marketing for healthcare

In marketing for healthcare, it takes 3 to tango

Listening to surgeons and doctors every day, I come across interesting trends in marketing for healthcare. The ‘3 to tango’ model we have come up with at Digital Practice redefines the way medical marketing is set up and executed. In order to succeed, it is a dance between you as a doctor, your marketing agency and the patient!

marketing for healthcare

Marketing for healthcare businesses in a nutshell

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

November 17, 2022

The dance moves in a few lines

marketing model

This is a medical marketing model you won’t find in books. As much as we would like to be very humble about it, we have created a unique strategic approach to marketing the private practice. Here’s how we dance.

The patient gives us valuable data through our patient search behaviour program. Since 2016, we map the most common Google searches executed by Australian patients across 35+ medical specialty areas, from bariatrics and general surgery to neurosurgery, from psychology to obstetrics, and from fertility treatment to gastroenterology. We use that information to attract traffic to a practice from organic search.

The doctor (our customer) gives us an insight into their subspecialties, ambitions and goals for the practice, uniqueness and consultation style, academic interests, particular experiences, demographics of the practice’s patient cohort, associations with hospitals and referral flows. We use that information to create a unique brand positioning so visitors become patient leads who will often just change the destination of the GP referral they have been given.

The marketing agency (yay, that’s us here at Digital Practice) shifts from being the technical executor of the marketing needs that a practice manager puts in a brief…to becoming a business developing sounding board. We navigate along with you on the journey, whether you are just starting out in private practice or redesigning your clinic.

Here’s why this ‘3 to tango’ model works so well in marketing for healthcare. And why your medical marketing will fail if one performer leaves the ballroom early.

The worst way to do marketing as a doctor

worst medical marketing ideas

Let me share with you what I have come to define as the worst way(s) to do marketing as a doctor in private practice. The following character is 100% fictional, yet has absorbed some of the belief systems, attitudes and character traits I have found in diluted forms in prospects and customers over the years.

The worst medical marketing ideas often come from good intentions. Any resemblance with real people is a coincidence but if you do recognise your own practice in the following story, book a free 1:1 Strategy Session because you might be missing out on business.

Ashley is a 47-year-old surgeon, who has been in private practice for 12 years and performs surgery 3 days a week in various hospitals across town.

  • Their digital assets are spread across 3 providers. The original website developer who built the site 3 years ago appears to have disappeared. A former staff member’s partner sends invoices for hosting that nobody really understands. Nobody has a login for the website and the services are listed on a Services overview page.
  • Their marketing strategy is to rely on GP referrals mainly. The practice grew to its current size in the 1990s and early 00s when Ashley took it over and marketing has always been about attending GP events and networking. There is no monthly meeting to do new things.
  • Their Google strategy is to pay an agency for SEO. They are doing some search engine optimisation but nobody at the practice really opens the monthly reports and the invoices go straight to the practice manager who automatically pays the monthly bill of about $1,200, excluding the typical $750 that is charged to the practice’s credit card for Google Ads. When Ashley does a Google search for the most important procedures in the practice, Google’s Page 1 is filled with their 5 competitors.
  • Doctor Ashley is time-poor, yet would love to have a long waitlist. Patient numbers have been fluctuating heavily and are on the decline in the last two years. Ashley thinks this is due to the pandemic and the economy and has no active content strategy in place to update the website. Social media is done by the new receptionist twice a week.

Let’s strip this apart and make some lifestyle changes. If you recognise the marketing strategy of your practice somewhere between these lines, bear with me to analyse why this is so harmful to your private practice and how leading doctors are doing it differently.

The better way to do medical marketing

better marketing

Better marketing is best defined as marketing work that creates a higher return on investment. With the picture I have painted above, we can state with almost scientific accuracy that it won’t work.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"The setup, the attitude and the approach are not in line with modern medical marketing requirements. In today’s digital landscape, a doctor needs an ongoing performance and content strategy to keep generating referrals and leads. The easy way no longer cuts it and yet many medical marketers hold on to old-school tactics."

