Digital Marketing for Hospitals: How to Get Started?
Like any other service out there, the first place where people look for hospitals is the Internet.
They could be looking for hospitals nearby, address of hospitals, specialties available, reviews by other people and so on.
This is a great opportunity for hospitals, clinics and independent practitioners to reach in front of their target audience.
In this decade it is super important for hospitals to have a solid digital presence. That is exactly why I have written this comprehensive guide on Digital Marketing for hospitals.
And we’ll see how we can make the best out of it.
Why do you need Digital Marketing for hospitals?
Imagine you are part of the marketing team in a multispecialty hospital.
What would be the most important one among your KPIs?
It would certainly be something closely tied to the revenue that you bring in. And generally in the case of private for-profit hospitals, revenue mean new patients.
To attract patients to your hospital and offer them the best service, you need to get in front of them first. This is what Digital Marketing can do for you as a first step.
There are multiple digital channels where you can make a solid presence and appear before the target audience; your patients. These channels can be social media, search engines, email, other websites etc.
As we are becoming more and more digital every day, more people will start using digital platforms to look for services that they need. This would also include hospitals and other healthcare related services.
Apart from all these, digital marketing, unlike other traditional media, offers features like targeting, measurability and remarketing which are crucial for every other advertiser looking for a better ROI.
How to promote a hospital through Digital Marketing?
Digital Marketing as a domain is pretty vast. It has multiple verticals among which each one is a specialty.
For a hospital, below are the most important areas to focus in Digital Marketing.
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
To succeed in the online space, you need to choose the right methods and channels, and craft foolproof marketing strategies.
How to create a Digital Marketing strategy for your hospital?
Before you start to work on your digital presence, you should essentially have a strategy in place.
Digital marketing strategy for a hospital should ideally contain the following things.
- Current Scenario
- Best Practices
Define your objective
The objective of your strategy will define what you are trying to achieve from your actions.
For example, this could be creating brand awareness or generating leads in case of a digital campaign. Your objective will also decide the further steps that you have to include in your strategy.
Analyze your current scenario
It’s good to have an understanding of where you stand in your journey before you plan something new.
This should ideally answer questions like the following.
- Do you have a digital presence already? If yes, how effective is it?
- What are the channels you are leveraging currently?
- What is your current spend on digital marketing?
- What is currently lacking in your digital marketing activities and where do you want to improve?
Identify your audience
This is an important step in digital marketing for hospitals. You should have your buyer persona defined before planning any marketing activities.
Identify the characteristics of your audience well. Collecting the below details about your audience will help you define it easily.
- Age-group of your audience
- Social class
- Residing location
- Family status (single/married/parents)
Choose your methods/channels
Your strategy should define which are the methods and channels that you are going to employ to promote your hospital.
In Digital Marketing, we can broadly classify these methods into two.
Organic (non-paid) methods include SEO, SMM etc. And all the ads would come under paid methods.
You should also finalize which are the channels that you are going to use for promotion. This can be search engines, social media, email campaigns, video hosting platforms etc.
Among social media, you can choose the right options according to your target audience. For hospitals, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn work well.
Fix a timeline/frequency
This would include deciding when to start and stop a digital campaign or activity.
In the case of social media, having a campaign calendar would make things easier. It would define when to start and stop a campaign and also the frequency of your actions.
One of the biggest advantages of digital marketing is its measurability. You can track the performance of your campaigns and see what actions your audience is taking.
Normally, setting up a Google Analytics account for your website will help you see the number of visitors, page views, specific actions like conversions etc.
As part of your Digital Marketing strategy, you should define what is your end goal and how you are going to track them.
As a marketer, you would have figured out certain nitty-gritty tactics that can actually make a difference. Such things can always be added as best practices to your strategy. This will also help your team to follow the same and achieve better results.
What are the important Digital Marketing activities for hospitals?
Now that you know what to include in the digital marketing strategy for your hospital.
Let’s check out all the important digital marketing activities that can help your hospital grow.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is a great place for businesses. It’s the place where you can find your prospects, build a community and engage with your audience.
For a hospital, social media presence is crucial. Your social media accounts can attract new patients and it will also help you engage with existing customers.
For any hospital, 4 social media accounts are a must.
Facebook is the ultimate place where you can build a community and nurture it.
You should have a Facebook page with a professional looking bio, attractive display picture and cover image. It should also list out the services and specialties that your hospital offer. Try to fill in all the fields present in the page to make it look more credible.
