Why health care needs to make the switch to online marketing

Compared to other industries, health care is slow to embrace change. This is especially true when it comes to adopting technology. Yet from EHRs to online scheduling, doctors have slowly but surely come around to realizing that modern tools of the trade can not only streamline their workflow, but can help them see more patients, as well. The next frontier doctors must cross? Digital marketing.

What is digital marketing?

Basically, digital marketing refers to any marketing efforts that take place online, such as email campaigns, Facebook ads, blog posts, and even your practice’s web site. Health care marketing relies more heavily on print publications than other industries, according to research. This is a mistake in 2017, since we know that the vast majority of patients of all ages use the Internet to find and research providers.

The average U.S. business allocated 30% of its marketing budget to digital in 2016, while 59% of health care respondents said they had no digital strategy at all.

While the average American business allocated 30 percent of its marketing budget to online or digital channels in 2016, according a recent report by Forrester Research, medical practices are shockingly behind the times. As many as 59 percent of health care respondents said they are either behind schedule with their digital health strategy or have no digital health strategy at all, according to the “Global Progress on Digital Health” survey conducted by Validic.

Why are doctors so far behind the curve? Concerns about their reputation and return on investment, as well as fear of the unknown, are among the top reasons.

Why content marketing makes sense for doctors

In a profession where the main goal is caring for patients, it may seem off-putting for doctors to consider advertising their services online the way we might see companies hawking “miracle” diet pills or teeth-whitening kits. That’s why for many providers, content marketing is a more comfortable way to dip a toe into digital marketing.

Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to patients and prospects to help them solve their issues.

Content marketing means using informational articles, blog posts, videos, or other content to promote your practice. “Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues,” stated the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). CMI’s research has found that content marketing is used by B2B, B2C, and nonprofit organizations of all sizes, including large, well-known companies such as P&G, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems.

Whether you write your own content on a blog, retweet relevant medical news items on Twitter, or share patient education videos on your practice website or Facebook page, the goal is to “establish yourself as an authority in your niche,” as stated by this article in Adweek. “If you run a chiropractic clinic, for example, you should be blogging about the latest techniques in your field, how patients can find relief from chronic pain, or anything else related to your industry.”

Rendia offers an extensive library of high-quality patient education videos in numerous medical specialties that can be shared on practices’ websites, in patient emails, and on social media. The videos can encourage online engagement while also promoting routine visits.

What about SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a big buzzword in digital marketing. And while it may be tempting to hire a company that promises to catapult your practice to the top of search engine rankings, it may not be necessary or even possible. Since search engine algorithms change all the time, SEO is not an exact science. One thing that is certain, though, is that you must have good content to promote. “Search engines reward businesses that publish quality, consistent content,” according to CMI. And using video has been shown to improve a website’s SEO.

Using the right keywords in your content will improve SEO and draw qualified traffic to your site.

You also can improve your SEO yourself by optimizing your posts with specific keywords that will draw qualified traffic to your website. Google’s Keyword Planner is a free tool that allows you to search for relevant keywords in your specialty. For instance, eye doctors would benefit from knowing that searches for “optician” are high (100,000 to 1 million per month), while searches for “eye check up” are low (1,000 to 10,000 per month). Using the right keywords, “write engaging content, regular blog posts and a page title with a URL that clearly explains what your site is about,” advised Adweek.

Is social media marketing for you?

Statistics show that 30 percent of all time online is now spent on social media. And businesses are going where consumers are – social network ad spending is expected to reach almost $36 billion globally in 2017.

With an average of 1.15 billion daily active users, Facebook is king when it comes to social media platforms. Nearly 90 percent of 18 to 29 year olds are on Facebook, along with 73 percent of 30 to 49 year olds and more and more older Americans. For those reasons alone, it may make sense for doctors to advertise on Facebook.

For a relatively low cost compared to print advertising, Facebook allows advertisers to target their key patient demographics and location, reported MedPage Today. “What makes the Facebook advertising platform so powerful is that everything you invest in is easily analyzed and measured. You know how many people are clicking on your ad, taking action on your post, and viewing the ad.”

This makes it easy to calculate your return on investment (ROI) and patient acquisition cost (PAC), as this article in Physicians Practice explains. “For example, if you spend $1,000 on social-media marketing and management, and brought in 72 new patients, then your PAC is around $13 to $14.”

For a more in-depth look at targeting and tracking Facebook ads, see this article by MDConnect. And for more tips on how to market your practice effectively in 2017, check out this recent blog post, Doctors: Here’s How to Market Your Practice.