Quite a few challenges are ahead when it comes to healthcare marketing for 2021. A solid plan of action now will pay off into the New Year. Paying attention to necessary needs and being ready for change play a role in being successful. The plan of action may need to be modified along the way. It can’t be set in stone; it has to allow for adaption if necessary.
The process of healthcare marketing has always been a challenge, but 2020 brought some heavy hits with it. The COVID-19 pandemic has everyone feeling uneasy and as of now, there is no end in sight with it. The economy has taken a hit due to it and there is plenty of political turmoil as well. When a vaccine is ready and the outcome of the Presidential election will all play a role in what can be accomplished in 2021 for healthcare.
The issues with healthcare marketing for 2021 are affecting everyone, and in many ways, turned a solid foundation into rubble. It has had an adverse effect on local levels, around the country, and even on a global scale. Even so, it provides an opportunity for rebuilding and restructuring. It provides a chance to come out stronger and better than before!
The healthcare system isn’t without controversy but this can be the ideal time to create brand awareness. The demand for medical care has never been more vital than with COVID-19 looming. Some of the key areas for healthcare marketing to focus on into the year ahead include:
- Where to cut back
- Where to invest more
- Forecasting the future needs and demand for healthcare marketing
The Aftermath of COVID-19
The economy and healthcare marketing aren’t going to recover any time soon from COVID-19. The effects of this pandemic are going to last. They will continue to trickle down and create problems. Sadly, the latter part of 2020 has left a great deal of unrest and uncertainty due to it. There is no definite end in sight.
On a brighter note, there have been protocols put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Awareness of symptoms, testing centers, and quarantining have helped reduce the spread of it. The research and development of a vaccine continue to be on the front burner. Infection rates are dipping at times and then spiking again. There are vast differences in the numbers from one location to the next.
For many, returning to work was a fluid situation. Many continue to work at home at least part of the time. Educational programs including public schools and colleges have offered online learning. For those in classrooms, the curriculum is different and efforts are taken to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading in those facilities. Everyone involved realizes the current plans can change at any moment based on the COVID-19 case numbers.
From an economical point of view, unemployment rates were higher in 2020 than they have been in a long time. Many companies had no choice but to lay off employees or reduce their hours. Others have had to shut their doors completely with no idea if or when they will open up again. All of this has shaken the world to its core. There is a lack of trust and overall confidence in the realm of healthcare at this time.
The media doesn’t help when they report only part of a story either. They will take the worst scenarios in the healthcare system and publicize them. This has had a negative impact on healthcare marketing. The old fashioned strategies they have relied on no longer work with this type of economic factors amid the pandemic. Yet the rule of thumb in any such market is to always be on your toes, be ready to move in a new direction.
Some of the new directions healthcare marketing has taken on in 2020 and will continue in 2021 include:
- Branding with the focus on both awareness and overall reputation
- Demand generation
- Education for both partners and patients
- Expanded options for medical care including elective/non-elective surgical procedures
- Public relations
- Strategies for long-term growth and development
Improved Communication is Necessary
Finding common ground to bring healthcare workers and patients closer is important. Healthcare marketing has to be done in a way to open up discussions and conversations. Patients would like to be heard, not just told, what is going to be offered. They would like a say in options and they wish to be well informed. There is enough uncertainty at this point already due to COVID-19.
Even routine visits to the doctor’s office have changed drastically from what they used to be. Promoting safety is important, but so is offering efficient treatment and being compassionate. Healthcare workers are scared too and working longer hours than before. They are facing burnout and their own risk of exposure to COVID-19. Healthcare professionals and patients need to understand they are on the same side.
Best Care Possible
Being seen timely is difficult with the pandemic, and patients deserve the best care possible. It may be several days to get an appointment when you don’t feel well. It can take weeks or months to get into a specialist now. Procedures for appointments, paperwork, testing, and more have all been modified. Healthcare providers have to guide patients through it, not just expect them to figure it out. Healthcare marketing plays a role in shaping the overall experience for the patient from start to finish.
A cost-effective way to promote the business can be through PPC. This stands for Pay Per Click marketing. It involves ads on search engines with various keywords for your niche audience used. Bidding on those keywords takes place, and you will be charged that amount any time a visitor clicks on your ad.
This allows you to set your daily limit for spending too. Once that limit is reached on a given day, the ad won’t be visible. The process will start over again the next day. This can give you peace of mind about the return on your investment. You don’t pay a lump sum for the month and hope you get plenty of visitors.
