Sep 9 / Laura Dan, BSc, NDTR

An Essential Guide to Digital Marketing for Healthcare Practitioners

Are you a practitioner or integrative healthcare provider looking to understand digital marketing and build an online virtual practice? Adding telehealth services to your practice and using well-established digital marketing techniques is essential for staying connected with your patients.

Practicing telemedicine can help you virtually provide the quality care that your patients deserve — and help keep smaller practices on a lean budget growing. Many individuals spend a considerable amount of their time online and at home seeking out health information online — making it more critical than ever to focus on digital marketing presence. (3)

Keep reading for a simple breakdown on how you can reach more patients virtually and help grow your practice by setting up a digital marketing presence with social media, email, virtual consultation offerings, blog content, and more.

woman sitting holding a white mug looking at her phone in her living room

By using their phones or computers, patients can receive quality guidance from their practitioners remotely.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is the act of marketing a business, product, or service online. (28)

By definition, digital marketing aims to connect a specific individual with a business that can meet their needs online. (5)

Digital marketing offers various strategies and approaches practitioners can use to reach potential patients and give current patients a better experience online. (29)

Why is digital marketing important for practitioners?

From a practitioner’s perspective, digital marketing is a way of attracting, gaining, interacting, and treating patients online.

It’s a great way to engage, educate, inspire, and motivate patients. And when used properly, having a well-managed digital presence online can increase the number of potential patients who find you regardless of how they search. (27)

Did you know?
A study conducted by Deloitte found that 52% of consumers search online for information about treatment options or, more generally, to learn about health concerns and care providers.

What are some benefits of digital marketing for practitioners?

These days, patients are looking for practitioners and healthcare services online. And if you have a more robust digital marketing presence, you can reach more potential patients in a more cost-effective, measurable, and meaningful way. Just think about it. (20)(29)

Some benefits of digital marketing for a medical practice or health clinic include:

  • Potential patients will remember a user-friendly digital experience (6)
  • Practitioners can seamlessly show new patients precisely what they have to offer (2)
  • Practitioners can save on costs (3)
  • Practitioners can showcase their services (2)
  • Patients save on costs using telehealth resources instead of traditional one-on-one visits (17)(20)
  • Practitioners can build relationships with other practitioners for referrals (2)
  • Practitioners can achieve better patient retention rates (2)
  • There is better patient compliance with treatment plans (2)
  • Practitioners can treat a more extensive patient base (2)
  • Patients have an easy way to refer friends to practitioners who have an easily accessible practice online (2)

Digital marketing strategies every practitioner should consider

Digital marketing in healthcare encompasses a whole suite of marketing techniques. If you are a practitioner interested in growing your practice, there are well-established digital marketing methods you should learn about and start using. This includes using SEO tactics, building a professional website, managing social media accounts, utilizing email marketing, creating blog content, and offering virtual services to patients.

Skip to any of these sections:

Search engine optimization
Professional websites
Blog content
Email marketing
Social media platforms
Facebook and Instagram advertising
Thought leadership content
Telehealth and virtual care tools
Digital marketing budgets

Keep reading to find out how you can put them all into action.

“You can start by engaging current patients with your digital offerings as an extension of your existing practice.”
-Dr. Daniel Kalish, DC, IFMCP

Search engine optimization

What is search engine optimization (SEO)? SEO is the practice of boosting quality and quantity of traffic to your site through organic search results. (13)

With patients now searching for their practitioners and other healthcare providers online, SEO has become a primary tool every practice must use to stay ahead in the digital landscape. Almost 80% of all users don’t look past the first page on Google search results when searching for local doctors. (33) And a strong SEO practice strategy means your existing and potential patients can find you quickly and easily online. (13)

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, change is the only true constant. SEO best practices are constantly changing, and for most practices, it’s hard to keep tabs on the ever-changing rules and try and implement them in a timely manner. (13) Don’t worry. We’ve gone ahead and outlined some “back-end” SEO methods below that can prove to be effective this year.

Four tips for improving your site’s SEO in 2020:

  1. Build strong backlinks: When you write blog posts or content on your website, stick to reputable sources when linking. (13)
  2. Take advantage of voice search popularity: More and more people are using voice commands for questions. Try incorporating more long-tail keywords and natural conversational tones with your keywords in content you create. Phrase questions the way real patients might ask them.
  3. Make sure your website is secure: Google has made it clear it will favor secure sites over unsecured ones. Try installing an SSL certificate to your website. (13)
  4. Improve your mobile optimization: According to BrightEdge study, almost 57% of all website traffic comes from mobile devices. (24)

Professional websites

If you are planning to have an active online presence that attracts current and new patients, you need to have a professional website. Digital marketing without a website is a challenging thing to do. (31)

If you are looking to establish a digital footprint online, try keeping this practitioner site creation checklist in mind:

