The 2021 Healthcare Marketing Playbook

Learn the seven proven tactics healthcare marketers need to survive and thrive in the coming year. Reach your target audience more effectively, elevate the patient experience, and build a future-proof brand.

Healthcare marketing
Onlinko Healthcare marketing Agency

Moving Forward After a Challenging Year

There is no denying the tremendous impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on healthcare. From new ripples in the patient experience, to the way we market and communicate, everybody has had to make significant adjustments. What follows are seven high-level tactics that will position your healthcare marketing group to not only survive 2020, but thrive in the year to come.

Table of Contents

1.Communicate With Empathy- Laying the Groundwork for Empathetic Communications

2. Increase Local Search Rankings – Local SEO Best Practices for Your Healthcare Brick and Mortar

3. Build PPC Campaigns That Reach Patients Ready to Convert- PPC Best Practices for Attracting More Patients

4. Maintain Awareness and Nurture Through Digital Advertising- Paid Social: Facebook , Instagram Display & Advertising

5. Protect Your Brand’s Reputation (Review Management)- How to Build a Review Encouragement Program

6. Invest in Video- Tips for Healthcare Video Marketing

7. Build Your Telehealth Practice – How to Optimize and Humanize Your Telehealth Offering 

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1. Communicate With Empathy

Patients don’t just want to hear that your practice understands that these are “challenging times”; they want you to show them you understand in the ways you communicate. Communication, of course, starts between patient and physician.

According to research from Managed Healthcare Executive, some 44% of healthcare consumers consider a doctor who listens and cares their #1 factor in patient experience. On top of that, 42% ranked “a doctor or health care provider who spends time with me and does not rush through the exam” as a top priority. The safest bet is to never assume what your patients know or care about. This means you have an opportunity to communicate not only what your COVID-19 procedures are, but why they exist and the patient concerns they help address.

Regardless of your “target demographic,” keep in mind that you have a responsibility to treat all patients of different races, backgrounds, and socioeconomic levels the same. Be sensitive to the economic burdens, insurance disruptions, and anxiety that your patients might be facing.

Over time, this kind of empathetic approach will not only deliver better patient experiences, but give your brand a reputation for doing so.

Laying the Groundwork for Empathetic Communications

Here are six specific ways that practice administrators and doctors can manage patient expectations, communicate effectively, and strengthen their practice’s brand image. By following these six tips, you’ll not only improve the situation here and now, but lay the groundwork for exceptional patient experiences long after the pandemic has subsided.

  • Standardize communication best practices
  • Tame the phone lines keep wait times down
  • Audit and update your website with the questions patients have today
  • Look for opportunities to automate communications, scheduling, and customer service
  • Optimize and humanize your telehealth offering for people of all technical skill levels
  • Support you staff and their mental health, as an empathetic patient experience isn’t possible without them

2. Increase Local Search Rankings

Ranking at the top of search results is one of the most pivotal pieces to a healthcare provider’s marketing and patient acquisition strategy. Local SEO is especially critical for healthcare providers as people prefer to see medical professionals located near where they live and work. Nearly all of our healthcare clients have some kind of physical location where they see patients. This creates tremendous potential for ranking and competing in local search.

Healthcare marketing Agency

When potential patients are searching for a healthcare provider, you want your name, location, and service pages to show up in the top positions on Google Maps and the organic search results page. Securing these positions means showing search engines that your facility is both located close to the user and the best patient choice over your competitors. And the payoff, both in terms of new patient acquisition and improved patient experience, can be tremendous.

Secure your position in maps by having your name, address, phone (NAP) information consistent across all reputable online directories like Google My Business, Yelp, VConnect Nigeria, Connect Nigeria, Business List, DealDey Nigeria, and any other directories that are major players in your local geography or medical space


Healthcare Marketing

Local SEO Best Practices for Your Healthcare Brick and Mortar

Performing well in local SEO isn’t an entirely distinct marketing strategy, but rather the blending of an optimized website with individual provider pages, compelling content, an up-to-date off-site digital presence, and high-quality backlinks. Staying committed to these pieces daily will help you consistently rank highly in search engines.

  • Show up in Google Maps with accurate NAP citations: Keep name, address, phone (NAP) information consistent across all reputable online directories.
  • Optimize your Google My Business listing: Use a complete U.S. Postal Service-approved address and verify your listing. Specify the area or region you serve and check all relevant service categories. Write a compelling introduction, add photographs of your practice, and get patient reviews.
  • Create optimized pages for each provider location: Create comprehensive city-specific and region-specific landing pages. Location landing pages are unique destinations on your website dedicated to a single physical location with the location in the URL, metadata, and onpage content as well.

