” which is what you must provide for the reader to make them stop and open your message. For example, the first thing any recipient sees is the subject line, and this can be either the beginning or end of their journey. If it offers sufficient value for the reader, they’ll take the time to view the rest. People often scan email subjects without reading them carefully, so you want maximum value packed into as few words as possible.

Put more simply: Offer your recipient something they want to read while other messages are vying for their attention.

A couple of quick tips about emails: Many people check them with a portable internet-connected device, so make sure your email is easy to read on mobile. This means it’s easily skimmable — keep paragraphs short and to the point, lest the reader loses interest — and formatted to be viewable on smartphones and tablets.

Whatever you do, don’t use “sales-y” language. Pretty much everyone hates ads. If a reader detects you’re trying to sell them something, they’ll almost certainly stop reading and move on to the next email in their inbox.

6. Online Reviews

Online reviews are an aspect of your health care marketing strategy that you can’t afford to pass over: 72% of health care consumers seek out providers with high ratings, according to a 2022 survey by Reputation. How you get those high ratings is up to you, but once you have confidence in your reputation, you can encourage them to write reviews. Consider requesting this in a text message or email.

However, one important point about online reviews, solicited or not: Patients will only leave them if they feel compelled to do so. That usually means they either had an especially positive or particularly negative experience they want to share with others.

Customers appreciate you demonstrating that their opinion matters to you. Take the time to offer personalized (that is, not canned) responses to those who describe having a bad experience. Acknowledge their experience and, if possible, offer them a solution. Anything is better than nothing here, so it’s fine to offer a contact number where they can talk to someone over the phone about their experience — though you’re certainly not limited to this type of response.

Naturally, you can’t expect a perfect rating every time. Resist the urge to get defensive from even the most unfair of negative reviews. That will always come across poorly. But as long as you have a solid idea of what your patients think of you (whether through anonymous surveys or something else), you’ll want them to share that experience so new patients feel more comfortable when they book that first appointment. Take advantage of what your practice does best and play it up — if it makes you stand out, others will note it in their reviews so you’re not just another health care practice.

A warning about online reviews: Don’t try to game the system by buying positive reviews or posting your own. All reputable review sites have protections against that kind of thing.

7. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Before search engines put up their top organic results (that is, those that are best optimized for SEO), they’ll put those who have paid for the temporary privilege to be there. This is simply referred to as a Google ad.

In short, you’re paying for the right to put your site at the top of a SERP, if only for a while.

Like SEO-focused marketing, the idea behind PPC advertising is to make your results visible. But unlike the former, you wouldn’t be doing this organically through SEO, and you’re also only paying for the click — whether or not they read the article, much less click the CTA, isn’t part of the deal.

You can expect some short-term gains with PPC advertising, so it’s good if you want to give your health care organization a head start in breaking through the competition. You don’t have to do anything special for PPC advertising except create a page and pay for clicks. Of all the marketing strategies you can use, this probably requires the least effort. This strategy can get your organization’s foot in Google’s door.

8. Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Don’t underestimate the value of a good reputation among a certain family or group of friends — they’re often the first people a potential patient will go to if they have a problem. After all, whose opinion do we trust the most when we want advice? As a health care provider, it’s in your best interests to assume they’re one of your patients. Odds are high that person’s opinion matters to at least a few if not many others.

Plus, maybe they’re a health care social media influencer. The point is, word-of-mouth advertising matters.

To help get that word-of-mouth referral, take the extra step after a patient visit and contact them to ask how their experience at your facility was. For all you know, they were about ready to post a negative online review about you and tell their friends and family not to visit you because they had a bad experience. You can nip that in the bud with a simple follow-up call.

So Many Strategies, So Little Time To Implement Them

By now, you should be getting the idea that your marketing efforts should be comprehensive and multifaceted because they’re all part of the same ecosystem that makes up your brand’s reputation. It’s not enough to just master each of these strategies individually; you have to make them all work together to create the giant that is your brand’s reputation. When it comes to health care marketing, the whole is the sum of its parts.

Marketing might seem difficult because the end product you’re trying to create is both complex and amorphous. But as Henry Ford famously said, “Nothing is particularly difficult if you divide it into small jobs.” He was referring to the automobile, but the same concept applies to marketing. You work on each part of your marketing campaign, then put it all together and, after it’s all been assembled, it’ll work to bring in and keep loyal customers. And once you can get your health care digital marketing strategy up and running, you can earn a reputation as one of its champions in your area.