Consider posting consistently on your Facebook page with attractive images and text that are useful to your audience. If you want to see a rapid growth of your audience, try posting daily on your Facebook page.
Unlike before, the organic reach on Facebook pages have come down due to algorithm changes. So, if you want your posts to have a better reach, doing some sort of paid promotion on Facebook is also recommended.
Instagram is a great platform to build an engaging audience if you have appealing images to post. If you create unique, appealing and real-time content on Instagram, it can compliment your brand’s growth in a great way.
Twitter, though less engaging when compared to Instagram, has a great user base in certain regions. It also acts like an official channel where you can make announcements as a brand. Having a verified Twitter account will make your tweets more credible.
Also, build a great LinkedIn company page that contains information about your hospital on an organizational level. Having an optimized LinkedIn company page will help you generate brand awareness, increase brand value and hire quality employees.
Here is a list of activities that you can do across various social media channels.
- Post graphical images that list out your specialties.
- Post images containing your facilities. E.g. CT Scan / Cath Lab
- Post about milestones achieved. E.g. 100th successful cardiac surgery
- Post testimonials from patients as graphical images
- Post graphical images about specialties.
- Post graphical images about health tips
- Post Images of events in your hospital
- Post special day creatives
- Post team images
- Post patient testimonials graphical images
- Post short videos
- Use for official announcements
- Share health tips as graphical posts
- Share articles from your own blog
- Share images from your events
- Share special day creatives
- Share other promotional content
- Share news about your hospital
- Post corporate announcements
- Post job openings
- Share employee related news
- Share your work culture
- Share images of hospital events
Post ideas for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter given above are almost similar. You can try out similar ideas or share similar content across these 3 channels.
Apart from organic (non-paid) promotions on social media, you can also rely on paid methods to achieve more traction. Channels like Facebook and Instagram offer great advertising options for brands including hospitals.
You can create conversion or lead campaigns using Facebook Business Manager and collect leads. For a hospital, if you are organizing a free health check-up camp at a particular location, collecting registrations through Facebook ads is a convenient option.
Also, by using Facebook Business Manager, you can place ads on Facebook newsfeed as well as on Instagram.
You can also try advertising options available on Twitter and LinkedIn. Both these channels offer a different kind of audience when compared to Facebook.
All these social media channels offer targeting options based on age, location, gender, interests etc. They also offer excellent tracking of your campaign performance and remarketing (retargeting) options.
Apart from all these, a hospital should put a lot of importance on managing their online reputation through these channels. This can be done through sharing quality updates and posts, responding well to customer queries and accumulating positive reviews on channels like Facebook.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Marketing is a channel that is unavoidable for hospitals. In reality, you only have to focus on a search engine like Google to establish a good search presence. The traffic that is generated by other search engines are very minimal when compared to Google.
Search Engine Marketing is a paid advertising method to get a top position on search results for your desired set of keywords (search terms). Google offers this feature through their search advertising platform called Google Ads (previously known as Google AdWords).
Hospitals can target search terms related to locations, specialties, treatment options etc.
See below examples.
- Hospitals in Koramangala, Bangalore
- Hospitals near Al Nahda, Dubai
Specialty/treatment options based keywords:
- Best children’s hospital in Mumbai
- Eye specialist in Dubai
- IVF centers in London
These are just samples, depending on what your potential customers are searching, you can decide the keywords to target.
For each keyword, you will be paying a price called CPC or cost per click. It is the amount that you have to pay (to Google) for each click on a particular keyword. CPC can vary for keywords across locations and industries.
You can create a dedicated landing page for your Google search ads where you can convert your visitors into leads.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization is the organic method of getting a top position in the search results. It involves certain practices to optimize your website for a better search presence.
SEO is always better than SEM in bringing quality traffic to your website. But unlike SEM, SEO takes time to see results.
Just like what we saw in SEM, we can find and target keywords based on location, specialties, treatments offered etc.
You can start with Google My Business for local SEO, and go further with other business directory listings. In the case of Google My Business, it also acts as a place to accumulate customer reviews for your hospital which can contribute to your reputation online.
SEO works by creating quality content and building authority. This is dependent on a lot of factors.
Other than keywords, there are a lot of on page SEO practices that you need to get right. This small guide on on-page SEO tactics could be of help.
Content Marketing is a long-term but highly effective strategy that will help you build and nurture a targeted audience who can later turn into customers.
Content Marketing involves creating and distributing value-adding content consistently.
Like many other industries, Content Marketing works great for hospitals as well.
Here is a step by step process that you can follow in getting started with Content Marketing for your hospital.
