Why Your Marketing Strategy Needs To Start With Mobile First

Why Your Marketing Strategy Needs To Start With Mobile First

Despite the booming popularity of mobile devices among consumers for accessing the Internet, many hospitals are still not prioritizing their mobile marketing over other marketing efforts. Mobile marketing is a major component of healthcare delivery, and it is only going to grow faster and become more important to the financial success of hospitals.

At least 129.4 million people in the United States own smartphones, according to data released by comScore this month. Researchers estimate that 50 percent of all Web traffic will come from mobile devices over the next two years, and that mobile devices will account for the majority of web traffic by 2020.

Of course, no one is suggesting that marketing campaigns need to be all about mobile, as there are many vital channels to get in front of potential patients--but it’s important to reinforce the value of smartphones and to realize that mobile marketing will be key now and even more so in the future.

It’s a good idea for hospitals to get ahead of the mobile curve. You should assume your competitors will be increasingly investing in mobile marketing efforts, and you won’t want to get left out in reaching potential patients while they’re on the go.

Local Search, When You Need Answers Fast

Patients use their smartphones when they are in urgent need of answers while out and about. For example, imagine a mother whose child has been injured at a sporting event 50 miles away from home. Depending on how urgent the situation is, she may not be wanting to drive all the way back to the family doctor or her usual medical facility, but will instead want to find the closest clinic for immediate treatment.

The smartphone uses GPS and Wi-Fi data to determine its location and to provide the most relevant answers to her request for a nearby hospital. You will want to make sure that your marketing efforts lead to your hospital appearing high in the search results she sees while making her decision about where to go for treatment.

Younger patients, especially, are more accustomed to using smartphones than the older crowd. Consider that 60 percent of the top healthcare searches on Yahoo Mobile were for herpes, HIV and unplanned pregnancy in January 2012, while the top desktop searches were for symptoms of gastroenteritis, gout, heart attacks and shingles.

Geolocation is also useful for serving ads to people who are near your facility. For example, you can place banner ads announcing a new disease-screening program that will appear on specific websites when people view them on their mobile device while in a range of nearby ZIP codes. Then, patients can click a link that will show them step-by-step navigation to your facility with Google Maps.

Second and Third Screen Phenomenon

The first screen in marketing refers to the television screen, while the second screen is the computer monitor. The third screen is on portable devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.

It’s well known that people are increasingly using their computers while watching TV in their living rooms, such as to look up information about a character or a breaking news event. Likewise, many TV viewers also take out their smartphone while watching TV to check out the details of a company’s goods or services after seeing an ad. They also may enjoy tweeting about the show they are watching and reading the tweets of fellow watchers via computer or smartphone, which only increases use of the second and third screens.

Many hospitals use TV commercials, which they could coordinate with a mobile effort to take advantage of the second and third screen phenomenon. For example, your healthcare facility could place a URL, short code or QR Code to a mobile specific landing page.

A QR code is a square barcode that viewers can take a picture of with their smartphone to automatically go to the hospital’s website. An ad that reminds people to get their vaccinations could lead to the medical facility’s page that gives more information on topics such as flu shots and childhood immunization.

QR codes are also useful in print. A person walking by a building that has a poster for your facility can use a smartphone to snap a picture of your QR code to see about a new promotion, and then immediately see your site with the relevant marketing information.

Many of you may be shaking your head and grumbling that QR codes are so last year and no longer relevant but I have continued to see excellent uses of the code in many marketing channels. Shortened URLs are good too but the QR code still lives.

The social component of the third screen is another important factor for you to consider in your marketing efforts. When a person views your facility’s website after a prompt from a TV commercial, he may decide that this information is worth sharing with friends and family and post a link to it via social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Responsive Design

Have you checked to make sure that your facility’s website is optimized for mobile users? A patient who visits your site after watching a TV ad may want to make an appointment on the spot to come in for a consultation.

However, websites that were designed several years ago for viewing on desktop or laptop computers may not be optimized for when people view them on the small screen of their smartphone or tablet. Apple’s iPhone and iPad cannot display Flash media, for example.

If your site requires mobile users to tap and zoom in on text elements and images to see them properly or to type in an inquiry, it’s a major hassle. Such obstacles could lead to people either postponing a visit to your website until they can get to a computer, or more likely, heading over to the website of another medical facility that is more responsive to their device.

Responsive design is a technique that lets website owners set up elements on the page that automatically adjust their orientation and size depending on the type of device that a person uses to access the website. The page will be just as viewable on a large desktop monitor as it is on the three-inch display of a smartphone.

What’s more, responsive design makes for better search engine optimization (SEO). Google has indicated that for mobile searches, it will give better rankings to websites that are mobile-friendly.

One crucial factor is faster page loading time--potential patients who are using their smartphones are typically in a hurry, and if your hospital’s site takes too long to load, they might just jump to the next search result, such as a nearby competitor. Sites that load quickly on smartphones will therefore appear higher in the search results that mobile phone users see when they’re out and about.

Custom Apps

Depending on the size of your facility and the amount of services you are trying to market, it might make sense for you to develop a custom app for people to use on their mobile devices.

Apps can provide vital information for patients, such as information on symptoms, details about your facility’s specialists, a schedule for your wellness programs and contact information for each department. All components of the app can have a call to action, encouraging patients to tap an icon to make an appointment or to call the facility from their device. If you give people access to your emergency room waiting times, for example, they may find it worthwhile to go to your facility after making an inquiry while on the go.

The more value you add to the app, the more likely your patients will be to use it on a regular basis. Including modules to keep track of the family’s medications, links to the latest relevant healthcare news and even the ability to store a family’s medical history will help keep patients engaged and using the app on a regular basis.

If your organization has been dragging its feet on getting more involved with mobile marketing, there’s no time like the present to adjust your priorities and start taking advantage of these small, portable devices that more and more people are carrying with them to access the Internet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew has over thirteen years of experience in interactive marketing and operations as well as several years of business development, client services and project management experience. Prior to joining HandHeldPage in the spring of 2012, he held a variety of leadership positions in the healthcare, education, energy and financial services industries, including Vice President of Client Services and Managing Partner at MedTouch. Matthew has also worked inside large health systems and Fortune 500 companies which included oversight of marketing web services operations and web site strategy development for Texas Children’s Hospital and Baker Hughes. Matthew graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelors Degree in International Affairs and Marketing and from Houston Baptist University with a Masters in Business Administration. He is a frequent speaker at healthcare conferences around the country, with a special emphasis on mobile, destination marketing, social media and search marketing.

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