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A healthcare marketing plan is a vision-driven, strategic detailed document that’s meant to help facilitate the accomplishment of specific healthcare business objectives, mission, and goals over a given period of time (usually a fiscal year).
As the blueprint or roadmap to your business short-term and long-term success, this vital document is not all about a bunch of marketing gimmicks and ideas from which you can pick randomly to test out. It brings together clear-cut objectives, tactics, systems, strategies, and an appropriate budget to help your business achieve its goals and deliver better-than-average performance.
If you’re not a newbie to the world of healthcare marketing, the chances are that you’re familiar with a SWOT Analysis (an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) . It’s a tried-and-tested approach that has been used for decades to create actionable marketing plans. However, in the digital age of instant-everything, healthcare marketers and planners have to do more than SWOT analysis to succeed.
That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide to the most important steps you need to follow to get your healthcare marketing plan off the ground.
In this article, we will cover:
- The Benefits of a Comprehensive Healthcare Marketing Plan - Why You Need to Create One
- What You Need to Include in Your Healthcare Marketing Plan
- Healthcare Marketing Strategies and Tactics
- Healthcare Products and Services Audit
- SWOT Analysis
- SMART Goals
- Your Business SMEs
- Marketing Plan Gap Analysis
- Your Marketing Campaigns Foundation
The benefits of healthcare marketing plan - why you need to create one
In today’s complex and increasingly globalized economy, running a healthcare business is no easy walk in the park.
It’s crucial that you have a crystal-clear healthcare marketing strategy, including a well-designed plan and budget, to stay ahead of the pack. After all, patients have more options when it comes to where to seek health care than ever before. If you snooze, you lose.
With lots of info available on the web, patients no longer feel that they need to go the nearest practice, clinic or hospital. That’s where a robust healthcare marketing plan comes in especially handy. Together with a budgeted and refined strategy, a good marketing plan will help you boost patient inflow, keep returning customers happy, and eventually increase your business ROI.
In practice, a great healthcare marketing plan enables you to anticipate, evaluate, prepare, and develop a roadmap to stick to in order to drastically enhances your chances for marketing success. It’s an all-important business tool every medical group, practice, clinic or hospital need to have in their marketing toolkit.
Of course, there are plenty of other benefits that come with having a good healthcare marketing plan:
- Reach New Patients Faster and Cost-Effectively: You do a bang-up job as a medical practice, and your healthcare services are top-notch. However, without a steady inflow of patients, you won’t be able to meet your growth plans. The good thing is that an agile marketing plan can help you with new patient acquisition.
- Get Everyone Internally on the Same Page: I’m sure you don’t need us to remind you that a healthcare business is made of many departments and cogs that have to work in tandem to achieve overall success. Creating a marketing plan means setting goals and objectives for the entire practice. As such, a robust marketing plan that everyone subscribes to internally makes sure that all decision-makers are on the same page, streamlining your business, and making operations more efficient.
- Evaluate New Growth Opportunities More Effectively: Do you plan to expand your practice? Perhaps you’re planning to open a new office in a new location. Examining new opportunities is a privilege that most healthcare facilities don’t get to enjoy. After all, you are focused on what really matters: taking care of patients. Thankfully, a market plan makes it easy to take a closer look at new business opportunities and make proper decisions quickly.
Do these new opportunities align with your current objectives, goals, and vision?
A healthcare plan can help you come up with these answers with a high level of precision so that you can know when to act and when to walk away from a new opportunity.
- Stay on Top of the Latest Trends: Healthcare is an ever-evolving industry that’s often influenced by changes in technology regulations, and rules of engagement. Having a marketing plan on hand can help you stay abreast of groundbreaking healthcare technologies like AI, Big Data, Machine Learning, and mobile apps so you can make your business stand out from the crowd.
- Build a Visible Healthcare Brand: Gone are the days when healthcare marketing and advertising were carried out simply through word of mouth or coupon mailers. In the era of social media, things have changed dramatically. Healthcare marketing is now done almost exclusively online. That’s why you need to put your healthcare brand in front of an online audience, an area where a marketing plan can come in particularly useful.
