I realized just how complicated a healthcare marketing strategy is when I tried to summarize it in a blog post.

The other healthcare marketing guides out there frustrated me.

– They were too short.
– They threw a bunch of marketing terms at you without properly explaining them.
– They didn’t back up their claims with research.

But when I tried to detail the principles of healthcare marketing strategy with tons of relevant examples and action steps, I quickly realized I’d need something like 24,000 words to do it properly.

And most of you don’t have time for that.

Fortunately, I figured out a way to give you the best of both worlds:

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I wrote a summarized healthcare marketing strategy, which you’re reading right now…

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… BUT I also dug through the internet to find the best articles, videos, and resources on every specific topic I touch. So if you want more detail on any section, all you’ll have to do is click through to the relevant guide. 

With that said, let’s start with the foundation of healthcare marketing strategy.

How to Lay a Rock-Solid Foundation for Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy

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Is it not also true that no physician, in so far as he is a physician, considers or enjoins what is for the physician’s interest, but that all seek the good of their patients? For we have agreed that a physician strictly so called, is a ruler of bodies, and not a maker of money, have we not?

– Plato

While Plato is not exactly the father of healthcare marketing, this quote is a great place to start building a marketing plan for one reason.

It brings up the two fundamental goals of healthcare:

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Helping Patients

Making Money

We don’t have to get into a discussion about which is more important, because they’re interrelated.

You need patients to get money, and you need money to help patients.

What’s more to the point, everything in a healthcare marketing plan is measured and evaluated by how well it achieves these goals.

This may sound obvious, but people lose sight of this basic fact all the time – and end up wasting both hard work and money. 

...but do people see your content?

For example, as Neil Patel points out, getting 900,000 followers on Facebook sounds great, but is practically useless!

Why?

Because barely 1 out of 15 of them ever sees his organic posts, let alone visits his website.

For a company like Neil’s, focusing on getting more Facebook followers would be foolish. It’s a highly inefficient way of achieving his goals.

So with that said, how do you know exactly what activities WILL help you achieve your goals (patients and money)?

It starts with good branding:

A crystal clear idea of who you are and what you do.

Branding: The Indispensable Cornerstone of Healthcare Marketing

To understand why branding is critical, let’s start with a comparison.

These are the main mobile landing pages for two different children’s hospitals.

Now, neither of them is a bad page. 

One of them, however, does a much better job of branding. You guessed it, it’s the one on the left.

Why? What’s wrong with the first page?

Nothing’s exactly wrong with it. It looks like a website for a children’s hospital, and they have some sort of program called Stronger, which is supposed to make kids healthier. More or less what you’d expect from any children’s hospital.

But the left hand page is different. It doesn’t look like just any old hospital. With ten words and a picture, this page has already planted an idea in your mind of what the Children’s Hospital of Chicago is like:  

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They care about the kids’ stories

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At this hospital, they know the kids’ names

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They don’t let a child get lost in the shuffle or fall through the cracks

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They use ALL the resources at their disposal to help EACH kid

I don’t know what River’s story is, because I’m busy writing this article and don’t have time to click through. But I can guess that he faced some deeply serious health risk, and then was brought to a hospital full of kindly, sympathetic doctors and nurses who would move heaven and earth to make him well.

Just the kind of place a loving parent would want their child cared for, right?
 

Obviously, as a website viewer, I have no idea if this mental picture of the Children’s Hospital of Chicago is actually true.

But I do know that it’s a much more vivid and engaging message than that of Children’s National.

Children’s National may have a great health system, but effectively all they’ve communicated so far is, “Hey, we’re a Children’s Hospital, and we want kids to be healthy.”

I’m sure that’s probably true, but it’s not interesting, memorable, or different.

It doesn’t catch in a potential customer’s mind.

It doesn’t make them any more likely to bring you patients and money.

This is why good branding comes first:

 

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If you don’t have a clear, engaging idea of your healthcare organization…

…then you can’t transmit that idea to anyone. And your marketing strategy will be dead from the start.

So exactly what steps do you need to take to build a great brand?

Well, if you want an in-depth explanation of how to go about this, you should read Dominic de Souza’s How to Brand like a Superhero. (He’s Enable’s resident branding expert, not me!)

But to put his main point in a nutshell, you define your brand by filling out the following sentence:

We’re [name], and we do [this] for [these people] because [reason].

For example:

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We’re the Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and we use all the resources at our disposal to cure children, because we care for them as much as their parents do.

We’re the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and we do cutting-edge cancer research in order to cure and care for cancer patients, because we believe cancer can and should be defeated.

