The Intake

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Everything you need to know for effective healthcare marketing in 2023

Here’s your comprehensive guide to healthcare marketing for 2023.

At a Glance

  • Learn about healthcare marketing, starting with understanding your target audience and creating an ideal customer profile (ICP).
  • Dives deep into leveraging digital platforms to market a healthcare practice, including building a strong web presence, boosting SEO, building a content marketing strategy, using online reviews, and posting on social media.
  • Use data analytics to measure the success of our marketing efforts and make necessary adjustments.

It’s an exciting time to build your medical practice. Crafting a healthcare marketing strategy is increasingly affordable, with many options from which to choose. This means that it’s easier than ever to build a healthcare digital marketing campaign that makes sense for you and your practice budget. 

And at a time when 89.7% of providers say they’re in a competitive market, marketing your practice is almost mandatory, not only to attract new patients but also to retain old ones.

But where should you start when there are so many options? Should you even spend your limited time and resources on marketing instead of focusing on patients?

The good news is that quality patient care and effective practice growth aren’t mutually exclusive. Today’s healthcare practice doesn’t need TV spots, newspaper ads, or splashy billboards to reach prospects. Digital marketing provides a way to attract new patients while you serve current ones.

In fact, being more online can also help you to meet patients’ needs. According to Tebra’s 4th annual Patient Perspectives report:

  • 77% of patients look online for a doctor or healthcare services
  • 46% select a healthcare organization or provider based on their online reviews
  • 30% want more options to do more with their healthcare provider online

In other words, current and prospective patients expect to be able to reach your practice online. And in this competitive market, if they can’t, it could cost you.

This guide will review everything you need to know to start effectively marketing your healthcare practice, including:

  • How to figure out your target patient
  • What you need on your website, including healthcare search engine optimization (SEO) tips
  • What you need to know about social media
  • How to develop a plan, including tips for your budget
  • How to improve your strategy over time
Everything you need to know for healthcare marketing inforgraphic

What is healthcare marketing?

Many physicians and office managers often wonder, “What is healthcare marketing?” and, “Is healthcare marketing different from regular marketing?”

Marketing your medical practice has some similarities with other industries, and numerous differences. One of the biggest deviations for healthcare is compliance. For example, healthcare providers must adhere to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the Stark Law, the Anti-Kickback Statute, and many other regulations. Raffles, patient screening events, and marketing that includes a specific diagnosis can all trigger compliance reviews. It’s also important to make sure your practice website is compliant. But despite the legal requirements, your medical practice can spread brand awareness in many ways.

To get started with marketing, you’ll need to answer a few questions:

  • Do you plan to market in person or online?
  • What is your budget?
  • How will you reach patients?
  • What is sustainable for your practice?
  • How will you leverage content marketing and social media?
  • What are your metrics for success?
  • How comfortable are you with updating your strategy over time?

Digital marketing for healthcare providers often gives a bigger bang for your buck — if done correctly. It’s popular because it’s fairly budget friendly and is easier to grow than in-person activities.

An overview of budget-friendly marketing strategies can include:

But before you dive deep into your healthcare marketing plan, establish your target audience. 

Understand your target audience

Before you do anything else, it’s essential to define your target audience — which for practices means defining target patients. To find out who they are, create an ideal customer profile (ICP).

What is an ICP?

For a healthcare practice, an ICP is a way to think about your perfect patient. If you’ve read a few marketing articles, you may think this is the same thing as a “buyer persona.” But there is a difference. A buyer persona targets a specific individual, while an ICP targets a desirable demographic for your business.

When building a healthcare marketing plan, it’s more useful to use an ICP.

How to create an ICP

Creating an ICP doesn’t necessarily need to take a long time, but it does require thoughtful reflection on your customer base and business services.

There are approximately 5 steps to designing your ICP:

  1. Review your existing patients’ qualities 
  2. List your ideal patient’s demographics
  3. Reflect on your ideal patient’s pain points, goals, and values
  4. Evaluate what you can offer
  5. Summarize all of this data in a few sentences for easy reference

Determine patient pain points

Pain points are factors that irritate or stress your patients. Many medical practices might assume the answer is obvious — they have an illness or injury, right?

