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Best Healthcare Marketing Tips of 2014

February 04, 2014

By Alyssa Mattero from Perfect Search Media

A strong medical marketing strategy should differentiate from strategies of other industries. The differences don't need to be drastic, in fact, the foundation should be fairly similar, however, healthcare marketing comes along with its own set of industry challenges, standards and competition which makes it require a holistic, custom strategy that encompasses the important elements explained in this article.

We reached out to medical advertising professionals to find out the best techniques for marketing a medical practice or service

Online Marketing

Online marketing is broad form of marketing that may or may not incorporate a wide range of services or techniques. In general, medical practices have a lot to gain with a strong online marketing strategy. It's helpful to think of online marketing as a holistic form of marketing that strengthens your medical practice's online presence and ultimately attracts new patients.

Daniel Weinbach, owner and VP of healthcare marketing firm, The Weinbach Group, suggests that medical professionals capitalize on the efficiency and ubiquity of online marketing with search advertising and a top-notch website.

Weinbach also stresses the importance of tracking. It's important to know what parts of your online strategy are working and which parts need to be adjusted.

"Track everything. I suggest using trackable phone numbers in all ads, and documenting and measuring everything that comes in on those phone lines, says Rick Schaefer, M.D. of Knee Specialists of Wisconsin, "I also suggest a whisper tone in the receptionist's ear so they know in advance of answering where the call is coming from. That tip alone, the measuring, will save thousands of dollars by cutting out the inefficient ad campaigns and building up the successful ones."

Mobile

It's also key to stay up-to-date. Ebony T. Grimsley Owner/Creative Director of Above Promotions Company recommends that medical practices jump on the mobile bandwagon and invest in and use a mobile text messaging service.

Medical facilities can use a text messaging service to notify individuals waiting for an appointment when there is an opening. "It's is a great appointment reminder tool," says Grimsley. Patients can also be notified via text if a doctor is running behind schedule, she explains.

There also appears to be a gap between medical technology and marketing technology used at medical facilities. For such a technologically-advanced industry, they may be skimping on the marketing advancements.

Kari Coughlon, Sr. Account Director at COHN, explains, "Hospitals are always at the forefront of medical technology, yet they seem to let their marketing technologies fall by the wayside, especially their websites and any innovations in e-communication."

Her tip: "Make sure your website is optimized for reading on a cell phone and allows visitors to click through on phone numbers. Allow for online appointment scheduling and wait times if possible. Highlight any features that would be necessary while on the go first, such as directions, maps, hours, parking info, phone numbers, etc."

SEO

A large part of online marketing is search engine optimization or SEO. SEO can be especially successful for local medical professionals who are targeting specific suburbs or neighborhoods.

Thomas Stern, Senior VP of Client Services at ZOG Digital, encourages his medical practice clients to utilize local SEO by submitting complete and accurate information to directory listings and creating web pages dedicated to each target location. He also recommends optimizing webpage content for specific symptoms.

"Symptoms as a keyword strategy helps reach consumers in the very moments that they are searching for these topics. By providing the most relevant content at the right time, medical professionals have a huge opportunity to gain credibility in front of those prospective customers," says Stern.

Content

Content has quickly become the most important element of online marketing. Quality content can strengthen every part of a strategic online strategy. Medical marketing needs to incorporate strong, quality content in order to compete in today's market.

"Create content that is unique and valuable to your target audience. Be thorough, and provide an interesting perspective or insight", says Ricky Shockley III, Owner and Marketing Director of Shockley Marketing, "If you can establish your presence online through content marketing, it will benefit your SEO efforts, your brand value, your public perception and so much more."

Adding a blog to your site is a great way to keep fresh content on your site (which search engines love) and attract new patients.

Tara Adams, owner and CEO of Adams Edge Marketing is keen on the power of content.

"Blogs, guest blogs, and an Evergreen Content area or News section to your website and social media are all great areas for you to explain to your target audience why you are the expert in this area, why they should come to you," says Adams, "All of this content will be available for long after you've written it and it can be working for you, driving traffic to your website and ultimately to your phone number with sales for the foreseeable future." Well said.

