Healthcare Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Drive Sales (2022)

Healthcare is a complex and highly competitive space, with a unique set of marketing challenges and opportunities.

Effective healthcare marketing bridges the gap between successful marketing and the specific demands of the sector, to drive sales and patient loyalty.  

In this guide, we’re covering everything you need to know about marketing for healthcare professionals!

What healthcare marketing is and why it is important, the unique challenges marketers face when promoting healthcare services, how to define your healthcare marketing strategy, the best channels to use, and examples of successful healthcare marketing campaigns.

Right, let’s dive right in!

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    What Is Healthcare Marketing?

    Healthcare marketing refers to marketing strategies that are specifically designed for the healthcare sector.

    They’re used by healthcare professionals, providers, insurers, institutions, and suppliers, as well as advocacy groups and educational institutions.

    Good healthcare marketing is precisely targeted and segmented and uses multiple channels for advertising, patient engagement, and communications.

    It is also measurable, using relevant KPIs and healthcare marketing-specific metrics.

    The overall objectives of healthcare marketing are much the same as any marketing – to attract and retain customers, drive growth and revenue, improve brand reputation, and foster trust and loyalty.

    However, healthcare marketing faces some unique challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome to be successful:

    Healthcare-Specific and HIPAA Compliant Tools and Software

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act HIPAA rules are a critical component of healthcare marketing in the US (and GDPR in Europe), limiting the types of tools, platforms, and integrations you can use in your marketing stack.

    Many tools and technologies used in other forms of marketing are not t (HIPAA) compliant. You will need to use tools that are specifically designed to handle healthcare information and keep data secure and compliant. These limitations extend to third parties, vendors, and suppliers too.

    Healthcare Marketing - HIPAA Compliance
    Image Source

    Targeting, Data Security and Privacy Regulations

    These may prohibit targeting based on particular medical conditions and remarketing for healthcare brands due to privacy concerns. This can be overcome using anonymized data that is privacy-safe, but access to such data can be a limitation.

    Tracking and Medical Marketing Key Performance Indicators

    The KIPs used to measure and track healthcare marketing strategies need to be tailored to the way healthcare providers work.

    Simple calculations like the revenue per patient can be skewed by delays in payments from insurers, different percentages of cover, etc.

    Many KPIs that are generally automated, have to be adapted or done manually. It may take months to work out exactly how much revenue is earned from specific marketing strategies.

    Trust, Authority, and Empathy

    There is a level of emotional intensity in healthcare marketing that can be challenging to navigate. Messaging must balance authority and empathy to establish the competence of the provider while humanizing them and making patients feel seen, cared for and safe.

    Why is Healthcare Marketing Important?

    Healthcare is a diverse and highly competitive sector and effective healthcare marketing is critical for success!

    Marketing strategies that are specifically designed for the healthcare sector will help you:

    • Reach the right audience, at the right time, in the right way to obtain new patients
    • Provide contextual and culturally relevant messaging for your target audience
    • Establish yourself as an authoritative but caring and empathetic brand
    • Find the best mix of patients to meet your business objectives
    • Keep patients engaged with relevant, timely, and personalized communication
    • Use multiple channels to reach and engage with prospective patients
    • Improve trust and foster loyalty from your patients
    • Build your brand reputation and increase your credibility and authority in your field
    • Stay compliant with the relevant advertising and privacy legislation in your region
    • Gather relevant feedback and offer better patient care and service to improve their satisfaction
    • Obtain reviews and testimonials from satisfied patients for improved social proof
    • Determine the right KPIs to use for healthcare marketing to monitor and evaluate your results

    Healthcare is highly competitive and marketing for healthcare professionals, brands, and facilities are unique to the sector.

    Strategies that work well in other sectors may miss the mark entirely for healthcare. That is why it is so important to define an appropriate strategy, that combines the right elements.

    Let’s take a look at how to do that:

    4 Steps to Define Your Healthcare Product Marketing Strategy

    Personal and brand reputation are important in every sector but they’re especially important in healthcare.

