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Healthcare Marketing: How to Connect & Retain Patients in the Digital Age [Complete Guide]

Explore the key strategies for successful healthcare marketing, how to understand your target audience, and how to create a strong online presence for your healthcare brand.
Mar 13 2023

Introduction to Healthcare Marketing

As the name explains, healthcare marketing is the process of promoting and advertising healthcare businesses, products, or services.

Healthcare marketing helps connect healthcare businesses with patients and allows patients to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

In the past, healthcare marketing primarily focused on traditional and offline channels such as referrals, print ads, TV commercials, and billboards.

However, with the rise of the digital age, healthcare marketing has evolved to include online channels such as social media, websites, SEO, and email marketing, to name a few.

How’s Healthcare marketing different?

Healthcare marketing differs from other marketing due to strict compliance regulations and ethical considerations.

Marketing must adhere to laws governing health claims, patient privacy, and industry-specific guidelines.

Healthcare marketers must prioritize patient education and empowerment while navigating the complex regulatory landscape.

The Importance of Good Healthcare Marketing

In the digital age, patients can access more information than ever.

They can research healthcare providers, read reviews, and compare prices online.

As a healthcare business, you must have a solid online presence and a robust marketing strategy to stand out in a crowded market.

Healthcare marketing can reach the right people(patients), build trust and brand recognition, increase patient volume, and ultimately grow revenues.

The goals of healthcare marketing

  • Build awareness around the healthcare business (Awareness)
  • Influence patients’ decision-making (Consideration)
  • Drive leads, appointment booking, and signups (Conversion)
  • Building long-term relationships to retain patients (Loyalty)

Understanding the Patient Journey

Before developing a healthcare marketing strategy, it’s essential to understand the patient journey.

The patient journey is the path from recognizing a need for healthcare to selecting a provider, receiving care, and beyond.

Understanding the patient journey can help you tailor the marketing efforts to each journey stage and ensure you provide the right information to patients at the right time.

01. Awareness

The awareness stage is where a patient becomes aware of a need or a problem. They may be experiencing symptoms or have received a diagnosis.

Patients typically search for information and resources to learn more about their condition and treatment options.

Your ultimate goals:

  • Make it as easy as possible to find your business
  • Provide tremendous value free-of-charge

Best tools and tactics:

  • Referrals (patients and other healthcare providers)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • PPC (search engine advertising)
  • Google listing, healthcare site listings, and review platforms
  • Social media marketing
  • Website & landing pages

02. Consideration

During the consideration stage, patients begin to evaluate their treatment options.

They may conduct online research, ask friends and family, consult with healthcare providers, and weigh the benefits and risks of different treatments.

Patients may usually consider factors such as cost, convenience, treatment time, and the impact of treatment on their daily life.

Your ultimate goal:

  • Provide relevant information about your business (service, pricing, how it works, etc.)
  • Help customers understand that you’re the right choice (your unique value proposition)

Best tools and tactics:

  • Branding & Brand Identity
  • Website & landing Pages
  • Free consultations
  • Google listing, Healthcare listings, and review platforms
  • Nurture Tactics (ex. email series)
  • Retargeting
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Bog Content
  • FAQs

03. Conversion

During the conversion stage, patients decide on their treatment and contact the provider they believe best fits their needs and budget.

Your ultimate goals:

  • To remove any friction and make contacting you or booking an appointment as easy as possible
  • Help customers understand that it’s the right time to sign up now.

Best tools and tactics:

  • Promotions and offers
  • Creating scarcity and urgency
  • Giving bonuses
  • Conversion Incentives (ex., free commitment consultation or first visit discount)
  • Online Booking System
  • CRM system

04. Service

During the service stage, patients receive treatments and interact with healthcare providers.

This stage encompasses the entire patient experience, from scheduling appointments to receiving care to follow-up visits.

Your ultimate goal: Provide a seamless and delightful experience, from greeting patients with a smile through providing professional service to saying goodbye.

