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What is healthcare marketing?

Last updated

29 June 2023

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Healthcare marketing is the communication of healthcare information across different platforms. While it certainly highlights and promotes medical services, it is more about connecting patients with resources that put them in charge of their healthcare journey.

The process of healthcare marketing is concerned with outreach and patient-centered communications. Savvy marketers use a range of online tools and platforms, including:

  • Social media

  • Newsletters

  • Optimized websites

  • Paid advertising

As with almost any industry, attracting customers is one thing, but retaining them is quite another. Successful healthcare marketing keeps patients engaged throughout their care journey, providing information as well as care.

Other measures of success in healthcare marketing include metrics showing marketing return on investment and an increase in revenue for the practice.

Why is healthcare marketing so important?

Many people use the internet to not only search for a healthcare provider but also to stay in touch with their care team. According to the NTIA's November 2019 Internet Use Survey, more than half of US households used the internet for health-related activities such as:

  • Finding a new doctor

  • Communicating with their care provider

  • Accessing health records

Healthcare marketing is a powerful way for medical offices and wellness practices to attract and keep new patients.

Digital wellness tools like online patient portals and scheduling tools offer patients a seamless, convenient experience. For healthcare providers, services optimized for consumer preferences could encourage patients to keep their appointments and minimize churn. Ultimately, healthcare marketing empowers users to feel in control of their health options.

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Building a healthcare marketing strategy

Building a successful healthcare marketing strategy involves several factors. Healthcare marketing teams will not only need to keep up with the latest trends but ensure that these are applied to the practice in a way that feels organic and engaging, maximizing impact on revenue and attracting new patients while supporting existing ones.

The importance of digital patient experience

Today’s patients are internet-savvy and have high expectations from not only their healthcare providers but also the websites and channels they interact with. A key part of a successful healthcare marketing strategy is prioritizing the user experience and taking into account the typical channels they engage with.

If your demographic doesn't tend to use certain channels, such as SMS, consider focusing resources on other channels that might be more valuable to your patients. These may include an online chat feature or blog posts that allow patients to do their own research.

Determine the best marketing channels

Most healthcare marketers use multiple marketing channels, including paid social media adverts, organic searches, and web ads. However, not every marketing channel is best for every business.

Conducting data-powered research via a business intelligence solution will help you determine which channels make the most sense for you to use and how you can best reach your target demographic.

Focus on brand consistency

Brand awareness benefits every business. To create brand consistency, take time to understand what makes your practice unique and why patients should come to you for their healthcare needs.

Once you’ve highlighted the core components of your practice, focus on that in your messaging. Brand consistency across platforms and channels will help to build trust with potential and existing consumers.

Properly manage patient reviews

Many patients like to leave reviews for their healthcare providers. However, not all the feedback you receive through online review platforms will be positive.

When responding to patient reviews (and you should always try to respond), stay positive, thank them for their feedback, and if they do have a complaint, let them know exactly how you plan to address their concerns.

Design a strong website

The majority of patients find their healthcare provider online. For this reason, it is important that your website functions well and provides a personalized experience. Your website should load quickly, offer dynamic, well-written copy, and feature a responsive design so users can access it easily on multiple devices.

Use analytics for budgeting

Budgeting smartly can help healthcare marketing teams decide what works and what doesn't. 

Even when a budget is handed down from upper management, marketing experts should analyze previous campaigns and present those findings to executives. This provides actionable insights that demonstrate what channels and content connect best with consumers.

Pay attention to market dynamics

Data speaks, and smart healthcare marketing experts always pay attention to what the numbers say.

Market dynamics change on a monthly basis, and by analyzing shifts in the data, marketers can better understand market share, campaign effectiveness, and physician alignment. Claims-based analytics can also provide fascinating insights into patient activity.

Healthcare marketing implications and regulations

Healthcare marketing strategies should take into account prevailing social issues. Many hot-button topics from the past several years, including abortion access and transgender rights, have involved the healthcare sector in some way. With consumers growing ever more socially aware, companies are stepping up to respond with their marketing efforts.

According to the 5W Public Relations' 2020 Consumer Culture Report, 71% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that align with their values. This means that when healthcare marketers are crafting new campaigns and social initiatives, they should remain aware of these topics and how they might affect their target demographic.

Healthcare marketing regulations are also important to keep in mind. Once upon a time, the online marketing landscape was a bit like the Wild West. These days, however, strict regulations govern the healthcare industry, to protect patient privacy and ensure HIPAA compliance. 

Campaigns and ads need to be straightforward and free from jargon, honestly representing the products and services they are promoting.

Insurance regulations can also greatly affect the cost of medications and treatment, so marketers should steer clear of promoting specific pricing or medication cost.