  • Find a website host
  • Choose a domain name
  • Define your patient avatars
  • Pick a website design template
  • Train yourself (or hire someone) to learn the back-end of the website
  • Add your contact information and link a professional email
  • Check to see your site is mobile-friendly and loads quickly
  • Plan benefit-driven content
  • Use on-page SEO tactics for content creation
  • Use back-end SEO tactics with keywords and long-tail keywords
  • Use high-quality imagery
  • Make sure your call-to-action (CTA) is crystal clear
  • Keep your website up-to-date
  • Share your site
  • Provide patient reviews or testimonials

Blog content

Blogging is an essential part of digital marketing that helps practitioners find, serve, and keep more patients. You can grow your brand and demonstrate your years of experiential knowledge in a professional blog. (16)

“The single most important action you can take right now as a practitioner is to build your online presence by offering the best educational content to your existing patient base.”
-Dr. Daniel Kalish, DC

How often should you create blog content? Try writing blogs at least once a week that address frequently asked patient questions. Focus on creating SEO-centric content that is specific to your expertise that users will want to read and share. A lot of practitioners write about patient case-studies, their opinions on the latest research in their given field, or different experiences they’ve had while working in the healthcare field. (2)

A well-thought-out and regularly maintained blog with good SEO can help you:

  • Boost organic traffic to your website
  • Increase keyword ranking on search engines like Google
  • Give you great content you can share across social media platforms
  • Show your in-depth knowledge of your given specialty
  • Provide answers to questions often asked by patients
  • Create an identity and brand for your business (11)

If you are looking for specific tips on how to write a blog with on-page SEO in mind, check out our SEO blogging guide for practitioners. Writing one specific blog post and sharing it across your social media platforms and by email is a great way to unify different digital marketing strategies. (11)

“Regular weekly posting of content is the key. It doesn’t take anything more than persistence and follow up to build an online marketing machine that will supply your practice with new patient leads.”
-Dr. Daniel Kalish, DC

Email marketing

Email marketing is one of the best tools you can use to create a trusted, personable brand without using up your whole marketing budget. It offers a direct line of communication for existing and new patients, which in turn allows you to manage long-term relationships with a wide range of patients. (26)
Some reasons why you should consider using email marketing:

  • Email marketing leads to increased conversions
  • Email marketing means more leads
  • Email marketing allows you to connect with patients on a more personal level
  • Email marketing is a good return on investment
  • Email marketing can boost your supplement sales (If you use Fullscript to dispense your supplements, just make sure it’s adhering to the Fullscript AUP)(34)

Tips for executing email marketing

  • Always keep patient privacy in mind and use secure platforms for sending out emails and sensitive patient information. (18)(19)
  • Create attention-grabbing subject lines: In a sea full of emails, it helps to stand out with an inviting email header.
  • Consider how often and why you will send out emails: Planning an email newsletter to send out to patients one to two times a week can help boost patient retention rates
  • Segment your audience: It can be helpful to segment your email audience to give emails a more personalized feel (14)
  • Use automation to save yourself time and energy: You can automatically send appointment reminders or alerts to patients when it’s time for their next appointment, which limits your number of no-shows
  • Send out emails at specific times: Tuesdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 4 pm (12)
  • Use a user-friendly mail service: Mailchimp and Constant Contact are two very user-friendly platforms that offer free services for sending out emails and newsletters to patients

Social media platforms

Social media is a handy tool for sharing information with patients and also generating patient referrals. For example, you can provide updates about your clinic’s virtual hours and appointments by sharing them on Facebook. It’s an excellent way for you to share your expertise with potential patients, build up your professional credibility, and increase your online SEO footprint. (4)(6)

Practitioners should keep the following four best practice tips in mind to get the most out of their social media impressions. Before you add a new paid marketing campaign to your digital marketing arsenal, be sure to check, double-check, and triple-check before you start running the campaign. (8)

Four things to keep in mind when you start using social media

1. Choose social media platforms that are right for you

There are a lot of different social media platforms, and each one is different. Before you sign up for an account on all the sites, think about what you want to put out on social media. (23)

For example, do you want to showcase tangible results from your services? You may want to try Instagram. If you want to increase organic traffic to your website, then Google+ can be a good approach. Do you want to bring patients together to form an online forum to have discussions? Facebook is excellent for that. And if you’re going to share primary news and updates, then Twitter may be a good fit. (32)

2. Be consistent and frequent about sharing actionable content

Interactive social media profiles are one of the best ways you can attract new patients to your practice. When you are active on social media, your potential audience is larger than you could ever imagine with traditional marketing strategies. (21)

Before you start posting on social media, begin to develop a schedule, and organize information to help you post social media consistently. Try and only share information that is pertinent to your specialty, and when you reference, use credible sources. And include links where patients can find even more information about the topic. For example, you could provide a link on an Instagram post back to a blog post where you discuss the matter further. (32)

man in his kitchen looking at something on him laptop

Including actionable phrasing on social media posts like “See our profile or website for more information” can lead new patients to the next step.