- Measure the Effectiveness of Your Marketing Spend: When you’re investing heavily in your healthcare business, it’s hard to tell if you are making real progress. Having a marketing plan allows you to have a framework within which you can set up metrics and key performance indicators for your business. Ultimately, this provides you with the tools and an opportunity to re-examine and possibly refine elements in your plan. In other words, laying out a strong healthcare marketing plan helps you set your business up for success right from the outset.
- Clearly Define Your Goals, Objectives and plan of attack: Who knows what the future holds for the healthcare industry? The last thing you want is to stay in the dark as your competitors get a head-start. A healthy marketing plan provides your practice with a compass or North Star to follow. More importantly, when you leverage a plan, your mission, objectives, and goals, as well as your strategies for attack, become more clear and well-defined.
Interested in learning more about the top healthcare marketing strategies for 2019? Check our our article on 9 Healthcare Marketing Trends for 2019
Creating a holistic healthcare marketing plan: what to include
An agile healthcare marketing plan is much akin to an instruction manual for your business success. It should help marketers see the big picture, have a sense of the business objectives & goals and know what’s expected of them to achieve them, all while staying out of the weeds.
In this next section, we will walk you through key elements that you need to incorporate in order to create an all-rounded healthcare marketing plan:
1. Well-defined healthcare marketing strategies and tactics
Clearly defined marketing & PR strategies should be at the heart of your healthcare marketing plan. In the digital generation, the criteria of patient satisfaction have transformed in more than one way. Nowadays, patients expect healthcare facilities to offer more than just the right treatment.
According to a recent study by McKinsey & Co., patients are no longer just patients; they are more like consumers, and therefore expect a certain level of customer service and consumer experience. If you don’t have a marketing strategy in place to help you stay on top of these expectations, you may as well say goodbye to regular patient inflow.
Even if you are happy with your current volume of patients, it doesn't hurt to keep your practice at the top of their minds. Think of all the reasons why they might ditch you for your competitors. It could be anything, from wait time frustration to a change in the insurer. And because they consider themselves consumers of healthcare, patients now have great expectations and anticipate to get more value as well as good customer service from you, just as they would from a non-healthcare company.
Having solid healthcare marketing tactics and strategies go beyond your marketing plan; they are an investment that can do wonders for your business in both the short term and long haul, especially when it comes to patient retention and volume growth.
Here are 6 tips that will help you define an exceptional healthcare marketing plan briefly summarized in this infographic (with more details below!):
Tip#1: Have a clearly defined product roadmap for your healthcare company’s website
You’d be forgiven for thinking having a website and slapping on a few pages is sufficient to make an impression on potential patients and improve your brand visibility.
That’s not enough to offer a worthwhile patient online experience. Given that your website is your online front door, be sure to go above and beyond to wow prospective patients. For more details on what to do and what not to do when it comes down to your healthcare website, check out or healthcare website design guide.
As mentioned in the infographic above, here are the basic principles every healthcare website should abide by:
- Your website design should be user-friendly, easy-to-navigate, and highly responsive.
- Get a handle on your site speeds: with every second delay while your site loading, you’ll lose 20% of visitors
- Clearly indicate your services, location, and business contact. As a rule of thumb, your site visitors should be able to see this info within 5-10 seconds.
- Quick to help: Most patients visit your online channels to get help, and find answers. Ensure that your FAQ page is rich and information. Your Contact Us page should be higher on the page, and not buried in the clutter. Include a live chat functionality that’s attended to 24/7.
Tip #2: Have a well documented SEO strategy to be found online
In the digital age, you’re going up against both small and big healthcare players, which makes it hard for business to get found online. That’s where search engine optimization comes into play. SEO is a fantastic tool for getting your healthcare business to the first page of search engine search results (SERPs).
The right SEO strategy is more than keywords. You have to use your keywords naturally in your web content because search engine crawlers care about readability and value for the reader. Generating awesome content, mobile-ready website architecture, link-building, and backlinks are some of SEO best practices that you need to consider.
Tip #3: A robust social media strategy for your healthcare business
Social media should be at the core of your healthcare marketing strategy.
The chances are that you’re using platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to interact with your patients and build your reputation. You need to kick it up a notch by leveraging paid social media ads and tools to get your brand in front of your target audience.
More importantly, you should have a healthcare social media strategy in place, and as a crucial element of your healthcare marketing plan.