    People who need medical care are particularly vulnerable and emotional. Emotional factors play a huge role in the choices they make.

    How they perceive your brand and your people, on an emotional level, is more often than not the deciding factor when it comes to their choice of provider.

    As such, brand reputation and the individual reputations and expertise of your team are of critical importance. More so than in any other industry and they need to be central to your marketing strategy.

    Luckily, you can use the marketing channels that you use to reach your prospects, to build a great reputation!

    With that in mind, here are the four main goals to consider when you’re setting out your healthcare marketing strategy:

    1. Leverage Content Marketing to Build Recognition, Trust, and Authority

    Content marketing is a valuable marketing strategy to use in healthcare marketing. Done right, content marketing will help you attract new patients, and engage and retain existing patients. It will also help you establish your expertise, your authority in your field and build trust in your audience.

    Content marketing is especially valuable in the healthcare sector, where trust is critical for success.

    Most people research their health concerns, symptoms, treatment options, and healthcare providers in detail.

    Providing valuable content, that answers their questions and positions you as a trusted of reliable information, is the best way to reach them in a meaningful way.

    Your healthcare content marketing strategy should include a combination of informative, authoritative content and content that humanizes your brand and positions you as an accessible, empathetic, and caring provider.

    Northwell Health does this very well. Their website and social media feed present a combination of scientific, informative content and more personal, informal content. From top scientific innovations to hangover cures and tips for caregivers caring for loved ones at home.

    Healthcare Marketing - Screenshots of posts from Northwell Health's Twitter account

    Depending on the specifics of your business, your content can include a mix of:  

    • Informative articles and blog posts
    • Videos
    • Podcasts
    • Articles and blogs that focus on the human and emotional side of healthcare
    • Testimonials

    At a minimum, your website should include testimonials, content on what to expect during treatment, tips for recovery after treatment, and detailed information on your staff.

    Content marketing works hand-in-hand with social media marketing and paid advertising. The content produced for your website can be used across all your channels.

    If you do not have the time or skills to produce content in-house, you can use copywriting services or engage an agency to produce and manage your content for you.

    2. Build and Maintain a Strong Brand Image and Reputation

    Having a good brand reputation shows that your business is seen as authoritative, credible, and trustworthy.

    In healthcare, it also shows that you are seen as a brand that is empathetic and values patient care and their experiences.

    The expertise of your professionals, the quality of your facilities, and the care and support you provide are essential for establishing and maintaining a good reputation.

    Healthcare is a highly competitive space. The things that set you apart, your competitive edge, come from the quality of your facilities and the caliber of your professionals.

    Highlight the strengths and the things that set you apart. Focus on what you can provide that is unique to you and valuable to your ideal patients.

    Be that the experience and expertise of your doctors, the lengths your nurses will go to care for your patients, or the advanced technology you have at your disposal.

    Your image and reputation are your greatest intangible assets. Make sure that every point of contact with potential and actual patients shows your brand in the best light.

    In the age of social media, any misstep can become a viral PR nightmare in a matter of minutes!

    Actively manage your reputation and the individual reputations of your staff. If you do not have the capacity or expertise to do this, hire a marketing or PR agency to do it for you.

    Take a look at this short video by SoGoSurvey on online reputation management in healthcare:

    Invest in high-quality photos of your staff and your facilities, showcase your professional memberships, affiliations, and expertise, and display your awards.

    Encourage and empower your staff to develop their professional reputations (this ties into your content marketing too) and become thought leaders in their respective fields.

    The bottom line is that building and maintaining a great brand reputation is critical for success in healthcare.

    Strengthening, monitoring, and managing your reputation is an essential part of your healthcare marketing strategy.

    3. Focus on Providing Great Patient Experience

    Patient experience is more important than ever before. How patients experience their relationship with you, at every point of their journey from prospect to loyal patient, is critical for success.

    Good healthcare marketing speaks to providing and showcasing a great customer experience.

