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It was allergy season, 2008. I was locked inside, buried by tissues, eye drops, and air purifiers. I’d run out of my prescription, my allergist was booked for two months out, and I’d spent most of May trying to get a last-minute appointment with someone else. I eventually gave up and spent the rest of that spring as a hermit.
Fast-forward to allergy season 2018—one of the worst seasons on record—and I’ve already been camping twice, my prescription is always filled, and I CAN BREATHE.
I have a smartphone.
This time, when my doctor-recommended allergist was booked until the year 2087, I pulled out my iPhone and said: “Ok, Google; find an allergist near me.” Within five minutes I had the names, numbers, and addresses of the top three board-certified allergists and immunologists in my area. Another five minutes and I knew each one’s certifications and awards, patient reviews, and availability. I made an appointment online, and by that weekend I was breathing easy.
The New Norm of Healthcare Marketing and Advertising
My story is not unique, at least not anymore. The healthcare industry is changing drastically as patients’ needs and expectations have accelerated. Healthcare patients—and consumers in general—simply don’t want to THINK anymore: 89 percent of consumers turn immediately to an online search engine when they’re looking to solve their healthcare queries.
This need for right-here-right-now manifests itself in 10 key healthcare marketing trends that are shaping the way patients look for, find, and interact with doctors, treatment centers, and hospitals (click on a trend to skip to it below):
- Micro-moments and the changing online habits of patients
- Healthcare website design with patients (and patient portals) in mind
- Hyper-targeted healthcare SEO (specifically local SEO)
- The shrinking organic search results and the rise of paid ads (PPC)
- Social media marketing: new rules for a new generation
- Video marketing for healthcare: no longer a luxury
- Personalized email marketing and the need for marketing automation
- Patient reviews: your ticket to more booked appointments
- The new norm of texts, call tracking, and automated phone messages
- Data overload
What you’ll find below is a summary of the trends above and how they affect your healthcare marketing strategy. What you’ll walk away with is a deep understanding of what today’s patients want, how they’re finding your services (hint: it’s online.), and how to effectively connect with them and grow your facility, hospital, or treatment center.
This is an in-depth, comprehensive guide to healthcare and medical marketing. If you’re pressed for time, I recommend you bookmark this page and come back to it. There’s a lot of great info in here!
Healthcare Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018 and 2019
Here’s your new reality: if you want to connect with patients in 2018 and beyond, you need to alter your medical marketing strategy to align with the following trends:
Healthcare Trend #1: Micro-Moments and The Changing Online Habits of Patients
During allergy season, I know that day’s pollen forecast, the allergens and pollutants in my location, the air pollution level in my home, and when I need to fill my prescription within 60 seconds of waking up in the morning. After another 60 seconds, I’ve pulled up my health records and checked the symptoms I get from the allergens present in the air.
Each action I just described, from finding out the day’s pollen forecast to pulling up my medical records, is what’s called a micro-moment. A micro-moment occurs when a consumer reflexively turns to a device—frequently a smartphone—in order to do, learn, watch, or discover something immediately. You have an exponentially greater chance of reaching and influencing patients by being front and center during each of these tiny micro-moments.
“Micro-moments have been accelerating consumer expectations for “right here, right now” experiences. People take for granted that information is at their fingertips and tailored to their specific needs. But the thing about human beings is they never stop wanting that little bit extra. It’s becoming evident that they’ll keep raising the bar, wanting more useful information, more personalization, more immediacy” – Think With Google, 2017
There are four distinct micro-moments unique to the healthcare industry:
- What’s-wrong-with-me moments – From a sudden case of the sniffles to excruciating abdomen pain, more and more consumers are asking the internet what’s wrong with them. To catch patients in these want-to-know moments you need to have the answers to their questions in the form of optimized web pages, videos, and infographics.
- Where-can-I-get-treatment moments – Local convenience is key as “near me” searches for health-related services have doubled since 2015. What that means is that your facility or center needs to be front and center when someone local searches for your services.