Tip #4: A strategy to get feedback from your patients
Patients provide you with feedback, both bad and good, through a diversity of channels, from your social media pages to in-house suggestion boxes.
As part of your marketing strategy, you should set up an avenue for following up with patient feedback. This way, you can showcase to your patients that you care about their two cents, and willing to take action based on their feedback.
More importantly, take inspiration to how the most popular mobile apps in the world today leverage product feedback. When users leave negative reviews in the App Store, an app owner has the option to reply with comments to those negative comments. Many apps have successfully improved their products and gotten customers back by simply reporting back when an issue is fixed.
Tangible example: let's say some mobile users complain that a specific app is crashing often or it is too slow. After the issue has been fixed, many apps would publish an app update mentioning how the performance issues were fixed, retested and the app has been redeployed.
The same principle applies to healthcare marketing. And to your plan. You need to assume, right off the bat, that there will be some issues with customer experience, waiting times, delivery of medical care and more.
And you must make it a priority - and a documented item on your marketing plan - that any time there is feedback from your customers, that feedback will be collected and analyzed. More importantly, your job as a marketer for a healthcare company, it is your job to try to persuade the company to make changes and to improve the customer experience. And after that happens - you need to go back to the people who left you feedback and report on how your company has leveraged that feedback to improve its processes, train its staff and more.
Tip #5: A strategy to request customer reviews & post them online
Reviews can be a powerful marketing tool when used creatively and honestly.
No patient wants to visit a healthcare facility that doesn’t have reviews online. As such, make sure that you have review pages on an array of sites like Google, Yelp, BBB, and local directories. Even better, ask your patients to leave a review on your website.
So make sure to include a line item in your healthcare marketing plan to actively go after your most satisfied customers and elicit reviews. These reviews though should not be anonymous. You want to get the consent from your best clients to blast those awesome endorsements across social media, on your website and to even print them on your brochures/ fliers and having them displayed prominently in your office.
Reviews = power. Reviews = endorsement of the good work you do. You must include the collection and promotion of positive reviews in your healthcare marketing plan.
Tip #6: A strategy to standardize your branding message across the company
As a healthcare company, you may feel confident that your expertise and top-notch services will set you apart.
But in your patient’s mind, one doctor in a white coat looks just like the next. That’s exactly why you need to incorporate a consistent branding into your marketing strategy.
Are you a family-friendly practice? If yes, let that theme flow down your practice, from customer service to marketing materials to patient care.
2. Learn your company's healthcare products (so you can market them like a pro)
When creating a practical marketing plan for your healthcare company, it pays to know the ins and the outs of your services and product. Your marketing will be much more efficient, cost-effective, and result-oriented if you know the back and front of your services and products. In fact, it takes the hassle out of creating a robust healthcare marketing strategy.
With that said, you need to carry out a thorough audit of your services and products.
This way, you’ll create a matrix that aligns these services with the patient persona. Who is your target patient? What are they looking for in healthcare services? What patient issues do your services hope to solve?
By making sure that you have a clear-cut understanding of what your services and products are, why they are needed, and how they are perceived by your target audience, you will be in a better position to market them more precisely and without much hassle.
3. Do a thorough SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
SWOT, short for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, is an analytical methodology that can help you take marketing planning to the next level. As you might infer from the name, it simply means evaluating and re-examining crucial elements of your strategic marketing planning process.
Strengths: These are your business resources, abilities, and capabilities that can be leveraged as a basis for gaining a competitive edge, especially in today’s healthcare market that’s riddled with cut-throat competition. Your strengths to include your marketing plan could be:
- You new, groundbreaking service or product (those that make your stand out)
- Your unique experience and special expertise
- The strategic location of your practice (e.g., an area with parking space or heavy foot traffic).
- Your well-known procedures, processes, and quality assurance
- Or, a plethora of any other facets of your healthcare business that add more value to your services or products.
Weaknesses: These encompass areas which you may want to avoid or improve.
In a way, weaknesses can be taken as the absence of specific strengths that are crucial in your specialty, especially in comparison with your competitors. A few examples of weaknesses could be a poor location, understaffing, bad reputation, wanting products/services, and other external factors that you hamper your healthcare business.