With the landscape of healthcare marketing constantly changing, marketers need to be aware of the latest trends to stay ahead of the curve. Here are a few healthcare marketing trends to keep in mind for 2023.

Prioritize patient experience

Patients expect more than ever from their healthcare providers, including: 

  • Seamless appointment-booking technology

  • Ease of use overall

  • Multiple channel/platform availability, e.g. desktop and mobile

When plotting a healthcare marketing strategy, always prioritize the user experience and keep efficiency in mind. Ensure your website is easy to use and that patients can connect with you through multiple methods, including:

  • Text messaging

  • Online chat

  • Email

  • Phone

Online reviews matter

Many consumers rely on word of mouth when choosing a new healthcare provider, including online reviews and general social media presence. Reviews from past patients and how you interact with them could influence how many new patients you attract.

Healthcare marketers need a process in place for dealing with reviews in 2023, always responding to every review, whether positive or negative, and thanking reviewers for their contribution. Also, consider highlighting patient testimonials on your website so that potential new patients can see what past patients love about your practice.

Telehealth isn't going anywhere

Even though most healthcare providers have fully reopened their doors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth services remain in demand with many patients.

Most consumers appreciate the option for telehealth services, even if they book in-person visits. These services could extend to text message appointment reminders and video chat checkups with their favorite care provider.

Focus on personalization

Patients in 2023 want their healthcare appointment to be handled efficiently and without fuss and also want to be treated like valued customers.

From personalized ads to tailor-made messaging, healthcare marketers should focus on creating targeted ads and campaigns that speak directly to their customers' wants and needs. Every patient wants to feel seen and heard; you can achieve this through personalized marketing messaging.

SEO is evolving

Search engine optimization (SEO) has always been an important part of the healthcare marketing journey. SEO has evolved in recent years, and marketers should make moves to stay on trend. This includes providing informational pages on your website to meet the growing need amongst consumers to glean more education on their own, and including local keywords to help local patients connect with you and your services.

Additionally, voice search is popular amongst patients who use services like Siri and Alexa. To ensure your website is compatible with voice search technology, include plenty of conversational language and long-tail keywords (more specific keywords that fewer people will search on).

Expanded marketing technology and scope

More options than ever exist for connecting with consumers in 2023. Artificial intelligence solutions have changed the landscape of marketing, while automation technology can make healthcare practices more efficient and productive.

Even as these technologies have evolved, the scope of healthcare marketing has widened. Marketing campaigns that include multiple channels allow you to capture more potential patients and reach more people at various stages of their journeys.

Remember: tailor your content accordingly. Campaigns for brand-new patients should be different from ads for long-time consumers.

FAQs

Who is the target audience in healthcare marketing?

Your target audience in healthcare marketing will depend on the services you offer and where you’re located. Defining your audience is an important part of creating an effective healthcare marketing strategy.

Outline the demographics of the patients you wish to reach, including their lifestyle, needs, location and geography, and behavior. Once you have defined your target audience, you can create more targeted, effective marketing campaigns.

What is patient-centered marketing?

Patient-centered marketing is based on each patient's unique preferences and needs. It is marketing designed with the patient experience in mind and can keep consumers more engaged in every stage of their journey with your practice. It can also foster greater trust between the patient and the healthcare practice.

Marketers can ensure they’re practicing patient-centered marketing by following all the tips outlined in this article, including staying engaged with reviews on social media, personalizing marketing messages, and defining your target audience to create custom content that speaks to the unique needs of every patient.

What is ethical marketing in healthcare?

Ethics should be a consideration in every industry, but it is especially important in healthcare. Ethical marketing in healthcare works to apply certain standards of behavior to marketing practices, including following all rules and regulations of the healthcare practice itself and not marketing goods and services that could be considered unethical. 

How is digital marketing used in healthcare?

Digital marketing in healthcare is no longer just about advertising products and services. Rather, the digital transformation that has taken place over the past several years serves to connect patients directly to their care team and enjoy more personalized outreach.

Digital healthcare marketing has helped the industry evolve overall, while tools like video chat and text messaging for appointments mean it's easier than ever for patients to find and schedule care when they need it.

How can marketing impact patient experience?

Consumers across industries are always seeking to be heard and understood. Healthcare marketing, when conducted thoughtfully, can help them enjoy a more personalized healthcare experience. Marketing can offer deep insights into consumer needs and expectations, allowing healthcare providers to adjust their strategies to match the needs of their patients.

Healthcare marketing can also enable patients to make more informed decisions about their healthcare, through tools like blogs and other information pages, empowering patients to be happier and healthier in the years to come.

For healthcare businesses, healthcare marketing can drive revenue and growth, positively impacting the bottom line and positioning the doctors in the practice as thought leaders.

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