healthcare advertising

Tackle Healthcare Pay-Per-Click Conversions through Digital Marketing

Beat the Healthcare PPC Wormhole

Digital marketing in the healthcare industry is crucial in a time where 1 out of every 20 google searches are health related, but running a successful pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is challenging. Without advanced techniques, health care companies will waste their money on ad space by failing to get seen.

Digital marketing for hospitals is specifically challenging. Below we have outlined exactly why your hospital may be struggling in the PPC department, and listed a number of tactics to help you beat the PPC healthcare wormhole.

(Are your hospital’s digital ads being blocked? Get around ad blocking today.)

Digital Marketing For Hospitals: Challenges

There are a number of reasons why digital marketing for hospitals using PPC poses challenges:

  1. Medical information is sensitive: You have to be careful with your ad word choices with strict HIPAA privacy laws in place.
  2. Retargeting: a recent adjustment of Google’s policies prohibits health care facilities from remarketing themselves.
  3. Competition: Because of the above retargeting restrictions, staying visible on search engine result pages (SERPs) is incredible important, but keywords are highly competitive (and expensive).
  4. Knowledge Graphs: In an effort to provide more correct medical information, and panicked patients, google has implemented knowledge graphs (certified medical information) that takes over the right hand side of SERPs.

All of that considered, there must be a way to effectively use digital marketing for hospitals with PPC.

Contact Information

Is your contact information readily available for other businesses and patients to view? Check, check, and check again! This is critical for your PPC plan. A patient searching for hospital care digitally is most likely in need of services sooner than later. Having your contact information positioned clearly can set you apart from competitors. Be sure to set up call extensions, location extensions and sitelink extensions to your ad. This makes for a larger ad, and is known to contribute to higher rankings on SERPs.

Contact information is the number one way to gain conversions, so place it on every landing page. If it’s hard to find your phone number, and easy to find a competitors, you will most likely lose a potential patient.

Mobile Marketing

Going mobile is imperative. If contact information is a key factor for a PPC strategy, so is going mobile. Contact information involves communication, and if you need fast contact, you have to call. Using your phone to find and contact a hospital makes it simpler. If your hospital is mobile, a potential patient simply needs to click the number that pops up on the Google page to call you.

Be sure you are tracking your Adwords performance by specific devices. Pay close attention to what mobile campaigns are and are not working. Make your bid adjustments accordingly.

Know Yourself

Finally, understand your target audience. Determine what your patients are searching for the most. There are many types of patients to consider for a hospital. Are your patients generally looking for urgent, emergency care? Are they searching hospital options knowing they will be in for a long term stay? Do your patients even know what they are looking for at all?

Step into the patient’s shoes and consider what you would search for if you were them. Think of triggers that grab their attention that you can then incorporate into the text of your PPC ads. Knowing what sets you apart from your competitors helps you create a PPC campaign that stands out

Interested in learning more about using PPC for your hospital’s digital marketing strategies? We specialize in using dedicated PPC campaigns to boost results for hospitals looking to gain an edge in the paid digital space. Contact us today.

The Challenge of Being Transparent in Hospital Marketing

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Hospital marketing professionals have a range of inordinate challenges before them when it comes to promoting a facility or system in an effective way.

These challenges stem from a variety of causes: healthcare, in today’s world, has become increasingly political and polarizing; consumers largely view healthcare as a commodity and facilities as interchangeable; consumers feel detached from the healthcare process beyond self-diagnosis and choosing a doctor; the labyrinth that is medical billing overwhelms, confuses, and discourages patients.

Transparent communication in hospital marketing can alleviate many of these problems, but that poses a challenge in and of itself. How can hospital marketing pros be more transparent in their communications to earn the trust of their target audience and communicate differentiating quality?

