How to Build a Healthcare Marketing Strategy That Drives Patient Leads

It might seem like the healthcare marketing strategy is like any other kind of marketing. However, healthcare marketers have to navigate complicated privacy regulations and remain HIPAA and NAI-compliant. It’s not as easy to personalize your messages. 

On top of that, healthcare is a sensitive topic—you’re talking about the health and well-being of your audience. You need to do that with the same care and kindness as they expect from a physician or healthcare provider.  

Even more, modern-day consumerism has changed healthcare marketing. Patients are more informed than ever before, and they have more choices when it comes to their healthcare providers.

National health spending is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.4 percent and reach $6.2 trillion by 2028.

Healthcare marketing has to be at the top of its game to attract patients and drive leads. Hospitals, medical practices, and other healthcare systems can no longer rely on traditional marketing methods alone to get the job done.

That said, some marketing principles are the same. You still need to identify your target audience, craft a message that resonates with them, and find the channels that will reach them most effectively.

Now, that’s not to say that healthcare marketing is easy. It’s a complex process, made all the more so because healthcare is such a regulated industry. But, we’re here to help. 

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about healthcare marketing strategy.

Table of contents

  • What is healthcare marketing, exactly?
  • What’s a good healthcare marketing strategy?
  • Why you need to get healthcare marketing right
  • 16 ways to get patient leads

What is healthcare marketing, exactly? 

If you’re here, you probably already know what healthcare marketing is but it’s also incredibly broad. Healthcare marketing could mean hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations that are trying to reach new patients. It could be a healthcare brand that is trying to educate and connect with consumers.

We’ll be focusing on how healthcare marketing strategy can help you acquire and retain patients. However, many of these strategies could also apply to other healthcare marketing areas.

What’s a good healthcare marketing strategy?

A healthcare marketing strategy is a specific plan that outlines how your marketing efforts will be executed. 

In other words, your healthcare marketing strategy is the roadmap that will take you from where you are now to where you want to be. It outlines your goals for patient acquisition and growth and specific steps for how to get there.

To develop a strong healthcare marketing strategy, you need to start by taking a step back and looking at the big picture. 

  • What are your goals? 
  • Who is your target audience? 
  • What are the challenges you’re facing? 
  • Are there trends that are transforming your industry? 
  • What insights have you learned from user or audience research?

Once you clearly understand your current situation, start mapping out a plan to get where you want to be.

Your healthcare marketing strategy should be tailored to your specific goals, but there are some essential elements that all healthcare marketing strategies should include:

  • A detailed understanding of your target audience, including their needs, wants, and pain points
  • A clear value proposition that differentiates you from your competition
  • Specific goals and KPIs to measure success
  • A plan for creating and executing marketing campaigns
  • Budgets and timelines 

Why you need to get healthcare marketing right

As stated earlier, the healthcare industry is one of the most regulated in the United States. Healthcare providers have to be extra careful regarding their marketing efforts and patient data. 

The last thing you want is to run afoul of HIPAA regulations or get slapped with a costly fine or lawsuit. 

Regulations and privacy

Healthcare marketing is so regulated that entire agencies, like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), are charged with overseeing it. The CMS has a set of rules and guidelines that healthcare providers must follow regarding their marketing and advertising efforts.


Secondly, healthcare is a sensitive topic. Lives and well-being are at stake, so there is no room for error. Because you are dealing with sensitive topics that vastly impact the lives of your audiences and patients, you have to be extra mindful of how your audience perceives your marketing. 

In addition, healthcare is a complex industry, with many different types of services and providers. This makes it difficult for patients to understand their options and make the best decisions for their care. Education may also be part of your marketing strategy. 

Local audiences

Additionally, when it comes to healthcare marketing, the local audience should be one of your top considerations. People tend to look for healthcare providers in their network or nearby. Studies have shown that about 77% of people use Google to find healthcare information, and most of them only consider providers that are within a 20-mile radius.

This is why it’s important to ensure that your healthcare marketing efforts are targeted and relevant to your local audience. You need to be visible where they are looking for healthcare information and ensure that your message is clear and concise.

