The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

How to determine your medical practice’s marketing budget

Determine your medical practice marketing budget for 2024 with insights from Tebra’s Healthcare Marketing Budget Benchmark Survey.

Physicians discuss their medical practice marketing budget while looking at tablet

At a Glance

  • 15% of surveyed healthcare practices spend $15,000+ annually on marketing.
  • 62% of surveyed healthcare practices only spend 1–5% of their revenue on marketing.
  • Consider your practice’s unique offerings, competitors, location, and revenue when deciding on your marketing budget.

In an ideal world, your service would be your marketing.  

But the reality is that you need to market your healthcare practice to attract and keep patients. 

You’ve probably dabbled in marketing. Maybe you’ve tried your hand at Meta advertising, social media marketing, or even blog posts. While the first step to getting started is… getting started, deciding on your marketing budget is high on the priority list.

Whether you outsource or handle your marketing in-house, you’ll have to determine your medical practice’s marketing budget. How much should you spend to get patients in the door?

Of course, there’s no one right answer. (Nothing’s ever that easy.) But we’re here to help you determine:

  • The average medical practice marketing budget
  • The factors you should use to come up with your own
  • The percentages of your marketing budget you should spend on a variety of tactics

In the Healthcare Marketing Budget Benchmark Survey, Tebra surveyed owners and managers of 106 private practices to hear how they allocate their marketing budgets directly from them.

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How much do private practices spend on marketing?

According to Tebra’s survey, here’s roughly how much private medical practices spend on marketing in dollars:

  • ⅓ spend less than $2,500
  • ⅓ spend $2,500 to $10,000
  • ⅓ spend over $10,000

Here’s the full budget breakdown:

However, if you’re looking for an easier way to calculate your own budget, it’s more helpful to look at the marketing budget as a percentage of the practice’s overall revenue:

  • 10% of practices spend 0% of their revenue on marketing
  • 62% spend 1 – 5% of revenue on marketing
  • 14% spend 6 – 10% of revenue on marketing
  • 14% spend 11 – 40% of revenue on marketing

How should you determine your healthcare marketing budget?

Several critical factors play into how you determine your annual healthcare marketing budget. It’s not just about picking a number that sounds good — it’s about strategically aligning your financial resources with the unique aspects of your practice. 

Consider these factors when determining your healthcare practice’s marketing budget.

  • Your revenue: Start here. While having a dollar amount in mind for your budget is fine, it makes the most sense to base it on a percentage of revenue. In Tebra’s survey, 62% of practices have a marketing budget between 1 and 5% of their revenue.
  • Whether you’re a new or existing practice: Getting started is a tough marketing place to be in. If your medical practice is brand new or you just opened a new office, you’re starting from scratch. You won’t have any brand awareness or existing tactics like referrals and reviews to lean on. 

Practices at this stage have to allocate a much higher percentage of their revenue for marketing efforts than practices that have been around for a while. You’ll have to balance the need for new patients with your available funds.

  • Your goals and growth rate: What are your expectations for growth? If you’re doubling down on marketing in hopes of doubling the size of your practice in a year, then a 5% marketing allocation won’t cut it. Increase or reduce your marketing budget based on whether you’re hoping for drastic growth or want to grow at a more natural pace.

Also, take a look at your patient capacity. If you can’t expand your care team, how many patients can you realistically see in a day? If you’re well under capacity, it means you need to siphon more money into your budget. However, you can have a more conservative marketing cap if you're near max capacity.

If you can’t expand your care team, how many patients can you realistically see in a day? ”
  • Your specialty: How competitive is your industry? Scope out your direct competitors to get an idea of how much time and energy they spend on their marketing, and let that influence your budget. For example, the marketing landscape is much more competitive if you’re a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist. You’ll likely have to spend more to stand out in a crowded market.

Your specialty also impacts your patient lifetime value. Do you often see patients for a short period of time, like a physical therapy clinic? Then, you need to work harder to continue to acquire new patients. However, if you work in primary care, your patients will typically stick around longer, and you won’t have to continuously work as hard to find new ones.