    Reviews and feedback from your patients, in-person and online, is a goldmine of information to improve how you do business and to improve how patients experience dealing with you. Take note of them, and respond to them quickly and appropriately.

    This video by Press Ganey Associates LLC provides more detail on the importance of patient experience:

    At a minimum, great patient experience is achieved by providing great care, quickly and easily. Convenience is key. Focus on how you can make it as easy as possible for patients to deal with you, and then showcase that in your marketing.

    That may be your amenities, support services you offer, payment options, or network health insurance options.

    Beyond convenience and confidence in the quality of care, patient experience is the sum of all your patients’ interactions and experiences with you. It is the human aspect, as well as the medicine and science involved in patient care.

    4. Embrace Technology and Provide Tech-enabled Solutions

    Globally, we’re moving online for access to more and more services. The Covid-19 pandemic sped that up considerably, especially in the healthcare sector!

    This shift is seen especially in terms of patient apps and telehealth services, which should both be considered in your business model and your healthcare marketing strategy.

    Patient Apps

    Across all age groups, from boomers to gen z, technology is more accessible than ever before. In line with this, some of the highest-rated and most respected healthcare organizations, like Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Hospital, are using patient apps to streamline their clinical communications.

     

    Patient-facing apps face challenges in terms of data privacy compliance, but they’re starting to take hold as a way for organizations and professionals to provide a more modern and convenient service to their patients.

    Patient apps allow people to monitor and manage their own treatment, view lab results, communicate with doctors, and book sessions or follow-ups.

    Telehealth Services

    Telehealth (telemedicine) services are also seeing a rise in popularity. Seeing patients remotely allows you to reach exponentially more patients.

    According to McKinsey & Company, Covid-19 caused a massive surge in telehealth services, which spiked in April 2020 but then stabilized at 38 times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

    Healthcare Marketing - Graph showing growth of telehealth services sector in 2020

    To see you in person, a patient needs to travel to you and take time off work or have someone care for their kids, which limits many patients to use providers in their immediate surroundings.

    Providing telehealth services allows you to see patients from anywhere, including those who have professional and personal commitments that prevent them from seeing a local doctor in their area.

    However, there are still some challenges, especially in terms of reimbursement from medical insurance providers. This video by CNBC details some of the challenges to consider:

    All in all, telehealth and remote, tech-enabled solutions are an area that cannot be ignored in your healthcare marketing strategy.

    5 Healthcare Marketing Channels to Use

    Marketing channels are the ways you reach and connect with your audience. In healthcare marketing, the most successful channels to use are the ones that allow you to share information that is valuable to your audience, show your expertise and credibility, and connect with them in a personal, meaningful way.

    The aim is to balance the factual, clinical aspects and the human, emotional aspects, while still providing all the necessary information. That is how you capture and convert leads to paying patients.

    These five channels will help you do just that:

    1. Mobile Optimized Website

    This one seems so obvious, yet it is often overlooked. Your website is your first (and all too often your last) impression. Make it count!

    It goes without saying that your website must be attractive, easy to navigate, and up to date with the latest and most relevant information.

    With 54.86% of web traffic coming from mobile phones, your website must be optimized for mobile and easy to navigate on a small screen.

    Healthcare Marketing - Graph showing mobile vs desktop traffic in 2020
    Image Source

    Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical if you want your website to appear in search results. It is well worth investing some time and money into getting your SEO right. This applies to your main website, and all your content pages and blog posts.

    Your landing pages must also be optimized to convert. Including testimonials, ratings, and reviews will increase your credibility and trustworthiness, which will nudge people towards making an appointment. Don’t forget to include clear and simple CTAs alongside your contact information.

    2. Content Marketing and Thought Leadership

    Content marketing is great for healthcare marketing. Creating content allows you to connect with your audience, share valuable information and engage with them in a more meaningful way.

    You can use content marketing to establish your brand as an authority in your space, while also humanizing your brand and connecting emotionally with your audience.

    Use your website to publish informative articles, blog posts, videos, and podcasts. You can share these to your social media, and use your social media to drive traffic to them and your website too.