The Obstacles to Transparency

Being transparent and clear about a hospital’s benefits and offerings can be difficult for facilities for a few reasons:

  • Many hospitals don’t want to “pull back the curtain,” so to speak, on medical billings, including cost of services
  • Healthcare in general has become politicized
  • Hospitals offer a wide range of services to a wide range of people
  • Consumers aren’t always willing to talk about their health
  • Costs become difficult to comprehend, especially when insurance companies are in the discussion
  • All services and physicians are not created equal

 

There are also many different stakeholders in the process. It’s not just the patient; it’s the patient’s family, insurance company, physicians and employers. These agents can interfere with clear, open communication.

Creating Transparent Communication

The most effective hospital marketing strategies overcome transparency issues and offer differentiation when it comes to their competition – even if they operate as a de facto monopoly in a given area.

One suggestion for perhaps being more transparent is being open with statistics and conveying them in a direct, easy-to-understand manner. For example, be honest about infection rates, medication error rates, and any other statistic about healthcare that your target audience would be interested in. Do so in a clear way without using jargon. Saying, “A typical post-surgery infection rate is one in 1,000” is acceptable, but it’s not quite as good as saying, “One out of every 1,000 patients who undergo surgery will get an infection.”

One might think that being forward with such knowledge could be negative, but the opposite may be  true; it is a positive way to establish trust and differentiate a facility from the rest.

Another suggestion for transparency is to be clear and open about what the hospital truly excels at – the hospital’s competitive advantage. This is not to imply that a hospital is “bad” at other areas, per se, but it does state, clearly, that consumers have one main choice when it comes to quality care in this particular area. By focusing on strengths, a hospital can begin to set itself apart in a meaningful way.

Additionally, a hospital can be open about the process it uses to bill and charge patients for their services. Many hospitals are loath to reveal specific costs and pricing information, which is understandable. Even if that’s the case, though, finding a compromise or middle-of-the-road path can reap benefits. Consumers are far more likely to choose a hospital that at least makes an attempt at clarifying the billing process and revealing the nature of costs and prices for services.

Having that particular conversation is, in a word, frightening for many in the healthcare profession, but it needn’t be. Transparency ultimately wins the hearts and minds of a consumer, and the more transparent hospital marketing professionals are, the better their results will be.

Consult with a hospital marketing agency like TotalCom to learn more about how you can expand transparency and deliver more effective messages.

 

Healthcare Marketing: 9 Ways Social Media is Impacting Business of Healthcare

Hospitals that understand this impact and leverage them within their organizations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers

healthcare and social mediaMichelle McNickle, writing for Healthcare Finance News, referenced a report by the Health Research Institute at PwC US in outlining the impact of social media on the healthcare industry.  The information contained it the article is very useful for healthcare marketers.  The article is reprinted here:

According to a recent report by the Health Research Institute at PwC US, nine distinct uses of social media are helping companies to have an impact on the healthcare business, and to take a more active and engaged role in managing individuals’ health.

“Organizations should coordinate internally to effectively integrate information from the social media space and connect with their customers in more meaningful ways that provide value and increase trust,” the report read. “Insights from social media also offer instant feedback on products or services, along with new ideas for innovation. Organizations that can incorporate this information into their operations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers.”

The report outlined nine additional ways social media is impacting the business side of healthcare.

1. Communication is shifting to public, more open forums. Which means less money spent on mailings, websites, and other marketing initiatives. According to the report, four characteristics of social media have altered the nature of interactions among people and organizations: user-generated content, community, rapid distribution, and open, two-way dialogue. “In the past, a company would connect with its customers via mail or a website, but today’s dialogue has shifted to open, public forums that reach many more individuals,” read the report. “Early adopters of social media in the health sector are not waiting for customers to come to them.” Ed Bennett, who oversees social media efforts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, agreed. “If you want to connect with people and be part of their community, you need to go where the community is,” he said. “You need to be connecting before you are actually needed.”

