More than 10 million newly insured Americans, who now refer to the Internet to make their health decisions, clearly represent a significant opportunity for physicians and hospitals to grow their business and loyal customer base. Tapping and targeting patients/potential patients through Internet and social media requires a strategic online marketing plan.
Medical schools provide the best knowledge of modern medicine to their students and equip them with all the necessary skills in their area of specialization. However, learning about principles and strategies of online marketing in medical schools is still unheard of.
Marketing works on the basic principle “Find a need and fill it,” and online marketing is about providing relevant content that’s personalized for the needs of this diverse audience. To leverage this opportunity to keep pace with developments in digital marketing, physicians should first update themselves with basics.
The following key elements that should be part of your digital strategy:
A Responsive Website
On April 21, 2015, Google announced that it would begin using mobile-friendly sites as a ranking signal. That means if your website isn’t responsive or in other words, isn’t mobile-friendly, it will soon see a decrease in search engine rankings and you can lose potential patients who carry out an online search before visiting a physician. This announcement is well in sync with studies carried out to observe changing user behaviors. According to Google Think, about one-third of patients now use mobile devices or tablets on to research about health conditions and/or to book appointments.
Mobile web usage is overtaking desktop usage at an exponential rate as more and more people are increasingly using mobile phone and tablets for searching the Internet. By observing the trends in Google analytics, it can be seen that around 30-50 percent of website traffic can be attributed to mobile phones and tablets. It’s high time that you should consider the benefits of transitioning to a responsive website design.
To enhance a searcher’s experience Google recommends a responsive web design as the industry best practice. A responsive website is designed such that it adapts to the screen size and gives the user an optimum viewing experience, irrespective of the device it is viewed on. Content on a responsive website is easier to read and navigate with minimal resizing, zooming and scrolling.
Though initially developing a responsive website can be a little investment, but then it has many advantages which makes it worth. It eliminates the need for a separate mobile site for the mobile users and offers a cohesive digital experience for anyone visiting your website. Moreover, it ensures consistency on a wide range of devices—computers, tablets and smartphones. Furthermore, managing a single responsive website allows healthcare providers to focus on developing a single and strong web strategy, with one URL (instead of different website versions for desktop and mobile) can be easily shared with others through email, social media and other digital channels. It increases your practice visibility, reach and patient conversions, while decreasing expenditures and effort.
Social media marketing
For physicians, dentists and other healthcare practitioners, social media marketing is now an essential “must have” in their marketing strategy. It plays an indispensible role in connecting with patients and potential patients and helps develop a relationship of trust and credibility. To cater to healthcare’s digital decision-makers, physicians should focus on developing a strategy with an umbrella approach, i.e. to have a versatile digital presence through a website, blogs and social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. The info-hungry consumers also check out patient reviews on various physician-review websites such as Yelp, RateMyMd, Healthgrades, Vitals, etc., so having an active profile on these will help build good relationships with patients and will also keep you aware of what is being said about you online.
By reaching out to the healthcare consumers online, physicians can create impactful communication channels that can drive patient decisions to their favor. Physicians now need to think like marketers to better understand and participate in digital conversations as these can directly impact their online brand perception and reputation. More than at any time in the past, social media marketing through digital channels is of utmost importance now.
Search Engine Optimization
According to a report by Pew Research Center, seven in ten (72%) adult Internet users have searched online for information about a range of health issues and 16% of adult Internet users in the US have gone online to find others who share the same health concerns. Looking at these ever-rising numbers about consumers who turn to the web to find medical and health-related information, it is crucial that you develop a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
The healthcare industry is progressively adapting to the online marketing era and there is high competition for search traffic. An effective SEO strategy increases your search engine ranking and overall web presence which allows you to be found when a potential customer conducts an online search.
Social media provides a great way for physicians and healthcare companies to engage their audience with interesting and meaningful content. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs, facilitate patients to have conversations with real doctors and healthcare workers. This ability to engage in such conversations helps spark interest as more people get involved. People love to share their opinions and win competitions, and healthcare companies can take advantage of this by creating surveys and contests to be deployed through social media.
Content marketing also offers targeted exposure for your practice. You can easily reach out to the segment of your target patients via a strategically designed content strategy. For instance, a dermatologist can target the aging females for Botox surgery or face lifting packages through Facebook. Also, important information about any special consulting packages, discounts on lab tests, etc. can be communicated easily to the target population through this form of Internet marketing.
People love to learn new things and constantly seek information that can satisfy their hunger. You can use content marketing to educate your patients by regularly posting articles, messages, tips and blogs and schedule them to be posted on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or emails. This practice helps in establishing a sense of trust and credibility patients and other readers who can be potential patients in future.
Digital marketing is the future. Regardless of how you perceive and adopt it, your patients are extensively using it for their healthcare needs. It’s crucial to embrace this change which digital channels have brought along to nurture and nudge leads. The path ahead for physicians is amply clear—they can either change or perish!
About the Author: Manish Chauhan is Digital Marketing Manager at myPracticeReputation which is an easy-to-use reputation management solution for physicians to help monitor, protect and promote their medical practices at all times in the simplest way possible.