- Who-can-I-trust-moments – After the choice of treatment centers has been narrowed down to those that offer the right services and are convenient, consumers typically start more in-depth research for a practitioner. What you need is trust-building content like a prominent display of awards and affiliations, physician introduction videos, testimonials, academic papers, and any other confidence-building material specific to your practice.
- I’m-ready-to-book moments – While most patients choose their healthcare provider carefully, they don’t have that much patience when it comes time to book an appointment. Your information needs to be easy to find immediately, and you should have seamless options to book an appointment.
The rest of the trends listed below touch and/or influence these micro-moments.
Healthcare Trend #2: Website Design with Patients (and Patient Portals) In Mind
Have you ever invested any money into landscaping, cleaning services, or interior decorating for your facility? Of course you have—first impressions matter and patients don’t want to be treated in a place that looks like it’s from the set of Breaking Bad.
Well, your website is just like your building’s exterior, and patients WILL judge you based on how it looks and functions. In fact, 48 percent of people cited a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business, and once your page loads, users form an opinion in .05 seconds.
While some healthcare companies are shattering the ceiling when it comes to digital technology, the large majority of them are still struggling—research by Klein & Partners revealed that 11 percent of visitors to a hospital or health system say their website experience created new, negative feelings about that brand.
So, what DO patients want? A CDW Healthcare survey found that 89 percent of patients want easier, seamless access to their personal health records. They also want convenience—78 percent of consumers say they would be interested in receiving virtual health services, and virtual healthcare visits have increased from about 54 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2017.
They also need to be able to book your services online—71 percent of millennials prefer both online scheduling and receiving digital reminders, but they won’t be alone for long. Online booking is becoming a necessity, and Accenture predicts that by 2019, 66 percent of health systems will offer self-scheduling and 64 percent of all patients will use self-scheduling.
When you tie all those statistics, preferences, and trends together, you discover that the absolute BEST healthcare websites have all (or most of) the following:
- Online scheduling
- Customized patient portals where patients can easily access their health data
- Online bill pay
- Online prescription renewal
- Messaging capabilities so patients can communicate quickly with providers
- Doctor or specialist lookup
- Emergency wait room times
- A healthy supply of videos (see more about that further down)
- Options for virtual visits with health practitioners
But having these capabilities isn’t your only task. In addition to having all the bells and whistles, your website still needs to be:
- Fast – Patients need to see something happen on your website within three seconds of landing there. If it takes longer, almost 50 percent will hit the “back” button.
- Secure – This is a no-brainer for healthcare, but if for some reason your website isn’t secure, you’ve got a problem. Learn more about website security here >>
- Mobile-friendly – 62 percent of smartphone owners use their device to look up health information, and 82 percent of smartphone users use a search engine when looking for a local treatment center or health facility. Not only that, but according to Google, 77 percent of smartphone owners have used their smartphones to find local health services in the past six months, and 79 percent of them say they’re more likely to revisit and/or share a mobile site if it is easy to use.
- Coded for SEO – The best healthcare websites are coded in a way that makes it easy for the search engines’ software to find, crawl, and index them (see more about SEO below).
Healthcare Trend #3: Hyper-targeted healthcare SEO (specifically local SEO)
If you run into a marketer that says SEO is dead, he probably just sucks at it.
I can assure you SEO (search engine optimization) is very much alive, and it MATTERS for healthcare companies—89 percent of consumers turn to a search engine when they’re looking to solve their healthcare queries, and 83 percent of patients visit a hospital’s website before booking a treatment or procedure. Not only that, but “near me” searches for health-related services have doubled since 2015.
What I’m getting at is that you need to rank high (in the top five listings) in the search results. But there are two places you need to rank well—the local pack and the organic search results.
Let’s start with the local pack.