2. Patients (or consumers) are taking a more active role in their healthcare. Social media presents new opportunities for how individuals manage their health, the report noted, whether researching a certain illness or joining a support group. “The virtual aspect of social media enhances communications by creating a comfortable, often anonymous, environment for engaging and exchanging information.” In addition, patients are using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to better educate themselves. When faced with an important health decision, the report read, social media can provide a new avenue of information and dialogue. “Some may share a health goal to generate support or engage in a patient community to interact with other patients,” it read.

3. Increased access to information means patients are demanding more transparency.  Laura Clapper, MD, CMO of the online community OneRecovery, compared healthcare’s use of social media with that of a bank’s. “As more people go online to interact with their banks and make purchases, they want to do this with their doctors, health plans, and condition and disease management as well,” she said. According to the report, many industry insiders referenced social media site PatientsLikeMe, an eight-year-old health data-sharing platform, as an example of how more than 140,000 patients are connecting with each other. “Social networks will peel back every corner of the health system and drive transparency on cost, value, and outcomes,” said Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe. “The information asymmetry that patients experience will be leveled, allowing the average patient to evaluate and improve his or her conditions, as well as the system’s performance.”

4. More instant feedback can help both consumers and organizations. With patients more actively taking to social media to express opinions, grievances, and experiences, they expect faster response times from organizations, the report read. “Truly social brands will listen to what customers are saying and feeling and use that insight to adapt and create products and services,” said Kelly Colbert, director of strategic advertising at insurer WellPoint. In addition to improving services and creating products to better meet the needs of patients, social media has taken on a more practical approach to basic, day-to-day operations within an organization. For example, according to the report, 49 percent of those polled expect to hear from their doctor when requesting an appointment or follow-up via social media within a few hours.

5. Social information is impacting how and when patients select treatment and providers. It’s no secret consumers are increasingly turning toward social media to make healthcare-related decisions, like what physician to see and when to seek a second opinion. For example, according to the report, 40 percent of those polled said information found in social media would affect the way they coped with a chronic condition, their approach to diet and exercise, and their selection of a specific doctor. “Across the health industry, consumers seem to value information and services that will help them make their healthcare easier to manage,” the report read.

6. Social media allows for higher levels of trust. According to the report, consumer survey respondents said they would be most likely to trust information posted via social media (from doctors, hospitals, etc.) and, they’d be most likely to share information with providers via social media. The reason individuals trust their doctors the most? Human relationships, the report detailed. “You want to trust and connect with the people providing you the care,” said Kathryn Armstrong, senior producer of web communications at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “It’s easier to trust a person than an organization.” Healthcare providers have the ability to form human relationships and connect with their patients, the report added, which ultimately leads to increased trust.

7. Social media is evolving from a marketing tool into a business strategy. Although 82 percent of respondents said their social media efforts are managed by their marketing department, the report showcased how social media’s use is extending into customer service, innovation, and service/product development. “As people go through life events and their health journey, they have changing interests in health,” said Ann Sherry, senior director of Kaiser Permanente’s Internet services. “They want and need different tools and different interactions.” Having a social media strategy isn’t’ enough, she added. “It’s about social strategy.”

8. Providers can use social media as an outcomes-based measurement. The industry is shifting toward outcomes-based measurement, due in part to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, like Medicare’s Value-Based Purchasing and accountable care, read the report. “Social media can offer a unique mechanism for collaborating with other organizations/partners to coordinate care,” it read. The report advised using social media to support meaningful use efforts, all while defining a digital strategy and clear usage guidelines. “A hospital’s or physician’s first encounter with a patient is often through its online presence,” it read. “Providers should take advantage of the trust consumers have for them over other health companies.”

9. Health insurers can use social media to help focus on population health. According to the report, health insurers understand that focusing on the individual population will be key, as more partnerships in population health are formed and insurance exchanges bring in 12 million newly insured individuals in 2014, and up to 28 million by 2019. By casting your company as a “patient advocate,” it continued, you’ll get a jump start on understanding the needs of potential members and determining which needs can be met through social media. Additionally, it noted, organizations should begin to determine an approach to data aggregation and understanding the direct and indirect benefits of social media.