But it’s not that simple. Consider an individual with chronic shoulder dislocation. They need a physical therapist, but they likely have pain points beyond those of their injury. For example, perhaps they also want to:

  • See a provider who their insurance covers
  • Receive reminders, since their ADHD makes remembering appointments challenging
  • Fill out new patient forms before coming in
  • Book flexible appointment times, since they have a hectic schedule
  • Not only heal their injury but also learn about how to improve their overall strength

Pain points are opportunities for your practice. You can explore ways to supplement current services or improve care delivery to solve them. As a result, you’ll likely have happier patients, leading to better reviews and referrals.

Pain points are opportunities for your practice. ”

How to use your ICP 

The point of collecting customer data and building an ICP is to help you better position your practice and attract customers that make sense for you. It may highlight growth opportunities or patient needs, but it can also make the marketing process less stressful. A clear, concise ICP makes it easier and faster to decide on content and graphics that work for your organization and your audience. 

As you attract more new patients and grow your healthcare practice, you may expand your team. The ICP you drafted in the beginning will make communication easier as you delegate marketing efforts to other practitioners or administration. 

Develop a marketing plan

Once you have an ICP, it’s time to determine your goals and budget. 

When it comes to objectives, how will you know you’re successful? This can translate into a specific number of referrals, website views, new patient bookings, positive patient reviews, or patients who select a supplemental service. Establish where you are now so you can track any changes over time. 

Then, set time constraints around your goals — for example, 3 months. Adding this time component makes it easier to track your progress and manage your bandwidth, as well as giving your plan time to pay off. 

But what about the big question: budgeting?

Digital marketing is often more affordable compared to ads in print newspapers or on local TV. In addition, assets like your website and evergreen blog posts require minimal upkeep while attracting patients over the years.

On average, most businesses will allot 13.6% of their total budget to marketing in 2023. But whatever you can afford to spend, it’s important that you prioritize your marketing efforts. 

In general, it helps to set up or optimize your long-term, patient-focused assets first. For example, you may want to:

There are many other marketing tactics you can try as you grow, such as attending networking meetings, seeking guest spots on podcasts, or writing articles for a local publication or medical blog. You can also choose to supplement your organic marketing with paid Google or social media ads. 

Most businesses will allot 13.6% of their total budget to marketing in 2023. ”
Annual CMO Survey

Use proven marketing tactics

There are an unlimited number of ways to get creative with marketing your healthcare practice. But some tactics are more than short-term strategies — they’re long-term assets. 

Establishing a strong web presence, ensuring your website is SEO-friendly, engaging on social media, creating unique and useful content, and leveraging reviews can all help you to grow your business. 

Build a strong web presence 

Around 49% of patients report that a sound website is very important to them when selecting a healthcare provider. And when you think about this, it makes sense. Your website is your digital front door. It’s your first impression. And it’s the cornerstone of any digital marketing campaign. 

A well-thought-out website makes it easy for existing and new patients to find the information they need. As users become increasingly accustomed to interacting with more and more services online, it’s also a central component of your patient experience. 

When looking at customer acquisition, one goal is to drive as much relevant traffic — meaning, traffic from users who match your ICP — to your website as possible. This is because you want individuals who see your page to book an appointment. But marketing your website or including content that doesn’t relate to your services can attract people who are not your target audience — even if the metrics seem to look good.

A high-conversion website should be built with end users in mind. This often means creating several informational pages. Patients tend to find the following pages most important:

In addition, if you offer several services, you may want to separate pages for each. This gives you an opportunity to go into detail, making your services clearer to both patients and search engines.

Outside of this framework, it’s also important to ensure your website is easy to use. To start:

  • Use a website builder to streamline the process
  • Select a responsive, mobile-friendly design
  • Publish high-quality written and visual content created just for you, not stock photography and AI-generated text
  • Support your content with quality and relevant images and videos
  • Ensure that your site is accessible to those with disabilities — your website builder might automatically offer some of this functionality, but don’t forget about alt text for images and transcripts for videos or infographics 
  • Use larger font sizes in high-contrast colors, especially if your patients are older

Boost SEO to increase visibility and drive web traffic

SEO makes it more likely that patients will find your website when they search on Google, Bing, or another search engine. For example, if you are a speech therapist for children based in Los Angeles, good SEO makes it more likely that you’ll appear in a search for “children speech therapist LA.”

