Without an effective marketing strategy, you can have the best staff and medical equipment in the area — and no patients to serve because they don’t know about you. But if you haven’t been trained in marketing, how do you go about attracting business?
Whether you’re new to marketing or have some experience under your belt, we hope to introduce some new ideas to your clinic. We’ve pulled advice from various experts, including guest speakers who have presented in webinars, at our Urgent Care Connect conference, and more to tell you what marketing strategies other urgent care operators swear by.
Do you have a solid brand and culture established at your clinic? If not, read this blog on team culture.
Online is where most urgent cares have the most visibility and best potential to attract patients. This isn’t just your website, but also your Google presence, reviews, ads, and social media.
By now, you’re probably familiar with the basics, so let’s dive a bit more deeply into what you can and should do.
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 to need your services, and report back on their experience. Here are some factors that can make or break a patient’s decision to come in.
Get help with SEO in our blog on urgent care SEO for non-marketers >>
Paid ads have become more sophisticated over time — are you leveraging all the features that can help you boost business?
If you haven’t been doing paid ads, know that you can select a specific geographic location to target. This is great for brick-and-mortar businesses like urgent care. Select the geographical areas you serve, and away you go.
But you can get even more strategic with this. Claudio Varga, Director of Operations at Vital Urgent Care in Newport Beach, California, shared in a webinar that big promotional offers get 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!”
So using basic features of Google Ads helps you target the right people, and you can promote special offers to help get people in the door.
To go a bit further, geofencing is an even more specific way to target your audience.
Brent Kell, CEO of Valley Immediate Care in Oregon, presented a popular session at Experity’s 2023 Urgent Care Connect conference called “How Online Tools Drive Visit Volume.” In it, he explained that geofencing is setting up a parameter in which once a mobile device (with location services turned on) enters that “fence,” they are an audience for ads.
For example, if your business is near a park with baseball fields, you can enter latitude and longitude coordinates (easily obtained by right-clicking on Google Maps) to target anyone who enters that park’s parameters. You might then set up paid ads specific to sprains and strains, laceration repair, hydration services, heat exhaustion, and any other typical maladies for baseball players and their families.
Kell uses GroundTruth for geofencing. He also advises that you try to manage Google ads on your own unless you have a trusted ads partner. Some businesses will exploit your inexperience — for example, your urgent care may already be organically ranking well for certain search terms. That means that you’re coming up on page one when someone in your area Googles a specific word or phrase. If you are unaware of what you rank for, an ad company could claim they are doing big things for you by taking credit for what your business is already good at.
Let’s talk about how local search (specifically GMB) and reputation management contribute 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 updated, 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.
Most of your local search listings will give users the option to review your business. These online reviews are a major part of your marketing — but don’t leave this to chance. The people most motivated to write a review without a prompt are those who are unhappy. As Kell says, “Unless you send review requests to all your patients, you’re letting the patients who are dissatisfied create your ratings.”
Reputation management software allows you to automatically send not only a post-visit survey, but also ask patients to leave a review. Some software has advanced features that allow you to exclusively ask patients who scored you highly on the survey to leave a review, while sending patients with negative feedback to a resolution destination.
Take note: reputation management does require the manual effort of responding to reviews, especially negative ones. This isn’t just for the benefit of patients. Google ranks you on your star rating, number of reviews, and how rapidly you respond to reviews.
As Kell says, 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.
Download the eBook How to Market and Diversify Your Services to Your Community
For all the expensive, glossy marketing items out there, nothing is more effective for urgent cares than being involved in the local community. Grassroots marketing efforts can be easily done, are cost-effective, and will be seen as a more genuine approach to reach potential patients in your neighborhood.
Ideas for community involvement can be sponsorship of events, such as sports, health activities, or other local functions. You can also participate in — and donate to — local fundraisers and charities. School and college event sponsorship can also be effective if you serve a younger demographic. Build strong relationships with local businesses if you do workers’ compensation or occupational medicine.
Host open houses, conduct a local flu shot clinic or sports physical camp, or invite area leaders to visit and tour your facility. Join your local chamber of commerce — and, contrary to popular belief, it’s wise to develop relationships with other local providers and medical organizations, so you can easily share referrals as needed.
Want to save money on ads, but get your name out on radio or TV? Developing relationships with local media can be a great way to achieve this. Knowing your local news (TV and radio) and being in contact with area reporters can give you a channel to spread your urgent care’s name. Have a new provider join the staff? Add a new service that you want to share? Get the news out and ask for an interview from the media.
Keep a list of media contacts, and assign a staff member to send them ideas. Appoint a main point of contact at your clinic for media, so you can control your message.
Another inventive way to get airtime is to do a medical segment for local media. Your providers or nursing staff can provide relevant or seasonal health tips in a short segment for TV or radio to get your name out.
Don’t forget to send stories to local newspapers. If you write your own press releases for events — and explain the importance to the area — media will be more likely to share them. Sponsorships and donations can garner press attention and build a favorable impression.
Urgent care is typically seen as a once-off visit, so how do you increase patient visits to sustain your clinic? It’s true that episodic, immediate care situations are unpredictable. But what is predictable is how you treat patients. If they have a good experience, they will share this information with their network of connections. And if they require your services again, they will return — whether for another incident or for a follow-up visit.
To help encourage your satisfied patients, offer a referral program with special discounts or promotions. Partner with local businesses to offer usable, desirable promotions. For example, for a certain number of people referred, you could offer a thank you card together with a gift certificate to a local restaurant or health club.
Membership programs with your employees and their families are another way to build your patient base. Employers are also increasingly offering their own membership programs in which employees can pay a flat monthly fee to be seen at certain clinics. This type of program can be similar to occupational medicine and workers’ compensation offering, in which employers send employees to you on a contract basis.
Transit, or outdoor advertising, is the highest ranked marketing tactic for perceived effectiveness by urgent cares.Your urgent care logo design plays largely into this point. Whether you’re in a building with other businesses or you have your own practice, it’s crucial that your clinic is in a high traffic area. Being in a convenient location — and having clear signage — will make your clinic easy to spot for when your services are needed.
A common mistake urgent cares make is not including the words “urgent care” on their signage because it’s not part of their official brand name. Another misstep is making signage so small it can’t be read from the road or by passing traffic. Having easy-to-read text and colors that stand out from the background is vital. Other suggestions include signs that are lit at night, and display hours of operation — along with phone and website — in a prominent place.
The only thing less effective than no marketing is marketing with no strategy. The best way to market is to first determine who your target market is and then choose ways to reach those patients accordingly.
Make marketing work for you by planning for it in your annual budget, by having a strategic plan to follow, and by assigning staff or a marketing agency to help. Applying the marketing ideas listed above will help jump-start your efforts or refine your current tactics. With all the efforts your urgent care is doing, how will you know what’s truly effective? The best way to track marketing is to consistently ask your patients how they heard about you.
Get even more great tips on urgent care marketing from our free eBook, Urgent Care Marketing 101. No download required.