Last month, open enrollment for the health care marketplaces ended – it is estimated that about 8.9 million consumers have purchased health insurance online through healthcare.gov during this open enrollment period (see Traffic boost on HealthCare.gov as Obamacare deadline nears). This flux of online enrollment shows the growing power of the web when it comes to health care.
Consumers are not only looking online to find health insurance, but also to find high-quality, cost-effective health care professionals and provider organizations both within their health insurance networks and for private payment (see Consumers’ Healthcare Power Growing). The statistics have become common place – 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year (see Pew Research Center Health Fact Sheet: Internet, Science & Tech); 35% select physicians based on online reviews (see Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – First, Know The Score); and about 20% of all internet searches are health-related (see The New Google Search Rules For Health Care & What They Mean For Your Website).
In this environment, the importance of an effective online presence is increasingly essential for success. In my work with provider organization executives, I hear too often “we have a website to promote our services.” When I ask about their overarching marketing strategy, the consumer experience, or performance metrics, I realize that what they have is an “electronic brochure” as a web page – but not really an online marketing program.
What is the difference? An online marketing program is an integrated communication strategy (delivered via the internet) that provides the most cost-effective way to communicate with donors, payers, referral sources, and consumers. An online marketing strategy covers not only your website, but also your search engine results, email communications, mobile and text platforms, video streaming, social media, digital advertising, and your digital reputation. Your online marketing strategy should articulate four goals – it needs to:
- Increase online visibility
- Enhance your organization’s reputation
- Generate revenue
- Offer great content
And for health and human service organizations, the added challenge is that consumers also expect that your communications will be less about promotion and more about how engagement with your organization will help them to improve their health or well-being.
How to do all of this? I conferred with my colleague, OPEN MINDS Executive Vice President Tim Snyder, about the essential elements for developing an online marketing strategy – and an effective website in today’s market. Here are some best practice tips:
Develop a strong online presence, with a purpose – When developing your online marketing plan, it is essential to first identify your target audiences and then to consider how and why you are seeking engagement from these consumers. While it does take some effort to develop the right messaging for your organization, your online content should resonate with your audience, support your mission, and be reflective of your organization’s knowledge and expertise. Remember, your goal is to develop ongoing interaction with current and potential customers (consumers, payers, and donors) (see Health Care Branding Has Evolved – Be A Golden Brand).
Focus on the user experience – Ensure that your website is optimized to attract target market customers and promote ease of use among its visitors. Start by considering what information will be most useful to your consumers and how to best organize that information. Then, think about the details, including easy-to-understand navigation, mobile-friendly platforms, and fast page load time (see Enhancing the Consumer Experience: The Increasing Importance of Health Care Providers: Web Sites and What Makes A Website ‘Work’? Superior Design & Accessibility). Finally, clarify what it is that you’d like your visitors to do by creating a clear “call to action” – such as “Contact us for more information,” “Donate,” “Make a payment,” or “Call us for assistance.” Typically calls to action are near the top of the page. It is not uncommon to have several calls to action on a website (see The Two Basic Elements For Successful Website Design and Navigating The New Marketing Paradigm – Web & Social Media Presence Are The New Essentials).
Develop a social media strategy – Social media can enhance your online presence and increase brand recognition. In addition to magnifying you presence online, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other platforms can also become an effective marketing tool for increased referrals and donations from the local community (see Your Marketing Plan: Thinking Through Social Media Strategy).
Track your website performance – Use web analytics to track effectiveness of your messaging and design – pay attention to how many people are visiting your website and how many visitors you are able to “convert” into customers. Search engine optimization (SEO) can increase not only the visibility of your website, but how you rank among like organizations in searches online (see The New Google Search Rules For Health Care & What They Mean For Your Website). Work with a tech expert to help you optimize your sites rankings and conversion rates so that you can better meet your website performance goals (see Best In Show: Five Health & Human Service Sites That ‘Put It All Together’).
For more on developing an effective online marketing strategy, be sure to join us in New Orleans in June for The 2016 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, where Tim Snyder will deliver the session, “Running A Best Practice Digital Marketing Program: Using Online Marketing & Social Media To Your Advantage.”