How to Attract New Patients

Healthcare Marketing 101

Chapter I

Digital Healthcare Marketing + HIPAA

The federal HIPAA Security Rule is designed to protect patients’ personal information, including diagnoses, treatments, medications, appointments, concerns, and more. Violating HIPAA guidelines carries a minimum fine of $50,000, can include jail time, and sometimes restitution must be paid to the victims. 

Compliance means using patient data only in ways allowed under the guidelines – the HIPAA Privacy Rule protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information, called protected health information (PHI). The rule governs storage, file and data transfers and access and marketing use. 

It’s important to ensure your marketing is HIPAA compliant when you’re developing marketing and sales materials. Google also has restrictions on healthcare advertising, and violating their rules can mean an account suspension, among other penalties. 

Have no fear – It’s still possible to develop an impactful, engaging digital marketing strategy while still meeting all applicable guidelines.

Chapter II

Healthcare Marketing Trends

While pharmaceutical companies have become very effective at marketing their products, healthcare providers lag way behind in marketing their services. In part, this was due to a lack of competition, but as healthcare costs have risen, and payers such as Medicare and insurance companies have negotiated lower rates, there’s a real need for practices and facilities to bring in new patients

It’s time for a new game plan. While patient care is, of course, paramount, smart healthcare providers are adopting the following trends to up their marketing game:

Use a great content marketing strategy. 

Relevant, informative content is essential for your audience. It also gives them something for free, and if done right, they will want more, which gives you the opportunity to gather information like their name and contact information, and tracking what they are looking at on your website will let you know their needs and topics of interest that can inform your overall marketing strategy and personalize the buyer’s journey. 

Your websites must be responsive

Responsive design means creating a unified system across all types of devices. Your website should be fully functional and device independent, meaning it adapts everything from a large desktop monitor to a tablet to a smartphone. A great mobile site is a must, since 56% of web traffic is via mobile device, and more and more purchases are made that way. Patients also want to be able to make appointments, send messages and pay bills via mobile device. 

Your websites must be Google-friendly

Google dominates the search engine market, and it receives a billion healthcare-related search queries each and every day. This means you want to use the right keyword and phrase combinations, especially for auto-complete searches related to medical conditions. Also be sure to set up your account on Google My Business, which gives you extra credibility in search results. It’s basically Google’s official phone book and your business can look unprofessional or even sketchy if you’re not listed. 

Prioritize SEO throughout your entire website

To come out on top of the search results, you need to pay attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) everywhere, not just blogs. Competing for traffic is an integral part of your marketing strategy. If you are operating in a competitive market, such as a large urban area or a region with many other providers in your field, it will be even more important for you to use great SEO strategies.

You’ll want to:

  • Research the best keywords to use for your industry, region, and community.
  • Include a FAQ page on your website, to answer visitor questions and give you many ways to use your keywords.
  • Use a variety of internal and external links. Internal links direct people to additional content that you’ve created, and external links show Google that you’re not just trying to spam people.

Be accessible and offer information in places other than Google

Google provides a great start, but luckily for healthcare providers, there are other places to tout your services while offering web surfers what they are looking for, such as Facebook. 

A great example is WebMD. Create a page there and list all of your providers. WebMD is ranked as one of the top healthcare-related websites. Use that popularity to your advantage. Your providers will be able to answer questions directly, which helps develop your “voice of authority,” increase patient confidence, and enhance your reputation. 

Use Multimedia

People love videos, and viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch a video, vs a 10% retention rate when reading text. Make your videos engaging and informative, and include a CTA so they can get in touch and know how to reach your website.

It’s also a great chance to provide people with real help – provide guided meditations or have a physical therapist demonstrate an easy morning stretch routine. The possibilities are almost endless and the return on investment can be substantial, especially since 92% of users who watch video on mobile share it with others!

Chapter III

Developing a Healthcare Marketing Strategy

Unlike some other products and services, healthcare is rarely an impulse buy. This means that some marketing techniques, like sending out emails encouraging people to make an appointment, just don’t work very well. You’re missing an entire audience at the research stage for a doctor or facility for a health complaint or elective surgery. You need those appointments and new patients, which requires an effective inbound marketing campaign.

