All Healthcare Digital Marketing is Local
By Neil James – Digital Strategist
There’s a reason why, in all but rare cases, marketing campaigns for hospitals and health networks aren’t nationally based. While consumers are increasingly turning online for healthcare information, geographic proximity still largely determines where they receive their care.
While locality has always been an important consideration in healthcare marketing, it is taking on greater importance in digital marketing. According to Google, one in three searches have a local intent, and the percentage is even higher for searches originating from a mobile device.
If you’re in the business of marketing a hospital or health network, what do you need to know about locality in digital marketing, and how can you put it to use?
What is Local Digital Marketing?
Just as the term implies, local digital marketing involves building an online presence that is tied to a specific location.
While Ebay, for example, obviously has a corporate headquarters, transactions do not require users enter an Ebay-branded physical location. Similarly, even though Amazon has physical distribution centers, purchases do not entail consumers visiting a specific real-world location – all transactions take place in a virtual environment.
A company like Best Buy, however, gives consumers the choice. If you want to buy a new laptop, you can do so at either a Best Buy retail location or at bestbuy.com. Any digital efforts designed to promote a specific Best Buy location would be considered local digital marketing, whereas online initiatives promoting the website or the brand as a whole would reflect conventional digital tactics.
What are the implications for healthcare? While promoting the brand and associated content will always be important, most care will still take place in an organization’s physical environment (at least for the foreseeable future). Hospitals and health networks will need to ensure that their localized digital presence is aligned with overarching branding goals and ongoing messaging.
What Does a Local Digital Presence Look Like?
Consider Fairview Health, a Minneapolis-based academic health system comprised of 40+ primary care clinics, seven hospitals and a co-branded medical center. Although numerous initiatives are designed to promote the Fairview brand as a whole, the evolution of major online platforms such as Google and Facebook heighten the importance of promoting individual locations.
For example, Fairview’s primary care clinics are depicted on Google Maps as follows:
Drilling in to one of the individual locations looks like the below. Notice how Google offers numerous options for businesses to take control of various elements such as the profile photo and business details.
Maintaining a local digital presence isn’t simply code for keeping your company’s Google Places pages up to date. Notice the options presented when one searches for Fairview Clinic on Facebook.
While the primary listing is the official Fairview Clinics page, numerous individual offices have unofficial presences, each with varying numbers of likes and people “talking about this”. Just as with Google Places, drilling deeper yields a page that permits official ownership and customization capabilities.
Further, sites dedicated to helping connect individuals with local businesses such as Yelp, Foursquare and DexKnows are rapidly growing in popularity. Most of these sites allow users to leave reviews and feedback for specific locations.
How Important is Local Digital Marketing?
Local digital marketing is already extremely important and is growing more critical by the day. Consider the following findings from Search Engine Land’s Local Consumer Review Survey conducted in January through March 2012:
- Only 15 percent of consumers report never using the Internet to find a local business – down from 21 percent in 2010.
- Sixteen percent of consumers use the Internet every week to find local businesses – up from nine percent in 2010.
- Three-quarters of consumers use online reviews when choosing a local business either occasionally or regularly. Only one-quarter never do so.
- Almost two-thirds of consumers read between two and 10 reviews before choosing a local business.
- Businesses with positive online reviews are trusted by 58 percent of consumers.
- Almost three-quarters of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations.
How Do I Practice Local Digital Marketing?
Luckily, the art of local digital marketing is not wholly different from garden-variety digital marketing or even traditional marketing. While your organization’s mileage may vary, your goal is still to ensure that your localized digital presence is communicating your brand values, positioning and differentiating features to prospective patients and community stakeholders.
And just as is the case with other conventional digital and traditional marketing tactics, accomplishing these tasks effectively necessitates multi-disciplinary strategic planning. What creative messages do your Google Places pages need to communicate to visitors? How will you manage the workflow of securing control of and maintaining your presences on multiple third-party sites? What is your public relations strategy for dealing with negative patient reviews?
These challenges are not easy, but they represent a significant opportunity for hospitals and health networks to meet the needs of increasingly savvy healthcare consumers and differentiate themselves from less progressive competitors.