With increasing competition for consumers and referrals, investing in an online presence—and online marketing—is increasingly important for provider organizations to maintain revenue (see The “M” Word In Health & Human Services Strategy—Why Marketing Should Be Part Of The Everyday Conversation). That was the message of my colleagues, OPEN MINDS Executive Vice President of Marketing Timothy Snyder, Jr., and OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Rob Hickernell during Finding The Path To Online Marketing Success: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Best Practices In Website & Social Media Marketing at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Technology & Innovation Institute. The questions for executive teams include: What to do, who is going to do it, and baking those costs into annual marketing and business development budgets.
The single, biggest take away from this engaging and interactive seminar: The user experience is everything. One great place to start – evaluate your website on the three-second rule. If your site doesn’t load on a searcher’s device in three seconds, you will likely lose that person. Think of your own internet searching experience. Do you wait patiently for a site to load? Probably not.
There are six big lifts to deploy a “best practice” approach to competing for referrals and consumers online:
Think About And Manage The User Experience On Your Website—Consumers no longer simply take word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or health care professionals when choosing providers. They do their own research and frequently go online. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and can easily be read on any device. Responsive websites quickly deliver optimal viewing on any device—desktop, phone or tablet (see Get Marketing Leverage With Web Marketing & A Social Media Plan).
Write Content Your Customers Care About—Consider users who are most likely to view your content and write website copy as if you are speaking directly to that audience, which includes current and prospective consumers, relevant health care professionals, health plans, current employees, and potential recruits (see Marketing Is Strategy In Action).
Invest In SEO—Search engine optimization (SEO) employs keywords and phrases to ensure your site ranks at the top of search results (see Can Search Engines & Consumers Find You? SEO & Why It’s Important). Think quality over quantity. Make sure keywords are strategically included on your web page and create links to external sources to give your site greater visibility and credibility. Track these metrics to ensure your SEO efforts deliver results: The total number of times a page was viewed, the time users spend on your page, and how long a page takes to load. And remember that it should load in less than three seconds (see SEO Basics For Health & Human Service Professionals and The Machines Have Mastered SEO—Have You?).
Maintain A Regular Presence On Social Media—With limited time and resources, it’s better to invest more resources in targeted social media platforms. Think of The Big Five (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Glassdoor). Curate and tailor your message to the appropriate audience for each platform and make sure information is easily accessible in one click (see When Consumers Find Your Organization Online, Will They Pick You?).
Manage Your Online Reputation—Negative comments, reviews, and ratings are common and ignoring them has an impact on your brand and reputation. Visit review sites regularly to know what’s being said about your organization. Also set up “Google Alerts” for key terms, names, and services for other channels so you are instantly notified when your organization is mentioned. Respond quickly and appropriately to combat negative or false claims but don’t engage in back-and-forth battles (see You’re Being Rated – Like It Or Not), which can make a situation worse.
Participate In Online Conversations—Regardless of whether a conversation is positive or negative it’s valuable for you to participate because it demonstrates engagement. Also, remember that conversations are happening through comparison rankings and rating sites such as Medicare’s Find & Compare Quality Care Finder Tool, RateMDs.com, and Google reviews. Actively tracking and participating in these conversations is key to success (see As Online Ratings Grow, Your Online Reputation Matters More and Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – Second, You Need A Plan).
A key question asked during the presentation was what’s the cost and who does the work? The presenters noted that costs are highly variable and budget dependent. Larger provider organizations with deeper pockets might invest significant amounts of money – even tens of thousands of dollars to create an online presence that builds and manages their brands. Smaller provider organizations with fewer resources must be more cautious.
For any organization, Mr. Snyder and Mr. Hickernell recommend starting small, focusing on your core audience, and investing where the return is likely to be high. Mr. Hickernell noted that first impressions are everything. In fact, 86% of consumers make decisions based on their first impression of an organization, he said. That doesn’t mean decisions are made during the first visit to your website. However, if that person has a positive experience on his or her first visit, it influences the decision so it’s wise to invest time in planning, testing, and measuring results needed to ensure your website tops the search list. For example, research shows that the likelihood of a customer taking the action you desire (requesting an appointment, signing up for your email list, etc.) increases by 80% when he or she consumes video content on a website. That high conversion rate might make investing in video content worthwhile.
Whatever the plan, executives need to think about the skills to develop an online marketing plan, the talent to produce content (articles, responses to inquiries, blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.) for potential customers for the website, and the tech support to create a user-responsive web design for that content.
Get more guidance on online marketing to compete for customers with these resources in the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- Customer Experience Is An Essential Part Of Health Care Service
- Who ‘Owns’ Marketing In Non-Profit Organizations?
- The “M” Word In Health & Human Services Strategy—Why Marketing Should Be Part Of The Everyday Conversation
- Want New Health Plan Contract Opportunities? Think New Marketing Model
- What Does It Take To Outlast The Disruptors? Building A New Strategy For A New Market
- 6 Management Best Practices For Sustainability In A Changing Market
- When Consumers Find Your Organization Online, Will They Pick You?
- Who ‘Owns’ Marketing In Non-Profit Organizations?
- 5 Keys For Optimizing Your Online Brand
- Is Your Online Marketing Plan Up to Speed? The OPEN MINDS Approach To Digital Marketing
And join us February 12 at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute for the executive seminar, “How To Build Value-Based Payer Partnerships: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Best Practices In Marketing, Negotiating & Contracting With Health Plans” led by OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Deborah Adler.