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Hospitals, inbound marketing and ROI: How it all fits together

For many patients, hospitals can be a place of great comfort or a place of stress and worry.  As a physician or healthcare marketer, you may not see the agony of a young father taking his child to the emergency room only to be told “your co-pay today is $500.”

Or the beaming new mother whose joy is promptly interrupted by the patient access representative asking her to “please come by the business office on your way out so we can go over your bill”.

Such scenarios may cause a hospital to appear more materialistic than caring, thereby causing undue stress upon patients.

The fact is that healthcare is not an “easy” money-making venture. And now with the controversial healthcare reform promising to provide “affordable, quality healthcare for all”, profit will potentially become even more elusive.

So how can a hospital improve its ROI and still maintain the balance with positive patient experiences?

Inbound marketing can help to achieve positive patient experiences with lower marketing costs

Inbound marketing can help to achieve positive patient experiences with lower marketing costs

Inbound marketing to the rescue

The focus for medical care providers is two-fold:

  • To provide patients with quality healthcare
  • To improve ROI for the business of healthcare

Inbound marketing is one of the most efficient and least costly ways to achieve both goals. In case you’re wondering what that is, inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that is based on attracting prospective customers by offering valuable content.

It enables patients to find your healthcare facility’s digital content at the click of a button. Your medical center can be a trailblazer in inbound marketing by offering platforms or tools that:

  • Enable patients to find a relevant physician
  • Help patients to make non-urgent appointments
  • Enable patients to automatically refill a prescription
  • Provide educational content
  • Information nuggets such as “Get-to-know-your-specialist”
  • Allow patients to ask questions and get answers online
  • Provide informational articles about various events at your facility

Why Inbound?

By providing these access opportunities, patients are able to interact with your medical center and with physicians more easily instead of waiting until their next appointment.

Such platforms also enable patients to take a more active part in their healthcare planning without having to worry about office hours, recorded voices, and so on. These are after all some of the “perks” of living in a technology-driven culture.

By providing patients with access to your facility and/or your physicians, you are building strong relationships with them that will translate into a positive experience for them and enhanced brand loyalty for your organization.

Inbound marketing is also a great way to reduce your overall advertising and marketing costs, which in turn improves your revenue-earning potential and maximizes your return. By utilizing social media networking sites such as FaceBook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn, physicians and hospitals become more visible, and enhance patient relations.

Online customer service surveys, questionnaires, and opt-in emails are another fairly inexpensive way to reduce marketing budgets.

Once a marketing campaign has been put in place, then the assessment of its effect on ROI is paramount.  Recent studies show that inbound-marketing dominated organizations spent 62% less per lead than outbound-marketing dominated organizations.

According to HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing, the average cost per lead for outbound-dominated businesses was $346 while inbound businesses reported their leads cost $135 on average.

Is Inbound marketing right for your hospital?

It has to be.

Keep in mind that when inbound marketing is supported by a strong social media and content marketing strategy, then your organization’s interactive website is able to contribute to increased brand visibility on a lower marketing budget.

In contrast, outbound marketing is the more traditional method of getting the message across to your target audience. It consists of call centers, mailers with postage, and in-stay surveys.  While outbound marketing eats up more than 50% of hospitals marketing budgets, outbound leads on average cost $346, while inbound leads cost $135.

With these kinds of numbers, your hospital should consider using inbound marketing to improve ROI and your patients’ collective healthcare experience.

How to get started with Inbound marketing

  • Study other healthcare systems and providers that are successfully using inbound marketing e.g. Seattle Children’s Hospital. Without re-inventing the wheel, start off by borrowing some of what is working for them and adjusting it to your environment.
  • Figure out what you want your message to say and then plan how to connect with your target audience using relevant social media networks.
  • Most importantly, make sure you engage with your target audience. Find helpful articles, blogs, forums and tips. Provide a link to this information on your Facebook page or Twitter profile. Better yet write your own helpful articles and post them. Ask other medical experts to join in your conversations as well.
  • Post helpful articles on a regular basis as well.
  • Finally make a schedule and stick to it!

Over to you: Are you using inbound marketing at your medical facility? How has it impacted ROI or overall patient experiences? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.


  1. Good post, Deanna.

    For your audience’s benefit, I’d like to share this post from Dr. Howard Luks’s blog. It also deals with Inbound vs. Outbound marketing for the Healthcare industry. Very good stuff.

    Keep up the good work over here. : )

    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community Engagement

    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent Jason!

      Thanks so much for sharing Dr. Luks’ article. I just read it this morning and thought it was spot on! I really like that he is on a mission to educate physicians, and provide them with a good understanding of ‘modern day marketing’ – I say that tongue in cheek, not implying by any means that our doctors are old-fashioned 😉

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