Question: What do car sales, tax preparation, and virtual care have in common? The answer – they all see greater success with a digital marketing strategy. These days, even durable goods and in-person services are finding that digital marketing is providing the greatest returns. And online services are even more likely to see value from employing digital strategies in their promotional efforts.
Why Market at All?
Before I launch into how to use digital marketing for virtual care, I want to touch on why you need to put energy – and even budget – behind marketing your virtual care service. Just having a service isn’t enough. Unlike digital care like telestroke or eICU, on-demand, urgent care-focused virtual care requires patient adoption to be successful. And patients can’t adopt a service if they don’t know about it. If you want to see success with your virtual care service, marketing is a must.
Digital Marketing for a Digital Service
In a digital world, not all marketing is created equal. In large part, life happens online. We get our news, entertainment and even a portion of our personal interactions online; many of us spend a good portion of our day at a computer, checking social media or doing some online shopping in our downtime. We use the internet to make appointments, book travel, and (of course) watch cat videos. With all this time spent online, it’s no wonder that digital marketing efforts are increasingly vital to all segments – healthcare included. With that in mind, here are the top digital channels to look at when building your virtual care marketing plan.
SEO / SEM
In digital marketing, we frequently joke that the best place to hide a body is on the second page of Google search results. And there’s some truth in that. The top 5 results in Google searches have a combined click-through rate (the percent of people who see the result and click to open the page) of 65.15%. Expanded to the top ten results, and the combined click-through rate is 99.88%.
To effectively capture patients who could benefit from your virtual care service, using keywords in your landing page and content along with paid search can help you drive traffic to your virtual care site. Paid search, in particular, is useful, since it can put your page in one of the top spots or just to the right of the top search results. You don’t need a huge budget – pick a few key search terms, add in some demographic information and set the amount you’re willing to spend each day – Google AdWords helps with the rest.
Yes, email. 61% of people prefer email promotions to other forms of small business communication – including direct mail, mobile apps, and other promotional channels. What’s more, a focused, structured email campaign offers patients an easy way to access your virtual care service – through hyperlinks embedded throughout your email. No other digital platform lets you target and capture engagement reporting to your known population of subscribers quite like email marketing.
Social channels offer different avenues to connect with patients and potential patients. Having a separate, but linked business page for your virtual care service can give patients a place to ask questions and get information about your offering. Likewise, using your primary Facebook or Twitter business account to share news and information about virtual care can help get those who are already engaged with your organization on board with your virtual care service.
Social media also provides an opportunity to purchase ads – often hyper-focused – to promote your service. Gaining understanding of the patients who are most likely to use your virtual care service can help you effectively target social media ads, giving you the best return for your digital marketing investment.
Last, but definitely not least, is your organization’s website. If it’s been a while since your organization last reviewed or updated its website, now is a great time to do so. This is your most important marketing asset – both for your health system and your virtual care service. I won’t go into overall web best practices in this post, but using your website to effectively promote your virtual care service requires three things:
- Make virtual care accessible in several ways – include it in your topline navigation, link to it from your primary care or urgent care page, and promote it in a banner ad. The more ways for people to find the service, the more likely it is they will use it.
- Make it easy to find – remember how the top search results have the greatest click-through rates? It’s because they are the first things you see. Put information about your virtual care service “above the fold” on your website – it should be easily findable without scrolling or a lot of clicks.
- Banner ads and video – “advertising” your virtual care service on your website may seem awkward, but an eye-catching graphic is likely to drive more traffic to your service than a mountain of text. Likewise, videos are promotional gold – 85% of internet users engage with video content, and an embedded video on your website can do a lot to help drive virtual care interest and utilization.
Traditional Marketing’s Role
When marketing virtual care, a digital strategy is critical, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a role for more traditional marketing. Waiting room advertising, print ads, direct mail, and other more traditional elements help support your digital messaging and increase engagement. While not always the most important part of your marketing plan, these traditional avenues should not be ignored.