Posted: December 12, 2017

In today's digital climate every healthcare organization needs a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Without one, you're unsure of your goals, value in the marketplace, competitors' market shares, and availability of both human and budgetary resources. In fact, you might default to approaching each marketing opportunity as a “one off" unless you have a strategy that outlines goals, tactics, target audience, measures of success, and timeline. There is so much effort that goes into creating and fine-tuning a plan, so sitting back and winging your digital marketing plan is just setting yourself up for failure.

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Simply put, your digital strategy is a plan that helps you achieve your goals. Whether you need to increase click-throughs, generate more appointments, or track new patients, your strategy has moving parts that work together to help you achieve your objectives. The days of "spray and pray" are over, as digital marketing has risen to the forefront of everything marketers do. Yet 49% of organizations don't have a digital marketing plan in place.

With the ability to measure everything comes increased responsibility to pay attention to that data and make adjustments as soon as trends indicate it's time. Here are tips for a well-documented marketing strategy.

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1. Know your market. Bringing in new patients and developing deeper relationships with existing ones is the ultimate goal of healthcare marketers. Start your journey toward that goal by finding your ideal consumers—interviewing, researching, and discovering your target audience is your first call to action. Identifying them by location, age, income, occupation, their hobbies or interests, and their priorities is key. For instance, knowing healthcare consumers value easy access to physicians or lengthy reviews over fancy web applications can go a long way toward nailing down your potential base.

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2. Measure your digital strategy. Whatever your specific goals, whether increased risk assessment completion or more visits to your website, you must be able to measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy. You'll need the right marketing tools in place as far as analytics and tracking. Then you'll need to check in on them regularly and adjust your plan as trends develop. Not applying changes when you have the data to evoke change is a common problem. Marketing tactics like search engine optimization, site user experience, email engagement, and social media marketing must be analyzed monthly.

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3. Evaluate your digital tools. Are you actively using a website, social media, a blog, imagery like infographics, or interactives like video? This is your owned media. Remember to take into account earned media, which happens through PR mentions, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth. Also, think about using paid media — tactics like Google ads and sponsored social media posts. List each of these assets so you can start developing a picture of how they work together. Once you're clear about what you have in place, you'll be able to see what's working and/or adjust the digital tools that aren't as effective. There's no sense in putting a large portion of your budget in something like sponsored content if it's not generating downstream results. Once you audit earned, paid, and owned media you can find gaps and trends based on that historical data in which to adjust.

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4. Audit your content strategy. Every message within your marketing strategy, whether a blog post, an e-book, an article, or infographic is content in your owned media arsenal. This content helps you convert website visitors into customers and patients, brands your organization, helps increase trust and loyalty. But if you haven't evaluated each piece of content to see how it's performed, you're missing a component to understand how to continue building your content strategy. Decide which content is best if you are looking to get consumers to view an infographic, which type is best for bringing people to your “about us” page, etc. Scan your content for gaps. The idea is to find out what's working and what's not. Maybe videos do well but longer articles or ebooks don't convert.

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5. Plan quarterly. It's no longer acceptable to fly by the seat of your pants when planning your digital strategy. Your path should include the approach you're going to take each month for a quarter. One month you might start a blog, another month you might launch a video, the third month you might focus on paid media. A solid marketing strategy is no longer a year-long affair; instead, it makes more sense to set high-level goals, break those down into quarterly objectives, and plan in chunks. About three months out is all you should predict. Asses numbers bi-monthly, and adjust if needed. Sometimes staying on course with what was working is best, other times veering to new ideas or directions to influence the numbers is what's called for.

Marketing is no longer a one-size-fits-all healthcare directive. You must document your own map, plot your journey, and course correct continually. With this approach you create a healthcare digital marketing strategy that can succeed.

Want more insight into how your specific organization can craft a strategy for success? Request a free healthcare marketing assessment.