COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders have changed the way marketers do business, forcing us to be innovative in the ways that we serve consumers. Together, we’ve shown how nimble the healthcare industry can be by quickly putting new methods into practice, such as telehealth, to make sure patients can get the care they need.
But we’ve done more than put a band-aid on a temporary situation; we’ve accelerated the provision of a necessary service for patients who are geographically isolated, time-constrained, or have mobility concerns. This is a need that will persist long after we flatten the curve.
Still, as we market new and existing services while navigating the uncertainty of this global pandemic, healthcare marketers need to remain strategic in two key areas:
- How we get in front of consumers
- What we say once we’re there.
Because the truth is, most healthcare consumers aren’t actually going to see healthcare providers yet, and they’re not ready to commit to spending money on a procedure. As a result, we’re seeing that online searches for elective procedures are down. From a marketing perspective, timing and tone are now critical, especially when it comes to ad spend.
Digital Demand Remains High
Whether or not your town or state is opening up for business, the process will be slow and tentative. We still expect to see people spending a lot of time on their computers and smartphones. In fact, according to InMobi:
“Seventy-three percent of consumers said they are spending more time using their mobile phone. Among this group, 29% reported using social apps more often now.”
And Nielsen has reported that the stay-at-home orders can in some cases lead to a nearly 60% increase in the amount of content we watch. Thus, investing strategically in digital advertising can make a huge difference in your return on spend during and after COVID-19.
Start with an Audit of Your Site
It’s important not to blindly cut or increase ad investments. Instead, we recommend that you simultaneously track two things: how your target consumers are currently interacting with online media and the evolution of your local stay-at-home directives. Keeping tabs on these two focus areas will help you remain flexible and make smart budget allocations to get the most bang for your buck with paid media campaigns.
Your first order of business is to implement communications specific to COVID-19, including website copy, ad campaigns, and updates to your Google My Business listing. Your website should have a COVID-19 landing page with linked banners on most pages. Make any operational changes clear as day to your consumers.
From there, you can utilize informational pop-ups that greet your users upon arrival to your site with relevant information, link them to the COVID landing page, and remind them of any updates before they navigate away from your site altogether. Who knew pop-ups would be your new best friend to help guide your patients to the services they need?
Personally, we love OptinMonster for lead generation software because you can add its pop-ups to any website you have. Remember, it’s your job to be as helpful as possible to your patients, many of whom are confused and unsure right now.
Audit Your Current Ad Campaigns, Too
Now is also the time to examine every single one of your current ad campaigns through the lens of COVID-19. As you do so, keep the following questions in mind:
- Do your campaigns display accurate information and reflect current operations, such as whether or not you are physically open, your correct hours, special phone numbers, telehealth offerings?
- Is the ad copy and tone appropriate? Are you inviting people to “stop on by” when they can’t? Be sensitive to your customers’ situation.
- Are there inconsistencies between your messaging on Google My Business, ad campaigns, and operations? Now is the time to give your patients clear, consistent information.
According to Search Engine Journal, 70% of YouTube viewers want ad content sensitive to their current mood. People are dealing with more stress than usual right now. The future is unclear. Make sure your ads are sensitive to this new environment.
How to Reduce Your Paid Media Spending
Once you’ve streamlined the information that you’re putting out there and adjusted the messaging to be empathetic, you can begin refining your paid media campaign strategy.
Avoid the Impulse to Indiscriminately Cut or Pause Campaigns!
Pausing campaigns isn’t as benign as it seems; it has its own consequences because it takes time for both Google and Facebook to learn your ad audience’s behaviors and improve targeting accordingly. Plus, campaign data is lost or reset when you pause a campaign; and when you turn the ads back on again, your ad performance might be quite poor.
Rather than pausing a given campaign, consider reducing the budget.
Pause or Dial Back Top-of-funnel Campaigns
You’ll want to focus your budget reductions on campaigns that have a high search volume, but low conversion rate. Also consider pausing any paid campaigns that are centered around SEO keywords that describe general symptoms, conditions, or high-level questions not relevant to specific conditions, such as:
- How do I get antibiotics?
- Seasonal allergy symptoms
- Annual exam
- Headache causes
- Why does my knee hurt?
Reduce or Optimize Poor Performing Campaigns
Take a good look at your ad metrics and zero in on which of your campaigns aren’t delivering conversions. These are candidates for reduction or even total pause if you need to do so. Although, the better alternative is to identify ways to improve the ad campaigns and implement a conversion rate optimization (CRO) plan (assuming you have the budget).
Only spend money when you’ll actually reach your audience. Known as “dayparting,” this is a particularly useful tactic if your data shows that you have consistent spikes during certain hours of the day, or days of the week. Of course, this strategy is less effective if your business has a steady search and conversion rate no matter the time or day.
Go to your historical Google Ads data to see when your target audience is most active—clicking ads and converting into patients—and least active. Develop a custom ad schedule and bid up on the times during which your patients are paying attention and ready to convert. If you don’t have historical data, you can use Google Trends to determine when people are actively searching for services like yours.
Focus Your Paid Media Budget on High-Performing Campaigns and Strategies
As you’re looking at your metrics, continue investing in the campaigns that have historically performed well and reliably convert ad viewers into patients. As you do so, keep the following in mind:
Branded Keywords Convert People Who Are Already Looking For You
Your branded keywords might include your company’s name (including variations of and any misspellings) used in combination with products, services, or specials you offer.
