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How to Create a Healthcare Marketing Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide

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How to Create a Healthcare Marketing Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are two key reasons why hospitals, health providers, and medical practices need an effective healthcare marketing strategy.

First, the healthcare sector is ultra-competitive. In 1950, there were fewer than 50 health systems operating in the United States. Today, there are over 400. In addition, there are over 6,100 hospitals and almost 10 million medical professionals, including more than 1 million physicians. That’s a ratio of one physician for every 332 people in the country.

At the same time, patients are demanding a superior customer experience from their healthcare journey. An effective healthcare marketing strategy promotes loyalty from patients, enhances the patient experience, attracts new patients, and builds the healthcare organization’s brand. It is an opportunity for a healthcare provider to drive revenue.

In this step-by-step guide, we will discuss major healthcare marketing trends and the best tools to create winning healthcare marketing strategies for healthcare organizations. We’ll lead things off with a quick overview of what healthcare marketing is all about.

What Is Healthcare Marketing?

Marketing strategies are essential for the growth of healthcare organizations and for helping these businesses stand out in a crowded marketplace. Marketing is a channel for ongoing communication with patients and new customers alike, and it reinforces brand awareness. Effective healthcare marketing helps providers build trust with their patients and maintain a positive image in the communities they serve. 

Importance of Strategic Healthcare Marketing

Healthcare marketing strategies play a pivotal role in ensuring healthcare organizations connect effectively with patients across multiple channels. Healthcare businesses use marketing to provide target audiences with details about their mission, services, practices, and values so they can make informed decisions about their healthcare.

There are eight key steps you can take to develop a comprehensive healthcare marketing strategy. The first few involve assembling the all-important patient and market research necessary to inform your plan.

There are eight key steps you can take to develop a comprehensive healthcare marketing strategy. The first few steps involve assembling the all-important patient and market research necessary to inform and shape your marketing plan.  

1. Conduct a Healthcare Market Analysis

First, deepen your understanding of your market. A healthcare market analysis is a systematic examination of trends and dynamics in healthcare industry areas that are relevant to your business. The goal of this process is to gain insight into the market landscape in which your organization operates.

You can accomplish a detailed picture of your market by undertaking three types of analysis: 

Conduct a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis is a tool to create a big picture of your market. You can use a SWOT analysis to assess individual marketing projects or a full-blown healthcare marketing strategy.

Conducting a SWOT analysis requires you to critically assess your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well? And how can you improve?

Once you address those questions, you can identify market opportunities to pursue and incorporate into your marketing plan. That will help you to align marketing efforts toward targeting those opportunities. Also, be sure to include threats you’ve identified in your plan, like growing demand for a particular service that you don’t offer — but your competitors do.

Analyze Market Trends

Examining more gradual and subtle shifts and changes in the healthcare industry, in addition to obvious new or dramatic developments, can provide useful insights to inform your healthcare marketing strategy for today, and for the long term.

Here’s an example: Before the recent pandemic and the lockdowns and isolation that it drove, many healthcare providers considered mental and physical health as separate issues. But now, many physicians are embracing a more holistic strategy, acknowledging correlations between mental health and physical treatment and recovery. If you’re among them, this may be the right time to ramp up marketing messaging about your approach.

Identify Competitors

The third type of analysis, which is valuable for healthcare marketing benchmark efforts, is a competitor assessment. Direct competitors are those that offer the same services as your organization in the same market and are targeting the same patient population.

As you assess the services and facilities of these competitors, you should also evaluate their marketing strategies. And don’t just consider obvious competitors: Try to identify and audit indirect competitors whose services may overlap with yours and may be starting to encroach on your turf. 

2. Define Your Target Audience

The next step in the process of creating healthcare marketing strategies is to grow you knowledge of your existing and potential patients so you can serve them better. You want to consider basic but important questions like:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they located?
  • What do they need?
  • Why do they need it?
  • When do they need it?

The answers to these questions will help you develop a clearer picture of the target audience or audiences you aim to reach and engage with through healthcare marketing campaigns.