Start with the sales funnel

A sales funnel is designed to make browsers into buyers. It addresses the questions of who your potential customers are, how you make them aware of your brand, how you develop trust, and what they need to take the step of booking an appointment.

The sales funnel, just like a physical funnel, starts with everything, meaning every possible person who might be interested in your services. As these people move through the funnel, some are eliminated because they’ll never be interested.

The group will become smaller through every stage of the funnel, containing only those who are interested, and they are moved down the funnel.

You’ve just identified your target audience. 

At the very bottom of the funnel are those who moved through the entire buyer’s journey are ready to schedule an appointment. But don’t just focus on those folks! You need to nurture people from the top to the bottom, which means refining your strategy and messaging to increase the size of your target audience, move them through the funnel, and get qualified leads you can convert to new patients. 

Use HubSpot to nurture and convert leads

Even more than most industries, healthcare is about building relationships, and your digital marketing strategy should include ways to do relationship building, lead nurturing and providing the best in customer service. 

For healthcare industry digital marketing, you can’t beat HubSpot. The platform is all about building relationships between customer and provider. 

Create a great content strategy

A great content marketing strategy is one that provides important free information to your community. Use blog posts, special content offers, relevant information and a professionally-built website to establish your service providers as experts in their field.

You’ll build trust with your audience, which is the basis of any relationship, and you’ll be seen as the best place to go to get the help that they need.

With HubSpot and its all-in-one platform, you can find your audience and acquire new patients through their unique marketing tools, which help people find you through search engines rather than through paid advertisements. 

You can’t just have a haphazard content strategy. Your marketing must be intentional to work, and HubSpot gives you the tools you need to make your content marketing strategy effective. 

Keep track of your ROI

HubSpot’s customizable dashboards and reporting tools mean you can measure the ROI of your marketing efforts easily. You’ll quickly be able to track website traffic, return visitors, characteristics of converted leads and many other metrics that help you adjust your strategy to get the most out of your marketing spend. 

Embrace automation

Well-planned marketing campaign automation means your marketing processes improve, you save time, and labor costs go down, and HubSpot makes automation easy.

By combining all of the information in your sales funnel into an automated system, you can nurture leads and drive sales. For example, the Workflow app helps you create personalized emails with the send triggered by visitor actions or characteristics.

This means that emails will go to the right people at the right time, and reach users who have visited unique pages on your site – you’ll be able to offer them the services they are looking for, targeting their specific needs. This strategy makes emails more effective by targeting their specific needs instead of a generic email. 

Personalization is not a nice-to-have any longer. It’s expected by both current and prospective patients, and HubSpot means you can give them what they want.

Chapter IV

What Should Be In Your Healthcare Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan outlines the actions that will implement your marketing strategy. Things you should make sure are in your marketing plan include:

A product and services audit.

You must know your products and services front-to-back. It will improve your marketing greatly if you know all the ins and outs. Create a spreadsheet that aligns each product with your buyer personas (see #2). Ask yourself who uses your products and services, why they need them, and what problems are solved through your products and services. With a clear understanding of what you are offering, you’ll be able to market much more effectively. 

Well-defined buyer personas

A buyer persona is a partially fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and data about your existing customers. You’ll want to include demographics, behavior patterns, as well as goals and motivations. Dive deep and include every possible detail. 

Poorly drafted personas or lack of a clear understanding can defeat your marketing efforts. Define personas carefully by not basing them on what, in your opinion, they want, but rather on what the data says. 

Keep up with marketing news and trends, read industry publications, and scour the insights offered through your HubSpot dashboard. Your personas will inform all of your marketing efforts – they are your targets – and will affect your messaging, visuals, content, as well as every touchpoint through the buying process.

It’s important to find your niche, so get really specific with your research. 

SMART goals

Of course, you want to be smart. Who doesn’t? In this context, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Words to live by when it comes to marketing. 

SMART means getting down to specifics. It’s not enough to state that you want to set a marketing goal of more qualified leads. A SMART goal would specify the percentage of increase expected and the timeframe. 

This system not only makes goals easier to track, but everyone in your organization will better understand what you’re trying to achieve and how the goal can be made a reality. 