3. Engage with specific audiences regularly

Engagement is the key to social media success since social media platforms are more likely to generate engaged users in searches. To stir up engagement with potential patients, it can help to have a specific target audience in mind. Try following relevant users and pages. And you can engage with their posts by liking or commenting. (8)

You can also read what your followers are concerned about regarding health and get a better sense of what they want from their practitioners.

4. Promote your social media accounts

Just because people are using social media channels to find practitioners doesn’t mean they will simply start following you on Facebook or Instagram. And when you first start social media pages and profiles, some of your patients may not know to follow you on social media. (8)

You can increase the visibility of your social media profiles by adding social information to your website, to your marketing materials like your business cards, and at the end of every email, as well as liking, engaging, and commenting with other user profiles.

“After engaging with your current patient base on social media, try expanding out from your current patient base to their friends and family as step number two. As you build your audience and messaging, in several months you then expand even further to reach potential patients outside your current circle of people.”
-Dr. Daniel Kalish, DC

Facebook and Instagram advertising

As social media platforms, both Facebook and Instagram offer some useful and user-friendly business features. You can spend money to boost or promote a post, so it reaches a broader patient target audience in your area. (25)

Facebook advertising can be used to reach a wide range of potential patients and people in your area who may be searching for a practitioner in your specialty. On Facebook, try using the “lookalike” audiences feature that may have people who are interested in your practice since they’re similar to those who have already liked it.

Thought leadership content

Patients more than ever need information and the opinion of experts. Try growing your thought leadership by posting and participating in health-focused websites and forums in your specialty. It’s your chance to share original research or data you have been collecting. (9)

When you have more visibility through recognition from other practitioners and healthcare providers, you are more likely to get online guest postings and podcasts, which can then lead to new patients. It can also lead to referrals from other practitioners. (9)

older man talking to healthcare practitioners on video chat through his computer, at home

Virtual visits offer practitioners a fast, reliable way to treat older patients that may not have access to a car or public transportation.

Telehealth and virtual care tools

Telehealth helps increase access to care, especially during a health crisis. Most patients think of telehealth as a video conference call — or a virtual consultation — between practitioners and patients. (15)

You can offer your patients or clients virtual care in the form of:

  • Virtual consultations​: You can provide live video visits that you can bill for while you & your staff continue to work remotely. When a practitioner and a patient each have a computer or smartphone with an internet connection, they can conduct a virtual consultation. (15)
  • Live chat​ text: You can download a practice management software or install a plug-in to your professional website that allows you to stay in touch with your patients by text and communicate with visitors to your site to book more virtual visits. (24)
  • 24/7 support email: Direct email communication with patients allows them to contact you or your staff by email or text message with any questions and symptoms. You can also guarantee a particular window of time in which you can respond. (30)
  • Use mobile marketing to stay in touch: Using mobile marketing applications, you can ask patients to fill out a satisfaction survey following a virtual appointment. (10)
  • Online payments and invoicing:​ Make sure to set up digital payments through your website to allow for proper social distance and limit your staff’s exposure.

Digital marketing budgets

What is a reasonable digital marketing budget for you? Your budget will depend on various factors, such as the size of your practice and the scope of your digital marketing project. Digital marketing budgets for private practices and healthcare clinics can range from $6,000 to $180,000 a year.

Questions to ask yourself when determining a digital marketing budget include:

  • What are you currently doing to market your practice?
  • How much are you currently spending?
  • How much revenue does a new patient bring to your practice?
  • How much money does it take to get one new patient?
  • What are your practice or clinic goals?

Some practitioners might spend $500-$15,000 a month just on Facebook and Instagram ads. Meanwhile, other healthcare providers might spend virtually no money online, and instead pay an in-house practice manager to improve organic SEO rankings and help produce original content.

When determining your marketing cost, try to base your budget around your medical practice revenue or your growth goals. (5)

The bottom line

Today’s patient will often search the web to find a practitioner that meets their needs. Will your name come up based on their search?

Consider this an opportune time to integrate telemedicine into your practice (if you haven’t already). (17)

There are many benefits of getting creative with digital marketing that can transform the way your practice engages with patients. Remember that it’s essential to have a solid digital marketing strategy before you delve into creating any content or launching any email or social media campaigns.

Take time to consider your overall goals and identify your digital marketing goals. Then, you can develop a plan around the digital marketing strategies that make sense for implementation.

Practicing some of the digital marketing techniques we’ve outlined can help adapt your practice to the ever-changing future and reach more patients for less money.

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