As a healthcare marketer, your job is to figure out the best ways to gather new leads and convert them into patients who come back year after year. It's never been an easy job, and it seems to get more difficult each year as competition increases, technology changes, and new regulations are introduced.
But don't be discouraged. By taking the time now to update your healthcare marketing strategy, you can help your hospital or practice stay ahead of the competition. Keeping up with marketing trends will help you outpace your competitors, convert more leads, and continue to increase patient satisfaction and retention.
To better understand your needs, we asked healthcare marketers to tell us about their top challenges and marketing objectives. Using this data, research, and expert experience, we've identified the top 5 healthcare marketing trends for the digital age below.
1. Patients Expect You to Put Their (Digital) Experience First
It's a given that your patient's experience should always be top of mind, both in office and online. But do you know how much their online experience impacts your bottom line? With 77% of patients performing online research before booking an appointment, a patient's online experience is crucial to whether they will convert from lead into customer. If you focus on creating an exemplary online experience for potential patients, you're bound to see a high ROI.
Acquiring More Leads with Digital Marketing
For healthcare marketers, a patient's digital experience begins with your organization's website. A whopping chatbot visit a hospital’s website before booking an appointment. Ensure it's easy to navigate, utilizes a strong SEO strategy (more on that later), loads quickly, and provides a wide array of patient-focused content. It's also important to give potential patients options on how they interact with your brand. Consider offering online appointment booking, a customer service chatbot, electronic patient registration, text reminders, and video appointments.
A patient's research doesn't end at a healthcare provider's website—that's just the beginning. Potential patients will be reviewing social media, curated content, news articles, and reviews. To ensure you're getting in front of patients, potential and current, make sure your healthcare marketing plan encompasses a robust range of content for your website, social media, and press pitches. The more high-quality content you can put out, the more likely potential patients will find (and use) your services versus a competitor.
Content to add to your healthcare marketing plan could include:
- Q&A pages on common health issues
- Videos featuring healthcare professionals
- Patient success stories
- In-depth articles focused on chronic illnesses
- Blog posts about healthy living and preventative care
Turning Leads Into Long-Term Patients
Once a patient has set an appointment, if you're not continuing to digitize their experience, you'll likely lose them. This is especially true for millennials, who generally prefer digital interactions above phone or paper. The key is to make the patient's digital experience simple and quick, while keeping everything HIPAA compliant.
To start, implement online forms on your website to ensure patients can easily sign up for appointments, submit their medical information, communicate with their healthcare professional, and answer health-related questionnaires. It's a win-win for patients, the back office, and healthcare marketers—less paper, more efficiency, better data capture, and higher patient satisfaction. Add patient portals, email campaigns, and various communication channels to your digital marketing mix to turn one-time patients into lifetime customers.
Did you know? 78% of healthcare marketers see their digital presence as the most important piece of growth for their healthcare marketing strategy.
2. Reputation Management Is Key to Converting New Patients
Every day, potential patients are searching the internet for healthcare professionals, and research has found that people trust online reviews almost as much as personal references. That's why user-generated content like reviews are now heavily weighted by search engines. If reputation management is not a part of your marketing strategy, it's highly probable that you're losing out on patients. Now is the time to jump on this healthcare marketing trend, since only 8% of healthcare marketers saw online reviews as their most important marketing channel in 2019.
It can be easy to gather patient reviews to boost your search rankings and conversions. Try implementing an email campaign that follows up with patients after appointments, asking them to review you on popular sites and take a patient satisfaction survey. Not only will these reviews improve search rankings, but you can utilize the survey data to discover trends and implement improvements. Automating patient communication and feedback gives healthcare marketers more time to dive into data, identify problems, and develop solutions.
By creating an excellent patient experience and stewarding that patient after their first appointment, you can expect to receive more reviews. By pairing constant, clear, and simple communication with an excellent digital experience, patients are more likely to not only return, but refer you by mouth and online.
Pro Tip: Use a field rating in your patient satisfaction survey to calculate satisfaction scores and highlight them in marketing materials.
3. Location-Based SEO Can Make—or Break—Your Marketing Tactics
Each year, about 93 million Americans search for a health-related topic online. As with every other healthcare marketing trend, SEO best practices continue to adapt as technology and human behavior change over time. But the most recent SEO change is actually great for healthcare marketers: search results are more localized, even when searchers do not insert a geographic or location-specific term. But you still need to implement a strong SEO strategy to ensure you're staying on top of search results.
