Digital marketing is rapidly gaining popularity across all industries – including healthcare – now that the majority of consumers use the Internet to find information and connect with brands.
According to a Pew Research report, 72 percent of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year, and 53 percent of those searchers then talked to a clinician about what they found online.
In today’s online landscape, there is a great opportunity in healthcare to use digital marketing to educate, inspire, motivate, and engage target audiences. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is lagging two years behind other industries in their digital marketing efforts.
The State of Digital Marketing in Healthcare in 2015 study, for example, found only 50 percent of senior healthcare marketers use a CRM system, a centralized hub of patient information critical for targeting and engaging the right patient communities.
This doesn’t mean that healthcare marketers don’t see the value in digital marketing. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed believe that digital marketing is essential to brand building. What’s more, half of respondents plan on upgrading or changing their CMS platform and plan on redesigning their website within the next year to align with digital marketing efforts.
But why, exactly, is digital marketing so important in the healthcare industry? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons:
As noted in an Advice Media article, the healthcare industry can amplify its audience reach through digital marketing tactics such as search engine marketing, social media, and mobile marketing. Hospitals and other healthcare providers that employ search marketing techniques, such as website optimization, will rank higher in search results, and therefore be seen by more Internet users.
Especially in the healthcare industry, there is high competition for search traffic. In order to rank higher than nearby hospitals or healthcare institutions, keyword research is beneficial to find queries that patients could be using to find an organization or its services. Choosing relevant keywords for website pages, landing pages, social media, and blog posts can help a health organization’s pages rank higher than the competition in search results.
In addition to search marketing, social media also allows healthcare providers to more effectively reach customers with relevant health information. In fact, 92 percent of consumers say they trust social media and recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing or advertising, especially for health information and health provider recommendations.
It’s important to note that patients who search the Internet and engage on social media are often accessing these platforms on their smartphones. Patients are looking for both information and a good user experience when they interact with a hospital or healthcare provider online, so the healthcare industry needs to start strengthening their mobile presence; at present, only 33 percent of healthcare marketers consider a mobile strategy to be “essential.”
Instead of creating a separate mobile site, hospitals could also implement a responsive site design that adapts to the screen size of the device the site is being viewed on. This way, patients and physicians will see a consistent digital experience that flows from mobile to tablet and desktop.
In order to fully leverage digital marketing channels in today’s fast-paced healthcare landscape, however, healthcare professionals need to have the right data in place to target patient and consumer messaging accordingly.
It all comes back to big data.
This is where a healthcare CRM comes into play – with consumer data access at their fingertips, healthcare marketers can determine patient communication preferences in order to make the greatest impact. A healthcare analytics platform allows healthcare organizations to target consumers based on specific demographic, social, and behavioral information. The end result? Patients who are ultimately engaged in their own care.
Consumer data shows that some patients prefer accessing information on websites or patient portals, while others prefer social media or mobile apps. A personalized communication strategy, grounded in patient information collected and analyzed in the healthcare CRM platform, can help to attract, engage, and retain patients and physicians.
Ideally, hospitals will be able to anticipate health issues and improve quality of care overall with the help of customer data.
As noted above, digital marketing can help healthcare marketers increase reach and personalize messaging, but a fundamental challenge still exists:
How do marketers prove the return on marketing investment (ROMI) of these efforts?
With today’s healthcare landscape shifting from traditional to digital marketing, the stakes are higher than ever. As hospital marketers find themselves on the hook for attracting and retaining patients, hospital executives are holding marketing departments accountable for the success of their digital campaigns, measured in terms of specific metrics.
Cosmetic metrics (i.e., number of site visits and page views, etc.) can provide value, but the true value comes when specific metrics are aligned with key performance indicators.
Conversions are one example of an accurate metric to show the ROMI in healthcare. Conversion goals can be as simple as getting qualified leads into a CRM.
Evariant helps clients increase conversions by creating tightly managed ad groups and varied CTAs to be implemented where it’s most relevant. Take, for example, a user who searches “knee pain” versus “knee replacement surgery.” The former is directed to a downloadable guide page while the latter (a more urgent case) is directed to an appointment form.
Hospitals and healthcare providers can see greater conversions from these sorts of targeted marketing efforts. The ability to access metrics and data in real time with a CRM allows healthcare professionals to shift marketing tactics quickly and effectively in order to better reach marketing goals.
Despite the opportunity for healthcare marketers to focus on conversion KPIs, the majority is still focused on traffic metrics, however. More than 70 percent of respondents in The State of Digital Marketing in Healthcare survey have established number of unique visitors, number of page views, and growth of website visitors as digital KPIs. Only 59 percent and 55 percent, respectively, use request for service via website and conversion rates as KPIs.
The healthcare industry has the potential to increase their reach and effectively engage consumers with digital marketing tactics. A CRM gives them access to customer data, which healthcare professionals can use to create targeted messaging and reach patients across a variety of online channels.
The challenge, however, comes from attributing a measurable ROMI to digital marketing efforts. Marketers need to be able to understand the success (or failure) of digital campaigns and shift messaging and/or channels accordingly in order to reach conversion goals.
What’s more, healthcare organizations need to be able to compete in an increasingly Internet-based world and cater to patients and consumers searching for information online. The end goal is, of course, to find more patients and engage existing patients, resulting in improved patient outcomes – and a healthier society – overall.