In some ways, hospitals are no different than any other business.
Like retail stores or software companies, hospitals aim to increase their bottom line by attracting and retaining consumers. But there is one key difference: Healthcare consumers (i.e., patients) are rarely eager to buy what hospitals are offering. In fact, patients are often trying to avoid the less-than-ideal circumstances (i.e., injuries and illnesses) that may lead to a hospital visit. So what's a hospital to do?
While it might seem strange to think about your hospital competing for business, that's exactly the mindset you need. To grow in today's ever-changing healthcare environment, you must promote your services and create brand awareness. And that means you need a well-thought-out hospital marketing strategy.
As you think about how to do hospital marketing for your specific brand, keep these 4 hospital marketing tips, tactics, and considerations in mind. Whether your hospital has a long-term marketing plan or you're just testing the waters, each of these four tactics will help boost your brand awareness and engage your patient community.
1. Make your website useful
Given the prevalence of the internet and its influence on consumer practices today, it should be no surprise that your hospital's website is often a patient's first touchpoint. To maximize your impact, start by optimizing your website in every possible way.
For a positive user experience, the site design should be clean, easy to navigate, and responsive. You should also ensure visitors can quickly find what they need to contact your hospital, request more information, or donate. For enhanced SEO (both traditional and voice), the site should publish useful, informative content that answers patient questions. A strong marketing website will also demonstrate authority and reflect a safe, trustworthy environment.
2. Use social media to humanize your brand
For patients, hospitals can feel uninviting with their sterile practices and formal procedures. Social media is a great way to break this barrier while elevating your brand. Social media sites create real-time connection points with patients and provide a different avenue for organically promoting your care providers and services. The top social channels used to distribute healthcare content are Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
You can also take advantage of paid social advertising if you want to do more granular audience targeting based on location, age, etc. More than two billion people worldwide use social media on a regular basis, so having a successful social media strategy can be a key differentiator for your hospital.
3. Engage in community sponsorships
If you want to promote your health and wellness mission or spotlight your top services, sponsorships are the way to go. Getting involved in the community gives your hospital more visibility and supports location-based marketing. Does your city or town have a sports team you can put your name behind? The Cleveland Clinic sponsors the Cleveland Indians MLB team, which means the hospital's name is on the team's website and on in-stadium signage that gets broadcast exposure.
Your hospital might also want to sponsor local nonprofit events, such as 5K run/walks, health fairs, or golf tournaments. If you're serious about including sponsorships in your marketing plan, it's a good idea to have a landing page that details your sponsorship criteria and allows interested organizations to request event sponsorship.
4. Increase your impact through hosted events
Hosting your own hospital events is another great way to increase your exposure and impact. Fundraisers and galas help you connect with donors and benefactors and get people excited about your cause. They can also bring in the funds needed to carry out meaningful services and projects or purchase important medical equipment.
On-site classes and workshops allow you to showcase your hospital's services and the expertise of your staff members. For example, if you provide maternity care at your hospital, you could offer classes on caring for newborns.
Conferences and summits give you a platform for sharing impactful research or treatment breakthroughs, which can elevate your hospital in the global healthcare community.
Other Important Considerations
If you're looking to boost your hospital marketing efforts, there are two critical items you cannot ignore.
Reputation can make or break a hospital. All the marketing in the world will be for naught if your hospital has a poor reputation. First and foremost, your hospital should be prioritizing patient experience. But as a marketer, it's your job to promote the positive patient experience. The first step is to claim your hospital and provider profiles online—think Google My Business, Bing, Foursquare, Healthgrades, etc.—so you can monitor and maintain your hospitals reputation.
Online reviews are also an important part of hospital reputation management. More than 80% of patients are now consulting patient review websites with some frequency to gauge provider reputation and/or to leave ratings and reviews. What's more, search engines put extra weight on user-generated content like reviews.
Pro Tip: Use patient satisfaction surveys to automate the collection of reviews and quickly put out fires. Patients who indicate high satisfaction on the survey can be automatically presented with a link to write a review. Conversely, surveys submitted with poor satisfaction ratings can trigger automatic alerts to select staff members for immediate follow-up.
The privacy standards set by HIPAA are well-known among healthcare providers, but healthcare marketers are not exempt. If you post images, videos, and other content on your website and social media accounts, you run the risk of HIPAA violations.
Be vigilant about checking your HIPAA compliance blind spots and ensuring your content doesn't inadvertently disclose private patient information. It's also important to get proper consent for any patient images or testimonial videos used.
Pro Tip: Use HIPAA compliant online forms on your site to reduce security risks and streamline your data collection. Secure contact forms, appointment request forms, sponsorship request forms, and more can be embedded directly on your site and customized to match your branding.
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