The market for healthcare is changing all the time. More people in the United States have healthcare insurance now than in recent years thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and technology has had a significant impact on the way that people make decisions about their health problems and how to treat them. These changes will inevitably have an effect on the tactics healthcare providers and related companies market their services and products.
With that in mind, here are three major healthcare marketing trends to look for (and use) in 2016.
Trend #1: Targeting mobile users
The first trend is one that applies to all kinds of marketing, but most especially to healthcare marketing. 2015 marked the first year that mobile searches on Google outpaced searches conducted on computers, and that trend is expected to continue in 2016. In fact, 91% of Americans have a mobile device within reach 24 hours a day, and 80% of all local searches – including those related to healthcare – are conducted on mobile devices.
What the trend means is that no healthcare provider can afford to ignore the importance of targeting mobile users. Your website must be mobile-responsive, with content and options specifically geared toward mobile customers. You probably already know that Google favors websites that cater to mobile customers, and future Google updates are very likely to double down on that approach.
Social media mobile usage is very high, too, and sites like Facebook have added options that make it easy for providers to target mobile users. One example is Facebook’s “Call Now” feature. Local advertisers have the option of choosing various call to action buttons for their ads. The “Call Now” option allows mobile users to call your practice with the touch of a button – so they don’t have to look up your number or even dial. That means that they can call to ask questions or make an appointment as soon as they see your ad.
Trend #2: SEO is all about providing valuable content
Patients today are extremely savvy about their healthcare options. While learning about symptoms and diseases used to require a trip to the library, now a simple online search can yield huge amounts of information. People seek information both before and after they make appointments to see a healthcare provider. If you want your practice to be noticed, you must be sure to provide the valuable content that your prospective patients want – and in a way that will ensure that your website appears at or near the top of a list of search results.
Recent research shows that 77% of all patients start their quest for information about health problems with a general search on Google or Bing. Approximately 13% begin by searching a website known for publishing healthcare information – WebMD is an example. What that means in practical terms is that if your practice’s website isn’t well-optimized for local search, your prospective patients may not ever find out about you. Local optimization is more important than ever before.
When patients look for information concerning their health, they do not want to read generalized propaganda about how great your practice is. They want information that will help them understand their health concerns and treatment options. They want to be educated and informed so they can make the best possible choice for themselves or their loved ones. Whatever conditions you treat, you must have a well-thought-out strategy for creating the type of content that will educate and attract new patients to your practice. Long-tail keywords using geographical terms are the best choice because they will help you target people near you who are searching for information about specific conditions or symptoms.
Trend #3: Online reputation management is essential for healthcare providers
Widespread access to the internet and the popularity of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter has truly revolutionized the concept of “word of mouth” when it comes to healthcare. A whopping 60% of all patients say that reading online reviews helps them make a decision about which healthcare providers to use. People turn to review sites such as Yelp and sites dedicated to reviews of healthcare providers, as well as to their social media contacts, to learn about providers before they make an appointment.
Interestingly, significant percentages of consumers say that they trust referrals from their social media contacts when it comes to choosing healthcare providers. Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) are especially likely to place a high premium on online reviews for any buying decision, including those related to healthcare. However, older people are increasingly researching providers online prior to booking an appointment. That means that no healthcare provider can afford to ignore the importance of online reputation management.
While you will never be able to control what people say about you online, you can do a great deal to improve your online reputation by encouraging satisfied patients to leave reviews. The manner in which you respond to reviews – especially negative ones – is likewise very important. A timely, conscientious, and helpful response can go a long way toward mitigating a negative review. Every response you make is an opportunity to show prospective patients that you are a caring provider who takes the satisfaction and health of your patients seriously.
It might be uncomfortable to think about soliciting reviews from patients, but you can do it in a subtle way that leaves the ultimate decision up to your patients. The key thing to remember is that you must first provide a positive experience for your patients, and then do what you can to encourage them to leave reviews. “An effective reputation management strategy puts the patients’ experience first and then follows up with a plan to deal with patient comments, reviews, and complaints in a way that ensures that your reputation is favorable.” warns Bob Mangat
There is no question that healthcare marketing is evolving. The providers who will be the most successful in 2016 and beyond are those who make a strong effort to stay abreast of developing trends. Patients expect their healthcare providers to keep up with the times, and keeping these three trends in mind will help you do that.