It's one of modern marketing's biggest challenges: How to make your product or services stand out in a world where the competition is just a keystroke away.

According to a recent survey by Adobe, U.S. consumers now spend an average of nearly eight hours a day on their digital devices. For marketing departments, that's the good news — hang your shingle with a halfway-decent website, and you're almost guaranteed to bring in traffic.

The problem, of course, is that traffic is no good if those consumers quickly stray off their path to conversion. To really succeed, and hit your marketing goals, you have to find a way to keep them on track — to capture and then capitalize on their attention. It's a difficult proposition for a player in any industry, let alone a hospital vying for new patients.

Time to Personalize
So as a healthcare marketer, what's the solution? Is there anything you can do with your organization's website to turn your online visitors into patients?

That same Adobe report on our digital-device dependence suggests that there is. More than two-thirds of those participating in the 2017 survey said they preferred brands that automatically adjusted content “based on their current context." Furthermore, their research revealed, 42 percent of consumers think it's “annoying" when digital content isn't personalized, and most will walk away from a potential purchase if their online experience is anything less than optimal. And then there's this from an earlier study on the ROI of customized content: Businesses that focus on personalized web experiences see an average increase in sales of almost 20 percent.

The message for marketers, no matter their industry: You have to offer content potential customers find relevant — a perfect match to their unique needs. If you want to convert browsing consumers into patients, then website personalization is key.

Personalization Tips
How any given healthcare marketing department might go about personalizing their organization's website depends on a long list of important factors, from the programs and services they wish to highlight to the tools they have available to help them do the job. Still, the basics of website personalization tend to be the same across the board: Gather insights about your consumers, develop and implement an appropriate content strategy, and refine that strategy based on your results.

1. Gather Insights
Trying to personalize a website without data about your audience is like failing to check the weather before sailing out to sea. You need this information because it tells you what to do next. Are visitors arriving from social media platforms? Are they focused on a certain service line or procedure? How long are they sticking around, and how often do online visits lead to booked appointments?

Your insights-gathering efforts should also extend to your organization's current patients. Where are they from and what conditions do they have? Which services do they use, and what are their outcomes? All of this information should be readily available through programs like Google Analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Collect it, and then use it to create a clear picture of your customers before you move on to content development.

2. Develop a Content Strategy
The next step on the road to personalization involves creating and implementing a content strategy. If your goals include growing your cardiac service line, for example, you might develop content designed to drive traffic to an online heart-health risk assessment form. Or maybe it's as simple as using your content management system (CMS) to detect an online visitor's location so you can then offer pop-ups advertising local services.

3. Test and Refine
Once everything is up and running, it's important to ensure your tactics are on target. Monitor your website metrics, and use A/B testing to determine which content/imagery/headline/etc. works best in which places. And finally, with that information in hand, go back to the drawing board to edit and tweak. Website personalization isn't an exact science, and you shouldn't expect to get it right overnight.

For more on personalization in healthcare marketing, read our white paper, The Healthcare Marketer's Guide to Driving Growth with Personalized Website Content.