Build Patient Personas

One powerful way to define your target audience is to build a customer persona or patient persona. Personas are detailed, semi-fictional representations of ideal customers, or in the case of healthcare organizations, patients.

Personas are based on data analysis of real patient interactions, market research, and other sources. This data allows a marketer to construct a detailed but holistic picture of a generic patient that the business can use to create targeted and personalized marketing messages and refine strategies for marketing campaigns.    

Changes in Patient Preferences

Even if you’re armed with well-researched personas, you should always be on the lookout for changes in patient preferences. Patients are consumers, after all, and consumer tastes and preferences constantly change. Stay on top of healthcare marketing trends and data to make sure your efforts align with patients’ interests and needs.

For example, the move toward home healthcare is a recent and major shift among patients. Along with this preference for treatment at home, many patients have moved toward subscriptions for services such as telemedicine and home delivery of prescriptions. This has prompted many healthcare providers to adapt long-standing practices to stay relevant.

Craft a Unique Value Proposition

As we’ve already established, healthcare is a competitive field. So, you need to excel at differentiating your brand and everything behind it.

Health systems with a unique value proposition to market will stand out to patients. How do you know if you are providing one? Through measurable results that show you excel.

You can measure improvements in patient outcomes, for example, or how you are making it easier for new patients to understand and navigate the healthcare process. Share metrics with your target audience to show the distinct benefits and advantages of your healthcare organization. Also, encourage patients to provide online reviews and other feedback.

3. Set Measurable Goals

Let’s talk more about the value of measurement. Measuring results toward achievable goals creates a road map to success for healthcare providers. It helps to drive growth and improvement in patient care and overall performance. There are several ways to measure your organization’s marketing success. But here are two methods to consider:

Use KPIs

You can use relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) to help manage expectations for a marketing project or campaign and track progress toward stated goals. Some KPIs you might consider including are click-through rates, conversions, and new patients.  

Set SMART Goals

The goals you set for your healthcare marketing initiatives should be SMART—that is, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. A SMART goal might be to improve patient acquisition by a certain percentage over a 12-month period, or to increase the number of patient reviews you receive.

4. Build a Strong Brand Identity

Establishing a strong brand identity is essential for any modern business. But in the hyper-competitive healthcare industry, you could argue it counts even more.

Building a strong brand identity includes creating and communicating a distinctive representation of your healthcare organization’s values, mission, and personality. This can be achieved through:

Consistent Branding Across Touchpoints

Everything that features your brand, from a highway billboard to a TV commercial to a digital ad online, should present that brand in a consistent way. Your branding should extend to all other patient touchpoints, too. For example, when a patient contacts your call center for information, that experience should be in tune with what they see and hear from your brand through other channels.

Cross-Channel Integration

To achieve brand consistency in an omnichannel world, you must strive for seamless coordination and alignment of marketing efforts across all the different communication channels you employ to engage with audiences. So, if you have a big email campaign going out in December to get new signups for your health system, make sure the messaging is consistent with and is supported by your website and any digital ads you have scheduled. 

Develop Brand Messaging Guidelines

Creating a formal style and messaging guide with standards and principles that govern the tone, look, language, and key messages used in your marketing efforts should be seen as a must-have versus a nice-to-have tool. The entire organization can use this guide to make sure they are true to your brand’s voice.

5. Develop a Multichannel Marketing Plan

Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket. A multichannel marketing plan is a strategic approach that involves utilizing various communication channels and platforms to reach and engage a defined target audience. Among the tactics to consider for multichannel marketing strategies in healthcare are:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Staying on top of SEO will help to supercharge your marketing strategy. You can use SEO strategies to make your website more visible in organic, unpaid search results on Google and other search engines.

Google is always updating its SEO practices. So, adhering to “good” SEO practices that can help you rank well on Google requires reviewing and updating your website content regularly so it stays relevant to your target audience. You can hire independent agencies that specialize in SEO to help you, or you can assign this task to in-house marketing or social media staff with relevant skills and knowledge. 