You’ll need to segment your goals into:

  • Business goals. These define the big picture and what marketing and sales can do to fulfill company-wide goals.
  • Marketing goals. Segment marketing goals even further into buckets with goals for inbound marketing, and specific channels and formats. Maybe you need more blogs, or perhaps you should hold more webinars. What does your data say?
  • Sales goals. Equip your sales team for success by understanding their needs. Let them know what numbers they need to hit, the current length of the sales cycle, and ask them what they need to meet their goals. When you know what tools you need to give them (whether that’s sending emails or providing support materials) you should add these tactics to your marketing plan.

Review lead identification requirements and sales process

This is part and parcel of the steps above and requires an understanding of how your current marketing efforts mesh with the efforts of the sales team. 

Take a look at how your sales process looks now, including buyer pain points, the best source of leads, why your customers buy, common sales objections and an overview of the complete buying process. How can it improve?

You’ll also, at this point, work with sales and marketing to decide on lead identification requirements. For your practice, what is a qualified sales lead? This puts everyone on the same page and working in tandem. 

Assess your current marketing efforts

Review your current marketing approaches to figure out what you need to do going forward to reach your goals. Analyze your website, look at what competitors are doing and research up-and-coming trends to get ahead of the curve. As you find gaps in your strategy, find areas of opportunity for improvement. 

Put together both high-level and specific strategies

This is the list of recommendations on how to go forward. Plan blog topics for at least one quarter and have keywords ready. Figure out things like nurture and drip campaigns. Set up social accounts if you don’t have them already. Put a foundation in place, including HubSpot.

Chapter V

Healthcare Marketing Ideas

So many channels, so little time. You’re busy running your healthcare business. That’s why you should concentrate on tactics that will bring in the largest number of patients for your marketing spend.

Implement lead-generating SEO strategies

We’ve highlighted the importance of SEO, and it’s important to use it everywhere possible to assist with lead generation.

  • Landing pages. About 67% of marketers are creating unique landing pages for their marketing campaigns. This is also part of targeting – everyone who visits your site won’t turn into a good lead, so optimize those landing pages by:
    • Hosting live events
    • Doing your keyword research!
    • Using lead magnets, like a free consultation or ebook health guide. People love free stuff! Just be sure that what you’re offering actually has value and is relevant for the audience. 
  • On-page SEO. Google receives more than 1 billion health-related queries a day. Get yourself seen by heightening your visibility with user-focused website design, and relevant keywords, along with a site that:
    • Is highly shareable
    • Is Mobile-friendly
    • Has search-optimized photos
    • Has fast load time
    • Is optimized for bots and crawlers
  • Keep up with the latest. Use a site crawler to find errors, redirects, and any other website components that need fixing for you to get the maximum amount of ranking ability from your website.
  • Optimize your local presence

Have a great website

The goal of your website is, ultimately, to bring in patients. This means following best practices including:

  • A simple and attractive design
  • Straightforward navigation – make things easy to find
  • Multiple forms of contact – this means phone, email, fax or online forms
  • Social media links – people love reviews and love to talk about their health!
  • An FAQ page 
  • Photos, videos, graphics – but remember HIPAA laws. No photos of real patients!
  • Update your content for recent developments, better SEO, broken links, strong meta descriptions
  • Optimize your site for speedy loading - a single-second delay on your website could cost you conversions.

Prioritize blogging

You might hear the expression, “content is king,” and it’s true. Blogs drive traffic, you can repurpose blog content for social media posts, help with link building, improve SEO (if you use the right keywords) and propel long-term results. 

Make sure your blog content is relevant and educational for your audience. Share your expertise!

Use consistent messaging

Your healthcare services are your brand. Make sure both graphics and copy are consistent in all messaging on all platforms. Use action words, an authoritative voice, and pay attention to spelling and grammar. When it comes to healthcare, every detail is important and patients want to know that flows through to everything you do. 

Use analytics to improve your marketing

Web analytics in HubSpot let you see the behavior of your visitors, track the number of visitors to your site, how long they stay, how people find your site, and what pages they view. With this information, you can see what is working and what is not, and tweak as necessary.

You’ll be able to know where your traffic is coming from, what search terms they are using to improve your SEO, and find out the percentage of visitors who leave your website fast – often after viewing only a single page.

Develop and nurture audience relationships

Make your blogs count. If you are a dentist, people want information on dental health, not gardening. Your blogs should be relevant to your product and service offerings, and have a friendly, casual tone. Be sure to ask for feedback, and integrate your blogs with social media. 

