Yeah, so that worked out well.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may have read our 2020 Visions series that was published in November 2019. It talked about the advancements we expected to see in digital technology, social media usage, and SEO and content, based on the trends we saw in marketing at the time.
Spoiler alert: almost nothing went to plan.
COVID-19 drastically changed the pace of marketing in 2020. We saw a lot of rapid change in many areas as the year progressed (read more about what happened in our recent article Four Lessons from Lockdown), and it often seemed like things would never get back to normal again. It was a strange year, but we made it through.
That being said, here’s what we’ve learned from 2020, and what healthcare businesses should consider and apply when they develop a marketing plan for 2021.
(Don’t have time to read the whole article? click here to skip to the bottom of this post and read the summary.)
It’s time to focus on growth and regrowth
First of all, congratulations on making it through 2020! It was one of the toughest years in recent history. Now that you’ve made it through, it’s time to start rebuilding your presence, recouping lost time and resources, and cementing yourself in the marketplace ready for the gradual return to normalcy.
What if my business closed for a while?
2020 was a rough year. Given the range of lockdowns across the country, having temporarily closed your business’ doors, scaled back your services and open hours, or putting a temporary pause on your marketing is nothing to be ashamed of. In most Australian states, it’s relatively expected.
If your practice is coming out of a period of reduced activity, your 2021 marketing strategy should focus on building back up to your previous levels of business. It’s important to re-establish your presence – both online and in your physical space – so that you can start rebuilding and establish a path for steady growth.
As you enter 2021 and start developing a plan for success, you should do these simple things to best position yourself for any further marketing activity.
- Evaluate your website – take a look at how it’s going and see what can be improved (Our article can help you decide if it’s time for a new website).
- Update your content – this might be as simple as updating any sources, links, and statistics on your website, or as complex as a major refresh. If a rewrite is in the cards, consider involving an SEO expert to help you get the most out of your website’s content.
- Refresh your online listings – make sure they reflect your current open hours, locations and capabilities, especially if they were altered during lockdown or if you haven’t checked in on them for a while. This will help people see that you’re open again and you’re your services are available.
- Develop a plan for the future – a written marketing plan will help you put your activity and goals in perspective and help you stay motivated to achieve success.
If your practice returning to marketing after a period of time away (or if you’re starting fresh), it’s best to talk to a specialised healthcare marketing agency about what will work best in your situation. An experienced eye can provide insights and tailored advice relevant to your field and business capabilities.
What if my practice didn’t close?
If your practice was able to remain open and continue marketing throughout the lockdown period, you have the advantage of inertia over any competitors that weren’t as fortunate. However, you run the risk of falling behind your competition if you don’t make use of your advantage while you have it.
To make the most of your lead, it’s important to keep up your current level of activity. Although it may be tempting to dial back if you see less chance of being immediately overtaken by a competitor, reducing your efforts can ruin the inertia of your current campaigns and have detrimental results in the long run.
It’s also important to take note of what your competition is doing. As business continues returning to normal in 2021, other practices are likely to start compensating for their previous lack of activity by accelerating their marketing as they return to the market space.
In any situation, a specialised healthcare marketing professional can lend a valuable hand to your marketing. For specific advice, talk to us to see how we can help.
The internet age is here: it’s time to embrace it
Between March and September 2020, more than 1 million new households tried online shopping for the first time. Cumulative time spent reading online news is up 22% year-on year (according to recent Nielsen Digital Content Ratings), and 4.8 million telehealth consultations were delivered in September 2020 alone. This shows us that Australians have been very receptive to the online shift caused by pandemic lockdowns, and that the internet is even more necessary to our day-to-day lives than ever before.
We get it: you’re probably a bit sick of hearing this one from us. After all, Vividus is a digital healthcare marketing agency, and online activity is kind of what we do. But coming out of 2020, we can see that being online isn’t just a luxury or a bonus anymore; it’s a necessity.
If you don’t have an online presence, setting one up in 2021 is essential. If you’re just starting out, here are a few simple actions you can do to get started.
- Make online listings – if nothing else, set up online listings for your practice. These make you easier to find and increase your chances of appearing in search engine results when a potential patient searches.
- If you don’t have a website, it’s time to get one – even if it’s just a simple one-page site, having a website makes you available to appear in search engine results and puts your contact details in an easy-to-reach space. It also gives you a home base to link to for online advertising. You can have a go at setting up a simple one on your own, or talk to a specialised agency about building a website optimised for your business goals.
- Consider setting up online booking – having this in place allows your patients to make bookings when your reception staff aren’t available to personally take calls. A variety of online booking platforms are available, and many can be integrated into your practice management software for optimal convenience.
Having some kind of online presence for your practice is better than nothing at all, even if it’s basic. When you’re ready to leverage online activity further and start improving your position, you can talk to an expert about developing it further.