Healthcare Marketing: Do You Know Where Your Hospital’s Digital Ads Are?

Many web ads bought through digital ad exchanges are appearing to no one and some are even appearing on sites with objectionable content.

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Those digital ad exchanges appear to be a great deal.  You provide the information concerning whom you want to reach and they’ll take your digital ad and place it across a wide range of websites that will deliver the audience you are seeking.  You provide the ad and they do all the work.

But now research is indicating that your ads are not appearing where you might think or even want your ads to appear.  Comscore  conducted research to see where digital ads are actually appearing and the results were alarming.  The research was conducted on behalf of twelve major brands including Ford and Kellogg.  The results reported by Jeff Roberts in paidcontent.org indicated as much as 31% of the 1.8 billion ad impressions purchased by these companies were not seen at all.  The ads were shown to non-humans – bots or spiders that induce a web page to display an ad.

In addition, 72% of all their ad campaigns resulted in brands having their ads placed next to questionable content.  Sites dedicated to pornography, piracy or malware.

This is not to say all digital ad exchanges are bad.  It’s just to point out there are risks involved in placing digital ads across multiple sites with ad exchanges.  Unlike radio, TV or print advertising, with digital advertising it’s hard to know exactly where your online ad appears.

For healthcare marketers, it’s safer to stay with purchasing ads on high-traffic local sites, like the local newspaper or television websites.   But even these local media companies are now partnering with ad exchanges to offer behavior-based buys across a wide range of websites.  So we must be careful and understand as much as possible about where our ads will actually appear.

It’s all part of the development and evolution of digital advertising.  There’s a lot of big numbers thrown out, even by reputable local digital sites.  But sometimes it’s difficult to have great confidence in some of those numbers and in the way they are presented by ad reps.   As the digital advertising industry develops, hopefully more precise and reliable results will be provided which will increase our level of confidence in online advertising.  In the meantime, we must be as careful, and as thoughtful as possible, in evaluating digital advertising options to make sure our ads are actually being seen by human beings and within a context that’s appropriate and suitable for our healthcare messages.  

Hospital Marketing: Boomers’ Use of Social Media is Booming

Baby Boomers who provide care for aging parents are heavier users of social media than boomers in general.


Baby boomers are embracing social media.  Faster than any other segment. According to Pew Internet the number of 50-plus who use social networking sites grew 88% during the past year.  Now practically half of the adults over 50 regularly use social media.   In the more narrow 50-65 age group its almost three fourths.   Healthcare marketers are learning that social media can be a very effective way of reaching and connecting with baby boomers.

But those boomers who are caregivers to aging parents are even more likely to embrace and use social media. Age Lessons partnering with Comscore found that approximately 15.5 million of the 78 million boomers are caregivers.  They are split 60/40 female to male and the level of care ranges from daily phone check-ins to live-in help.

As reported by Matt Carmichael in Ad Age these boomer caregivers use social media an average of 150 minutes a month and view 70% more pages than average internet users. They are dependent on social networking sites for information because they have so little time for other types of socializing.  Their free time is limited and they are often restricted by the demands of caring for their parent(s).  It is often the easiest and fastest way to stay connected with family and friends.  They also use social media to validate and reinforce their feelings by finding others in similar situations and communities that provide support and encouragement.

The study also found this group is more likely to use the internet to find information, conduct research and make purchases.  The top sites for boomer caregivers are Facebook with a 91% reach, Amazon with 76% and Wal-Mart at 41%.  Twitter has 21% reach.

These caregivers are important influencers and decision-makers for not only their own immediate family’s health concerns but also for their parents.  This makes this group especially important to healthcare marketers.

Marketing to niches can be very effective.  They are more easily identifiable and the message can be very focused.  The use of social media, especially Facebook – whether in the form of a page or ad, can be extremely useful tools reaching this key demographic.