Bidding on (and owning) your branded keywords and URL is probably easy on your budget and will capture people who are close to the point of conversion (as they are already searching for you by name). Savvy competitors may actually bid on your branded keywords, so don’t let them scoop in on your future patients!
Non-branded Keywords Can Help You Target the Middle of Your Funnel
Non-branded keywords are those keywords that relate to your industry and the services your business offers but aren’t specific to your company. “Healthcare marketing podcast” is a good example of a keyword for our Ignite Digital Marketing Podcast. Another example is “Atlanta SEO services,” which relates to our business location and core service. In the case of healthcare providers, there are two categories of non-branded keywords that you might consider focusing your bids on: treatment-focused and provider-focused.
Treatment-focused keywords are those that your patients would search to address their own symptoms, pains, or illnesses. For example:
- Knee replacement surgery
- Physical therapy for shoulder pain
- Mouthguard to relieve jaw pain
- Cataract surgery
Provider-focused keywords are those that a patient uses when they are seeking a specific type of provider. For example:
- Orthopedic surgeon near me
- Physical therapist for athletes
- LASIK eye surgeon in Atlanta
Ad Copy Should be Focused on Conversions
All of your campaigns should be working to inspire viewers to click and convert. Target the right people and assure them that by clicking through to your website, they’ll find solutions to their concerns. Once they get to your website, you need to make sure you deliver on the promises your ad states. Make it easy to as possible to schedule an appointment—whether it be an in-person or virtual appointment.
Promoting Your Telehealth Services, Now and For the Future
Once your website and online scheduling tools are prepared to handle telehealth clients, your ads need to spread the word. Don’t make them dig for the information—shout it from the virtual rooftop! When prospective patients hit the search engine and are looking for help, you want them to immediately find information on your telehealth services. Make the scheduling process seamless, so they can book an appointment online—right now. The easier the process, the more comfortable they will feel trusting their health in your hands.
Put Your Telehealth Offering in Layperson’s Terms
Telehealth is a new concept for most people. Your patients may not realize that it’s a viable option to receive healthcare and that you already offer it. Sure, once they’re on your website, you’ll be able to easily answer their questions about telehealth. But your ads need to get them there first.
Make sure that each ad clearly states that you offer telehealth services and then directs people to learn more. Repeating critical information like the word “online,” “virtual,” or terms such as “from home” will also make sure your viewers understand what you’re promoting.
Expand Your Geographic Reach
Take advantage of the fact that telehealth also opens up your geographic scope for potential patients. Consider including more areas than you would typically include, or at least widening your target audience by a circumference of at least a few miles.
Target areas where people will recognize your brand and be more likely to convert rather than starting from scratch in new areas. Remember, we’re focusing our budgets closer towards the bottom of the funnel here (people close to becoming patients), so you want them to at least be aware of your brand.
Embrace a Potential Long-term Shift to Telehealth
Telehealth isn’t going away. In fact, the pandemic has only hastened an inevitable shift that has been in the making for quite some time. While it may take some education and time to get patients used to this new model, the pandemic is changing the healthcare field and making it easier for you to reach your patients where they are and when they need you.
Many patients value the opportunity to book an appointment and see a provider without the need to miss work, travel, or wait for an appointment. Some patients even require it. So, it’s smart to invest your marketing dollars in telehealth to build up this side of your business in preparation for this new paradigm that will follow COVID-19.
Potential Media Channels for You to Target
While spending is far more conservative—almost across the board—there are options. Many healthcare marketers are investing in Facebook ads while it’s still cheap. There has been a 53% decrease in Facebook CPM since the start of March, reaching an average of $2.61 (the lowest we’ve seen in more than twenty-four months). According to the same study, Instagram CPM rates are down by more than 40%! This is great news if you are looking to get more views for less spend:
Impressions have doubled according to Tinuity.
And don’t forget YouTube, which has also experienced a major increase in viewers since stay-at-home orders went into effect. Search Engine Journal reported that in a recent survey that only 33% of respondents are seeking COVID-19 content on YouTube and that many more people are seeking uplifting, entertaining, and educational content to—presumably—distract and entertain themselves.
That 33% is potentially an opportunity for healthcare providers as many non-medical, non-healthcare companies don’t want their content associated with COVID-19 coverage, and the ad space they’re vacating has become inexpensive. If you can include an uplifting message about how helpful your organization is during this hard time by providing telehealth options to those needing healthcare, you could hit the right target audience without turning them off with generic COVID-related messaging.
Invest Now, Experience the Pay-Off After the Dust Finally Settles
With unpredictability being central to the current global climate, everyone’s a little gun-shy about spending money right now. That’s why it’s important to stay smart in your healthcare advertising investments, considerate in your messaging, and strategic in how you want to drive business both now and in the future. It’s also imperative that you remain on top of a rapidly changing landscape and adapt quickly as rules and audience behavior change.
As you direct your healthcare marketing spend, think about meeting current telehealth needs as well as building brand awareness for when patients are ready to seek in-person care again. That time will come, and remaining top-of-mind will give you a leg up on your competitors who are less strategic in their advertising campaigns.
If you need help managing your PPC campaigns, feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help you make the most of your advertising budget.