With PPC, you only pay when someone does click on the ad and goes to your information. Data allows you to see the keywords people are using the most and which ads they click on. With this information, your PPC marketing strategy can continue to be tweaked so it delivers the best outcome.
Brand Recognition and Reputation you can Count on
Healthcare marketing should focus on brand recognition and reputation for 2021. These are essential elements to keep it moving forward in these difficult times. Patients have to feel like they come first, before making profits. Otherwise, the necessary level of trust won’t be there. Branding offers more than just the ability to reach patients though, it provides a chance to educate them.
The right strategy in place for branding and public relations can help create solid bonds even with the pandemic lingering. Don’t be afraid to let your audience know your business hardships due to it either. For example, don’t hide the fact you have had to cut costs or scale back in areas. Let them know of the changes and include what you are doing to make the environment safer for them.
Branding allows patients to see your healthcare entity as an expert. They want such leadership with their care. Make sure you have surveys and reviews for customers to fill out. Let their voices be heard. This will help you make the business better in areas based on that feedback. Now is the time to engage in community and give back where you can. Do all you can to engage patients.
It is better they tell you they aren’t happy with something than they spread it all over the internet! Learn from the feedback patients give you so there aren’t bad reviews about the business circulating online. It can cost you plenty of future patients if you don’t nip those issues in the bud! On the bright side, positive evaluations and reviews from customers can help with the branding strategy.
Potential patients are going to listen to the feedback from those who have gotten care at a given facility. How they were treated, safety measures for COVID-19, and other factors all influence who a patient will trust. They have to come in for that first appointment before they can become a loyal customer. If the positive reviews are all over the internet, it will encourage them to book an appointment.
It can cost quite a bit more to market and engage with a first time customer. This is compared to the cost of a patient loyal to your business because of previous care received. With budget cuts a priority due to the economy and the pandemic, where you focus your marketing dollars has an impact.
SEO can’t be Placed on a Backburner
Hand in hand with branding is SEO concepts. They can’t be put on a backburner. They are essential so your business can evolve with the changes due to the economy and COVID-19. Content marketing continues to be a driving force, but it is shaped differently too. Some healthcare marketing efforts came to a halt due to the pandemic, but that was a mistake.
It may have been done to cut costs, but it is cutting outreach with your niche audience too. SEO has to evolve to keep up with the situation. Information needs to be added that addresses safety and changes to policies due to COVID-19. The right keywords your audience is using now when they use search engines have to be incorporated as part of the SEO process.
Some businesses have put off COVID-19 related keywords, as they thought it would be a passing trend. Now they realize this pandemic is here to stay, and the months of not using those keywords in their SEO have pushed them down the pages in the search engine rankings. It is time to change that and start moving back up the rankings.
To ensure effective SEO is in place, healthcare marketing needs to include:
- Content with higher value
- Diversifying platforms used to reach a niche audience
- Information oriented content
- Local SEO
- Long-term strategy
- Identify the target audience
- Social media marketing
- Telemedicine options
The world of healthcare is changing rapidly. This is due to technology and COVID-19. For example, telemedicine is becoming increasingly popular. It lowers the risk of the virus spreading when the patient doesn’t have to be seen face to face in the office. Not all medical needs can be done this way. Many can though such as consultations and routine follow-up appointments.
Patients need to know such innovative services are offered, and that is where healthcare marketing can help to promote them. They also need to understand how they work. Otherwise, many will shy away because they feel intimidated by the process. Change isn’t always easy to embrace! Healthcare marketing should focus on ways to make the innovative services scalable too. Customizing them to fit the needs of your patients can make them successful.
No one has all the answers about the economy, politics, or healthcare at this point. No one can predict when a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available and medical is as we once knew it can get back to normal. In the meantime, it doesn’t allow anyone to just stand still and hope for the best. Healthcare marketing is more important than ever. It is a bridge between medical professionals and patients.
It can help with branding and overall reputation. Patients need to know they are cared for, they will be seen for their needs, and they can trust the providers to do all they can. They also need to feel confident proper safety precautions are being taken. Healthcare marketing will continue to evolve in 2021 based on what takes place throughout the year.
The techniques and strategies in motion to start with maybe modified several times before 2021 comes to an end. Many involved are optimistic this is a chance for them to face challenges head-on and be successful despite the barriers. Diversifying the approach, being open-minded, and paying attention to the changes ahead allow the best healthcare marketing plan of action to be in motion. Such a plan should be designed to help providers recover financial losses due to COVID and to continue with branding what they offer.