Local SEO and Google’s Local Pack
What is the local pack? It’s a group of 4-5 business listings that show up above the organic search results. On mobile, it’s the only thing searchers see without scrolling down:
The information in the local pack is pulled from a few places, but primarily from your Google My Business page. We highly recommend that one of the first things you do after reading this is checking out your own GMB listing. Specifically, check for:
- Your business’ categories (above, you can see it says either “doctor” or “allergist” right under the average review rating. That’s a feature inside GMB, and it helps searchers find specific needs)
- Your main phone number
- Your business’ description
- Your hours of operation
- Your address or service area
SEO and Google’s Organic Search Results
Below the local pack—and in certain cases, instead of the local pack—are the organic search results. When someone talks about general SEO and ranking online, this is what they’re talking about.
To rank well organically in the search results (whether it’s Bing, Google, or Yahoo), you must establish and promote yourself as the medical authority in your market as well as produce optimized, highly relevant content. In order to get your healthcare company to the top of search results:
- Your website needs to be optimized for SEO. That means it has the right schema, it’s fast, it’s secure, and it’s mobile-friendly.
- You need content driven by your patients’ wants and needs. Google ranks web pages individually, not websites as a whole. You’ll need optimized content for each micro-moment (including blogs, landing pages, press releases, e-mail newsletters, E-books, and more), and you’ll need a content distribution plan.
- You need to get other authoritative and relevant websites to link to, reference, and cite you as an authority. Google looks at links back to your website from other sites as little badges of authority. The more authority you have, the higher you rank.
Healthcare Trend #4: The Shrinking Organic Search Results and the Rise of Paid Ads
Take a look at the search results below for “urgent care.”
On mobile, the entire screen is taken up by ads. On desktop, ads are the first thing that shows, followed by the local pack.
What this means is that you need to take up as much real estate as you can on the search results pages, and that includes paid ads.
The average cost per click (how much you pay each time someone clicks on your ad) for healthcare and medical is $2.62 for search ads, and the average cost per action (how much you pay for the desired user action like filling out a contact form) is $78.09.
Healthcare Trend #5: Social media marketing: new rules for a new generation
If you want more patients, you need to be on social media—41 percent of consumers say that content found on social media will likely impact their choice of hospital or treatment center, and 42 percent of individuals viewing health information on social media look at health-related consumer reviews.
Take Mayo Clinic. They are ON IT when it comes to social media, specifically Facebook:
Another great example is United Healthcare. Not only do they create and share great content, they have a signature style in which they use pops of color:
There is a caveat to social media: it’s pay-to-play. If you don’t pay for ads, you’re likely going to be overlooked.
But before you launch head-first into your own campaign, beware: medical advertising on Facebook is complicated because of numerous targeting restrictions on the healthcare industry. We highly recommend you seek the help of Facebook advertisers who specialize in the healthcare and medical field (like us!).
Healthcare Trend #6: Video marketing for healthcare: no longer a luxury
If you haven’t gotten on the video train, you need to catch up—fast. A video is 50 times more likely to rank organically in the search results than text pages, and by 2019, videos will account for 85 percent of online traffic in the US.
Not only that, but healthcare is a prime industry to use video because of how visual and critical it is. Here are a few videos your healthcare facility or treatment center should leverage:
- Website welcome videos: We know that 83 percent of patients visit a hospital’s website before booking a treatment or procedure, so welcome them! Having a welcome video that summarizes the history, mission, and “why us” of your healthcare facility can help time-crunched patients get the information they need quickly.
- Physician profile videos: Most patients will at least run a Google search for their physician online before committing to an appointment. Having profile videos is a great way to introduce and humanize your physicians, and also allows you to shine a spotlight on your staff’s accomplishments.
