Any hospital marketing professional will tell you digital advertising can make or break a campaign. The bad news is there are hundreds of ways to waste time and money trying to promote your facility on the Internet. Pitfalls, by definition, mean a trap or hidden snare that captures you. Mapping out where these pitfalls lay are part of a successful marketing formula. To do that well, you have to know what they are and where to find them.
What Exactly is Digital Marketing?
There is probably a pompous definition buried in some dusty textbook somewhere, but the Business Dictionary offers a straightforward answer to this question. Digital marketing is a type of advertising done solely over the Internet.
- Banner ads
- Pay per click
- Targeted emails
- Social media
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
These are some of the more common formats. Not all of these methods are effective, especially in a specialized field like healthcare, so how do you pick out the duds?
Utilizing the Internet Effectively
The truth is any form of online marketing can work for a hospital or healthcare brand if done correctly. The pitfalls of digital marketing are more about techniques used within that vehicle, according to marketing expert Pete Kennedy.
- Failing to Focus – For hospitals, this means targeting your campaigns. Whether raising awareness about hypertension or encouraging healthcare consumers to consider the emergency room for critical care, you need to focus your ads on something specific. Even when recruiting talent, you want to target the theme of the campaign to your audience. Tell them why they should care about your facility.
- Not Mixing it Up – On the other hand, being too focused is not good, either. You need to have multiple targets in sight. A hospital that only caters to consumers over the age of 50 won’t have much of a maternity department or pediatric section. Focus your marketing efforts per campaign, but diversify your overall plan to reach as many potential leads as possible.
- Lack of Metrics – On the Internet, metrics are what really counts. That is more than just a play on words. You need to see what platforms (ex: Google, Facebook, Organic traffic) lead to conversions and what isn’t working. A blog that no one reads is just wasted effort. If you know it is not getting hits, you can take steps to improve your process or look for another platform. Track your marketing programs so you know where you're getting the biggest "bang for your buck".
- Lack of Optimization - One of the biggest benefits to digital advertising is the ability to optimize campaigns based on their results. If a certain campaign isn't working well, but another is, moving budget from one to the other is simple. The worst thing a marketing manager can do is "set it and forget it". Just because the campaign has launched, doesn't mean it should be ignored. Like a financial planner, marketing managers want to invest in campaigns that are performing.
- Lack of A/B Testing - Unlike traditional marketing channels, digital platforms allow healthcare marketers to test different images, messaging, calls-to-action, email subject lines etc...and determine which is the best performing. Easily boost opens, clicks, conversion rates, or sales without increasing budget. Use the best peforming messages or images in your print, radio and tv campaigns.
Finding effective hospital marketing strategies is a balancing act. The healthcare industry benefits from a multi-disciplined marketing approach, meaning leveraging both traditional and digital opportunities. You want campaigns that are personal and engaging, but without isolating part of the market. They need to be fun and heartfelt, but not cheesy or offensive.
The process is difficult enough without wasting time and effort on ineffective approaches. Like any type of advertising, the key is to find out what works and build on it.