Just as your face-to-face interactions with patients may be changing, the way you market to them is changing, as well. Growing your online presence to adjust to these shifts can be overwhelming. You have many available avenues and ways of presenting yourself, so having a sound digital medical practice marketing strategy in place is essential to the future growth and success of your practice.
A word of caution before you begin: If you are part of a Medical Foundation or an Independent Physician Association (IPA), your group may already have a marketing strategy in place. Check in with your administrators before beginning any personal promotion to ensure that you are abiding by the policies and procedures already established by your group.
Benefits of Digital Marketing
In general, your patients -- regardless of age -- are looking for a partnership with their care providers. They are becoming more educated as they carry a higher financial burden for their care and have the ability to easily search for medical information online.
Despite this reliance on Google searches, most people still seek their doctor's advice when they have a serious health issue, and having a digital marketing strategy allows you to engage, inform, and educate your patients before, after, and between office visits.
The key word here is strategy. Your digital marketing efforts need to align with your overall strategic goals and other print or broadcast marketing efforts, as well. To begin, you should concentrate on three main areas: a quality, informative website; content marketing, including social media; and search engine optimization.
1. Your Website
You need a "responsive" website that includes at least basic information, such as location, hours, services, provider bios, insurance accepted, a mission statement, and contact information. Depending on what your practice offers, you may also include online scheduling, links to patient forms, and links to your patient portal. "Responsive" means that your website automatically adjusts to whatever device a person is using to access its pages.
You must update your website regularly, and you should tie its content in with mail or broadcast advertising. For example, if you send out a mailer reminding women to schedule a mammogram, those services should be highlighted prominently on your home page.
The website promotes your brand and image and can help relieve some of your staff's burden by answering basic questions for patients or allowing them to make appointments online.
2. Content Marketing
Content marketing refers to creating informative, valuable content to attract and educate a specific audience and ultimately draw them to your practice.
In health care, your knowledge and experience are top factors in bringing in patients. Content marketing allows you to be a thought leader in your niche and to increase rapport with and confidence among your patients. Also, by promoting your own health content or sharing content from trusted resources, you can help control the message, pointing patients to quality information to reduce the risk of them self-diagnosing with Google's help.
Content marketing includes blogging, social media, videos, infographics, e-books, webinars, and other forms of educational content. Social media may be one of the most important aspects and should not be overlooked: Seventy-four percent of Internet users use social networking sites, according to the Pew Research Center. That number rises to greater than 80 percent when talking about users ages 18 to 49.
You don't need to jump in and start posting on every social media channel right away. Start by choosing one social media platform; Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the top three to explore first, Pew reports, with most people (71 percent) using Facebook. See how it works for you and your patients, and grow your social strategy from there.
3. Search Engine Optimization
SEO is a complement to your content marketing efforts. Of the people who look online for health information, 77 percent start at a search engine (most often Google). Content marketing that naturally uses strong keywords will help increase your visibility on search engine results pages. You can also use services such as AdWords or pay-per-click tools, which change as Google updates its search algorithm.
Digital medical practice marketing can be overwhelming. It takes a strong, coordinated effort and constant research to stay on top of trends. Sometimes it helps to use a professional marketing service to help you develop a strategy, create content, and maintain your online presence. You may also be able to handle it internally with a couple of dedicated employees.
The key to success in online marketing is to always be open to change. Technology changes quickly, and you have to be ready to adapt. Digital marketing gives you many tools to track your return on investment in real time, allowing you to adjust your strategy until you find what works.