Google's algorithm ranks pages according to proximity to searcher, relevance to search terms (i.e., dermatologist, heart specialist), frequency/amount of reviews, and uniformity of address across websites. When you focus on each of those areas, you're more likely to land in the local search pack. That's the golden ticket to getting more patients—it's the box at the top of a SERP and what will be produced from a voice search. Here's how to ace each area to ensure your healthcare organization is at the top of SERPs.
It's wise to do an audit of your location listings every six months to ensure accuracy. Sites to review include your website, social media, Google My Business Pages, and review sites like Healthgrades and RateMDs. When auditing, it's a good idea to add a photo or two or refresh the content somehow to show Google it's an active page. Keeping address details and pages up to date is incredibly important for minute clinics and urgent care sites because people are more likely to search for those using their phone, both through text and voice search.
If your marketing strategy doesn't include a plan for gathering patient reviews, develop one ASAP. The plan needs to be ongoing because Google places more weight on healthcare providers who have a constant stream of positive reviews. Keep in mind that Google automatically shows results with at least a 4.0+ star rating within the local search pack at the top of a SERP.
Google may be including geographic location in search automatically, but that doesn't mean you can skimp on your location-focused keywords. Utilize an array of long-term keywords that include location name, plus identifiers like city and state. Don't forget to also include keywords connected to specialty or treatment type. Spoiler alert: voice search is also going to impact your SEO strategy, but more on that later!
Pro Tip: Redirect patients to your Google My Business Page after they submit positive feedback through your patient satisfaction survey.
4. The Future of Search Is Voice
As alluded to above, voice search is here—and it's impacting healthcare marketing in a big way. More than 43 million people in the U.S. own a smart speaker, and Alpine estimates that one billion voice searches happen per month. So how can your healthcare marketing strategy prepare for the ever-growing field of voice search?
Start off by adding natural language into your SEO strategy. Consider the questions patients might be asking Alexa, Siri, or Cortana, and how they ask them. Voice searches are typically longer than text searches and utilize the words why, how, where, and when more often. Create content that answers common health questions (like "How do you know you have the flu?") to increase your organic search results. As always, creating content that ranks in voice search is no different than text search—it needs to be high quality, easy to read, concise, and easy to digest.
The Future of Healthcare Marketing: Be thinking about how to utilize voice in other ways, such as using chatbots, filling out patient forms, navigating patient portals, or setting appointments.
5. Video Is Now the Preferred Content Type
Video has infiltrated content marketing across all industries, and it's quickly becoming the medium people prefer to consume content through. In fact, HubSpot reports that 45% of people watch more than one hour of video every day. That's a big deal! If your hospital or practice hasn't invested heavily in video marketing yet, now is the time, especially for social media marketing. An astounding 81% of people have been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video, which means healthcare organizations can convert more patients by investing in video.
But what types of videos should your practice or hospital create? Here are just a few ways to utilize video in your healthcare marketing spread:
- Doctor intros
- Patient stories and testimonials
- Event or location promotion
- Health education
- Quick health-focused tips and tricks
- Live video appointments
Video continues to grow in the realms of live video and video communication. Try scheduling a few live Q&A sessions per month with healthcare specialists on social media. These videos will increase social media engagement, give patients the opportunity to get important health questions answered, and strengthen patient-doctor connections. Add your videos to YouTube and create a Q&A blog post to get even more out of your content.
Pro Tip: Embed videos on your website and add a lead gen form underneath to capture more leads from video content.
Bonus Healthcare Marketing Trend: Healthcare Apps Are The Future
Gone are the days when it took thousands of dollars, tons of developers, and hours upon hours to develop an app. Not only has entry into the app market lowered, but patient expectations of having an app have risen—especially for millennials and Gen Z.
Use an app to send push notifications about upcoming appointments or yearly exams, upload coupons or discounts, provide health records, create an easy way for patients to communicate with their healthcare provider, and more. When forecasting marketing needs into the future, consider adding an app to your marketing strategy as another way to reach your target audience and better communicate with patients.
Healthcare Marketing Trends Conclusion: Digital Is Driving the Patient Experience
A doctor's bedside manner, the cost of care, and the in-office experience will always have a major role in patient satisfaction, but healthcare marketers have more opportunities than ever to make a positive impact on this. By putting your patients' digital experience first and making their healthcare journey as simple to navigate as possible with digital tools, your healthcare organization will please more first-time patients and continue to grow existing relationships.
Now is the time to get ahead of your competition and land the ROI your leadership team is looking for. By integrating the five healthcare marketing trends above into your marketing strategy, your healthcare organization will acquire more leads, gain more patients, and retain those patients long-term. Now go forth and dominate the digital patient experience!
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