Marketing an urgent care looks a lot different today than it did even just ten years ago. As technology keeps advancing, marketing efforts become both smarter and more complex. What hasn’t changed, however, is that most clinics don’t have a marketing expert on staff.
The good news is that many marketing channels are pretty easy to learn, and with numerous resources available on best practices, it just takes a little time and patience to know how to market your clinic effectively.
We’re going to cover some of the basics of marketing along with specific tips and ideas that will help your marketing strategy be more sophisticated. This includes initial steps to take so that your campaigns are more effective, how to curate a positive digital marketing presence, what a marketing campaign is, a variety of marketing ideas and how they relate to specific generations, and your reputation management. Here’s what’s ahead ahead:
Before we get into strategies and campaigns, there are some steps you can take to better hone your marketing plan and make sure your time and money is spent well. Before you start creating a plan, make sure you complete this list:
These first steps will save you a lot of trial and error down the road. Armed with a solid understanding of your brand and your audience, you can take the next steps into your foundational digital marketing and then start to create your first campaigns.
While some of your marketing efforts will be one-offs or specific to campaigns, your foundational marketing covers your basic online presence, and is critical to your business. Other marketing efforts will fall flat if patients have a bad experience when they find your website, or see you have too many bad reviews on Google (see the Reputation Management section at the end of the page.)
Here are a few cornerstones of your ongoing digital presence.
A strong website is the backbone of a good marketing strategy. But what makes a website weak or strong?
This one is all about the user experience. And when you’re familiar with your own website, it can be difficult to gauge. For anything you can’t properly assess, ask a few people to choose their own reason for needing your services, and report back on their experience with your site. Here are some factors that can make or break a patient’s decision to come in.
Load time for desktop and mobile — people are already impatient with slow-loading websites under normal circumstances. When they need medical attention, extra seconds feel like time they can’t afford.
Easy to navigate— again, this is an urgent situation. Whether the person needs to look up symptoms, services, hours, wait time, or anything else pertaining to their situation, they need to be able to easily find it.
Ability to reserve a spot in line — no one wants to drive to urgent care just to sit and wait for two hours. The patient is already on your website; show them the wait time and let them reserve a spot with your patient engagement technology. They can wait comfortably where they are and come in when it’s time. (You can also let them preregister to shave more time off the wait.)
SEO value — while you want to post blogs and mention search terms on your site to rank higher (closer to the top of the search results page), well-written articles also help your patients. Be the authority to help answer questions before they come in, and they’ll be more likely to trust you when they need care.
Get help with SEO in our blog on urgent care SEO for non-marketers >>
Chat functionality — if you can turn on chat functionality with your reputation management software, we advise you do so. Again, urgency is the name of the game, so let them engage with you quickly and effectively. Phone calls feel like a burden to many, especially those who don’t feel well. Once they’re on your website, don’t give them a reason to search elsewhere.
Let’s talk about how local search (specifically GMB) contributes to your marketing plan.
Anyone searching Google for an urgent care clinic will get a bundle of local listings. You need to make sure you show up here. Always have an up-to-date, complete Google My Business page. That’s your most important local listing. You should also check that you appear on other local platforms like Yelp and Apple Maps. You should be able to edit your own listings, but you may have to sign up for an account.
Note that you can get a lot of juice for the squeeze on your GMB account. This not only helps you convey hours and services, but you can promote yourself and the services you want advertised in your business description. But be selective about what to spell out here as people may not expand text to read it completely. Look at this example from Park Nicollet Urgent Care in Chanhassen, MN:
“The bumps in life never seem to follow a 9-5 schedule, so neither do we. Our urgent care center has you covered with walk-in visits and weekend hours. Urgent care is the best place to go for strep throat, stitches, sprains and strains. Check wait times online now.”
They identify specific services, convenient hours, AND that you can see wait times on their website. Prioritize the management of your GMB account. It is vital to your online presence.
Your website tells people what you do; your social media tells people who you are. The key here, though, is authenticity. Post your involvement with the community, tips, recipes, staff photos, events…but make sure it reflects your brand and culture.
Remember, sharing on social doesn’t just get the word out to your followers. It helps Google affiliate your business with the terms people are searching online. Of course, some platforms also contribute to your overall online rating, so pay attention to those reviews, too.
A marketing campaign is usually a single message, idea, promotion, or action you want to communicate to an audience, and all of the channels used to deliver it. They’re often thematic or otherwise creative, but most importantly, they serve your specific audience with a goal in mind.
For example, if visit volume is low, but emergency departments are overcrowded, you might create a campaign to educate patients that urgent care is an alternative. Your messaging may revolve around getting in and out faster than at the ED, costing less, and any other benefit you have over a hospital. Messaging may change a bit with each channel – you have less room to write in an ad than you do an email. In any case, all of the channels you choose to communicate your message (e.g., social media, email, paid ads, text messages, news segments, community involvement, etc.) are sub-campaigns that are part of your bigger campaign.
A campaign doesn’t always have to be so complex, though. For example, Claudio Varga, Director of Operations at Vital Urgent Care in Newport Beach, California, shared in a webinar one of his campaigns that received a lot of attention.