  • Build backlinks through location content: Build local relationships with healthcare networks, professional and business networks, nonprofits and charities, publications, and media sources. Focus on creating high-quality, locally-focused content that people will naturally want to click back to because it creates value.
  • Employ “on-site” local SEO tactics: Optimize web pages and use relevant keywords. Create location pages and put NAP for all locations on the contact page. Embed Google Maps and pinpoint your location. Use markup schema, ensure a seamless mobile user experience, and update your blog frequently with local content.

3. Build PPC Campaigns That Reach Patients Ready to Convert

PPC advertising is ideal for healthcare organizations for a couple of reasons. Most obvious among them is the fact that a lot of people use search engines. The pool of qualified, prospective patients is large, and it’s easier than ever to track and measure the performance of your PPC campaigns.

PPC remains the advertising medium most flexible for all kinds of ad budgets. And PPC advertising creates some really good opportunities for healthcare organizations, namely:

1.The ability to target very specific audience has never been so comprehensive.

2. The availability of rich data that can be used to drive serious ROI has never been deeper.

3. It’s easy to pivot and launch new campaigns.

Healthcare marketing play

PPC Best Practices for Attracting More Patients

Putting together a keyword strategy is essential before jumping into Google Ads. Once you have keyword strategy for your PPC campaign, employ these six PPC best practices to continue maximizing the value of your campaigns:

Know your audience: Examine historical data and trends. Match your ad offers and messaging to the intent and needs of this target audience. Optimize keyword strategy, copy, and creative.

Use persuasive copy: Address your audience directly. Remove potential barriers to action. Be succinct.

Create a seamless experience: Align your ad copy and landing page copy so there’s consistency. Create optimized landing pages for each campaign. Make scheduling from the ad easy.

Use geotargeting: Most PPC platforms, including Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, offer some form of geo-targeting capability.

Use ad extensions: Google Ads Help estimates ad extensions, such as site link, callout, and structured snippet, can increase CTR “by a couple of percentage points.”

Optimize your ads for mobile: This can be the difference between percentage points on CTR, ROAS, and other metrics.

4. Maintain Awareness and Nurture Through Digital Advertising

To consistently attract patients, healthcare marketers are increasingly turning to a more omnichannel marketing strategy. In an omnichannel model, the focus is on connecting with patients across physical and digital touchpoints, including mobile, video, social media, and email.

According to Healthgrades, “An omnichannel experience means that your brand not only has a presence across channels—but that all of those experiences are integrated in a way that improves the end-to-end customer experience.”

In 2021, we are recommending that our own clients augment their email nurturing programs with digital advertising and focus on these two channels:

  • Paid social
  • Display advertising

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, fears will linger and many patients will continue to defer care. Digital advertising can be used to maintain brand loyalty and to encourage them to seek care.

Let them know that it’s safe to visit your office and that you’re ready to help them. Consistent messaging across channels will help persuade them that it’s time to schedule an appointment.

Paid Social: Facebook & Instagram

According to a Harris poll cited by Business Insider, “between 46 percent and 51 percent of US adults were using social media more since the COVID-19 outbreak began.” Average daily Facebook traffic is up 27 percent, according to the New York Times. People don’t just follow their friends or celebrities on social media—they’re seeking reputable information and following doctors and healthcare brands. Social media has changed the way healthcare providers can connect and form relationships with patients.

First, healthcare providers can engage with their brand followers organically by sharing educational content, updates on business operations, treatment options, and patient success stories. This is a great way to connect with your loyal supporters and encourage word-of mouth recommendations.

However, if you want to expand and attract new patients, you need to invest in social media advertising. This will help you reach new audiences and build brand awareness. With paid social, there is a variety of ways to target your ad campaigns based on demographics, location, and behavioral signals, but if you want to take your paid social advertising game to the next level, you should consider developing social remarketing campaigns.

With remarketing, you can create custom advertising audiences based on the actions your leads and patients take. For example, an eyecare center can create a custom audience comprised of patients who haven’t made an appointment in more than a year.

Then, they can show that audience an ad featuring an exclusive eyeglass promotion to get them back in the office.

Social media gives you the unique opportunity to connect with patients on the channels they use most. If you haven’t embraced paid social yet, 2021 is the year to do it.

Display Advertising

As powerful as social media might be, people spend up to 70% of their time online off of social channels. What are they doing? Surfing the web, reading content, and bouncing around to various sites. To be ever present, healthcare brands can use display advertising to achieve a couple objectives:

  • Introduce your brand to new markets
  • Shape brand perception through consistent messaging
  • Keep your brand top of mind with prospects and existing patients

You can display ads to specific demographics and locations or display ads on the websites that your customers visit most.