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We’re Medical Realities, and we deliver world-class surgical training using Virtual Reality to surgical trainees, because the best surgical training should be as accessible as possible.

You get the picture.

Now that you have a clear idea of who you are as a company, you’ll be able to transmit that idea to your audience.

Which brings us to the next brick in the healthcare marketing strategies’ foundation.

Know Your Audience: The 2nd Half of a Medical Marketing Plan’s Branding

After you’ve developed your initial brand definition, the logical next step is studying your audience.

Think of marketing as a conversation.

If you forget who you’re talking to in the middle of a conversation, you’re probably not a good conversationalist.

And your audience won’t even forget what you said, because they stopped listening to you after about 6 seconds.

For your healthcare marketing strategy to work,

your audience should always be in the forefront of your mind.

Specifically, you need information like:

– How old they are
– What gender they tend to be
– What demographic they tend to fit in
– Where they work
– About how much money they have
– What they’re interested in
– What their values are
– What they’re afraid of
– Who they trust
– How they research the kinds of services you offer
– What social media channels they tend to use
– Where they spend time online
– Etc.

Bear in mind that you may very well have several audiences you want to talk to.
 

Example: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

For example, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute might want to talk to cancer patients on the one hand, and cancer specialists on the other.

Use a combination of common sense and creative thinking here. Dana-Farber also wants to talk to the friends and families of cancer patients, for example. And, perhaps, to potential volunteers.

List your audiences out and go into detail about them. Be specific.

Remember, marketing is conversation.

And the better you understand someone, the more meaningfully you can converse with them.

And, as you may have realized, you’re going to be carrying on a very different conversation with one audience than you will be with another. So your healthcare marketing strategy could really be two or three or four strategies, one for each audience.

Let’s build out the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute example out a bit more fully.

I don’t know for sure what their audiences look like, but one could be something like this:

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Age:

55 – 85 (nearly 70% of new cancer diagnoses falls in this group). Because of trends in this age group, we can immediately start building out other important characteristics.

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Employment:

Probably retired. (The average retiree age is 61.)

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Down Time:

Watching a lot of TV (Nearly 50 hours a week, on average!).

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Internet:

Comfortable using search engines – likely Yahoo or Bing rather than Google.

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Favorite Websites:

Facebook and Youtube are their favorite online platforms.

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Goals:

They want to be independent, secure, healthy so they can spend time with their families and enjoy life.

You can already see how this audience information will influence your specific marketing strategy. You can bet that you won’t be using Instagram ads, for example.

But we’ll get more into that later.

For now, you have a clear idea of yourself to communicate, and you know who you want to communicate it to.

The foundation of your healthcare marketing strategy is complete.

Now you have build on it. That’s what the next six sections will be about:

your website,
your business listings,
your referral pipeline,
content marketing,
digital advertising,
– and social media.

Now you may be thinking, “I sure as heck don’t have time for all that.”

Well, you could just hire a digital marketing company, such as Enable, to do it for you. (Hint, hint!)

But in case you’re determined to do it all yourself, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve ranked these sections in the order of their importance.

Your website is more important than your social media activity. 

And if you’re like most healthcare professionals, your referral pipeline is more important than your digital advertising.

Now, because this is a summary of healthcare marketing strategy, I’ve ruthlessly cut down each section to highlight ONLY the most important actionable advice.

Don’t worry! If you want more information, I’ll include plenty of links for further research.

Let’s dive in.
 

What You Need to Know to Make the Perfect Website… And Get Tons More Patients!

Your website has two goals:

Be easily found.

It has to make search engines happy, so that people searching online will easily find it.

Be easy to use.

Once these people land on your site, it has to make them happy so that they’ll become your patients.

To make search engines happy, you need to do these specific things:

Keywords

Use common sense and Ubersuggest to find the best keywords for your site

 

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Check off the following steps for each web page:

  1. Keyword density between 0.5% and 2.5%
  2. Keyword distributed throughout the page
  3. Keyword in URL
  4. Keyword in page title
  5. Keyword in meta description
  6. Keyword in headings
  7. Keyword in image alt attributes
  8. A text length of over 500 unique words
  9. Meta description length between 126 and 150 characters
  10. SEO title width less than 156 characters

Audit

Audit your web page with Lighthouse and fix any errors

To make your website’s users happy, do the following:

Fix Appearance

Using this guide, evaluate and fix your website’s appearance.

 

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List Goals

List the main goals your website’s users are trying to accomplish on the site.