    This video by Health Writing for Health Professionals sets out a quick overview of content marketing strategies in healthcare:

    As a healthcare brand, your greatest asset is your people. Empower them to create content and share their unique perspectives to establish themselves as thought leaders in their respective fields.

    Having well-known and respected professionals on your team elevates your brand and fosters greater trust and credibility.

    This video by Marketing91 breaks down how thought leadership works and why it will benefit you:

    3. Video Marketing

    Video marketing for healthcare professionals is a growing healthcare marketing trend. Video marketing has grown substantially over the last five years, with 86% of businesses using video marketing in 2021, and it is projected to continue to grow in 2022 and beyond.

    Healthcare Marketing - Graphic from Wyzowl Video Marketing Stats 2021

    Video marketing is great for healthcare professionals because it allows you to simplify and explain complicated concepts, and speak to your audience in a very personal way that demonstrates empathy and care.

    It is also great for engaging with your audience more casually, and building trust!

    Creating video content can be daunting but as video has grown, especially on social media, people’s expectations have changed. They don’t want your videos to be polished and perfect, they want them to be genuine and sincere.

    Obviously, you should still make sure that your professional image and brand reputation are upheld and presented well, but if your video isn’t perfect and you made it on your phone with a cheap ring light off Amazon… That is perfectly fine!

    Create a YouTube account and upload your videos so you can embed them on your website and share them on your other social media channels. Keep your videos short and to the point, between 2 and 10 minutes long is ideal.

    Here are some ideas you can use to get your healthcare video marketing going:

    • Ask your most loyal patients to record a testimonial with you
    • Interview your staff and create a ‘meet the team’ video or series of videos
    • Ask a colleague or expert if you can record a short interview with them on a current topic
    • Record short advice clips that answer patient questions or solve a commonly searched problem in your field
    • Capture ‘a day in the life’ videos for your professionals
    • Record ‘what to expect’ videos that detail what patients can expect during common procedures

    Many doctors have grown their video marketing into hugely successful, and lucrative, channels.

    Doctor Mike Varshavski, a general practitioner from New York, has 8.9M subscribers on his Doctor Mike YouTube channel!

    He posts a mix of genuinely helpful medical information, vlogs of his day-to-day life, and funny reaction videos.

    You don’t have to put nearly as much effort into your videos to reap significant rewards. According to the most recent Wyzowl State of Video Marketing Report:

    • 86% of video marketers say video has increased traffic to their website
    • 96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service
    • 94% of video marketers say video has helped increase user understanding of their product or service

    4. Social Media

    Social media is a powerful marketing tool that every marketer needs to use. In healthcare marketing, social media will help you:

    • Increase brand awareness and recognition
    • Reach and engage with huge numbers of (the right) people
    • Showcase social proof, reviews, and testimonials
    • Share your content marketing pieces
    • Create meaningful relationships with your audience
    • Humanize your brand
    • Increase your credibility, trustworthiness, and authority in your field
    • Combat misinformation and educate your audience

    Profiling your ideal patients and using the appropriate platform to reach them is essential when you’re using social media to promote your business.

    Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are all useful channels to establish and provide an avenue into different audience segments.

    LinkedIn is especially good for B2B healthcare marketing and will help you establish a presence with your peers and competitors, as well as your patients.

    5. Optimize for Local SERPs

    Location is one of the most important factors to work with, in healthcare marketing. When people in your area search for healthcare providers, your facility must come up immediately in their search results.

    Even if your facilities and expertise are far superior, you will lose a large portion of your business to competitors who appeared first in their search results.

    Healthcare Marketing - Screenshot of the Google results for 'doctors in brooklyn'

    Ensuring that search engine results pages (SERPs) place you front and center to people in your area, you need to ensure that your business can be found and verified by the search engine.