Members of your staff can even contribute and share their personal experiences, and people love to see the faces that go with the names. 

Come up with your unique selling proposition

This is all about branding. How are you different? What makes you special? How are you better than the competition? 

Get local

You want to show up in the Google local results because that's where most people searching for your product or service will click when search results are displayed. You’ll need a strategic, holistic approach, with regular testing and tweaking as search algorithms change.

Additionally, Geo-targeting can be used through paid ads and organic search. This is the practice of determining the location of a visitor and delivering relevant content based on their geographic criteria like country, region, state, city, zip code, IP address, etc.

Be social

Social media is a great way to build and nurture relationships and drive traffic to your website. Post relevant content, post often, and answer direct messages and respond to comments. 

Also share and retweet your followers’ posts, connect with other practitioners who can send business your way, among other effective practices. More later about how to use social media to your best advantage.

Let patients make appointments online

People are spending less and less time on the phone and more time online. Make it convenient for your patients to book appointments. Add a button in appropriate places on your website that makes it easy. 

Use email marketing

Email newsletters, in particular, can be very effective if properly targeted. It takes some time, but is well worth it. Reach out about once a month with information relevant to your audience. Keep it relatively short and use a clear call to action, provide links to relevant blogs, and ask for input.

Ask for, and publish reviews

People love reading and writing reviews. Craft an email sent after a patient visit with a button to a page where they can easily write their review. Again, sign up for Google My Business, and you will want to check out Healthgrades, Vitals, and develop profile pages there. 

Chapter VI

Healthcare Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing, like other healthcare marketing, is heavily regulated. It isn’t enough to understand best practices for social media – it’s essential that you understand what information can and can’t be used per HIPAA guidelines.

HIPAA guidelines don’t just apply to your business social media posts. Employees must follow the same guidelines with their posts or, as your employer, you’ll be the one facing questions, sanctions, and fines. 

To discuss a patient experience or successful outcome, you will need to either get written permission from the patient outlining what you want to share, or create a fictional persona rather than using the identity of an actual patient. See how other healthcare businesses successfully navigated HIPAA rules.

Figuring out which social media platform is best for you

There are a lot of social media platforms out there, so which ones do you choose? This is where using a healthcare marketing professional comes in handy. You can’t know everything about every platform.

Some questions you should ask yourself before you attempt any social media marketing is:

  • What is the age range of your target audience?
  • Do you work primarily with one gender?
  • How many people in your area use each social platform?
  • Are you prepared to create content that matches each platform’s needs--for example, short videos for TikTok, longer videos for YouTube, photo galleries for Facebook, and short posts for Twitter?

Once you figure out what platforms you want to use, you have to use engagement techniques, including quality content, to draw in your audience. You’ll want to develop a unique voice in your posts that matches your brand, provide useful information, and engage with your audience by addressing comments and answering questions. That’s how you build connections and relationships.

Chapter VII

Healthcare Content Marketing Strategies

Instead of writing about tips for protecting your skin while having fun in the sun, ongoing global issues that began in 2020 means that healthcare providers have had to work to not only forge relationships, but build trust and loyalty, and content has had to evolve

This means:

  • Answer your audience questions clearly by creating a Q&A section on your website about pertinent issues, answering questions on social media, and even hold a Q&A webinar about a specific issue you might specialize in.
  • Promote positive news, including elevating and recognizing team and community members for their hard work. This will help increase connectedness because your audience will be able to express their own gratitude, plus put a face to a name they’ve likely heard in your office.
  • Earn trust through transparency by addressing tough issues that might affect your practice, such as what the current pandemic means to your patients, and precautions you’re taking. Even after the pandemic restrictions have eased, there’s always flu season and the common cold. Give your readers not only precautions they should take, but what you’re doing in your office as well.
  • Make sure your brand is reflected in each and every blog, news release, and social media post. Develop a brand voice and use it everywhere. What makes you different? What are things that only you can do for your audience? Talk yourself up.
  • Provide some smiles. If it’s appropriate to take a light tone in a post or blog, do it. This is where success stories come in handy. Share them, while observing HIPAA regulations, of course.
  • Be mindful of the times. At a time of social distancing, don’t show people bunched together or in crowds. Don’t be tone deaf. While every image on your website doesn’t have to be reviewed and scrubbed, they should be for high-traffic pages and your homepage, as well as photos that accompany blogs and social media posts. 
Chapter VIII

Healthcare Marketing and HubSpot

HubSpot changes the game for healthcare marketing by helping you plan and optimize content, analyze your website to suggest content topics and SEO recommendations for each page, as well as tracking and measurement.