Best tools and tactics:

  • Friendliness, professionalism, and a genuine, personalized approach
  • Patient experience development
  • Customer relationship management

05. Retention + Advocacy

Satisfied patients often become loyal and advocate for the provider, sharing their positive experiences with others and encouraging them to seek care at the same place.

Your ultimate goals:

  1. Keep your business on top of patients’ minds by reminding them about you
  2. Provide incentives to come back – to become loyal patients, you want them to visit you 3-7 times.
  3. Provide incentives for organic word-of-mouth.

Best tools and tactics:

  • Patient/Customer Relationship Management(CRM)
  • Asking for referrals and offering referral incentives
  • Regular personal calls
  • Email Automation (ex., surveys & reviews, visit reminders)
  • Email + SMS Marketing (ex., newsletter, guides, tips & tricks, holiday wishes)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Referral, bonuses, and reward programs

How to do HIPPA and PIPEDA-compliant marketing.

  1. Obtain patient consent: Obtain explicit consent before using any patient information for marketing purposes. (even if they left a review on your google page or other)
  2. Use encrypted communication channels: Use secure and encrypted channels to communicate with patients to protect their information.
  3. Limit disclosures: Only disclose the minimum necessary information to accomplish your marketing goals. Always ask yourself – can it be in any way? If you’re not sure, best to avoid the effort.
  4. Keep records: Keep detailed records of all marketing activities and ensure they comply with the regulations.
  5. Train staff and vendors: Train all staff members involved in marketing on HIPAA and PIPEDA regulations and the importance of protecting patient privacy.
  6. Regularly update policies: Regularly update policies and procedures to ensure compliance with regulation changes.
  7. Conduct risk assessments: Conduct regular risk assessments to identify and address potential security breaches or violations.
  8. Avoid personalization: Avoid using personal patient information such as their name or medical condition in marketing communications, which could violate their privacy. Instead, use generic terms or anonymous identifiers to protect their identity.
  9. Work with compliant vendors: Ensure that all vendors you work with, such as email marketing or CRM software providers, are HIPAA or PIPEDA compliant.
  10. Include privacy policies: Include clear privacy policies on your website and in all marketing materials to inform patients about how their information is used and protected.
  11. Seek legal advice: Seek legal advice from experts to ensure your marketing practices comply with HIPAA and PIPEDA regulations.

Key Strategies for Successful Healthcare Marketing

Understanding your target audience and developing offers

One of the key strategies for successful healthcare marketing is understanding your target audience.

Your target audience is the group of people who are most likely to use your healthcare services.

Understanding your target audience can help you tailor your marketing efforts to their needs and desires.

You can use demographic information such as age, gender, and location to identify your target audience and psychographic information such as values, interests, and lifestyle.

Developing connections for referrals

Developing connections for patient referrals are crucial to building a successful healthcare business.

Here are some steps to consider when developing connections for patient referrals:

Build relationships with other healthcare providers.

Building relationships with other healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians, specialists, and therapists, can help you generate patient referrals.

Attend local healthcare events, outreach to providers in your area, and attend or offer educational seminars or presentations to build relationships.

Refer patients to other providers

Refer your patients to other healthcare providers for specialized care or services.

This shows that you have your patients’ best interests in mind and can help to build relationships with other providers.

Other providers may be more likely to refer patients back to you if you are willing to refer your patients to them.

Offer exceptional patient care

Providing exceptional patient care and service is vital to building a solid reputation and generating referrals from existing patients.

Focus on delivering high-quality care and providing a positive patient experience to encourage patients to refer their friends and family.

Encourage patient referrals

Encourage your current patients to refer their friends and family to your practice. Provide incentives such as service discounts or other rewards for patients who refer others.

Follow up with referring providers

When you receive a patient referral, follow up with the referring provider to thank them (in words or monetary if legal) and provide an update on the patient’s care.

This helps to build relationships with other providers and encourages them to continue referring patients to you.

Learn more about creating powerful referral networks, by reading: 6 Proven Strategies for Creating a Powerful Referral Network in Your Medical Practice

Creating a Strong Brand Identity

Creating a strong healthcare brand is essential for successful healthcare marketing.

Your brand is the image and reputation of your healthcare business.