However, this can also vary depending on your area of expertise. For example, primary care, OB/GYN, and mental health tend to be hyperlocal. Areas like oncology can have a larger market or geographic footprint. 

Seamless online and offline experiences

Telehealth has skyrocketed in popularity. At this point, it’s no longer a “nice to have”—it’s a requirement. Healthcare consumers want a health system that is there when they need it and how they need it. 

Healthcare organizations tend to communicate and interact with customers online and offline, so they need to connect the two in their marketing 

Now, you can communicate with your audiences through telehealth or in-person visits, phone, in-app, text messaging, email, and more. Communicate how your prospective and current clients do and do it seamlessly. 

Think about banking. You can go to the ATM, use your card, transfer money in the app, deposit checks in the app, view your balance online, call customer service or walk into your local branch. You don’t have to think about it all those options—you just do whatever is easiest for you at that moment in time. Healthcare needs to be the same.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy: 16 Ways to Get More, Better Patient Leads

Staying competitive in the healthcare industry takes more than just providing quality care. 

Today’s patient is well-informed, and their expectations of healthcare providers are higher than ever before.

Here are some healthcare marketing strategies to get more patient leads.

1. Get HIPAA-certified

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was enacted in 1996 and strictly governs how patient records are handled and shared in the United States. 

Under HIPAA, healthcare providers must take measures to keep protected health information (PHI) from being released without patient consent. Information should only be shared with appropriate entities such as insurance companies, healthcare providers, and law enforcement when necessary. 

However, many marketing agencies, and by extension, their healthcare clients, are not fully compliant with HIPAA regulations. 

A recent study found that only 20% of healthcare organizations are compliant with all aspects of the regulation. Health plans are struggling to meet just 56% of the required security measures. Healthcare providers have a lot of room to improve their HIPAA compliance and, as a result, their healthcare marketing strategy.

As a healthcare marketing agency, Goodway’s dedicated healthcare marketers are all currently HIPAA-certified and recertified every two years. We have a firm understanding of patient privacy and diligently follow all regulations. Also, we keep patient data secure and anonymous because we use a secure hashing process. It anonymizes hospital customer relationship management (CRM) data before targeting it. Then, it deletes that data when a campaign is over.

2. Value-based marketing 

Value-based healthcare is a delivery model where providers are reimbursed based on the quality of care they provide, rather than the quantity. In other words, it’s a shift from fee-for-service to pay-for-performance.

This model is becoming increasingly popular as healthcare organizations look for ways to improve the quality of care while controlling costs. It’s estimated that by 2025, 50% of healthcare payments will be tied to value-based arrangements.

This has also given rise to a focus on value-based marketing in healthcare. This form of marketing focuses on appealing to your customer’s values and ethics. Instead of your marketing being service-centric, it is patient-centric.

It highlights the quality of care and the positive outcomes your patients can expect.

One way to do this is by featuring patient testimonials on your website or social media channels. These testimonials should highlight the value of your healthcare services and how they’ve helped improve patients’ lives.

Another way to promote value is by investing in paid advertisements. These ads should focus on the quality of your healthcare services and how they can benefit patients. For example, you could run a paid ad campaign promoting your healthcare services as “high-quality” and “affordable.”

3. Collect and leverage first-party data

First-party data is information that you collect yourself, either through your own website or healthcare app. 

It is incredibly valuable because you control it. It’s high-quality data that provides patient insights that you can’t get from any other source.

One way to collect first-party data is through email marketing. You can encourage patients to sign up for your email list by offering them something in return, such as a discount on their next appointment. Once they’re on your email list, you can send them periodic updates about your healthcare services.

You can also collect first-party data through healthcare surveys. These surveys can gather insights into patient needs and preferences. 

However, you have to make sure you are also following healthcare data restrictions. You shouldn’t aren’t collect, access, or store personal healthcare information on a platform that is not secure. Fortunately, there are secure healthcare platforms to help create and manage data.