Healthcare Marketing: Are We Overreacting When We Respond to Consumer Complaints?

After receiving resistance to their new logo, Gap went back to the old logo.  Did they overreact?  Patient Complaint

After undoubtedly a series of focus groups and extensive research, Gap decided it needed to change its logo.  They wanted a more contemporary look that was current but yet honored its heritage.  A tremendous amount of research and work went into developing the updated logo.  So Gap introduced it’s new logo on it’s website.  But four days later reversed the decision and returned to their original logo.

The change occurred because consumers took issue with the new mark and voiced their disapproval using various social networking sites.  The reaction was strong and fervent.  So four days later, Gap president Marka Hansen announced the logo change was being rescinded and the company was returning to the original logo.

Many people praised Gap for listening to its customers and paying attention to their concerns.  And for responding rapidly and answering the consumers’ requests.  It’s the way marketing works today.  Consumers are in control. They voice their opinions and solicit others in the network to join the crusade.  And a company is highly regarded for listening to consumers and responding to their concerns and wishes.  Everything you read about marketing today would affirm that GAP did exactly as it should.

Maybe that’s true.  But maybe not.  Was all the research conducted by Gap about their logo just wrong?  Was it bogus?  Did the resistance merit abandoning the new logo?  Were those complaining brand loyalists?  Would those who resisted the change stop buying Gap clothing?  Is it no longer strategically important to update the logo for the future?

A survey commissioned by AdAge and conducted by Ipsos Observer found that 80% of consumers had no idea the logo had changed.  Is it possible to put too much emphasis on consumer social networking responses?  Do consumers know what is best strategically for a company’s future success?  Are consumers always right?   What happens when Gap someday raises prices to remain economically feasible and they meet resistance in social media?  Do they sacrifice the company’s financial health because some consumers express dissatisfaction?

This real life example raises questions about how much influence unsolicited consumers should have on your brand.  I don’t have all the answers.  I commend Gap for listening and responding to consumers.  That’s the value of social media.  But I also cringe somewhat because they caved to the wishes of a relatively small amount of consumers.  I wonder why some opinionated consumers who didn’t like the new logo trumped all the research that had indicated an update was needed.

Healthcare marketers should listen to consumers.  They should be responsive to consumer feedback and input.  But should they forsake research findings and strategic planning for the wishes of a small percentage of customers?  I know social media experts say we should respond quickly to consumer complaints but I would have liked to have known who the complainers actually were (consumers or non-consumers) and if they were consumers who would have stopped buying Gap products because of the logo change.

Social media is helpful and exciting. But should it hijack and derail strategic planning that’s based on solid research?  It’s a serious dilemma and deserves further consideration and study.

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Healthcare Marketing: Let’s Go To The Movies!

film rollsMovie attendance increased 21% in the first two months of 2009 and year-to-date box office revenues are up 6.6%.  While other media is experiencing no growth and even declines, cinema advertising is a bright spot. 

More and more people are going to the movies.  Despite an economic recession, box office receipts have increased.  Instead of traveling or spending money on expensive items, people are enjoying the movies as a lower cost pleasure.  In addition, movies provide an escape from the hazards many people face at work or at home.

As more people head to the theaters, cinema advertising becomes a viable media option for healthcare marketers.  And it’s generally a younger audience than other mediums deliver – an audience that is sometimes difficult to reach.  It is true; this audience is not the biggest users of healthcare.  But it’s an audience marketers want to reach to start establishing an identity or a brand.

Because of the younger demographics, cinema advertising can especially be effective for recruitment efforts.  The promotion of healthcare career opportunities can be an excellent tactic by HR departments.

In the early years of cinema advertising the cost was high and the ramp up time was slow.  Technology has improved lead-time and a new aggressive sales effort has led to lower costs. 

Cinema advertising shouldn’t be the lead medium but it can effectively supplement traditional medium and reach an audience that is not so easy to reach.  Hollywood can be a big hit for healthcare marketing.

 

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