  • Your location: Consider your location's population size and whether or not you have a lot of competition nearby. Metropolitan areas may have more people to advertise to, but they also have more competition. In contrast, an urgent care in a rural area with no nearby competitors may not need a high marketing budget.

What should a medical practice marketing budget include?

A well-structured marketing budget is essential to get your marketing plan up and running. But what should medical practices put in a marketing budget? Consider these elements:

  • Advertising spend: Probably the most obvious number to track is the money you’ll spend deploying ads. This should include the cost of social media ads, pay-per-click advertising, print ads, billboards, etc.
  • Content creation: Budget for creating high-quality, engaging content for your website, blogs, and social media channels. This might include costs for copywriting, video production, and graphic design.
  • Digital tools and software: Include funds for essential digital marketing tools and software. This may cover email marketing services, social media management tools, patient engagement platforms, and more.
  • Website maintenance and SEO: Allocate funds for ongoing website maintenance, hosting fees, and search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure your practice continues to attract potential patients online.
  • Agency fees: While not mandatory, investing in a reputable healthcare marketing agency can be a strategic move. Their expertise not only saves you time but can save money with their dialed-in marketing tactics. 
  • Staff costs: Staff fees often aren’t included in healthcare marketing budgets because it’s difficult to track, and administrative staff frequently complete marketing activities between their many other duties. Yet, it’s critical to get an accurate idea of how much each marketing tactic costs you and whether it’s worth the return on investment (ROI).
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How to allocate your annual marketing budget

Once you’ve decided on your marketing budget, you need to determine how to spend it. You need a strategic approach that balances multiple channels to achieve the highest ROI. Let’s examine marketing tactics and how medical practices allocate their budgets.

Note: You can also start with a goal-based marketing budget that works through this process backward. Start with your goal, determine the tactics to get there, and set the budget based on that information.

Networking and referrals

Average budget: 

  • 41% of practices spend $1 to $999 annually on networking and referrals
  • 35% spend more than $1,000 a year
  • 24% spend nothing

Networking and referrals are often the most effective marketing tactics that medical practices can employ. However, they're not often reflected accurately in marketing budgets.

These often include hard expenses like health fairs, networking events, and conferences. It pays for tickets, signage, promotional items, and booth fees. 

You need to deliver consistent results, have strong patient relationships, offer personalized care, and keep patients engaged. ”

However, this doesn’t account for the intangibles that make networking and referrals effective. It takes time to build relationships and earn a reputation that encourages people to recommend your practice. You need to deliver consistent results, have strong patient relationships, offer personalized care, and keep patients engaged. 

Networking is a great marketing tool for longevity and sustainable growth, but it’s not a quick solution for attracting more patients to your practice.

Online business listings

Average budget:

  • 46% of medical practices allocate between $1 and $999 annually to online business listings
  • 40% spend more than $1,000 a year
  • 14% spend nothing

As part of your marketing budget, allocate resources to ensure your practice is accurately and prominently listed across various online platforms. Online listings, such as Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), insurance websites, and review sites improve your SEO, making you more likely to land on top of the results page. 

That’s likely why 42% of surveyed medical practices use online business listings. It’s ranked the #2 most used tactic and the second most successful for practices. Yet, most providers only keep up with 1 to 3 listings out of more than 60 in the market. 

To make the most of your online listings, you need to claim them and update them monthly to reflect new information. ”

To make the most of your online listings, you need to claim them and update them monthly to reflect new information (think: updated hours, new providers, additional specialties, etc.). Overall, practices said managing their online listings was the third most effective marketing tactic.

Whether you manage your own online listings or automate them, it drastically impacts your searchability on the web and offers a high ROI.

Optimize Operations

Online reviews and reputation management 

Average budget: 

  • 38% of medical practices allocate between $1 and $999 annually to online reviews and reputation management
  • 32% spend between $1,000 and $2,499 a year
  • 19% spend more than $2,500 a year
  • 11% spend nothing

Managing your healthcare practice’s online reputation is critical in today’s digital landscape. According to Tebra’s 4th annual Patient Perspectives report, 3 in 4 patients say online reviews are extremely or very important when choosing a healthcare provider.

According to Tebra’s most recent survey, 37% of medical practices use online reviews and reputation management as part of their marketing efforts, and practices ranked it the second most successful marketing tactic overall.