Like we just mentioned, remarketing is a powerful tactic that can also be used in display advertising. With remarketing, advertisers have the ability to create highly targeted campaigns that are shown to individuals who have already visited their websites. This gives any business, large or small, a whole new playing field to reconnect with potential customers. Think about it: ads are being shown to consumers who have already expressed interest in a brand or its product. If you’re not thinking of integrating remarketing into your online marketing efforts, it’s time to think again.

A Word About Remarketing and HIPAA

When implementing a remarketing campaign, remember to comply with HIPAA regulations and the advertising platform’s policy. Your ads can’t disclose protected health information about a medical condition. If you’re new to remarketing, we recommend you work with an experienced healthcare marketing agency before launching a remarketing campaign

5. Protect Your Brand’s Reputation (Review Management)

Medical treatments carry a lot of importance in a person’s life, more so than any other “consumer” decision. As such, patients want to be sure that a medical practice is legitimate and reliable before they book an appointment.

While considering a new doctor or procedure, or before
scheduling an appointment or consultation, patients check online reviews for
practices, facilities, physicians, staff, service, and cost. It’s important to
encourage your current patients to leave reviews so that prospective patients
can quickly ascertain your practice’s caliber and reputation.

Apart from convincing potential patients to try out your services, reviews also help your website to rank higher on search engines. What’s most important is consistency, as opposed to volume—generating regular reviews for your practice, month in and month out.


How to Build a Review Encouragement Program

Google uses reviews to determine search rankings and, fortunately for all of us, review encouragement software programs like BirdEye, Podium, and TrustPilot do it all for you—and quite effectively. Your all-in-one customer review software should connect directly into existing software programs like your CRM so that when a patient checks out, they receive a link to provide a review automatically.

Here are a few moments in the patient journey where it makes a lot of sense to ask for a review:

1.The provider can ask during the appointment

2. Or administrative staff can ask at checkout after an appointment

3. Following the appointment using email or text messages

4. On your website

5. During follow up phone calls

6. On social media

healthcare vmarketing playbook

6. Invest in Video

Increasingly, marketers are finding great success incorporating video across all digital channels. After all, the world of healthcare is all about people. From patients and their families to the nurses, physicians, and specialists that care for them, people make the whole thing go.

Wherever people are the foundation, good storytelling is sure to follow. This is why video and healthcare marketing go hand in hand: video is the perfect medium for storytelling, which makes for engaging and enjoyable marketing content with lots of different practical applications.

To say we’re in the golden era of video would be an understatement, especially when there seems to be no end to the new formats, innovation, and audience engagement techniques out there. In terms of audience, the stats are kind of wild. Consider this:

  • 75 percent of Nigeria consumers currently use social media to watch video regularly
  • 50 million Nigeria users access YouTube daily
  • 56 percent of internet users watch videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat every month
  • More and more videos are appearing at the top of Google search engine results pages (SERPs).

Tips for Healthcare Video Marketing

A strong video marketing strategy should center on three core pillars:

1) the art of storytelling;

2) building out your core content;

3) weaving that content throughout your digital marketing efforts.

A quick win that we recommend to our own clients is to repurpose longform written content, such as blog posts, into smaller video “chunks.” The same can be done with interviews and webinar replays, all of which can be optimized for search (metadata, lazy loading, and so on).

Here are some valuable types of video content to consider:

  • Procedure video
  • Physician introductions or interviews
  • Personalized pre-surgery messages
  • Webinars.
  • Patient Testimonials and Stories
  • Educational videos
  • Facility tours
  • Live video

7. Build Your Telehealth Practice

There were strong indications before COVID-19 that telehealth would eventually become the new norm. Therapists, especially, have already begun to expand their telehealth offerings. It’s flexible. It’s inclusive. And it makes a whole lot of sense during a global pandemic.

Though the capability itself is nothing new, telehealth (also known as “telemedicine”) has become a mainstay during the COVID-19 era. It limits exposure, provides a level of convenience, and makes access to healthcare more inclusive to people in remote areas, or with other obstacles that make in-office visits difficult.