Be prepared to pivot
Although we hope it won’t be as unpredictable as 2020 was, 2021 is still a little uncertain. Outside of pandemic-related restrictions and changes, no business is immune to unexpected changes. We need to be ready to change direction rapidly if the need arises.
To make sure your marketing can pivot if it needs to, developing a flexible marketing plan that addresses the needs of your target market is essential. You can keep flexibility and patient-centricity at the core of your strategy by:
- Getting to know your target market – being able to respond to issues that affect your patients in a way that they resonate with is essential, regardless of the situation. This might include looking into which marketing channels are best to reach them, or learning about the specific words they use in reference to their own conditions.
- Keeping up to date on emerging trends – as we learned in 2021, sometimes things happen that warrant last-minute changes to your marketing plan.
- Reviewing your plans regularly – remember that your 2021 marketing plan isn’t a rulebook; it’s a guide, and there’s no sense in adhering to ineffective strategies for arbitrary consistency. If your strategy isn’t doing what you hoped it would, talk to your marketing team about changing it.
- Focussing on being visible – Regardless of what message you end up producing, its reach and ability to be seen make a real difference in its effectiveness. Having a wide reach and a good communication strategy increases your ability to pivot successfully.
Even though we approach 2021 with cautious optimism for the future, pivoting is an essential skill for all businesses to have – it’s normal to have your business goals and situation shift from time to time. If you undergo a major change, talk to your marketing team about how to regroup, reposition yourself, and adjust your messaging to keep your marketing at its most effective.
Be the source of information
One of the biggest trends we saw at the beginning of 2020 was a massive surge in people searching for health-related content online. In March, Google trends data showed that health-related search queries peaked at an all-time high.
Although this peak has passed, it does teach us something: when patients don’t know what to do in terms of their health, the first port of call seems to be the internet. And for good reason: it’s easily accessible, has a very wide range of information available, and you can ask almost anything without judgement. Your 2021 marketing plan should make use of this.
How do I leverage the online search?
Since patients most often take to the internet in search for health information, the best way to leverage the health search trend is to provide reliable, understandable health information in a way that’s accessible and visible. As a medical professional, there are a number of ways you can do this.
- Be active on your social media – this helps develop your personal credibility and profile, as well as your personal profile. You can also use this personal platform to share useful information you find online, or even debunk harmful or incorrect information.
- Use your blog – your blog is an outreach platform that you get complete control over. You can use it to build a hub of trusted information that your patients can visit again and again.
- Network and guest post – you can liaison with other online publishers in your field to appear in a variety of online publications, increasing your reach. This also has the bonus of legitimising you as a reputable, published information source.
- Paid advertising – this can be used on search engines or social media to boost your visibility. While you can manage it on your own, seeking help from an experienced online advertiser can help you achieve better results.
Communication is essential
If there’s one thing we learned in 2021, it’s that good communication goes a long way in providing reassurance and guidance. No one likes to be left in the dark as to what to expect next (especially in regards to their health), and a successful communication strategy goes a long way in reducing confusion and providing reassurance.
Developing a strategy to manage your communications is a critical element to consider in your marketing plans for 2021. A successful communication strategy can go a long way in keeping your current and potential patients engaged and ready to act.
How should communication be managed?
It’s essential to make sure your patients can get the information they need directly from you. If they can’t find it, they will likely look for it elsewhere.
Remember to make sure the information your patients need is ready and available when they look for it. Not only does this go a long way in establishing credibility, but also in reassuring your patients that you care about keeping them informed. To do this:
- Keep your website up-to-date – this provides reassurance to your patients and gives you a convenient source to link to for further information.
- Establish an email campaign – this is an excellent way to keep a regular communication schedule. It can be used to provide regular updates, and can efficiently distribute essential information.
- Don’t neglect what you already have – building a database of new patients is important, but so is keeping your current ones informed. Don’t forget to keep existing patients and contacts engaged while you work on attracting more.
If you’ve had to dial back or put the pause on marketing to help your business survive 2020, there’s no reason to feel alone. Many businesses aren’t in the position they hoped to start the year in, and it’s alright to feel out of your depth and you head into 2021. But now that 2020 is in hindsight, it’s time to start preparing for a better future.
If you’re ready to start making 2021 a better year for business, talk to us about developing a plan to improve your reach, develop your brand presence, and grow your business in the year ahead. Call us on 07 3482 4262 or send us a message to get started.
What to do now (TL;DR)
- Evaluate your presence (both online and offline) to decide on how you can improve
- If you’re not online already, it’s time to get there.
- Develop a plan for the future – just having a written plan to look back to can keep you motivated and help you achieve your goals (we can help with this)
- Keep things flexible, and don’t be afraid of change if it becomes necessary
- Be active online to reach patients when they’re looking for answers
- Keep building a strong patient base, but remember to engage the ones you already have.
- Give us a call! We can help you make 2021 your best year yet.