How Small Medical Practices Can Use Digital Marketing to Compete With Major Healthcare Brands

Thanks to digital marketing, smaller medical practices are finding themselves on an increasingly level playing field.

As major hospitals and health conglomerates continue to expand, smaller practices may become overpowered and outspent — especially when it comes to their marketing efforts. But you don’t need a massive budget or arsenal of full-time staffers to develop an effective marketing campaign. Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to reach out and connect with new and existing patients.

Digital Opportunities

One of the best places to gain a marketing edge is in search engine marketing (SEM). Today, nearly 1 in 20 Google searches are health-related, as patients increasingly begin their paths to treatment online. However, many major medical organizations are doing very little to cater to the tendencies and expectations of these increasingly empowered patients — in fact, according to BIA/Kelsey, only 14% of the healthcare industry’s entire marketing spend went towards digital media in 2016.

This represents a massive opportunity for smaller medical practices to compete with major healthcare brands without breaking the bank in the process. With the right approach to SEM, particularly local search, these practices can leverage keyword targeting to reach those patients who are actively searching for treatment options, and direct their conversion efforts accordingly.

Capitalizing Upon Industry Oversight

How is this possible? While the healthcare space is incredibly competitive when it comes to broad search terms, such as “cardiologist” or “plastic surgeon” (the average cost per click (CPC) in the medical industry is $3.17), a much more impactful strategy has been completely overlooked: long tail search queries.

Put simply, long tail search queries are keyword phrases that are extremely specific to the unique services and specialties of your medical practice. Even more importantly, they’re optimized to have a direct correlation to patient intent — i.e., when a patient searches with that specific phrase, it’s likely they’ve reached the end of their path to treatment and are ready to make a decision.

What’s more, the long tail market is typically far less competitive in terms of cost than single keywords — for example, if you search “swollen ankle treatment” in Google, not a single ad appears at the top of the page. Long tail keywords are also far more affordable than broader, more competitive search terms, with a suggested CPC bid of only $0.42.

Make a Connection

Once you’ve captured the attention of your target audience, use the “local” aspects of your medical brand to your advantage. Today, a full 96% of consumers prefer to “shop local,” favoring small, independent products and vendors over major brands, citing the high degree of personalized services as the primary draw.

The best way to emphasize these unique selling points is by backing up your ad campaign with a wide array of informative, engaging, and personalized content online. Build a high-quality website and fill it with images of your facilities, resident physicians and staff, and even images of your team participating in local community events; establish an active and local-minded presence across all major social media platforms; generate a steady stream of informative content both on your practice’s blog and in local on- and offline publications.

The local nature of your content will help you to establish trust and visibility within your community. Chances are you’ll see more traffic to your site, a bump in patient referrals, and ultimately, more new patients in your waiting room — all with lower operational overhead.

In the digital age, being a little fish in a big pond can actually be a competitive advantage — as long as you seek out the right tools and utilize them correctly.

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