Now is the time to radically rethink how you market your medical practice. The digital landscape has grown decades in matter of a few years. Technology adoption accelerated rapidly across nearly every industry. For medical practices, we’ve seen a rush to new services like telehealth and increased competition and spending in digital media channels.
Simply put, many of your patients have become more digitally savvy, and your competition probably has too.
One of the keys to success is a well-built digital marketing strategy. It can provide alignment with your team, clarity in your messaging and prioritization of your marketing tactics.
To help with your planning, here are 10 questions that can help you build the foundation of any digital marketing strategy.
1. What are our practice goals?
Think of your goals as your overall desires and consider your strategy for how to get what you want. Don’t overthink your goals, and don’t set too many, or you may not achieve any of them.
Example: “Get enough new patients to add another physician to the practice.”
2. What are specific, measurable outcomes to reach those practice goals?
Your objectives should have measurable results. Objectives that are too lofty aren’t really objectives; they’re goals.
Example: “Add 15 patients per month.”
3. Who’s our competition?
While this may seem like a straightforward question, telehealth has changed this dramatically. You may no longer be competing against only the physicians and practices in your area — telehealth competitors from other locations or national brands are now likely going after the same patients.
In addition, for some medical specialties, if you have expanded lines of service — like orthopedics and pain management — you’re really competing in multiple categories.
4. How is our practice really different?
This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. Many medical practices don’t answer it at all, or they rely solely on physician credentials to differentiate themselves. While physician credentials are key, many patients said they would switch providers because of factors like safety and access (download required).
Don’t fall into the “better” trap when thinking about differentiation. Think about the treatments you offer, your patient experience and even the point of view you have on the category.
5. Who is our ideal patient?
Ensure that you have a clear picture of your ideal patients and build your marketing for them. Document it so you can create alignment across your teams and partners. Examples include the specific conditions your ideal patients have, the treatments they may need and what types of insurance they have.
This is particularly important to understand for your paid advertising efforts, as well as focusing your content creation efforts to impact SEO. You don’t want to waste any of these efforts on the wrong patients.
6. What problems do we solve for them?
Your patients may stop paying attention if you stop talking about their problems. Yet many medical practices talk only about their own expertise or the services they provide.
Don’t forget about the services you provide, but focus on the issues your patients are grappling with. Your practice has an opportunity to get more patients to choose you by empathizing with their problems. Spend some time reading through your practice reviews to get an understanding of the problems you’re solving and how it makes patients feel. You may be surprised.
7. What are our key messages?
Take the time to outline your key messages. Some of the answers above — the problems you solve and what makes your practice different — should absolutely be a part of those messages. If your practice is self-pay, think about any offers you want to include in your marketing.
Most importantly, think about the call to action that’s in your key messages. Are you trying to drive calls, online appointment scheduling or something else?
8. What content should we create?
The content you create for your practice should be directly related to your ideal patient definition, as well as the problems you solve. All content for a medical practice will generally fall into a couple of categories — educational content such as research on conditions and treatments, and decision-making content such as information about your practice. Be sure to address both types.
Perhaps the most important decisions are the format of your content and how you distribute it. Don’t get stuck on blog posts alone. Make sure you’re distributing content to your practice and physician listings, for example. Leverage video content as much as possible — we’ve found that it’s more noticeable and does a better job of showing empathy.
9. What platforms are we prioritizing?
Focus on doing a good job on one channel before you diversify. One of the biggest mistakes a medical practice can make is spreading their investment of time and advertising dollars across too many channels. The foundation for most medical practices should be pay-per-click search advertising. Why? Because search engine advertising captures those actively seeking treatment. Stay focused on this channel before expanding.
10. How will we measure success?
Lastly, don’t get distracted by vanity metrics like traffic or click-through rates. Focus on the six essential key performance indicators for medical practices that include new patient leads, cost per lead, conversion rates and cost per patient.
The Foundation Of Your Practice Marketing Strategy
In the new healthcare digital marketing landscape, you can’t afford to continue winging it or buying cookie-cutter marketing solutions from partners that don’t understand your business.
Answering these 10 questions can provide you with the foundation of a digital marketing strategy. They can help you position your practice, develop key messages and content, decide how to reach new patients and measure the impact of your efforts. Questioning the way you’ve always done things may be the key to getting the growth you deserve.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.