Opportunities: Your business opportunities can come in many forms. They could be:
- New technologies (like AI), procedures or services that you could leverage to spruce up your business
- Strategic alliances, joint ventures, and mergers
- An upcoming market (such as online healthcare provision)
- Changes in lifestyle, social patterns, population profile, etc.
- Departure of competitors
- Changing to a market segment that delivers better profits
Threats: a threat is simply anything that could stand in the way of the success of your healthcare business. Needless to say, turn a blind to these threats at your own peril. Common healthcare sector threats include:
- Ensuing price wars due to shrinking demand or patient volume
- An entry of a competitor into your local market
- Economic Downturns
- A rival gaining an added edge over you, e.g. introducing better service, technology, etc
- Changes in government regulations, rules, and policies
- Changes in insurance plans that could affect most of your patients
A SWOT analysis is one of those things that are easier said than done. Here’s some rule of engagement that could make your SWOT analysis effortlessly easy:
- Don’t underestimate or overestimate your weaknesses and strengths. Be realistic about them.
- The SWOT analysis should be able to tell where your business is currently is, and where it’ll be in near future.
- Keep it brief and to the point. Be as specific as possible, avoiding gray areas at all costs.
- Do your SWOT analysis in reference to your close competition
- Don’t make it complicated. Your analysis should be simple, brief, and result-oriented to produce good insights.
4. Define your healthcare marketing S.M.A.R.T goals
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely goals. Defining each of these goals will keep your healthcare marketing plan and your business goals clear and unambiguous. In fact, there’s no room for guesswork when it comes to achieving SMART goals. To boost patient volume by 20% is a good SMART goal - it’s measurable, easy to understand, and specific.
As a far as a healthcare marketing plan is concerned, SMART goals can be overall business goals (that touch on the big picture), marketing goals (which can be chunk down into social media, content, email, inbound, etc.) and sales goals (to help bring more leads into your sales funnel).
5. Make sure you've defined your business subject matter experts
SMEs is an acronym for Subject Matter Experts. These are experts who will help facilitate your marketing campaigns.
They are your go-to specialists when you need their assistance for your marketing initiatives. For instance, if you are looking to boost volumes of your cardiac patients, you’ll want to have a well-known and respected cardiologist on the speed dial.
Making a list of in-network doctors, physicians, and other key experts in your practice will help you with PR, branding, and advancing your healthcare marketing strategies. That’s why you need to be specific and know exactly who to approach when you want to talk to the media about something happening in your practice.
6. Create specific buyer personas for your marketing campaigns
Having a clear understanding of your buyer personas can make a huge difference in your marketing strategy. As such, you need to state and clearly define these buyer personas in your healthcare marketing plan. Start off by conducting top-down market and competitor research so you can gain insights into your typical customer (patient).
In simple terms, you cannot effectively market your company's services unless you know exactly who you need to communicate with.
Your market research should involve taking a closer look at your existing patients, as well as review market trends and check out channels where your customers are finding you on.
Go the extra mile to better understand your customer’s wants, dislike, interests, and whatnot. Ultimately, use these insights and key data points to create well-defined and non-vague buyer personas which will inform your marketing campaigns.
7. Do a gap analysis to make sure you're on the right track
Gap analysis helps you identify where you are, where you want to be, and what you need to do to get there. In other words, this analysis examines your current marketing strategies and assesses what you may need to do to accomplish your target outcomes. Which of your marketing approaches seem to work and which doesn’t contribute to your bottom line?
At this point, you might want to take a peek at what your competitors are doing, and how you can beat them. Your gap analysis will help inform your healthcare marketing strategy and identify areas of improvement and opportunity.
There you have it folks - 7 key elements to incorporate into your healthcare marketing plan. Depending on your business, you might also want to include marketing systems, budgets, further competition analysis, and current marketing summary, as well as lead identification and sales process overview.
Do you need help figuring out your healthcare marketing plan in 2019? Digital Authority Partners works with some of the best names in the industry to create content and marketing campaigns that convert patients and improve the overall ROI on your marketing investment.
For a limited time, Digital Authority Partners is offering a FREE content & SEO audit to healthcare companies interested in assessing their current brand in order to build a robust content marketing plan for 2019. Interested? Drop us a note at [email protected] or call us at (312) 600-5433 for details.