Independent hospital marketing: Why the budget battle is the wrong approach

As an independent hospital, going up against larger health systems that have a wealth of marketing resources can feel like an impossible feat. It’s impractical for independent hospitals to try to match the budgets of larger systems in a game where the larger systems are setting the terms.

So how can independent hospitals compete? While your organization may never win the budget race, you can improve your marketing plan to make better use of the budget you do have. With the right strategy, you can significantly maximize your exposure, refine your targeting, and build your organization’s leading service lines.

Below are 4 steps you can take to improve the efficiency of your independent hospital’s marketing strategy.

  1. Identify your hospital’s most valuable assets.

To know how to best market your hospital, you need to be aware of what sets you apart as an organization. Are there popular providers you can promote as being a part of your hospital? Are there services you provide that other hospitals don’t? Consider which specialty services set your hospital apart from competitors and which ones generate the highest revenue. It’s also helpful to identify the service lines in which your hospital is below capacity—meaning there’s opportunity to serve more patients. If there’s a hospital in your market with a long wait list for a particular service, perhaps there is a chance to serve patients needing help sooner. These considerations will help assess where you should be spending your marketing dollars.

  1. Set specific marketing goals.

What is the most important outcome you would like to achieve? Are you primarily looking to build brand awareness? Attract more patients? Increase donations? If you’re seeking more donations, what dollar amount are you aiming for each month?

Get specific with your goals, and consider the type of return that each achieved goal will deliver. For example, if you are looking to attract new patients, you should identify the lifetime value of a patient in the service line you are looking to promote. Set your expectations before you commit your dollars—and don’t overspend.  

After you have set your goals, identify how you will measure success. Is it clicks? Is it new revenue generated? Is it patient conversions? What are you going to be counting to show you succeeded—and what is the winning number? With a smaller budget, it can be even more important to produce quantifiable results. Being able to track your achievements with solid data allows you to identify efficient strategies and exhibit value to hospital leadership.  

  1. Get your message in front of the most receptive audiences.

Ask yourself who you are trying to reach and where their attention lies. If you don’t have your audience’s attention, they are not going to receive your message.

Digital marketing is a highly effective way to ensure your hospital’s marketing reaches the most receptive audiences. With a billboard, you are paying for your message to be seen by a large population regardless of their interest or specific need for your service. It can be a highly inefficient medium. With a pay-per-click (PPC) ad, you are getting your message in front of an audience that is essentially raising a hand and asking for help online. A person performing a search on Google or Bing with your campaign’s keywords is seeking information for the very service you are promoting—and you have the opportunity to get your message in front of him or her at that precise moment of need. This audience is much more likely to yield new patients to a specific service than a radio or newspaper ad.

  1. Partner with experts who can maximize your marketing efficiency.

If you’re like most independent hospitals, in addition to a smaller budget, you are dealing with limited time and a smaller team. How do you create the fast and seamless digital experience users have come to expect when you face these types of limitations? It can be done with the right support. Don’t waste resources trying to do it all on your own! Find digital marketing experts who can act as an extension of your team so you can gain speed and achieve your goals without draining all your in-house resources.

Why Digital Marketing Delivers a Higher Return on Investment

If you are overwhelmed by a healthcare system with greater resources deployed in television, radio, billboards, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of traditional media, don’t enter the ring. With a finely executed digital marketing strategy, you can reach the audiences you want with more regularity and at lower costs.

The fun really begins once you’ve officially launched your digital campaign. Digital marketing generates a wealth of data about consumer behavior. Analyzing this data effectively creates opportunities for:

  1. Optimizing a campaign
  2. Demonstrating return on investment (ROI)

As you track your Internet marketing results, you gain valuable insights such as which searches yield the highest patient conversions, what ads are most effective, and where funds can be redeployed to generate even greater returns for your hospital. With the right tools, you can track the revenue your campaign generated, allowing you to calculate a concrete ROI. So, the next time someone asks what the marketing budget is doing for your hospital, you’ll have some great answers backed by solid data.

Reclaim Your Market Share

Remember, just because your independent hospital has a smaller budget, this doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines as larger health systems steal the spotlight and dip into your market share. Get strategic and efficient! With a sharp action plan, you can boost your organization’s exposure and attract the types of new patients you want for your key service lines.

Rod Thomas is a Regional Sales Director at Scorpion, an award-winning digital marketing agency that has helped more than 200 hospitals and healthcare providers improve their digital presence. He works extensively with rural and independent hospitals, helping them develop customized websites and digital marketing solutions to achieve their business goals.

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