 

Improve Structure

Audit your website’s navigation and structure to make sure your users can accomplish their goals as easily as possible.

 

Bring Your Healthcare Marketing Plan to Life with Fully Optimized Citations

Long story short: listings and citations on third party websites increase your trustworthiness in Google’s eyes, and can also be an important method of driving potential patients to your website.

Take the following steps to fully utilize business listings:

 

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Verify GMB

Verify your Google My Business account and fill out all the information you can.

 

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Optimize GMB

Further optimize your Google My Business listing using this guide.

 

Very Business Listing

Verify and fill out your Bing Places for Business listing.

 

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Manage Other Listings

Consider a service like Yext to manage your mainstream listings.

 

Join Directories

Use this list to find niche directories you can join.

 

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Respond to Reviews

Monitor your reviews, particularly on Google My Business, and respond professionally to all of them.

How to Craft a Top-Notch Referral Pipeline and Get More Patients through Your Door

A solid referral pipeline is one of the best ways for healthcare professionals to get more business – whether from your customers, or from other professionals.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a truly complete guide to building a referral pipeline.

However, I did scour a bunch of articles and came up with the following essential action steps:

For getting referrals from customers:

  • There’s really only one key ingredient here: great customer service! If people walk away from your dentist’s office thinking, “Everyone in there is always so attentive and helpful!” then you can be sure they’ll mention you whenever one of their friends complains about a bad experience with one of your competitors. Key elements of good customer service include:
    • Always follow up with patients for feedback, asking for ways you can improve. Take their responses seriously.
    • Emphasize to your staff that good customer service is your priority. Praise staff members who are unfailingly courteous to your patients and customers.
    • Audit your staff and particularly your front desk periodically, to make sure the customer service standards are being maintained.
    • Take the time to show customers that you care. If a patient wants to talk, take the extra five minutes to talk with them.

For getting referrals from other healthcare professionals:

  • Get to know other healthcare professionals in your area
  • Ask for referrals/introductions
  • Stay on your referral partner’s radar
  • Highlight your uniqueness
  • Thank people who refer for you
  • Refer clients to other professionals

How to Set Up a Robust AND Wildly Successful Content Marketing Strategy

Healthcare content marketing is a massive topic in its own right. I haven’t finished my complete guide to it yet, but in the meanwhile here are the most important action steps:
 

Choose which channels you’ll be using: a blog, a Youtube channel, an email newsletter, or some combination of these.

 

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If you decide to blog:

  1. Clearly define your audience. Is it your potential patients, your peers, or a particular subset of your patients?
  2. Brainstorm all the common questions people in your audience have asked you. Make a list of these.
  3. Every week or so, write a blog post thoroughly answering one of these questions.
  4. Periodically go back and update your old blog posts. Do they really answer the visitor’s question fully? How could they be improved?
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If you decide to film a Youtube channel:

Read through Brian Dean’s youtube marketing hub, and follow his advice.

 

If you decide to do email marketing:

Take 50 minutes to watch this free webinar. It’ll teach you the most important items you need to succeed with email marketing.

How to Rock Digital Advertising as a Healthcare Professional

Digital advertising is another area of marketing which is highly dependent on audience research.

Once you know your audience, start with the following steps: 

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Find

Find out where your audience is online. 

Learn the Essential Principles of Social Media for Healthcare Marketing

Each social media channel is different.

To succeed, you’ll have to have done your research. Start with these steps: 

Find your audience.

Find out which social media platforms your audience uses most. For example, if your audience is mostly young and female, then Snapchat or Instagram might be a good bet. If you want to reach other healthcare professionals, Twitter or Linkedin might be preferable. This infographic will give you the information you need. 

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Set goals.

Define your goal on social media. This is important, because it will keep you focused. You don’t want to spend time getting Facebook followers and then realize that they’re not actually that helpful! Is your goal:

  1. Putting a personal face on your practice?
  2. Letting potential clients get used to you?
  3. Achieving thought leadership among your peers?
  4. Etc.
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Pick Two.

With that goal in mind, pick one or two social media channels that seem like a good fit. There’s no point in spreading yourself thinly! 

For more information on how to win on each of the main channels, read the guides below:

Conclusion

I hope you found this healthcare marketing strategy guide helpful!

Whether you did or didn’t, please drop a comment below and tell me how to improve it.

I’m all ears!

Matthew is Enable’s SEO strategist and systems engineer. He gets excited about building backlinks and optimizing webpages, so his job is a perfect fit for him. Outside of work, his other nerdy activities include reading ancient philosophers and debating about movies.

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