Social media

Believe it or not, social media is actually a quite promising form of marketing for the medical industry. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists can get visits from showing 'before and after' photos on Pinterest or Facebook. Many medical professionals advertise specials or new services on Facebook or Twitter.

Advertising on social media is becoming increasingly popular and efficient. Better yet, it's constantly improving; offering advertisers invaluable insight into their target audience's behavior and interests.

"With Facebook advertising, (medical) practices can market pediatrics to local moms and dads by targeting people of that 'new parent' age in a 25 mile area of the hospital with an affinity for Huggies, Babies R Us and online parenting communities," says, Marc Frechette, Digital Marketing Manager at wedü.

Social media marketing can be an effective way to increase engagement among existing patients and attract new patients if implemented correctly. User engagement doesn't just happen, it has to be earned which takes time, trust and high-quality posts.

"Be active with your online presence. Use social media to engage with your target market and demonstrate your expertise," say Shockley.

A Strong Message

Messaging is a crucial part of any brand's marketing strategy. In the medical field, it can make or break your practice. Your message needs to resonate with your target audience and differentiate your practice from the competition.

Amy Baxter, M.D., CEO MMJ Labs, stresses the importance of understanding the patient's mindset.

"Patients' number one reason for going to emergency departments and for not returning to a physician are the same: pain. Focus on solving patients' problems, (as opposed to focusing on why you're the leader and the best)," says Baxter.

As a doctor, it may be hard to put yourself in the patient's shoes but it's critical to appreciate the concerns of your target audience in order to attract them.

"Since medical school is great at teaching doctors to do what they have to do to minimize pain, part of marketing to physicians is re-sensitizing them to what matters to patients. Tell patients you care about pain," says Weinbach.

Clint White, President of WiT Media suggests focusing on service, relationships and trust as opposed to products or rates in your messaging. Your company's messaging has to be organic to your goals and values as an organization, otherwise, patient's won't fall for it and employees won't adhere to it.

Gabe Stalin, Executive Assistant at Small World Health, offers a great example of a strong message that's rooted in company values: selling a healthier lifestyle (not the product) is always the best.

"We market all-natural anti-depressant products, but, we believe that the best way to fight feelings of depression is to live well. So, we focus our marketing on these things – telling people who suffer from depression to try and do those things so they don't need our product," says Stalin, "While this sounds a bit counterproductive, we've found it highly successful, because, well, people find us because they're already looking for help. Generally people don't eat well, rest enough, or exercise enough – and they want something to close the gap (enter our product line)."

Another important part of messaging is branding. Branding is especially important in the medical industry because of the length or non-immediate conversion cycle. Coughlon explains, "Many medical treatments are optional or as-needed, not an everyday or impulse purchase, so directly marketing these services in a timely and ongoing manner can be difficult and expensive. A more effective approach is to stay top of mind using multiple touch points, in addition to traditional marketing.

Her tip: Position your staff as medical experts at conferences and in the press, opening them up to interviews and commentaries following newsworthy stories. Volunteer your doctors to attend popular events that align with your demographics, where marketing of the event is already taken care of, such as sports medicine and physical therapy sessions at an annual marathon.

This leads us to the next Medical Marketing Tip...

Word of Mouth

Just because we live in the digital age, doesn't mean there's no place for tradition marketing. Referrals and word-of-mouth marketing are more effective than ever and we can use digital technology to make them even stronger.

"Word of mouth is also huge for a medical practice. We provide great physical therapy. Our patients then tell their family and friends about us (again building awareness and trust) and it slowly creates a snowball effect of referrals. We help it along by asking for testimonials and reviews and making sure we go above and beyond with our current patients," says Tim Murphy of MotionWorks Physical Therapy.

Better yet, get recommend by a publication or recognized by an award!

"By offering really great physical therapy, my wife was named the Wisconsin Physical Therapist of the Year award. We got excellent press coverage in our local paper from the award and that really helped build awareness and trust at the same time," says Murphy.

More tradional, friendly tips:

"Use your phone in an unusual way: Call after the appointment to follow up and see how they are doing and thank them for choosing your practice. This little act of appreciation can pay in big dividends in referrals," says Wendy Kenney, President of 23 Kazoos Marketing and PR.