As a physician, you know you need to kickstart patient demand for your practice. And you know it starts with marketing, but you’re left wondering:
- Do I have to have my face on a billboard? (please no)
- Will I get strange looks in the break room from my peers because I’m doing things to raise awareness they might not understand?
- Or worse still, will I just be wasting money on something I’m not even sure will work?
- Finally, what if I end up spending a lot of money and having nothing to show for it?
Unfortunately for many specialty medical practices, the stigma is real – but you’re not alone.
We know exactly where you’re coming from, and we’re here to tell you that when done right, healthcare marketing works. In fact, we’ve taken more than 1 million phone calls and booked thousands of patients for specialty practices over the last 9 years. You just have to know what works and build an approach that’s based on results.
To get you started on your marketing plan—or at least thinking about taking the first step on your journey to patient growth—here are 14 healthcare marketing ideas that can deliver results for your practice.
1. Create a Patient-Centric Website
A website is the backbone of any business, healthcare or otherwise. Your virtual storefront 24/7/365, it’s always there to attract, inform, and engage your patients. And that’s a key factor in healthcare marketing—your web design and development should be driven by your patients.
Should it be visually appealing, easy to navigate, mobile friendly, and optimized for search engines? Yes. But that’s only the beginning.
To truly standout in a competitive market, you must consistently monitor the analytics to see how your patients interact with your site. This information is absolutely critical to building a website that makes patients feel like it was made for THEM and THEIR NEEDS, not to talk about how awesome your practice is.
With user behavior insights, you’re equipped to make adjustments that result in more patients booking appointments, requesting information, and more.
Should you build your site yourself? Perhaps – if you have that skill and expertise in house. There are a number of DIY options like Wix and Squarespace. However, for a patient-centric site, we’d advocate that you build it based on the feedback of the patients and a proven framework for generating patient demand (hint: explore our advanced web design services).
2. Send Regular Emails
As an extension of your content plan, regular emails are a powerful way to grow your practice and reach a larger number of patients.
Getting them to opt-in to your email list and sending regular communications allows them to get to know you—and how much you understand what they’re going through as a patient—before making an appointment.
And just as important as cultivating new email contacts is building a deeper relationship with the ones you already have.
Sometimes rather than spending time and energy on new contacts, simply sending an email to your current list of 3,000 patients about a new procedure may result in 20 appointments, for example!
Best practice with healthcare email marketing is to reach out to your list 1-2x a month.
Topics for your emails for your medical practice should alternate between:
- Informative newsletters with medical tips
- Featured blog articles
- Patient stories
- Important announcements about your practice
3. Differentiate Your Messaging
As a specialty practice physician, the words you use in your healthcare marketing can make or break your success. In all of your messaging—from website to blog posts to social media—make sure you differentiate your practice from the competition. How? By making it all about the patient, of course.
While it’s great to inform about your distinct techniques and cutting-edge treatment approaches, there’s nothing more important than truly relating to your patients when you communicate.
Far too many specialty practices use healthcare marketing to tout their latest surgical device (which often can be quite scary looking, frankly) and fail to simply take a basic human approach and empathize with their patient’s pain.
When the client feels heard and understood, they take action. The easiest way to do this is to use their words, such as “I wish my nose didn’t feel stuffy all the time, even when I don’t have a cold.” This sentence describes their pain in their words and then you can introduce why they feel that way, and why you’re best equipped at helping them alleviate that pain.
4. Get Active on Social Media
Maybe the most obvious healthcare marketing idea is to establish a strong social media presence. A staggering 75% of Americans use social media to research their health symptoms, after all.
Simply take a scroll through Facebook on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll see people posting stories of their health ailments, asking for recommendations, and/or posting updates asking for ideas on what they should do.
Whether on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, social media can do more than just raise brand awareness for your medical practice. It can show how you’re genuinely making a difference in patients’ lives. You may not become an overnight influencer, but here are a few best practices to optimize your engagement:
- Retweeting and favoriting things your followers post
- Commenting on followers’ posts
- Being responsive to comments on your posts
- Responding to mentions
- Connecting with other professionals in your field or local area
- Uploading shareable videos, photos, and content
- Following/adding patients on social media
Regular, organic posts are a great way to engage with your audience, but don’t forget about paid and boosted social media campaigns/posts to reach a larger pool of potential patients.
BONUS: Social media does REALLY well when you use faces in your posts, especially the doctors and staff. Everyone wants to know more about the people that help them, so sharing posts of Dr. Smith for example standing next to a patient that had the new procedure great way to promote while also informing them of a new procedure.
There is perhaps no better way to personalize your medical practice than with video marketing. Create a YouTube channel or simply produce a video or two to feature on the “home” or “about” pages of your website.
Do: Produce patient testimonials, videos of your staff and physicians, office tours, expert Q&As, and anything that makes you look more trustworthy and approachable.
Don’t: Film and show surgical procedures. While it’s good to open up and get personal with your practice, this is perhaps a little too open and personal. You don’t need to be the Quentin Tarantino of medical professionals…if “viewer discretion” needs to be advised with your videos, rethink your strategy.
6. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Content that attracts, engages, and delights your patients is perhaps the most effective healthcare marketing idea for your practice.
And when we say content – we mean all types, not just written (see point #5, for instance)!
While a full-blown content marketing strategy can become very nuanced and complex (including articles, ebooks, case studies, videos, podcasts, research reports, etc.), it’s okay to start small.
Start a blog connected to your website covering topics related to the interests, concerns, and questions of your current and potential patients. This will go a long way in establishing yourself as a thought leader while building confidence and trust among your audience.
For example, if you have an ophthalmology practice, you may want to consider topics such as:
- Signs of glaucoma
- Questions to ask before your first visit with an ophthalmologist
- When to see an Ophthalmologist vs Optometrist
- Do I need a referral to see an ophthalmology specialist?
With a little keyword research on tools like SEMrush, you can gain valuable insights into the things your target audience is searching for online, and tailor your content around those topics.
7. Improve Your SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization – and in a nutshell, it means your practice comes up when patients search by name, by proximity, by ailment, or by question.
- By Name: “ABC Ophthalmology Practice Group”
- By Proximity: Ophthalmologist Near Me
- By Ailment: Cataract Surgery Houston, TX
- By Question: When should I see an ophthalmology doctor?
No matter how impressive your website and content are, it’s all for naught if patients can’t find you.
To improve the likelihood of potential patients finding you vs your competitors online, SEO should always be top of mind with your healthcare marketing. This can be done by creating original content for your website and blog, as well as encouraging linking to your pages from other sites.
The more localized you get, the better.
For example, if you’re a dermatologist in Cleveland, your marketing campaigns and content topics should go beyond “best dermatology clinics,” and instead target keywords and phrases like “best dermatology clinics in Cleveland,” or “dermatology procedures for acne in Cleveland.”
Some tools for checking and improving your local SEO results include:
And speaking of results, when they do start coming in, be sure to keep a close eye on your analytics to know exactly where the traffic is coming from. You might be thrilled with the results your campaign is getting until you realize it’s all coming from Saudi Arabia…and you’re located in Denver. With geo-targeted healthcare marketing in particular, there’s a big difference between vanity metrics and actionable metrics.
8. Provide Multichannel Touchpoints
People today are all about omnichannel communication and content consumption. As a result, your healthcare marketing should offer a unique user experience to encourage and increase engagement. Be available and responsive on all your social media platforms, provide contact forms on your website, and consider text, live chat, and chatbots as well. The more touchpoint options you offer, the better your odds of meaningful patient communication—on their terms.
9. Online Appointments and Appointment Reminders
Offering the ability to make online appointments is a healthcare marketing idea that can benefit both you and your patients. If your practice’s business model supports it, include a “book an appointment” tab on your website that allows your patients to fill out a form and receive a confirmation email or text when the appointment is set.
Patients also love the extra attention of appointment reminders. For smaller offices, calling to remind them of a set upcoming appointment or a heads-up that they’re due in soon is always a best practice. If you have the infrastructure, email and text reminders are even better.
10. Offer Telehealth Medicine
While telehealth medicine isn’t a new concept, its adoption has recently become immensely accelerated. And it will only become more widespread as we enter a post-2020 pandemic world.
There’s no question that including virtual and telehealth options will allow your practice to attract a new patient segment, but there are some key considerations.
11. Direct Mail
You probably noticed something about the previous healthcare marketing ideas here—they all have a decidedly 21st century digital feel to them.
Here we step back to a simpler time and encourage you not to sleep on direct mail. When done correctly, direct mail can still have a major impact.
But consider the audience before you produce, print, and mail thousands of pieces. New moms, for example, are probably not as prone to act on direct mail as males 50+ who receive a mailer from a urology practice.
In fact, when 1,000 of the International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) forms where sent to a demographically-targeted group of men, a whopping 60 percent of recipients filled out and returned the form.
12. Patient Referral Program
Sometimes it’s just outstanding care that leads to positive word-of-mouth and patient referrals to friends and family, and sometimes it’s a more intentional marketing program. Whatever the case, patient referrals can often be among your most powerful healthcare marketing vehicles.
13. Encourage Patient Reviews
Good word-of-mouth from your patients is wonderful, but it’s made even more powerful when they take to the internet to spread love.
Recent Pew Research tells us that 72 percent of internet users searched for health information over the past year, and 47 percent searched doctors before deciding on their healthcare professional. Your prospective patients are going online to vet you long before they call to make their first appointment.
Online reviews are your golden ticket to developing your practice, so make sure you encourage current satisfied patients to leave reviews early and often. Learn how to do this and manage the reviews with our online reputation services!
14. Exceptional Patient Experience
The final capstone to our healthcare marketing ideas list is as straightforward as it sounds: provide a superior experience for your patients. When they interact with you online, call your office, are in your waiting room, and on the exam table—providing great care is the best way to sustain and grow your practice.