This is why independent practices can no longer afford to ignore SEO. When patients use Google to investigate their symptoms, they also use it to find practitioners. And the best way to get seen is to invest in local SEO and improve your rankings.

  • Claim your Google Business Profile. This gives you a Google listing that features your website, address, reviews, images, and other information.
  • Use location-based keywords, such as “speech therapist in memphis tn.”
  • Interact professionally with other local businesses and organizations on social media.

You can also:

  • Disperse target keywords through your content naturally
  • Use headings to create a clear information hierarchy 
  • Keep content easy to read
  • Use lists
  • Use title tags
  • Use meta descriptions
  • Add alt text to images
  • Use a fast website hosting service

Most website builders indicate these items when filling out information about a page or image. No coding required. Just remember: medical SEO is an ongoing project that gains traction over time.

Leverage social media

Social media is a way to find your patients and publicize your website. How you decide to use social media largely depends on your ideal client and how you want to present yourself, and different practices have different approaches. For example:

  • How old are your patients?
  • Do you have an existing skill set around written, audio, or visual content?
  • Do you want to focus on promoting your team members, or informing patients and prospects about topics in your niche?

Building a social media presence also takes time. Whatever platforms you post on, be sure to engage with others in the community. Posting is important, but engaging is a way to become part of the larger conversation.

Currently, 1 out of 4 millennials follow their doctor on social media. And while many patients don’t follow their healthcare provider, they say that they would if the provider created content regularly.

  • Facebook: Facebook pages typically pair well with a Google Business Profile. Users can leave reviews, interact with your updates, or share your page with family members and friends. 
  • Twitter: Twitter is a great platform if you prefer short snippets of written content. It’s also ideal if you enjoy engaging in conversations with other medical professionals or answering common questions.
  • YouTube: Many patients like watching in-depth videos about their condition or injury. This platform may be perfect for specific specialties, such as physical or speech therapists, as you can demonstrate exercises and activities patients can use at home. 
  • TikTok: The fastest-growing platform on this list is video-based TikTok. The good news is that you don’t need professional production quality to make an engaging video. You don’t even need to dance. This is an effective way to reach younger patients.
  • Instagram: Instagram is perfect for those who make images or short videos.

Once you decide what platforms to use, it’s time to start drafting content. You don’t necessarily need to post something every day, but what you do post should be interesting and relevant for your patients. To create engaging social media content:

  • Keep it real and be authentic 
  • Use unique videos and photos
  • Post testimonials and reviews
  • Have fun — try creating trivia questions or polls

Just remember: never post about specific patients. Sharing anonymous cases or anecdotes may seem like an easy source of content inspiration, but it will erode your patients’ trust and may even violate HIPAA. Instead, look to trends among multiple patients — their questions, concerns, and goals — and discuss what you notice more broadly. 

Invest in content marketing

Once you have your website and social media up and running, decide whether to invest in content marketing.

Content marketing focuses on creating blog posts, videos, infographics, and other related items to attract and gain patients. You can publish this content on your website and use snippets of it on social media.

1 out of 4 millennials follow their doctors on social media. ”

There are 2 top content marketing goals for medical practices:

  • Get found by patients
  • Get patients to book an appointment

One of the most common methods is to publish a blog on your website. For example, if you’re a psychiatrist, your posts might discuss:

  • Common disorders and their treatments
  • How an evaluation works for the conditions you treat
  • New treatments currently being tested
  • Coping skills for living with a mental illness
  • Coping skills for family members

The sky is the limit. But for content marketing to work, you need to have a strategy, which involves researching and tying your content to SEO keywords and phrases. Doing so attracts more traffic to your website. Often, patients find your content on either social media or Google.

It also builds trust. Because patients can scan through articles and see your expertise, they are more likely to view your practice as an authority — especially if other practices in your area aren’t providing the same experience.

