There’s no doubt the current coronavirus pandemic has thrown all of us a curve ball.
Social distancing measures and working from home (in my case, having my husband and kids joining me from working from home – sigh!) have changed the way we go about our daily lives.
While many businesses have had to close doors, ‘pivot’, or move to online shopping, health and medical practices have had to negotiate both face-to-face consultations as well as respond to a growing need for telehealth appointments.
Experts agree that there are ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ when it comes to Covid-19. Ecommerce, pharmaceuticals, video conferencing, and logistics and delivery industries are all thriving. On the other hand, tourism, hospitality, traditional retail, and sports and entertainment are taking a hard hit.
But there are also the ‘inbetweeners’ — those businesses that could go either way, depending upon their response to the pandemic. One of these industries is healthcare. It’s anticipated those that go back to ‘business as usual’ may never recover. However, businesses that are innovative with their healthcare marketing, and embrace change will be the ones to survive and thrive.
So what can health and medical practices do to future-proof their businesses?
Here are my thoughts.Healthcare businesses could sink or swim following COVID-19. Find out how to swim. Click To Tweet
Define your brand
One of the most important things is to define your brand — if you haven’t already.
Brand is often linked to large corporations and organisations, but every business has a brand.
Your brand is the way you’re perceived in the market. It’s how other people relate to you, what you do, what you stand for, and how you work.
Brand is about:
- what you do (your core business)
- why you do it (your mission and vision)
- who you help (your target audience)
- how you help them (your services)
- how you make them feel (their perception of you)
- how you’re seen in the market place (your reputation).
Defining your brand is a must if you want to develop an effective healthcare marketing strategy that develops client loyalty, increases client retention, and helps you become the healthcare provider of choice.Taking the time to defining your brand can determine whether your business flounders or thrives. Click To Tweet
Understand your clients
Understanding your target audience should be part of your brand development, but often it’s treated as a secondary exercise.
Once you know who your ideal patients are, you’ll never struggle to engage them, recruit them and retain them.
The best way to define your audience is to develop customer avatars — detailed profiles of your ideal clients or patient. You will have more than one. Each avatar should focus on one particular person and outline everything about them including:
- demographics (age, sex, where they live, where they work, what they earn)
- current situation
- values and ideals
- beliefs about their challenges
Once you’re clear on who your ideal patients are, you’ll be able to develop solutions that meet their needs and desires.
Understanding your ideal clients will also enable you to market more clearly and effectively, because you’ll know the type of messaging and language to use that will engage and eventually convert them.
This, along with your brand identity will help foster trust, loyalty and will help increase the number of patients coming into your business.To continue to grow your healthcare business, you must develop customer avatars — detailed profiles of your ideal patients. Click To Tweet
Develop a healthcare marketing strategy
To survive and thrive post-coronavirus, you must be clearer about where to direct your marketing and advertising efforts. The ‘spray and pray’ approach (advertising your business anywhere and everywhere, hoping people will notice you) simply doesn’t work.
What you need is a consistent and effective marketing plan tailored to connect with your ideal patients. This means knowing where they hang out (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or other places), and targeting your marketing accordingly.
For example, if your ideal clients use Facebook and Instagram, there’s no point spending a great amount of time and effort on your LinkedIn profile.
You also need to be consistent with your marketing, in order to be seen. If you’re not seen, how can people choose you?
If you don’t have a structured plan, that includes an online presence, you’ll continue to rely only on word-of-mouth referrals to bring new patients into your business. This will limit your practice growth, and see your business fall to your more visible competitors.
The good news is that developing a marketing plan is so much easier, when you understand your brand and you’ve nailed your customer avatars.Spray and pray marketing doesn’t work for healthcare practices. Instead, you need a consistent, targeted and effective marketing strategy. Click To Tweet
Embrace digital health
Right now, telehealth is a key weapon in the war on Covid-19. Its use means reducing the spread of the virus, and protecting doctors, staff and other patients. For many health and medical businesses, telehealth has been the difference between staying open via online consultations, and shutting their doors until social-distancing measures end.
However, once the pandemic ends — and it will — digital health offers health and medical practices another opportunity to reach more patients, and to provide expert healthcare more efficiently. If you want to stay relevant and thrive post-coronavirus, you’ll need to embrace digital health options where possible. Of course, this will never be a substitute for face-to-face consultations. But, it is an opportunity to reach patients that you’ve never reached before, and therefore grow your practice.
Improve your systems
While the current situation is challenging and frustrating, it does provide an opportunity for you to evaluate your current systems and see how they can be improved. Do you need to make changes to your appointment system? What about sending patient reminders? How do you recruit and retain patients? Do you currently have one digital platform where you hold patient and practice information, or are you using multiple systems that are no longer efficient?
Despite the emergence of data management platforms, few account for the complex needs of health and medical practices and the extensive data related to patient care, accounting, bookings, rostering, social media and workflows.
However, by streamlining your data, you’ll be able to make better business decisions, which will enable you to provide better patient care, with greater efficiency. If this is something you’ve been meaning to look at, now is the time to do so.The ability to embrace change will be vital for your healthcare practice to thrive in the future. Click To Tweet
Get social media savvy
COVID-19 has provided many businesses and brands with the opportunity to up their game on social media. Of course, many have missed the mark, but some have absolutely nailed it.
One of these is Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews. Honestly, whoever is doing his social media content should be given a raise! Messaging is clear, frequent and always up-to-date. And they include just the right amount of humour to keep us all smiling, despite experiencing level-3 lock downs.
Here’s an example of one social media post, which received 55,000 likes, 10,000 comments and 9,500 shares in just 3 days. It also received countless positive comments from people who had never agreed with the Premier’s politics in the past. While they had never voted for him, it was clear they admired how he was tackling the current crisis. And some were slowly becoming his supporters.
Of course, politics is not quite the same as health and medical care, but it’s an excellent example of using social media to get your message across, and to build a new audience.
Many of us isolating at home right now, are using social media as a source of news information, as well as entertainment. Increasing your social media engagement will increase your brand recognition, and help you connect with your current patients in new ways, as well as helping you win new ones.Social media can provide you with a unique opportunity to increase brand recognition, connect with current patients, and win new ones. Click To Tweet
Finally, keep offering value to your patients. Ask yourself how can you make life easier for them, or what can you offer them that will make a difference? Some examples include:
- patient resources outlining common medical procedures or health conditions
- an online booking system, with automated reminders (not every practice does this!)
- Welcome to our practice handbook given to all new patients, to help them understand your practice, what it offers, and what your processes are around payments, appointments, and treatment
- more formalised links or collaborations with other healthcare practitioners or community services
- regular email newsletters or blogs containing useful, patient-centred information about common health conditions or tips to stay well.
Whatever it is that you want to provide, make sure it’s in alignment with your brand values and your target audience.