It’s what patients think of when they hear your name.

A strong healthcare brand should be consistent across all marketing channels and reflect your values and mission.

It should also be memorable and unique, so patients can easily recognize and remember your brand.

  • Naming
  • Brand identity (logo, brand colors, typography, and visual style)
  • Website design
  • Collateral design (business card)

Creating a solid online presence

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is critical for successful healthcare marketing. This includes having a professional website, social media accounts, and online listings (citations).


A website is an essential tool for your healthcare business as it serves as a primary source of information for potential and existing patients.

A well-designed and informative website can provide details on services, staff, location, contact information, patient testimonials, and educational resources.

A good website establishes credibility and trust, as patients often research healthcare providers online before making an appointment.

A website can help healthcare businesses attract new patients, improve patient retention, and grow their practice over time.

Make sure your website:

  • Conveys value and trust
  • Provides valuable information
  • Has a clean user interface and design
  • Has easy-to-use navigation
  • Has a good information structure
  • Loads and performs fast

Social media & Content Marketing

By providing valuable content, you can establish your healthcare brand as a trusted source of information and build relationships with potential and current patients.

Social media also facilitates patient referrals, as satisfied patients can share their positive experiences with friends and family.

What to do:

  • Create content for each funnel stage – awareness, consideration, and conversion.
  • Share valuable content (ex., tips & tricks, how-tos, etc.)
  • Provide updates about your business.
  • Provide FAQs

Online Listings

Online listings (ex., Google My Business, specific provider directories) can help patients find your healthcare business online, see reviews and find your contact information.

Search engine optimization

SEO involves optimizing your website and content to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

This can help patients find your healthcare business online and increase your visibility.

You should use keywords related to your healthcare services to optimize your website and content for search engines.

  • Optimize your website with the best practices of SEO.
  • Build citations (reviews and platforms).
  • Create a google my Business Listing, share posts and updates on it.
  • Build external links (ex., you can ask other healthcare businesses to link to you)
  • Create SEO-optimized blog content and pages for different search intents (Informational, Navigational, Transactional, Commercial)

Getting new patients with full-funnel advertising

The full-funnel advertising approach involves targeting potential patients at each stage of the patient journey with relevant messaging and calls to action.

Here’s a breakdown of how full-funnel advertising works in healthcare:

  1. Awareness: At the top of the funnel, potential patients are made aware of your healthcare business and services. This is achieved through targeted advertising campaigns, such as social media ads and search engine advertising (PPC).
  2. Consideration: In the middle of the funnel, potential patients consider your services and compare them to other providers. At this stage, targeted advertising may include educational content, such as case studies or videos, to help potential patients make informed decisions.
  3. Conversion: At the bottom of the funnel, potential patients are ready (or almost ready) to decide and become actual patients. Here, the targeted advertising may include promotions, limited-time offers, and calls to action, such as scheduling an appointment, downloading a patient guide, or signing up for a newsletter.

Email Marketing

Email marketing provides a cost-effective and targeted way to reach subscribers and existing patients.

It allows you to provide valuable and informative content, building trust and establishing credibility. Email marketing can also improve patient retention by sending appointment reminders and follow-up emails.

By providing relevant and valuable content, you can build lasting relationships with your patients and grow your practice over time.

DON’T USE ANY PERSONALIZATION – Treat your email list as a general company newsletter.

Emails types:

  • Newsletters
  • Educational content
  • Welcome Series
  • Holiday greetings
  • Business updates


With the rise of the digital age, you must have a strong healthcare marketing strategy to connect with patients and ensure they know about the services they offer.

By understanding and focusing on each stage of the patient journey, you can successfully market your healthcare business to the right people.

If you have more questions or need help marketing your healthcare business, feel free to comment below or by messaging us.



The content provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as professional or expert advice. While we endeavor to present accurate and up-to-date information related to healthcare and wellness marketing, we cannot guarantee its completeness or relevance. Any actions taken based on the information on this website are strictly at your own discretion. For specific guidance tailored to your situation, please consult with a qualified professional in the relevant field.

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