May 14, 2018
Avoid these common marketing mistakes that your competitors are making and stay ahead of the curve.
“Know thyself. Know the customer. Innovate."
Those are the words of Beth Comstock, former Vice Chair and Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer for GE, who clearly has had her fair share of experience in marketing over the years. Healthcare marketing is all about staying ahead of the curve – being innovative. In recent years, that had undoubtedly meant shifting away from traditional methods in order to test the waters of digital marketing. These days, however, merely dipping your feet in to stay ahead of the curve are long gone – it’s time to dive head first into the world of online marketing. Simply throwing away your old school, Yellow-Books-and-brochures strategies and signing up for a few social media accounts is no longer sufficient. You need to know how to navigate the complexities of online marketing in order to separate your practice from your competitors and avoid making the same mistakes they are making.
While online medical marketing may seem relatively mainstream to some, it is still firmly in the beginning stages of its existence. The Internet’s elaborate marriage of constant developments and endless possibilities has caused many healthcare professionals to adapt slower to modern forms of marketing. These intricacies have lead to a number of common mistakes made in online healthcare marketing that have depleted the efforts of medical practices across the globe.
Here are the 7 most common mistakes made in online healthcare marketing that you want to avoid:
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The same goes for online healthcare marketing. Too often, medical practices blindly begin advertising without a cohesive strategy in mind. This method of proceeding without a strategy is rarely going to be effective. In order to implement and manage a successful marketing system, it is essential to clearly set your objectives and goals. Do not rush into marketing just for the sake of marketing – take time beforehand to define your target market, the resources and materials you want to use, a comprehensive content strategy, etc. Your online marketing strategy should be a reflection of your overall business strategy, and should be geared to improve your practice altogether. An unplanned, unorganized online medical marketing system will compromise the actual work you put into your advertising, often rendering it futile. Aimlessly pushing out content without an objective serves no purpose. Take the time to sit down and devise a cohesive marketing plan in the beginning in order to save time and money in the end.
The inability for medical practices to stay consistent in their online marketing, especially within their social media channels, can be a major turnoff to current or prospective patients. Whether posting too frequently, too infrequently, or not at all, failing to stay consistent often results in losing followers. Finding the optimal frequency and timing is often determined by a number of elements ranging from your target market to the platform you’re using. For example, Facebook tends to be more of a low volume/high value network, while Twitter is more of a higher volume, lower value platform. In general, most studies recommend posting to Facebook 1-2 times a day, where as Twitter should be closer to 5 times a day. In an industry as influential as healthcare, it’s easy to find reasons to postpone your online marketing procedures, or delay them after you’ve started. Keep in mind that 80% of sales are made on the 4th to 12th contact, so failing to post can cause you to lose significant ground to your competitors as your patients turn to them in your absence. Stay consistent. Stay relevant.
You can’t treat everything like a sales pitch. Yes, the overarching objective of marketing is to drive sales (whether by gaining patients, selling products, etc.), but your advertising strategies cannot solely focus driving sales. Flooding your audience with the same self-promotional content will only push them away. This is especially true for your social media networks. It’s ok to advocate your practice, but the majority of the content you share needs to be valuable, rather than promotional. The purpose of online healthcare marketing is not to directly generate sales, but to generate trust between your practice and your patients. Focus on providing patients with information they find truly valuable and it will improve your relationship, thus increasing the likelihood of achieving your overarching objective.
Communication is one of the most important traits that patients want from their doctor. Again, this common healthcare marketing mistake is predominately geared towards the social media side of things, as many medical practices tend to undermine the word, “social.” Many people are hesitant to engage with current or prospective patients online for a number of reasons, including the fear of violating HIPAA regulations and the fear of opening the door to negative comments or reviews. Therefore, they refrain from interacting with others online, choosing to use their social media channels as nothing more than a tool to push out content. However, it’s not enough to only push out content and hope people eventually find and share it. That’s not what social media networks are meant for, and failing to take full advantage of them is leaving a number of potential patients on the table. A major component of online marketing is the interaction with others as a means to maintain a healthy relationship with your current patients, and to nurture new ones. Neglecting to socialize obstructs both existing and prospective relationships. Instead, take advantage of the opportunity. On social media platforms, don’t shy away from ‘liking’ a Facebook post or ‘retweeting’ a tweet. In additional to social media, begin building up a quality email list so that you can email valuable information to your audience. Don’t let the fear of a bad review keep you from allowing patients to reach you online; encourage your patients to leave a review, and begin building your positive online reputation.
Optimization is a quintessential element of digital marketing. Several specific components play a role in your ability to fully optimize your online presence. A trendy buzzword lately has been SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Understanding the ins and outs of SEO can be an extensive process, and while this knowledge can give you a valuable edge, you can benefit from knowing a few basic concepts. On a fundamental level, good SEO strategies help in promoting your website in order to increase the amount of traffic driven to your site from search engines like Google and Bing. There are many techniques that will help SEO rank, including your website design, your ability to include optimal keywords targeted towards your ideal patient, and most importantly, your ability to push out unique, sharable content on a consistent basis. Google and other search engines are consistently increasing the levels of which they reward brands that are able to produce valuable content that readers share with others. Generating content on multiple platforms (social media, blog, images, videos, etc.) is a great way to create the quality of content that will dramatically improve your SEO strategies, which in turn will make your content more accessible. Website optimization has become an integral aspect of online healthcare marketing; do not take it lightly. If needed, there are several tools and companies for hire that will manage your website optimization. Don’t be embarrassed if you aren’t comfortable handling it yourself. Managing a fully functioning SEO and website optimization strategy is a full-time job; it’s not realistic to expect you to be a doctor and an SEO expert on the side. Don’t hesitate to ask for help! In the meantime, I would recommend starting off with Moz’s Beginners Guide to SEO, or Quick Sprout’s Advanced Guide to SEO.
Whatever methods you decide to apply to your marketing strategy, make sure you are tracking your results and analyzing the data. It is absolutely imperative to have this information at hand to monitor the successes or failures of your advertising campaigns. Luckily, doing so is easier than ever. There is an abundance of resources readily available to help you track your results. There is no better place to start than Google Analytics, a free tool provided by Google that will help you collect and examine a variety of valuable data on your website. Don’t mistake activity for results – establish a quantifiable system to truly collect and analyze your results.
Being able to adjust your online medical marketing strategies goes back to your ability to stay ahead of the curve. Marketing tactics don’t age like wine. It’s important to adjust your strategies as you go based on what has been working, what hasn’t been working, and any new opportunities made available through new resources. This does not mean you need to alter your overall goals or objectives; just the techniques you employ to reach them. This is why it is so crucial to track and monitor your results. You would think analyzing your past strategies and adapting your new ones accordingly would go hand in hand, but many marketers make the mistake of becoming fixated on running a particular campaign a certain way, regardless of its level of success. It’s irrational to continually do the same thing and expect different results, but it happens all the time – just make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Tracking your results is only the first part of the equation; you must be willing to evolve. Keep up with new trends, changes in SEO strategies, and updated policies in order to remain a leg up on the competition.
The immeasurable boundaries of online healthcare marketing may offer infinite potential, but it needs to be utilized in the right way. Embracing the Internet for marketing purposes is only the first step – maximize your efforts by exploiting supplementary methods that will enhance your digital marketing proficiency. And while you do, steer clear of these common mistakes.