Whether you’re a practice manager for a small doctor’s office or an executive for a hospital group, developing and executing a digital marketing plan can be a difficult task. There are a lot of different options – and a lot of them may or may not be effective for your practice. Some of them require a lot of knowledge, some require very little. Some may require hired marketing professionals. Some may require daily monitoring and updates. Carefully weighing the pros and cons of each digital marketing option is a very important step for growing your practice.
What Are My Digital Marketing Options?
The world of digital marketing is constantly growing and changing, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with current trends, but be leery of ineffective, passing fads. The first four choices for digital marketing strategies are the four main “staples” of digital marketing:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM, also known as PPC)
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Local Marketing
It’s important to remember – you do not need to choose just one option. A well executed and planned digital marketing strategy includes parts of each main staple of digital marketing, and has a clear, measurable objective. This allows you to see if your plan is working.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (Often known by the acronym, SEO) is a strategy that involves making your website follow and comply with a very long series of rules for search engines, such as Google and Bing. According to Pew Research Center, 77% of online health seekers begin at a search engine. With that high of a number, you cannot afford to leave search engines out of your marketing mix. (source) Potential patients will find your information online. It’s up to you if you want to be in control of it. By having a strong search-based digital marketing strategy, you’ll be ahead of your competition.
Advantages of SEO
Search Engine Optimization’s biggest advantage is that it is sustainable. Having a solid strategy for developing your search presence through your hospital or doctor’s website and off-page citations, will help continue to hold your positions in search engines, thus continuously gaining new patients.
Where SEO Falls Short
A good SEO plan takes a bit of time to be effective, generally between 90-120 days, which can seem like a very long time. However, its effects are long-lasting and efficient. It’s important to understand the longevity of a good SEO strategy. If you want immediate results, SEM is a good way to start getting traffic to your website while your SEO results build.
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing (also known as SEM or PPC) is a pay-per-click system of advertising through major search networks, such as Bing or Google. Much like SEO, it takes people who are searching for something, and presents them with your ad, page, and select information. It starts working almost immediately (within a few hours) and will run as long as you want.
Advantages of SEM
SEM is a great way to kick-start a new website or program, while you wait for the affects of your long-term marketing strategies, like SEO to kick in and fully take shape. It’s also a great way to control the first few search results for identified key phrases that you want patients to find you for. Your ad campaign can show up when users search for the conditions or procedures you want to promote.
Where SEM Falls Short
SEM stops working the second you stop putting money in. It’s important to have a well-planned and executed Search Engine Marketing plan to make sure you are not wasting money. To see if Search Engine Marketing is an effect plan for your practice, you can contact us to talk more about the effectiveness of a SEM Campaign.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing used to be thought of as a passing trend, but its sustainable growth and increasing analytics offerings make it a great place to start developing your practice’s branding online. Social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are less expensive ways to engage with your community. You can create rich posts that appear in people’s Facebook and Twitter timelines, engaging them where they already spend time online. You can even gain new patients and read reviews from other patients on social networks like Yelp and FourSquare.
Advantages of Social Media
Social media marketing is fun, exciting, and engaging. Depending on your practice’s specialty, a Facebook page could do incredibly well. Facebook can bring you plenty of traffic, while allowing you to spread your name and digital reach.
Where Social Media Falls Short
Your social media, unfortunately, will always be at the hands of the networks you choose to use. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp – they all have restrictions on what you can and cannot do, they all have algorithms that you cannot change. Unlike a website that you control and can change, you must deal with the features that are presented to you on social media.
Local marketing is a bit of an umbrella category of digital marketing, because really, it is an approach to social media and SEO to gear your traffic for localized search – and we all know that healthcare is local! A good local marketing plan will also have some mix of physical and digital marketing. Local marketing is simply utilizing the tools that you and your patients have to market to target communities and areas near you. You should be using the tools that your patients may be using, tools like Google Maps, Siri, local papers, and others to reach them.
Advantages of Local Marketing
Local Marketing is an effective strategy for people trying to find local OBGYNs, pediatricians, or primary care physicians. If your general patient base is within ~5 miles in a city, ~15 miles in a suburban area, or ~50 miles in rural/suburban areas, local marketing needs to be a part of your strategy.
Where Local Marketing Falls Short
Local marketing is very competitive, and needs to be heavily monitored. It’s also highly variant based on your location, so a patient living two blocks away may find your message and listing, but five blocks away might find your competition. It’s important to monitor it in different ways.
Picking Your Digital Marketing Mix
It’s important that – whatever digital marketing plan you decide to use – you’re willing to keep the energy up, develop, and improve. Giving up on a digital marketing plan can be catastrophic, so make sure to adapt if the results do not work for you. Measure your results, and make sure that what you are doing is working for your practice.