"Now, marketing can take more of a lead role in terms of pivoting to patient approach. That can be enabled by digital and a lot of new tactics that might not have been on the Roadmap." -Cody lee, VP of growth marketing for summit partners

How to Optimize and Humanize Your Telehealth Offering

We recommend approaching telehealth as if it is here to stay, because, in our view, it probably is. Assuming your practice has rolled out telehealth to patients, or plans to, here are few tips for making this a humancentered experience that brings value to patients, instead of creating another hassle:

Treat everybody as a technical novice –There’s an old saying: if you can’t explain it to both a five-year-old and an eighty-five-year-old, you can’t explain it. Make no assumptions of technical literacy in your telehealth journey and provide clear, simple instructions that even a novice can reasonably follow.

Test the user experience yourself- on different devices, platforms, and operating systems. Perform full “test” sessions with staff members so you see how it looks from both the provider and patient perspective. Make note of potential sticking points or technical issues that your patients might encounter and improve the digital workflow accordingly

Provide telehealth support and resources.-Create and display prominent messaging about your telehealth offerings, including clear calls to action for booking an appointment, registering for required patient portal accounts, FAQ, and phone line dedicated to answering telehealth-related questions and troubleshooting.

Identify and add ways to make virtual care more familiar,-comfortable, and personalized. How? Add staff photos, names, and short, interesting bios. Include video overviews and introductions on your website and in telehealth-related communications. Make sure patients don’t feel like they’re just another number in a big, automated telehealth experience run by machines.


healthcare marketing playbook

In Closing: Patients Are The Priority

A unifying theme across all of these 2021 healthcare marketing tactics is patient experience. In our view, the call of the hour in 2021 and beyond will be innovating, communicating, advertising, messaging, and marketing with the patient in mind—empathy marketing, if you will. No matter where you focus your energy, the patient experience should always be the starting point. Remember, COVID-19 is just one challenge facing your patient base.

To that end, communication will be essential to connecting patients with the care they need. Isn’t that what healthcare marketing is all about? Marketers who can adapt to changing circumstances, adapt to market volatility, and connect with patients in a way that brings value to their journey, will do wonders for their brand.

From there, demand generation won’t be a problem at all. Because the need for quality healthcare isn’t going anywhere. It’s just that patients are more savvy and selective than ever.

healthcare marketing playbook

FAQ// Learn More About Onlinko Healthcare Services

Just like any other business, healthcare organizations need to be able to generate revenue by building their audience and attracting new customers, clients, and partners. Healthcare, after all, encompasses a broad range of services that people seek out each and every day. Reaching, attracting, nurturing, and converting these “customers” is essential to maintaining healthy operations.

Just like traditional consumers, healthcare consumers industry research online, compare providers and facilities and respond to different forms of medical advertising. Healthcare marketing applies many common marketing practices and strategies, such as SEO, email marketing, and advertising to the promotion and sale of various healthcare services.

Good question! Let’s put it this way: how are patients supposed to find and select providers for their various medical needs? While this process might seem simple and straightforward from the patient’s point of view, the perspective of the healthcare organization is a bit different.

Like any other business, healthcare organizations operate in a marketplace. That means they face (sometimes stiff) competition from other providers, manage revenue and cost challenges, and depend on a strong digital reputation. This is especially true for providers of specialty medical services. Healthcare marketing activities help ensure that patients keep coming through the door, build market share, and facilitate lean and efficient operations.

A medical marketing company like Onlinko will support a variety of marketing objectives. These include:

Improving digital lead generation

Increasing conversion rates (new patients, scheduled appointments, etc.)

Boosting organic website traffic

Creating better rankings on Google for high-volume keywords

The cost of any healthcare marketing program will vary depending on objectives, duration, and your particular medical vertical. While healthcare marketing can be a significant investment, a healthcare marketing company can help you optimize your marketing program to make sure you get a higher return on investment (ROI) and minimize cost per lead. Onlinko, for example, has experience delivering results for companies of all sizes and budgetary limitations.

Yes! It is often the first impression that new or potential patients and partners will get of your practice. Beyond that, your website can be optimized to attract organic search traffic, provide valuable information to prospects, and bring in new cases, patients, and partnerships.

Without an optimized website with targeted messaging—one that follows SEO best practices—your practice stands to miss out on organic net-new business or, worse, lose out to competitors. Luckily, our team of healthcare marketing professionals knows how to help.

The right digital marketing mix will first and foremost depend on the size, nature, and maturity of your healthcare company. At the very least, it’s important for any company to shore up its digital presence to meet today’s best practices. This includes their website, SEO, any existing marketing campaigns.

Our experienced medical marketing experts will work with your teams to complete a thorough audit of your existing marketing strategies. From there, we will recommend a detailed plan, including specific performance metrics mapped to your desired business outcomes.

Take Flight with Onlinko Digital Marketing

Reach out with any brain busters:

Emmanuel Ikesu,

CEO of Onlinko Digital Marketing