- Patient review videos: Reviews are a big deal, especially in industries like healthcare where the stakes are high. For example, in the past 2 years, videos with the word “review” in the title had more than 50,000 years’ worth of watch time on mobile alone. By having testimonials and reviews from previous patients, you not only build confidence in your abilities, but you also build a patient’s trust in your staff. The healthcare industry goes hand-in-hand with unpleasant emotions like fear, anger, sadness, and uncertainty, so trust is key—even before a patient walks through your doors.
- Procedure and treatment overviews: If you provide complex or long-term treatments, break them down in an informative, short video. This gets the point across in a way that is easier for patients to understand.
- Educational videos on commonly asked questions or medical conditions: “Should I go to the ER?” “What types of treatments are there for diabetes?” “Is that a freckle or cancer?” These types of questions are ones that can be easily answered in the form of videos. Building out your YouTube page with these types of videos will not only make you the go-to authority but also clear up any confusion about your services.
Healthcare Trend #7: Personalized email marketing and marketing automation
There are a few types of emails you should definitely be taking advantage of:
- Appointment reminders
- “It’s Time For…” reminders that inform patients when they are due for a physical or other exams
- Request a friend referral
- Latest health news and expert commentary
- Announcements about the latest technology in your office
- Seasonal tip sheets
Healthcare Trend #8: Patient reviews: your ticket to more booked appointments
Think about this: in 2018, almost 72 percent of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor, and 88 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. As if that’s not evidence enough, 48 percent of patients would go out of their insurance network for a doctor with great reviews.
But after you get reviews you can’t just let them sit there; 65 percent of patients feel it’s important for doctors to respond to online reviews. To get more (great) reviews, simply ask for them, or use a program like Review Us Now, which aggregates reviews as well as sends emails requesting patients to leave reviews for their services.
Healthcare Trend #9: The new norm of texts, call tracking, and automated phone messages
A recent West survey found 75 percent of patients with chronic conditions want their doctor to keep in touch regularly so they can get a heads up if something looks amiss. What this looks like is a combination of email, text messaging, phone calls, and patient portals.
But not only should you be using these mediums to communicate, you should be tracking them as well. Without data on how your phone calls are converting or your text message delivery rate, you can’t improve your process in the future.
Learn more about call tracking and call intelligence reporting >>
Healthcare Trend #10: Data Overload
I just mentioned the importance of tracking your phone calls. That’s not all you should be tracking. You need to accurately measure and track each and every marketing campaign ( and I mean EVERY campaign) to find out which healthcare marketing strategies work and which should be tweaked or eliminated.
That’s called (buzzword alert) being data-driven.
The doctors and facility managers I’ve worked with more or less operate on two data strategy speeds: data-starved and data-puking.
A business is data-starved when it has too little data to make analytical decisions.
A business is data-puking when it has too much data to make analytical decisions.
Whichever yours is, I’ll make it easy: you need to be measuring, tracking, and basing your digital marketing strategy off of the healthcare industry’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They include:
- Number of patients
- Admission rates
- Readmission rates
- Total revenue
- Return on marketing investment (ROMI)
- Lead-to-appointment conversion rate
- Cost per lead (CPL)
Your Solution? Services from an Agency that Specializes in Healthcare Marketing Strategy
WHY YOU NEED A MARKETING COMPANY THAT SPECIALIZES IN THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY
Not only do you need these services, but you need a marketing company that understands the ins and outs of the medical marketing industry. We know:
- How to navigate through increasing regulations and comply with patient privacy practices
- How to develop long-lasting relationships with both patients and health practitioners
- The ins and outs of requirements for HIPAA Privacy & Security Rules for emails, texts, and content
- How to best position your facility’s brand in your marketplace
If you want more patients while optimizing your marketing costs and increasing revenue, it’s time to see what Blue Corona can do for your practice or hospital. Ready to begin? It all starts by contacting us here >>
About The Author: Betsy is the social media lead and a digital marketing expert with Blue Corona. When she’s not managing Blue Corona's digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring, hiking with her dog, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
View more blogs by Betsy McLeod