Create a content budget 

Before diving into the numbers, remember that content is a long-term asset. When you create content — whether you make it or pay someone else to do so — it contributes to your ever-growing archive for months or even years. It’s a long-term investment, and consistent marketing will snowball your efforts.

In other words, if you optimize your site and content, you will progressively get more and more website traffic and, eventually, more patients. 

But what should your budget be? How much you ultimately allot for marketing, and specifically content marketing, will depend on the size of your business and needs.

That said, it is possible to fit content marketing into just about every budget.

If you’re running a new practice and only have a handful of patients or clients, you will likely create most of the content yourself. You can edit videos or write articles on a shoestring budget, especially if you only invest in affordable technology, like editing software or keyword research. 

Yet doing everything yourself can be time-consuming. As you get more patients and other areas of your practice require focus, it might be more efficient to outsource to a content provider. This can be a freelancer or an agency, and the cost will vary.

Deploy your content effectively

No matter who creates your content, it’s important to be strategic with how you use it. Repurposing and reposting content, particularly on social media, can be a way to drive traffic and engagement and appear to be creating more than you actually are — if you do it right. 

For example, say you paid a freelancer for a 3,000-word blog post about gallbladder diseases. Instead of creating an article on a new topic the next time you want to talk about gallbladder diseases, you can break the topic down into smaller chunks for social media, email, or a short video. You can repost all these smaller chunks across your marketing channels, highlighting different pieces of information, using different visuals, and spacing out your reposts to keep it fresh.

This makes it easier to keep up with your digital marketing since you can reuse the same long piece of content multiple times.

But what if you want to repurpose short content?

That works, too.

Let’s say you had a really popular TikTok video about anxiety coping skills. You can write a blog post about that topic, post it on your website, and include the original TikTok video. You may even be able to use parts of the new article as the basis for a second or third video.

Get 5-star reviews

In 2022, 1 in 3 patients reviewed their healthcare providers online, and 62% of Gen Z won’t even consider a provider with few or no reviews. 

In other words, reviews can be a prime decision-maker once a prospective patient finds your website. 

Ask for patient reviews

Asking for reviews often feels uncomfortable. After all, your job is to help people. And if you do your job, they should review independently, right?

The problem is that patients are often busy. If they have a good experience with you, they might not realize they can share that with others, let alone remember to do so. However, when they have a bad experience, they are eager to let everyone know.

When you ask for patient reviews proactively, you highlight your investment in a positive customer experience and potentially get ahead of any negative reviews.

To make it easier, here are some best practices for asking for reputation-boosting reviews:

  1. Include reviews and testimonials on your website.
  2. Ask patients to write a review after they give you a positive comment in person.
  3. Provide instructions for leaving a review as a physical print out and as a post-appointment email.
  4. Keep the review process simple.
  5. Write down a script for what to say when you ask for reviews, and then practice using it so that it becomes easier to ask.
  6. Offer incentives, such as discounts, coupons, or gift cards.

It’s also important to respond promptly to any negative feedback. In fact, 64% of patients say they would return to a practice if it addressed their negative review.

How to streamline the review process

The biggest obstacle to getting more reviews is following up with patients. Many physicians and healthcare providers simply don’t have the time to check in with patients and ask for reviews. 

Automating the process and adding the request to your workflow can make it manageable. For example, you can add a review link to your patient emails and text messages. This link should open to a page where they can leave their review. 

You may even decide to set up an automated email sequence for follow-ups, just in case a patient forgets. 

Once you have reviews, you must manage them and respond to eventual negative comments. A platform that consolidates your online reputation management is often easier since you can do everything in one place. 

Maximize your marketing budget

Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your marketing strategy, you can improve it over time following these 5 tips:

1. Focus on your patient needs and communication channels

You’ll often discover the best marketing topics by communicating with your patients. Keeping track of patient questions and needs and providing a stellar response time is a quick way to garner good reviews. You can then apply what you learn across communication channels to create content. 

In particular, adding automated or online features to your operations can improve your marketing, patient experience, overall efficiency. These can include:

  • Online appointment systems
  • Chatbots or SMS messages
  • An online portal for health record access
  • Online payments
  • Telehealth

All of these can reduce your workload while also complimenting your marketing efforts. 

