If you're a patient with a non-life-threatening condition — a fever, perhaps, or maybe a broken wrist — it's easy to see the value of urgent care.

The local urgent care center, after all, is probably open late and weekends. It's going to provide service relatively fast, and it's probably going to do so at a relatively good price. Sure, the health professional who tends to your needs may not have your medical history, but does that really matter, considering the circumstances? Why bother waiting on a non-life threatening medical need if someone can see you now?

Urgent care is now an $18 billion industry, growing at a rate of almost 6% annually. According to the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA), an industry trade group with thousands of member clinics, urgent care centers currently handle nearly 90 million patient visits per year. That's 18.2% of all primary care visits, UCAOA notes, and 9.7% of all outpatient visits.

For anyone who owns or works in an urgent care facility, all of that amounts to a lot of good news. For many more traditional medical practices, however, urgent care centers have become a competitive threat. Here's a closer look at what's driving the sector's growth — and how marketing can help physician practices keep up.

Strengthen Your Marketing Campaign Strategy
As the UCAOA points out in a recent white paper, urgent care facilities are continuing to expand not only because they're convenient and accessible, but also because they're cost-effective and offer diverse services. The message for competing organizations, then, is that your marketing should focus on those same advantages, if you offer them, while also highlighting areas where your practice stands out.

Start with the Basics
For any marketing campaign to be effective, it must be built on a solid foundation. With that in mind, start by taking a look at your website: is it designed with mobile in mind, does it load quickly (under 3-4 seconds ideally), Is it user friendly and easy to navigate so visitors can find what they need right away? Have you developed and implemented a strong SEO strategy to ensure your organization ranks high when people search? And are your various online listings (on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.) up to date, including address, phone number, hours of operations, and specialties? Your entire online presence should be tailored and optimized to convert curious visitors into patients. Make it clean and streamlined and highly informative — an authoritative voice healthcare consumers will respect.

Emphasize Your Value
When it comes to competing with urgent care specifically, focus your marketing efforts on the value your practice offers. Do you offer extended hours or same-day appointments, and are you open and fully staffed on weekends and holidays? Do you have an in-house pharmacy, on-site MRI, or offer consumer-friendly services like telehealth or home visits? Are certain services more affordable at your facility, do you accept a broader range of insurance plans, or offer payment options that are unusually flexible? And finally, consider your reputation: Are your physicians known for their record of care? Are they adept at certain procedures or at treating certain conditions? You want to show potential patients that your practice has everything — the convenience of urgent care, but also much more.

Market Like a Pro
Once you have a framework in place, it's time to set the marketing wheels in motion. The key here is to not do so haphazardly, as a piecemeal campaign will lead to subpar results. Instead, develop a strategy with clearly defined goals that allows you to monitor the progress you've made, and to make changes as necessary along the way. The easiest way to do this is with the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) system — software that can track every aspect of your marketing and measure its impact on consumers in real-time. You can use CRM to ensure you're spending marketing dollars where it matters, and in those areas where you're likely to see the best returns.

When the next urgent care facility pops up around the corner, threatening to pull the rug out from under your practice? You can rest easy knowing that you're ready to fight back.

Want to learn more about how a digital marketing tactics that help your practice compete? Download our Healthcare Digital Marketing Toolkit.