As a healthcare marketer, your goal is to capture new business and increase revenue for your organization. Thus, strategy (and marketing dollars) are often focused on consumer and patient campaigns – to find, guide, and keep these individuals long-term.
The reality is, most patients aren’t calling your organization to request an appointment with an orthopedic specialist – most visit their primary care provider before being referred to a specialist. To get more patients in the door and grow high-value service lines, a two-pronged approach is required: a campaign that targets both consumers and physicians.
The goal of a physician marketing campaign can range from increasing awareness to increasing referrals and U.S. News & World Report votes. First, you need to make sure that physicians know about your organization and its capabilities – only after you’ve established your credibility will physicians start to refer to your specialists.
Identifying Opportunities for Physician Marketing Campaigns
Creating a successful campaign starts with the right data. You need to break down the wall between physician and consumer data sources to fully understand the strategic market opportunity; including the geographic hotspots, which providers are currently making referrals (and where), and the overall likelihood of consumers to need a specific service.
Analyzing this data will allow you to identify strategic opportunities to grow network utilization and/or physician alignment with strategic campaigns. Let’s say, for example, five of your competitors’ doctors are leaving the state. This event presents an opportunity to redirect referrals previously going to your competitors – target the referring physicians with a campaign that illustrates the capabilities of your in-network specialists.
Of course, the physician liaison team plays a critical role in reaching out to target physicians one-on-one and encouraging them to refer to your specialist. The marketing team can support and amplify their outreach activity with targeted campaign efforts.
Let’s dig into several digital strategies your marketing team can employ:
1. Search Engine Optimization
The high level of competition in the healthcare industry can make it difficult to get your content in front of physicians’ eyes. Consider this: Most search engines report that the top result receives over 40 percent of the total search traffic, with the second result getting 11 percent and the third 8 percent. If your website is in the top few positions for competitive keywords, that many more physicians will engage with your content.
An organic search strategy geared toward physician awareness and engagement begins with making your site search and user-friendly. That means you need to have content on your site that’s highly relevant to each service line and sub-service line – you want to establish your organization as the expert.
When doctors are researching whether to refer patients to your specialists, they’re looking for highly detailed and specific information. Let’s use the cardiology service line as an example – if you’re trying to increase referrals to your cardiovascular specialists, having one generic page for cardiology won’t cut it. Referring physicians are looking for more specific areas of expertise, like aortic specialists or AFib specialists. Make sure the page content is highly relevant to that sub-service line and showcases your expertise, like specialists’ education/experience, breakthrough research, and innovations.
When it comes to keyword targeting, physicians conduct research based on specialties and conditions. The more granular your content is, the better. For a campaign aimed at increasing awareness and referrals to your cardiovascular specialists, consider targeting content toward a specific condition like, mitral valve prolapse or percutaneous coronary intervention.
Depending on what you have on your site already – webpages, blog posts, white papers, eBooks, and more – you may be able to integrate target keywords into existing content. Otherwise, you will need to invest in content creation so physicians can find the information they’re searching for.
2. Social Media
Like the rest of us, physicians use social media, but they’re not just using it for fun; 80 percent of physicians use smartphones and medical apps, and 40 percent say mobile health services like apps and social media may reduce the number of visits to doctors.
Social media marketing campaigns targeted toward physicians can either be organic, paid, or a mixture. Let’s dig into two specific platforms to take advantage of:
- Facebook: On Facebook, highlight well-known specialists on your health systems’ page with video content talking about their expertise, latest research, and innovations. You can go about this in two ways: First, you can create video content that encourages consumers to comment and share (In fact, video generates 12 times more shares than text and images combined). If a referring physician sees a specialist getting rave reviews from consumers, they’ll want to be associated with them. You’re building credibility of specialists through consumer awareness.
Second, you can create video content that is more clinical in nature and geared toward a physician audience. Physicians are on Facebook, though it’s harder to track than other platforms because they often don’t use emails associated with their practice. Make sure the video features a “Rockstar” specialist that’s well-respected in the physician community to have the biggest impact.
- Twitter: A lot of doctors use Twitter to communicate with each other, both by asking questions and sending out feelers/communicating with hospitals. In fact, a lot of hospitals encourage their physicians to tweet a certain number of times a month highlighting their breakthroughs, research, clinical trials, and more.
Marketers can use Twitter as a forum for discussion. Sharing video content will help raise awareness for your health system and work to establish your specialists’ credibility. Many health systems also take advantage of Twitter’s event targeting capabilities during major medical conferences.
Similar to your organic strategy, marketers should share educational and highly-relevant information on the hospital’s social channels, whether it’s paid or organic. The goal is to get your name in front of potential referrers and slowly build credibility.
Furthermore, there are social sites specific to physicians — Sermo, Doximity, DailyRounds, and more— that are valuable marketing channels. A lot of our clients are running a U.S. News & World Ranking campaign, with the goal of improving reputation scores. The scores are voted on by random sampling of national doctors, but 80 percent of voters are messaged through Doximity to participate. Because each years’ ranking is based on the last three years of votes, this will be a multi-year, national campaign effort.
Max out your sponsorships on Doximity and use social campaigns (especially Twitter campaigns during major conferences) to increase awareness of your health system and provide educational resources. The end goal is to increase votes, but secondary goals are to secure collaborations and recruit new physicians.
When it comes to physician remarketing, subtlety is key. The end goal is establishing your organization as an expert and/or increasing referrals – you get there through awareness and education. If you want physicians to refer to your specialists, you need to present your content more than once. Retargeting is a way to do this.
Further refine your retargeting campaigns with geofencing to show ads to potential referring providers within the radius of your practice or hospital.
To comply with privacy regulations, retargeting campaigns for physicians should only focus on display targeting using keyword, placement, interest and topic targeting around sub-service lines and specific conditions. And, as with all physician marketing campaigns, use audience segmentation to personalize as much as possible. You can even make your remarketed content dynamic, meaning they respond to specific actions physicians took on your site previously.
4. A/B Testing
An essential element of all types of digital campaigns is tracking and testing performance; you need to know how your campaigns are performing and if there are adjustments you can make.
For physician campaigns, use A/B testing to compare campaign messaging and content and determine which resonates better with your audience. Prior to embarking on A/B testing you need to define metric goals, so you know how you’ll be measuring success (such as click-throughs or engagement levels of shared content).
These tests use the scientific method, meaning that you test one element (such as the ad copy or asset) at a time while keeping the rest consistent. This way you’re able to attribute performance change to a specific feature, then apply this impactful element across campaigns.
Any physician marketing campaign starts with the right data insights. Marketers need an understanding of where potential market opportunities lie before creating and deploying targeted campaigns. This necessitates alignment with physician liaison teams – if there is an opportunity to redirect referrals to your organization, you should be running a marketing campaign in tandem with liaison outreach activity. Similarly, any awareness-driven marketing campaign can be supplemented by liaisons handing out informational pamphlets to targeted physicians.
When it comes to measuring and reporting on campaign performance, the metrics you should rely on wholly depend on what the goal is. If it’s awareness, consider engagement metrics like shares, likes, and views. For referrals, look for a lift in referral patterns and liaison activity. For U.S. News & World Report votes, any improvement in your organizations’ reputation score is a measure of success.