4. Utilize chat widgets and text messaging

While email is a great way to stay in touch with patients, it’s not the only way. In addition, since email is not secure, you should use other methods of communication as well.  

Many healthcare organizations use chat widgets and text messaging to communicate with patients. 

One of the main benefits of chat widgets and text messaging is that they allow healthcare organizations to communicate with patients in real-time. You can address any questions or concerns patients may have about your healthcare services.

Studies have found that text messaging has helped improve appointment scheduling and attendance. Text messaging can also help patients take their medication as prescribed.

Chat widgets and text messaging can also bridge the knowledge gap between patients and healthcare providers. According to one survey, 67% of patients have reported being confused about their health even after an appointment or feeling the need to do more research. 

Tools like chats and texts can help improve patient experiences and outcomes.

5. Offer telehealth and online scheduling

Consumers want convenience and flexibility.

Patients are increasingly expecting healthcare organizations to offer digital services. A recent survey found that 74% of patients are willing to use telehealth if their healthcare provider offered it.

Telehealth allows healthcare providers to deliver care remotely, using technology such as video conferencing and online chat. It is convenient for patients, as they can receive care from the comfort of their own homes.

In addition to telehealth, healthcare organizations should also offer online scheduling. Online scheduling allows patients to book appointments with healthcare providers without picking up the phone. It is convenient for busy patients who may not have time to make a phone call during normal business hours.

6. Monitor reviews and leverage social proof in your marketing

Consumer reviews are an essential part of your healthcare marketing strategy. More than 60% of consumers say they trust a positive online review as much as they would a personal recommendation.

Furthermore, people rely on online reviews to make healthcare decisions. A recent study found that 72% of healthcare consumers say positive online reviews have influenced their decision to choose a particular healthcare provider.

It’s important to monitor your online reviews and address any negative reviews promptly and professionally. You can also leverage positive reviews in your healthcare marketing by featuring them prominently on your website and social media pages. 

7. Book Private Marketplace Ads (PMPs)

Private marketplace ads (PMPs) are a type of display advertising that allows healthcare organizations to connect with premium publishers who have agreed to sell ad space at a fixed price. 

PMPs can effectively reach healthcare consumers. With them, your ads can appear on well-known and trusted healthcare websites.

Think of websites like WebMD, Healthline, and AARP that your target audiences are likely already visiting and trust to provide health information. Not only will your ads be seen by many people but by people who are already interested in healthcare topics.

8. Combine text search ads with extensions

When searching for a particular keyword on a search engine like Google, search results with the text “search ad” appear at the top of the page. These are known as “Sponsored Results”. You can get your healthcare organization in front of potential patients who are already interested in your service areas.

But you can make your text search ads even more effective by adding extensions. Search engine extensions are additional features that you can add to your text search ads. These include: 

  • Location
  • Phone number
  • Website 

Adding a click-to-call extension or other ad extensions to your advertising campaign can make it even easier for potential patients to get in touch.

It’s one easy way to get high-value prospects when they’re curious and most likely to make contact. When we added a click-to-call extension to our client’s ads, prospects connected with the hospital’s call center directly and quickly. 

We also recommend including a site link extension on your digital ads. It should direct customers to a mobile landing page so they can get more information from their phones.

9. Create a whitelist for your display ads

Healthcare organizations should create a whitelist for their display ads. A whitelist is a list of websites where you want your ads to appear. This allows you to control where your ads are seen and ensures that they’re only being shown on websites relevant to your healthcare organization.

By targeting top-performing sites, your increase your efficiency, so that ads are served to those most likely to take action. By refining your whitelist over time, you can ensure that your ads are always shown on the best websites possible. 

There are also blacklists, which are lists of sites where you do not want your ads to appear. Manually creating these can be strenuous and time-consuming, so there are automation tools that can help. 

10. Be careful with retargeting 

Healthcare organizations deal with sensitive medical topics, ethical standards, and heavy regulation. To not intrude on prospects’ privacy, never retarget prospects from medical webpages. You never want to appear insensitive by reminding patients of their medical condition or making them feel tracked.