Let’s strip apart the old method and replace it with better habits:

Having different providers inevitably leads to the blame game. That’s not our responsibility, ask your developer. We only do your SEO, ask your hosting company. Medical marketing is about managing all online aspects of your reputation as a doctor, and better marketing results are achieved when there is a mindset of overarching strategic planning and ownership.

Google visibility is no longer about doing some quick IT tricks on an existing website. It starts with the vision behind your practice, your focus treatments, the data about what patients are searching for and a clear integrated vision to produce content on a regular basis.

Strategy for medical marketing relates to business planning, business development, content marketing and SEO, as well as the use of formats that are effective in building influence. The secret to better marketing performance? Strategically integrating all of that and avoiding the too-many-cooks syndrome.

Again, this is where it takes 3 to tango. You need the patient data to even start strategising. You need experienced content people to interpret the data and work with you. And you need to be present as a doctor to map your business goals against the information needs of the community. In other words, successful private practice owners and managers leverage the power of this strategic dance and get better results, longer wait lists, more practice growth and more referrals.

Let’s tackle another big topic in marketing for healthcare while we’re at it.

Maintenance is often a misunderstood word when we discuss websites. It’s not about dusting off an engine every 6 months. Maintenance of a medical website is an essential part of the investment you make in successful marketing for healthcare businesses.

The myth about medical website maintenance

website maintenance

Doctors often call us about website maintenance, looking for a better deal. A package that will just allow them to have peace of mind, knowing that an IT person takes care of whatever is meant by website maintenance. I am still not sure what type of ideas are circulating about medical website maintenance, but this is how the Digital Practice medical marketing team looks at it.

Server: A website is a piece of software on a server, which is basically an advanced and protected computer in a physical, secure, airconditioned data center. It makes sense that if one of your most precious pieces of software is running on a device, you make sure that the device is healthy. Server maintenance means that we check the actual performance, security, backups and technical health of the machine your website is running on.

Backend: It’s a tech word for software that makes your website work. Hold on. Isn’t my website like a PDF document that I go to, open and close? No, it isn’t. A website is a live piece of software that assembles copy, graphics, backgrounds, images and buttons on a set of pages each time someone lands on a page or clicks through to a page. The software is sometimes slow, broken or poorly configured and you don’t want that. At Digital Practice we check that the software is up to date, checked and double-checked, and performing in alignment with Google’s best practices and the latest versions of smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Monitoring: If you monitor a website, you want to monitor not just the technical side of things. How are you ranking for your top 5 business goals? Who in your catchment area is a competitor? What are the big content shifts in your specialty area, looking at your competitor’s blogs and content on their medical websites? You want the monitoring to be accurate, based on your business goals and running in the background. At Digital Practice, we keep the data available for when you decide to add monthly content to your website so the marketing efforts are always supported by market research and fresh data.

Backups: It may seem like a formality but you want to know that your website is securely cloned on a second location, far away from the data centre where the original version is running. If the building collapses or burns out, you want to know that a backup will be switched online in minutes, so your online reputation does not just disappear.

Take a breath. Marketing for healthcare can be fun.

marketing tip

My first marketing tip is to look at where you are at and where you want to be in 12 or 24 months. Then the process is a bit similar to a healthcare journey.

Diagnostics: We check what is working and what can be improved.
Acute care: We discuss how we can make the most important changes fast.
Treatment plan: Ideally, your marketing happens in alignment with a strategic plan, not as a combination of scattered tactics.

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free marketing demo

A free marketing demo at Digital Practice is a live session on Zoom where we discuss your marketing situation and bring up live case study material to explain the mechanics of content marketing for healthcare. Depending on where you are at and where you want to be, we can then look at customised options and work out an action plan to grow your practice.

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