“I’m a big believer that if you’re going to do a promotion, go big or go home. Don’t do something like our TB tests are 40 dollars, and we’re going to do them for 30. No. We’re going to do them for five bucks.” He went on to say, “Right in the headline, you can say ‘TB Test Five Dollars’…and people would call in and say, ‘is that true, are you really doing them for five dollars?’ Yeah! Come on in; here’s our address!”
In this case, the campaign was around their TB test promotion, with a goal to get new patients in the door. He used paid ads to communicate his message (e.g., Facebook, Pay Per Click) which allowed him to target specific demographics. Since the promotion was a heavy discount, and they wanted to get the word out to new patients, sticking to paid digital ads was a smarter than expanding through something like an email campaign – which would not cost much, but also not reach anyone new. Email lists mostly come from past patients.
Data is extremely helpful when putting together your campaign strategy. Digitalis put together healthcare marketing statistics that could help you get more for your money by spending in the right places. All The Healthcare Marketing Statistics To Pay Close Attention To In 2023
Your urgent care marketing strategy will vary depending on your opportunities (local events, time of year, services etc.,) resources (tech, personnel,) budget, and audience.
In order to use your resources and opportunities wisely, we reiterate the importance of knowing who is in your community and what they want from you. Our aforementioned eBook looks at the separate generations’ healthcare and marketing preferences. These image excerpts from the book summarize advice on how to use modern marketing ideas specifically for each generation.
Additionally, our Urgent Care Marketing 101 guide is stacked with marketing ideas, and it dives a little deeper into topics like email campaigns, quality online content, and more. No form to fill – simply click and scroll to what’s interesting.
Our blog on urgent care marketing ideas also goes into modern strategies for paid ads like geofencing as well as other measures you may not have considered, like membership or referral programs.
We discussed how your web presence is an ongoing part of marketing, and this also includes your reputation management. Almost every new patient who finds you online is going to read your reviews.
People who have a bad experience are more likely to write an unprompted review, so you need to be proactive with your reputation management. That means you and your staff are not only treating every patient as someone who would write a review, but also making it easy for happy patients to contribute to your rating.
It’s so impossible to avoid negative reviews that a business without any comes across as suspect. How you respond to these reviews says more about you than how many bad reviews you have (unless you’re really missing the mark on something,) so here are some extra tips on responding to those.
These are some best practices on improving and maintaining your reputation that successful urgent cares have shared with us.
What makes many patients the most dissatisfied is wait time. Which isn’t just about how long they had to wait, but how long it felt like they had to wait.
PE solutions offer features like online scheduling, pre-registration, and smart queues — that help level-set wait time expectations, and also cut down wait times by letting patients arrive at the clinic when you can see them, and giving staff visibility to optimize throughput. This blog explains how PE helps reduce patients who leave without being seen.
Patient engagement tools also help you connect with patients after the visit. Post-visit surveys open the door to feedback, and they can also prompt patients to write an online review. The more positive reviews you can earn, the more insulation you have against the inevitable negative ones.
On the flip side, PE solutions like Experity’s offer reputation management software, which lets you manage your Google reviews right from your patient engagement system. Here is what some features in a reputation management system look like:
By using the right data, you can aptly measure your performance so you can make meaningful improvements to your clinic and processes. And individuals can see not only where they can improve, but also see where their efforts are being recognized. It’s just as important for staff to see positive feedback as it is negative.
People value what they work hard for, and they work harder when they’re rewarded. In the Experity webinar Improve Your Front Desk Efficiency With the Right People and Tools, Kami Scruggs — COO of iCare Urgent Care Centers — explained that rewarding staff works well for their clinics.
Many patients find their clinics by Googling “urgent care near me,” so Google ratings and reviews play a major role in attracting new patients. iCare uses patient engagement software to send 100% of patients a link to Google to provide feedback. Patients even receive a reminder if they don’t act upon the first request. To help ensure they receive more good reviews than bad, staff is incentivized with a quarterly bonus if the rating is 4.7 or higher. Staff knows every patient will be invited to leave a review, so every single patient encounter matters.
If your staff is unhappy, unengaged, or working through broken processes, it’s likely to be reflected in your overall brand. By building a strong and consistent team culture, employees are more invested in the success of the clinic. Some things that exist in a positive work culture include:
Inefficiencies create bottlenecks and other unnecessary steps that can tarnish the patient experience. Most often it hurts wait times as well as door-to-door times. When your clinic is a well-oiled machine, patients get seen faster, get more attention from providers, and can get out the door in a timely manner. This matters a lot when it comes to their impression of your clinic. Here are some of the most basic ways you can improve efficiency.
Marketing doesn’t stop at billboards and paid ads. It’s ongoing through your digital presence, the patient experience you provide, and how well you follow up and follow through with post-visit communication. All of this matters to the success of your business — you can’t ignore one piece and expect the rest of it to work. Meaning, you could have a genius marketing campaign, but if your website is antiquated, or your online reviews are mostly bad, all that campaign work won’t matter. But with the right tools, knowledge, and attention, you can market like a pro.
Many of the marketing tips we described have to do with features of software you may use in your practice. It’s much easier to manage your marketing when the tools you already use wholistically support your business. If you’re a startup looking at software solutions, check out our page Urgent Care Software: Know What’s Right for Your Business. It provides a high-level overview of software to consider along with resources to research more — so you can see the clinical benefits as well as marketing support you get from certain tools.