    Here are some tips to help you do that:

    • Set up your Google My Business profile
    • Make sure your Google Maps location is correct when you set up your Google Business Profile
    • Collect reviews and ratings from real-life users on your Google Business Profile
    • Keep your address and location information consistent across all platforms, like your website, social media, and directory listings
    • Register for medical directory listings
    • Keep your contact information consistent on all platforms
    • Optimize your website content to rank for location-specific keywords in organic SERPs

    3 Examples of Successful Healthcare Marketing

    1. Cleveland Clinic – Beyond Leadership Podcasts

    Cleveland Clinic is second to none when it comes to its thought leadership content. Their Beyond Leadership podcast is hosted by Dr. Brian Bolwell, who interviews high-profile leaders in hospital management around the world. The podcast aims to inform and inspire great leadership in healthcare facilities and private practices.

    Healthcare marketing - Cleveland Clinic Beyond Leadership Podcast

    Cleveland Clinic also has several other podcasts, which cover everything from cutting-edge scientific innovation in medicine to cultivating a culture of caring and empathy to build more resilient organizations and achieve better outcomes for patients.

    Producing content that is informative, engaging, and showcases their expertise, to both patients and peers, has helped position Cleveland Clinic as a household name with a great reputation.

    2. Allegheny Health Network & Marvel Comics – The Vitals: True Nurse Stories

    Allegheny Health Network (AHN) teamed up with Marvel Comics to produce The Vitals: True Nurse Stories, a comic book celebrating dedicated healthcare providers and EMS working on the frontlines during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The comic features real-life stories of nurses saving lives while working in high-risk environments, and the EMS responders who save lives in medical emergencies.

    The campaign celebrates the dedication of nurses and medical professionals during a time when they were pushed to extreme limits in the line of duty. It also showcases the value of essential medical personnel, in a deeply personal and emotional manner.

    3. Takeda – I Am Number Seventeen

    Pharmaceutical company Takeda recently launched the I Am Number Seventeen Campaign to raise awareness and advocate for people living with rare health conditions.

    Takeda I am number seventeen Healthcare Marketing Campaign

    The campaign features ‘changemakers’ who share their stories about life with their rare condition, the challenges they face with accessing treatment, and a lack of awareness in their communities.

    While Takeda is a pharmaceutical company, this campaign highlights a more human and empathetic side to its brand.

    Final Thoughts

    In conclusion, healthcare marketing is unique in that it faces limitations on the technology that can be used, targeting and messaging.

    It also requires a delicate balance between competitive, authoritative messaging, and the caring, empathetic messaging that makes your brand accessible and trustworthy.

    Brand reputation and the individual reputations of your doctors and healthcare professionals are essential for success.

    Using the healthcare marketing strategies and channels we have covered today; you will be able to overcome these challenges and take your business to new heights!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is healthcare marketing?

    Healthcare marketing refers to marketing strategies that are specifically designed for the healthcare sector. They’re used by healthcare professionals, providers, insurers, institutions, and suppliers, as well as advocacy groups and educational institutions to reach new patients and engage and retain existing patients. Read the full guide for more on healthcare marketing.

    What makes healthcare marketing different?

    Healthcare marketing is tailored to the specific needs of the industry. It requires unique messaging, compliance with data privacy laws and uses different metrics for measurement and monitoring. Read the full guide for more on what makes healthcare marketing unique.

    What are the most important channels to use in healthcare marketing?

    Healthcare marketing channels include mobile optimized websites, content marketing, social media, video marketing and location based SERPs. Reads the full guide for more on each of these channels and how to use them in your healthcare marketing strategy.

    References

    Centre for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Information & Privacy

    Forbes: The Unique Challenges of Health Care Marketing

    Forbes: Six Essential Marketing KPIs For Medical Practice Growth

    Healthcare Success: The Ultimate Guide to Healthcare SEO

    Hootsuite: How to Use Social Media in Healthcare: A Guide for Health Professionals

    McKinsey & Company: Telehealth: A Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Post-COVID-19 Reality?

    Single Care: Telehealth Statistics and Telemedicine Trends 2021

    Uhuru Network: The Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Navigating HIPAA Compliance

    Venture Harbour: GDPR and HIPAA Compliant Email Marketing and CRM Tools

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