1. Identify your audience: Who are your audience, and what are they searching online? For example, if your audience are infertility patients, they will surely be reading up a lot on infertility treatment and options like IVF. You also need to identify the exact search terms they are using on a search engine like Google. This is the primary step before working on your content.
2. Decide the type of content: Content can be in various forms including text, images and videos. But for hospitals text and video format will work great. A blog/resources section on your website that offers authoritative articles and a YouTube channel that pushes informative videos are good to go with.
3. Start creating content: Now you can start creating content that is value adding. Your audience (take the example above) should be able to find a solution to their problems through your content. This is where content Marketing wins. If you are able to provide reliable information through your content to patients, they tend to trust you and you are adding them as part of your audience.
4. Further promotions: Now, if you are able to attract a lot of targeted audience to your content, your content marketing efforts are in the right direction. You will also need to integrate some of the SEO best practices to get visibility for your content on search. Apart from this, you should promote your content through other channels like social media and emails.
When you create a group of trusted audience, it is easy for you to turn them into paying customers later. That is the idea behind content marketing.
Email Marketing is one powerful method to be in touch with your audience. It also compliments content marketing in a great way.
When you have interesting content on your website, it is easy to get visitors to your website. But that’s not all, you can turn these website visitors into email subscribers by offering them a free lead magnet. This can be a free download like an ebook, checklist or something that adds value.
Once you convert each of your website visitors into email subscribers, it is easy for you to reach them again whenever you want to.
Email marketing, unlike social media, is more personal and has the best ROI.
You can send informative content, special treatment package offers, updates about your hospital specialties etc. to your email list.
Other Listing Sites
There are multiple websites and platforms where hospitals, clinics and doctors can be listed. These listing sites help patients to find the best doctors and hospitals in their locality.
These platforms are also helpful for doctors and hospitals as they get a lot of new patients through them.
One example is Practo.com in India. A patient can search for specialist Doctors in his/her locality through this platform. The patient can see reviews for each doctor/clinic/hospital and also book appointments through Practo.
Another feature of Practo is, patients can chat with doctors through their app for a minimal fee. This is very helpful for many patients who just want to get opinions from an expert on their illness.
For any hospital/clinic/doctor, listing sites like Practo can give a good exposure. There are many listing platforms like Practo where hospitals and independent practitioners can get listed.
Practo is active in India. Depending on where your hospital is functioning, you can look for such listing platforms.
How to execute your Digital Marketing plan?
Now that you know what to do for marketing your hospital online.
But the execution part takes time and a good amount of effort.
For any hospital trying to build a solid online presence, there are 3 options available.
- Hire a consultant
- Hire a digital marketing agency
- Build an in-house team
Hiring a consultant will be cost effective and beneficial if you are just starting out. A consultant’s service will help you set up your digital assets before starting active promotional campaigns.
This will include designing and developing an attractive website, setting up social media accounts, setting up paid ads and optimizing your website for a better search presence. A consultant can also help you in crafting a digital marketing strategy before you implement it.
Once your digital marketing activities are streamlined, you can have one or two employees to handle all the activities and at the same time you can avail the consultant’s service when required.
But a consultant’s services can sometimes be limited as they don’t really do the work for you. They will only suggest what needs to be done. The work has to be done by your own employees. This is when you can get the service of an agency which will obviously cost more than hiring a consultant.
An agency will do all the work for you. They will plan and execute all the digital marketing activities for your hospital. You only need to monitor the performance.
Hiring a good agency can get you promising results. Also, you won’t have to hire any in-house employees when you have an agency to do the work. But when it comes to hiring a reputed agency with a good track record, the pricing needs to be seriously looked at.
However, if you want total control of your digital assets and campaigns, you can have an in-house digital marketing team. This is a recommended option for medium to large hospitals where you have enough marketing budget to run a large team.
Ideally, an in-house digital marketing team should have people skilled in social media, SEO, PPC, email marketing, content writing, web design & development, and graphic designing. To set up such a team, you will also need to hire experienced and skilled employees which could cost more than an agency contract.
As of 2019, there are about 4.39 billion internet users worldwide, and all industries are moving more towards digital media today. They are investing more than ever in social media, SEO, PPC and other digital platforms.
If you still haven’t started building a solid digital presence for your hospital, you are going to miss out a tonne of opportunities.
Hope this article covers all the important points related to digital marketing for hospitals. If I have missed out any important points, please feel free to add them in the comments.
Or if you have any queries or feedback, leave a comment below.
See you soon.