Regardless of your views on healthcare reform, there’s one thing that everyone can agree on: In 2018, health care is a business. For years, the majority of physicians relied on insurance companies and personal referrals to drive their businesses. Marketing wasn’t considered necessary to grow their practices and, in fact, could be perceived as unprofessional.
Times have changed, and while most medical professionals understand the importance of marketing to drive their business growth, they’re only just scratching the surface on digital marketing. In today’s competitive landscape, where everyone is competing for the same patients, doctors need to be where patients are — and that’s online. But how can they navigate this space? Is it just a website or do they need to be on social media? How can they get more exposure online? These are a few of the questions doctors ask me every day.
The truth is, the internet has changed the way we communicate and how we search for things. This includes our health care questions and providers. Even if a patient finds a doctor through an insurance company, they’ll still Google them and read patient reviews in addition to visiting the practice website before deciding to schedule an appointment.
In fact, research shows that more than 50% of people search online for information about treatment options or to learn about health concerns or care providers, and 77% of patients use a search engine before booking an appointment with a local healthcare provider. This means it is imperative that every medical practitioner have a digital marketing strategy that enables them to differentiate themselves and their services from other local providers.
Creating a digital marketing plan can be daunting for anyone, especially if you aren’t familiar with the full range of channels that are available today — from websites and social media to email marketing and online advertising. To help clear up any confusion, here are five misconceptions about digital marketing in health care, plus some tips on first steps to using digital marketing to promote a health care practice:
1. Digital marketing costs too much.
First, to do a like-for-like comparison, you’ll need to look at the cost per thousand impressions (CPM), which is the advertising metric that measures how many dollars it costs to reach 1,000 people.
According to a media costs comparison across various channels, online marketing channels, including websites, search engines and social media, were shown to cost significantly less than traditional channels such as direct mail, broadcast TV and radio. In fact, social media is by far the least expensive form of digital marketing, costing less than $3 to provide exposure to 1,000 people. And this doesn’t even take into account the amplified exposure received when multiple channels are combined into an integrated marketing program.
2. ROI is not measurable.
When it comes to digital marketing everything is measurable. All types of programs, including pay-per-click (PPC), email marketing and social media, come with easily trackable metrics such as the number of people who saw or engaged with your ad.
These campaigns only charge for real, qualified leads instead of impression-based marketing, which charges you just to show an ad. By tracking this information, it’s possible to understand not just how many people “saw” your information but how many then reached out for more information or booked an appointment, which translates directly to new business. PPC advertising on sites like Google, Bing and Facebook, in particular, is extremely easy to track as the click-based cost model provides clear ROI.
3. Online marketing isn’t effective.
One of the best things about online marketing is that the results can be immediate. One of our clients, for example, decided to test drive social media by focusing on Facebook, committing to posting on a daily basis combined with a small paid ad campaign. Within 90 days, they gained 1,000 new followers and are now generating 12 new patients every month from Facebook.
Another client focused their digital marketing activities around their website, with SEO and PPC ads. They now receive more than 200 new appointment requests every month from their website. With the right strategy, your digital marketing can have a direct impact on your business growth.
4. When it comes to websites, more is better.
A website is an online representation of your brick-and-mortar health care practice. The last thing you want to hear is that a patient had trouble finding you, was unhappy with the information provided or didn’t like their reception upon arrival.
Similarly, your website should be easy to navigate and use graphics and colors that elicit further exploration. It should have clear calls to action so visitors can easily do things like request appointments, pay bills or complete patient paperwork. Your website shouldn’t be overcluttered with too much text or a “loud” design, and your phone number should be easy to find, at the top of every page.
5. Doctors don’t need to worry about branding.
With so many people searching online for health care providers, physicians can’t ignore the importance of their personal brand, especially online. In addition to having a website and social media presence, they also need to pay attention to online reviews. These reviews can generate new business as well as directly impact patient retention rates, with websites like ZocDoc and WebMD typically showing up at the top of many internet searches.
According to a recent Software Advice survey, almost three-quarters of surveyed patients use online reviews as a first step in finding a new doctor, while nearly half would go out of their insurance network for a doctor with favorable reviews.
Health care patients today are informed and selective. For a health care practice to grow, they’ll need to generate new patients and then keep them. To do this, they will need to embrace digital marketing. It’s the future for every business, including health care.