You can manage reviews, send surveys, monitor feedback, and respond to reviews either with your in-house team or through reputation management automation

Take a look at some additional strategies to boost your online reputation.

Social media ads

Average budget:

  • 43% of surveyed medical practices spend between $100 and $990 annually on social media ads
  • 25% spend between $1,000 and $2,499 annually
  • 32% spend more than $2,500 annually

Medical practices can use social media ads to attract new patients and engage current ones. Ads offer a strategic way to increase visibility and promote health services.

Social media advertising enables practices to target specific demographics, tailoring messaging to potential patients based on age, location, interests, and even health-related behaviors. This level of customization ensures that you use your marketing dollars efficiently and helps you reach the right audience with the right message.

Social media advertising enables practices to target specific demographics, tailoring messaging to potential patients based on age, location, interests, and even health-related behaviors. ”

Given how budget allocations vary, there’s clearly flexibility in how much you invest in this channel. The key is to align your spending with clear objectives and measurable outcomes. This could include increasing website traffic, boosting appointment bookings, or enhancing patient engagement.

Earned and owned digital media

Average budget:

  • 33% of surveyed practices spend between $1 and $999 annually on SEO, while 7% spend between $7,500 and $9,999, and 40% spend nothing.
  • 40% of practices spend between $1,000 and $2,499 on digital marketing, and 35% spend over $2,500.
  • 42% spend between $1 and $999 on content marketing, and 41% spend between $1,000 and $2,499.

Earned media is any content written about your business that you didn’t pay for or create yourself. Owned media are tactics like your practice website, blog, or social media accounts. Together, they make a powerful marketing platform.

Search engine optimization (SEO) falls somewhere in the middle, influenced by what you write about your practice and what others write about it. With average budgets indicating modest SEO spending for most medical practices, you can do the most by optimizing your existing website and using local SEO strategies.

Since creating a practice website or starting a blog can seem daunting, many practices outsource it to healthcare marketing agencies. ”

Since creating a practice website or starting a blog can seem daunting, many practices outsource it to healthcare marketing agencies with the resources to build a full digital marketing strategy.

Whichever budget range you determine will also likely determine the depth of your strategies. SEO and content marketing are both long-term strategies that take time to build up but pay off in the end.

Print advertisements and billboards

Average budget:

  • Print advertising
    • 33% of private practices spend between $1 and $999 annually
    • 30% spend between $1,000 and $2,499 annually
    • 37% spend more than $2,500 annually
  • Billboards and outdoor advertising:
    • 33% of private practices spend between $1 and $999 annually
    • 42% spend between $1,000 and $2,499 annually
    • 25% spend more than $2,500 annually

Print ads and billboards require relatively minimal expertise and are a straightforward option for medical practice marketing. They’re both easy to create, either by an in-house team or through an agency, and reusable for multiple campaigns.

While it’s hard to measure the ROI of billboards, coming in last place on Tebra’s most impactful survey, this traditional approach can work in high-traffic areas. Billboards may cost as little as $2,000 per month but can soar to as much as $100,000 in populous urban areas. Still, they should be considered for brand awareness and patient acquisition.

Print ads come with a much smaller price tag, with magazine ads typically starting around $500. Still, those considering print ads should take a closer look at digital ads for their ability to target specific demographics and their trackability.

Healthcare practice marketing budgets for 2024

What should you expect for healthcare practice marketing in 2024? Most surveyed medical practices (65%) anticipate their marketing budget to stay the same in 2024, with nearly a third expecting an increase.

With mostly stable marketing budgets, medical practices seem to be approaching marketing with a cautiously optimistic approach.

Digital channels will continue to dominate marketing spending, with reputation management and online reviews at the top. As 2024 progresses, it’s clear that healthcare practices are balancing stability and targeted investments to position themselves for sustained growth and success in this dynamic healthcare market.

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Rebecca Slawter

Rebecca Slawter is a seasoned freelance content and copywriter focusing on B2B SaaS. Bringing nearly a decade of experience, she leverages her skill set to create dynamic, compelling copy that resonates with her clients and their audiences. California-born and bred, she uses her love for writing to help global brands tell their story.

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