2. Run digital healthcare marketing campaigns 

Digital marketing — including paid social media advertising — isn’t just cost-effective. You can customize your campaign to make sense with your practice and schedule. At the same time, you can turn digital marketing on and off as you see fit. And the best part, you get clear data from your campaigns, so you can track your progress and adjust. 

3. Make decisions with data

Whether you focus on social media, content, or both, you can set up analytics to evaluate your efforts. For example, you can track how many people visit your site, how long they stay, and if they book an appointment. Depending on the platform, you can also track how many people see your social posts and which topics perform better. 

You can use data to improve your decisions around marketing, reduce costs, and improve customer acquisition.

4. Use templates

Marketing is a lot of work, but you can speed up the process by using templates. And these can be applied to most of the marketing process. For example, you can have a social post template, a blog post outline template, and an email template. To some extent, you can even set up templates for the social media graphic design process with tools like Canva. 

5. Repurpose content

You can reuse content across channels for faster content creation and to ensure you reach your target audience. This can be in the form of using a social post in a blog post, turning content from an email newsletter into a video, or any other variation. 

Measure the success of your healthcare marketing

To get the full benefits of digital marketing, track metrics for your campaigns. For most practices, there are 2 places to focus: Google and social media platforms. To track how your website is going, set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Their tracking codes help you determine things like:

  • Page or blog post ranking for a keyword
  • Website traffic
  • How long people stay on your site
  • Popular pages
  • Which pages people leave

Most social media sites also offer different access to data — once you have a business or creator account. If you have a personal account, you just need to go to settings under your chosen social platform and find the option “business account” or “switch to a creator account.” The exception to this is if you have a Facebook page, which by default tracks data.

 Social metrics can show:

  • Which posts have the most views
  • Which posts have the most clicks
  • Which posts have the most likes (or equivalent)
  • Which posts have more comments

This kind of information can help you determine what topics or content are popular.

It’s important to note that when analyzing your data, it’s better to look at a monthly or quarterly view. All platforms run on an algorithm, and it can take time for your posts to get traction and start showing to more people. 

The more regular you post, and the more you engage with others on the platform, the more likely it is that you’ll reach a growing audience

To get the full benefits of digital marketing, track metrics for your campaigns. ”

Refine and adjust your healthcare marketing strategies

As you continue to create content and monitor the results, you may find you need to tweak your marketing strategies. 

Your content might resonate more on TikTok than on LinkedIn, or you might find that posts about post-surgery best practices do better than general posts about certain conditions. 

To refine and adjust your marketing strategies:

  • Review patient feedback
  • Refresh and realign older content, like blog posts and website pages
  • Review your messaging — do you need to simplify your content, shift it, or expand it?

Find new and creative ways to stretch your budget

Platforms and tools change constantly. Marketing is open to creativity. You can always find cost-effective ways to market your practice, from collaborations with local businesses and other practices to low-budget skits or offering a Q&A session about your specialty. 

And so long as you have a clear ICP, your customized marketing strategy, an SEO-optimized website, and social channels with consistent content, you have a firm foundation on which to build. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars per month to get clients — you can find a marketing strategy that works with your budget.

But it’s important to have a strategy. Practicing healthcare marketing for growth requires a small investment over time, with the potential for big results.

You might also be interested in

  • Did you know that a whopping 75% of online searchers never bother scrolling beyond the first page of results? Maintaining a solid customer response rating increases your changes of landing among the top 3 search rankings. Learn how online reviews affect SEO for doctors.
  • Your medical practice website is not just another piece of marketing material. It is a crucial touchpoint for new patients, and it has the potential to be a powerful tool for healthcare professionals who strive to grow. Learn how to transform your medical practice website into a growth machine.
  • 75% of people look online to find a doctor. Patients look critically at web presence, online business profiles, and reviews when they decide to pick a health provider. Learn where your practice should be online in the 2023 Patient Perspective Report.
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Written by

Kelsey Ray Banerjee

Kelsey Ray Banerjee is a professional content writer in the marketing space and finance space. She has worked in the back office of a psychiatric practice, and with family members working in mental health for two generations, she understands the challenges healthcare professionals face when it comes to marketing and admin.

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