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

PPC is a model where advertisers pay a fee each time a user clicks on their online ad. It’s cost-effective and helps preserve your marketing budget because you only pay for interested leads. And healthcare organizations can make their PPC ads even more valuable by tracking appointments made by potential patients who click on these ads.

Appointments made over the phone can be attributed to PPC ad responses if you use call tracking and recording software like Invoca. Invoca tracks and analyzes 100% of calls and can attribute them to ads so marketing teams can optimize marketing spend and campaigns to drive even more high-value calls. 

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a form of content marketing that uses social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, and TikTok to promote healthcare services, engage with patients, and build community.

Make sure you offer a mix of content that your audience will consider relevant — and engaging. The popularity of platforms like YouTube and TikTok demonstrate users’ desire for video content that is informative, entertaining, and viral-worthy.

Email Marketing

Email marketing campaigns can be a highly effective marketing tool. It can take the form of quick-read email blasts on individual topics (like a webinar) or more in-depth, educational content in a weekly or monthly newsletter. Whatever your approach, make the content informative and engaging — from the email subject line to the call to action. 

Offline Marketing Strategies

In today’s marketplace, digital marketing is a must for any healthcare provider that wants to compete. But there are traditional, offline channels you can use to reach current and potential patients, too. Print advertising, direct mail, community events, and phone campaigns are just some examples of these methods.

Remember that there are ways to gather valuable data from your offline marketing efforts, including those designed to drive phone calls. For example, Invoca’s call tracking software uses artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly analyze data from every phone call and detect where callers are finding out about your service. You can use that data to optimize marketing spend and much more.

6. Create a Content Calendar

A content calendar is a strategic plan that outlines content creation and distribution over a specific period. This calendar can prevent you from being too repetitive in your campaigns and undermining the effectiveness of your efforts. It also helps you to focus strategically on topics that will resonate most with your target audiences, based on your research.

To create a content calendar, you should consider: 

Content Distribution Channels

Which channels do you want to use? If you plan to run regular content on YouTube, for example, you’ll need time to create the videos so plan for this accordingly. Your content calendar might include monthly videos supported by short social posts that promote the content every few days so you can stay in front of your audience without overdoing it. 

Healthcare Marketing Ideas

Healthcare marketing ideas run the gamut from blog posts to education videos to targeted emails to sponsored content to gamification. If you’re looking for more details on these and other healthcare marketing ideas to inform your content calendar, check out this post.

7. Ensure Regulatory Compliance

It’s critical that your healthcare marketing strategies fully conform with all relevant healthcare standards and regulations. These standards of compliance include: 

HIPAA Compliance

Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a statutory requirement under federal law for all healthcare organizations as well as “covered entities.” HIPAA is designed to safeguard the privacy and security of patients’ protected health information (PHI). 

Healthcare Marketing Regulations

Healthcare marketing regulations encompass other legal guidelines and standards that govern marketing practices within the healthcare industry. These regulations are set by federal and state governments as well as professional bodies. Some examples marketers should be mindful of in the U.S. include:

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations: The FDA regulates the advertising and promotion of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, medical devices, and certain biological products. Complinace with FDA requirements includes providing accurate information about a product’s risks and benefits in marketing material targeted to consumers.

  • HIPAA regulations: As mentioned earlier, HIPAA includes provisions that regulate the use and disclosure of PHI. Healthcare marketers must obtain patient consent before they can use PHI for marketing purposes, and they must ensure the security of patient data.

  • False Claims Act: This Act prohibits the submission of false or fraudulent claims for payment to the government, including claims related to healthcare services or products. Healthcare advertising and promotional materials with false or misleading statements could lead to False Claims Act liability.

8. Measure Marketing Performance

Your healthcare marketing strategy may be innovative and compliant, but you won’t know it’s successful unless you measure performance. As explained earlier, metrics can validate your strategy. Measurement can also help you optimize future marketing strategies because it gives you a clearer idea of where to invest more resources, and where to pull back.

Analyze KPIs

The first step toward measuring the effectiveness of marketing performance is to check your KPIs. Basic marketing KPIs might include things like open rates for email and click-throughs for ads. You can also track conversion rates, such as patients signing up for appointments, or using services, such as ordering a prescription or receiving treatment.