Instead, you can conduct keyword research around specific topics and test advertising for those terms. 

11. Use contextual targeting 

Since you can’t target a specific ailment when running a medical digital marketing campaign, use contextual targeting. You can reach prospective patients effectively with your ads at the precise moment they are reviewing relevant content online.  

For example, if you offer treatments for hair loss, you can target websites that discuss hair loss, hair care, or beauty. Your ad will appear when healthcare consumers search or read content on these topics. Because you’re targeting only relevant websites, the audiences who see your ad are more likely to be interested in what you have to say.

12. Supplement paid advertising with organic SEO

While paid advertising can help get you in front of potential patients, so can organic SEO. In reality, the two tactics work best when paired together.

Organic SEO is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results pages. It’s a long-term healthcare marketing strategy but can pay off significantly. 

Mayo Clinic gets over 300 million in organic traffic alone. A large part of its growth has come from organic efforts. 

According to Google, one in 20 search results are healthcare-related

First, you’ll need to conduct keyword research. This will help you identify the right keywords to target. Then, you can optimize your website for those keywords, and create high-quality content that healthcare consumers want to read. It takes a long time, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, organic SEO can be a great way to drive patient leads.

13. Use location marketing 

Search is often the starting point when someone is looking for healthcare. In addition, most people look for local providers. 

In fact, according to Go Gulf, 46% of all searches are seeking local information.

Location-based marketing is non-negotiable for healthcare marketing. It’s more than just Google My Business listings too. With tactics like geofencing marketing, you can reach customers that nearby your locations and most likely to become patients. 

Interestingly, healthcare consumers aren’t the only ones using local search to find healthcare providers. According to a study by Verizon, healthcare professionals are also using local search to find healthcare organizations. Healthcare professionals use local search 50% more than the average searcher.

14. A/B Test Campaigns

To be successful with your advertising initiatives, conduct A/B tests. Specifically, test different elements of your healthcare marketing strategy on small audience segments before scaling to the wider group. With this method, you can try out and evaluate your healthcare marketing strategy before you go all in.

For example, you could test different ad copy or creative to see which version audiences click. Once you have your learnings, adjust your ads and maximize your results.

This beta test approach can give you a quick bump in results. You can increase your site traffic, campaign activities, and patient leads early on, all with less risk, time, and money spent.

15. Iterate Continuously 

Once you get your search and display campaigns underway, carefully analyze the results. Combine your reporting, human insight, and machine learning to make incremental improvements to your campaigns. 

With healthcare marketing, as with other types of marketing, it’s essential to continuously test and iterate on your healthcare marketing strategy. By constantly trying new things and fine-tuning your approach, improve results and stretch your healthcare marketing budget.

On all our campaigns, we optimize with the RealValue® machine-learning algorithm. It automatically reviews browser and ad size data and then bids higher on the best-performing combinations. These findings and our expertise help us know what audience and ads will produce the best campaign results.

16. Develop a Multi-Channel Digital Media Campaign

At Goodway, we follow a multi-channel digital strategy. When we did this with a hospital client, their site traffic saw a 196% increase, and visits to their custom landing page saw a 252% increase throughout the campaign. Using search and display digital channels together helped us attract more high-quality patient leads. Our client went from two leads a month to an average of 4.3 a month.

It can be tough to know where to start and how to go about healthcare digital marketing. This is especially true when patient-privacy rules are daunting and healthcare advertising best practices seem to keep changing all the time.

Using these tried-and-true best practices can give your healthcare marketing strategy a boost. You’ll build better brand awareness, help you stand out from the competition, and generate new patient leads. For more expertise and support, let us share more about all the latest healthcare marketing strategies and tools you need to differentiate your services and achieve your campaign goals.

If you need guidance, a helping hand, or want access to the latest available digital tools and healthcare advertising strategies, connect with us. We can show you how to make the most of your medical marketing: how to achieve highly targeted healthcare campaigns that will appeal to and engage your prospects and turn them into patient leads.