As a healthcare marketer, you’ll use HubSpot’s array of powerful tools to develop a robust inbound marketing strategy with three main components: 

Content marketing strategy

When you have an efficient and productive content strategy for marketing your healthcare organization using HubSpot, you’ll save on acquisition costs and aid patient retention.

Automated Marketing

HubSpot’s marketing automation manages the distribution of your content and marketing messages in every part of the sales funnel. The Workflows tool guides you to build personalized and automated emails triggered when visitors take specific actions, and HubSpot can then send them relevant content that’s designed to move patients or buyers into the next part of the funnel, and finally, to conversion.

While HubSpot can help improve the number of leads you’ll get, it can also improve the quality of those leads – you can nurture them with content until they’re ready to take action. HubSpot also can help you keep in touch with current patients and buyers to keep your practice or healthcare business stay top of mind, so you are the one they call when they need the services or products you sell.

You can also easily tap into information stored in your CRM, including contact information, past interactions, as well as behavioral and contextual information that will help you further refine and personalize your marketing messages – without violating HIPAA.

Measurement and Tracking

Without stats and analysis, you’re shooting in the dark when it comes to marketing to your most productive audience. 

To optimize your spend and ROI, HubSpot can track your ROI down to individual pieces of content, so you know what converts and what doesn’t. Reviewing these reports can sometimes be overwhelming, which is where the help of a healthcare marketing professional really comes in handy to suss out the most important results.

You can track:

  • Acquisition costs per patient
  • Patient retention
  • Inquiry response time
  • Scoring leads and engagement
  • Effectiveness of content
  • Search engine rankings
  • Evaluation of campaigns

Don’t worry – HubSpot does all of this for you. You’ll know what’s working, what’s not, and how to stop wasteful spending.

Chapter IX

What to Look for in a Healthcare Marketing Agency

Healthcare marketing has some obvious pitfalls because it’s quite complex. This means you want a healthcare marketing agency that can be your business partner, working with you on both strategy and tactics, as well as one that is large enough to handle your business, but agile and flexible enough to pivot on a dime as things change. You also need an agency that can work hand-in-hand with your current marketing department or act as your marketing department if you don’t have one. 

This is called personalized service, and it’s what ThinkFuel specializes in. We treat your company like the unique organization it is, and focus on helping you grow your business through online marketing, sales automation and lead generation. 

  1. You also need a healthcare marketing agency that can help build a global marketing strategy, one that pulls all of the various parts of your marketing activities into one effective, cohesive plan.
  2. In an era when 90% of customers not only want, but expect a cohesive brand experience in every channel, it’s imperative that your healthcare marketing agency can implement across multiple channels, handling everything from SEO and keyword research to web design to advertising, social media, UX, video marketing and inbound content strategy.
  3. Developing a brand that stands out is not enough, so your healthcare marketing agency should help you build customer trust by offering a positive, high-quality experience across all channels. And trust is vital in healthcare. Your agency also will help you develop a great reputation using content, case studies and patient testimonials.
  4. Your healthcare marketing agency also must keep up with trends. You want to set them, not fall behind with them. This includes technological as well as marketing trends, including automation, that will keep delivering exceptional results. 
  5. Return on your investment is key. While marketing results are rarely immediate, you have to have confidence that your financial investment is with it. Within a few months, you should see measurable results when it comes to website visits, qualified leads, sales calls and lead conversions. 
Chapter X

The Next Step is the Most Important

Stop spinning your healthcare marketing wheels and get back to doing what you do best. Get ahead of your competitors with professional healthcare marketing. 

The next step is to grow your business with ThinkFuel. We have the experience and an extensive record of success with healthcare organizations of all kinds. Our services include:

  • Inbound marketing
  • Marketing hub services
  • HubSpot CMS services
  • Sales Hub services
  • Customer service hub solutions
  • HubSpot support services

It’s time to take that first step. Contact us today!



Kevin D'Arcy


Devin Tempo Wright


Brandon Cuthbertson

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