Patient Feedback and Surveys

Patient feedback from surveys and online reviews is a great way to hear the voice of the customer or VoC. You can collect insights directly from patients to assess their satisfaction, preferences, and experiences with your healthcare marketing initiatives (and your brand, in general).

Google Tools

You can also use digital tools, such as Google Analytics, to get analytical insights into how website content is performing. You can track traffic and how long users are staying on a page, for example. You can use this information to optimize your digital content and online marketing efforts.

Conversation Intelligence Tools

Another entry point to the VoC is data captured from phone interactions with patients. Since most healthcare consumers still prefer to pick up the phone when making an appointment, phone conversations hold tremendous data value.

Conversation intelligence solutions like Invoca, which tracks and records 100% of calls, provide a huge database of topics that can be mined for trends, patient preferences, and consumer behavior. Invoca also tracks the full value of your marketing strategy by factoring in ad conversions attributable to phone calls. This detail can help you measure your true return on investment and help you make more strategic optimization decisions.

Social Media Analytics Tools

Most social media and digital platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn, offer analytics tools. There are also third-party platforms, such as Sprout Social and Hootsuite, that can help you track social media analytics in one place. Healthcare organizations can use these tools to measure the performance of their social media marketing efforts across channels.

Best Practices for Healthcare Marketing

That sums up the eight steps you can take to develop a comprehensive healthcare marketing strategy. And now, here are some best practices to keep in mind when you implement your strategy.

Integrate Telehealth and Remote Services

As noted earlier, telehealth and remote services are becoming more popular with patients. Integrating telehealth and remote services using video technology to enable virtual consultations, remote monitoring, and other healthcare services delivered at a distance is fast becoming a best practice for healthcare. 

Leverage Healthcare CRM Systems

Healthcare customer relationship management (CRM) systems use specialized software to manage and analyze interactions with current patients and potential ones. These systems can help healthcare organizations and marketing teams maintain HIPAA compliance while keeping track of patients and preferences.

Conversation Intelligence Software

Call tracking and conversation intelligence software tools track appointment scheduling and other calls to create a significant log of offline data that can be matched with online data to inform a healthcare provider’s overall marketing strategy.

Invoca’s HIPAA-compliant software can be trained to detect overarching trends and insights from patient interactions. You can use this information to create or refine customer personas and establish resonant messaging for marketing purposes.  

Implement Proactive Reputation Management

Trust is a major factor for healthcare patients when choosing a hospital or doctor. There is even evidence that trusting a healthcare provider leads to better patient outcomes.

Since a modern healthcare organization’s digital interaction with patients is likely to grow, maintaining a superior reputation through online reviews, social media posts, and on message boards is critical. Healthcare providers that actively monitor and manage their online reputations will be better positioned to establish and maintain trust with their patients in an increasingly digital world.

Create an Adaptable Marketing Strategy with Invoca

The healthcare market is constantly evolving. And any provider that wants to develop and deploy flexible and actionable marketing strategies for healthcare needs to stay on top of changing trends and customer preferences.

Invoca’s AI-powered conversation intelligence software can help with that — and many healthcare industry leaders already know this. Invoca’s conversational intelligence is an integral part of the operations of six of the top 10 largest hospitals and health systems in the U.S. and four of the top six dental service organizations in the country.

We’re helping these and other businesses in the healthcare industry get a comprehensive view of the entire patient journey, from the moment a current or potential patient interacts with a digital ad or website to the instant they make an appointment over the phone.

Invoca’s HIPAA-compliant phone tracking and recording software provides insightful data that helps marketers understand which ads are most effective for patient outreach and generate the most appointments, so they can confidently let go of underperforming campaigns and strategies and double down on what works best.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help support your efforts to create a successful (and compliant) healthcare marketing strategy? Check out these resources:

Reach out to us today to schedule a customized demo so you can see for yourself how Invoca can provide your healthcare organization with a competitive advantage.

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