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Harvard Digital Marketing Strategy for Medical Center

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digital marketing, SEO, backlinks, build links, blogging, online marketing, advertising for medical hospital, health care, medicine, pharmaceutical

So how can a medical center benefit from digital marketing? Here’s what I have learned from Harvard Business School’s Strategic Marketing Management.

A medical center, large hospital, small clinic, and health care facility are always looking for ways to improve their digital marketing. In this article, we will discuss marketing strategies used by Harvard Business School (HBS), correlate HBS strategy to healthcare centers, and how to use the HBS strategies in your digital marketing plan.

Don’t be intimidated by the marketing and medical jargon. What I am trying to point out is that there are three sections here:

  • Understanding the Harvard Business Schools’ 4 Marketing Strategies
  • Medical Center, Hospital, and Other Health Care Facilities
  • Digital Marketing

I will walk you through these three areas so you can better plan your digital marketing efforts.

This article will discuss the patient acquisition, turning patients into raving fans, 5Cs analysis of marketing strategy, turning aspiration to action plan, four P’s of marketing, and how a hospital can apply these Harvard strategies. We will also outline tactical marketing plans using digital marketing specifically for a medical hospital and give marketing managers some tips on how to get started.

Also, we will determine why patients are searching online before they visit the hospital.

Sounds good?

Well, if you are ready, then let’s dive in!


Harvard Strategy 1: Acquisition & Retention

How does a hospital acquire new customers and retain them?

Importance of Acquisition and Patient Retention

In this section, we answer: Why new patient acquisition and patient retention are vital for a hospital?

A hospital and medical center can improve their customer acquisition and retention rates by using various marketing strategies. One strategy is to focus on building relationships with patients and their families. Hospitals can also offer special discounts and services to current customers and make it easy for them to find information about the hospital or health facility.

Patient Acquisition & Retention Plan

In this section, we answer: How to create and implement a new patient acquisition plan? And how to retain your existing patients?

The medical center’s digital marketing plan is to identify and take actions that will result in customer acquisition or customer retention. Customer acquisition is the process of acquiring new customers through marketing efforts. Customer retention is the process of keeping current customers from leaving your company.

There are five different types of actions required for customer acquisition vs. customer retention:

1. Creating a compelling offer

Creating a compelling offer: One way to improve customer acquisition rates is to make an exciting offer. For example, one hospital offers free parking for patients and their families. This strategy helps attract patients and their families to the hospital.

A much deeper example is to apply for medical tourism for your healthcare facility. A medical center can position its healthcare facilities as a premier destination. If your property is in Dubai – UAE, you can offer a package and reposition your hospital as a world-class destination for patient care. If your healthcare facility is in Boracay – Philippines, you can provide plastic surgery with one week stay at the beach.

New patient acquisitions mean that a medical center must reposition its product offerings while its services must conform to the requirements of its patients.

2. Developing an effective marketing strategy

Developing an effective marketing strategy: Another way to improve customer acquisition rates is to create an effective marketing strategy. For example, one hospital uses social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to reach out to potential customers. They also use email marketing campaigns to reach out to potential customers.

3. Making your website easy to use and navigate

A third way to improve customer acquisition rates is to make your website easy to use and navigate. This means that the site is easy to find and use. Creating engaging content:

4. Creating engaging content that attracts visitors to your site

A fourth way to improve customer acquisition rates is to create engaging content. This means that the content on your website is interesting and valuable. For example, one hospital offers patient education materials (pamphlets and videos).

5. Offering excellent customer service

A fifth way to improve customer acquisition rates is to offer excellent customer service. This means that the staff at the hospital are friendly and helpful.

Hospitals can improve their customer acquisition rates by creating a compelling offer, making your website easy to use and navigate, engaging content, and offering excellent customer service.


Harvard Strategy 2: Turn Patients Into Brand Ambassadors

This section will answer: How to make your patients become active brand ambassadors for your medical center?

Raving Fans of a Medical Center

This section will answer: Why must a medical center convert patients to brand ambassadors? What’s the importance of having an ambassador? Why does it matter?

Patients are powerful brand ambassadors for hospitals. By engaging them in digital marketing, hospitals can create a positive relationship with their patients and develop advocates for the hospital. This strategy is the most cost-effective compared to spending thousands of dollars on advertising.

This strategy is a long-term play. It means that your patients will be advocating for your hospital for years, if not decades, by telling their positive experiences and stories to their friends, relatives, and coworkers. If someone asks them, “Do you know a doctor who can do this type of surgery?” your brand ambassador will recommend your physician and hospital facility.

Medical Centers Brand Ambassadors (Step-by-Step)

In this section, we will answer: How to Implement the plan? How can a medical center turn patients into active brand ambassadors?

Hospitals can use various strategies to engage patients, such as creating relevant content, providing social media tools, and hosting events. By engaging patients in digital marketing, hospitals can ensure that they maintain a strong relationship with their patients and create advocates for the hospital.

Digital marketing is an essential tool for hospitals to maintain a strong relationship with their patients. By engaging patients in digital marketing, hospitals can create advocates for the hospital and ensure that they maintain a positive relationship with their patients.

So the two big questions are, “how can a medical center convert their patients to raving fans?” and “What will it take to convert patients into brand ambassadors for your hospital?”

There are 10 ways to implement this strategy (Step-by-Step)

1. Testimonials

Create testimonials and stories of their experience. Always ask for feedback from patients.

Digital marketing is a great way to connect with patients and provide them with information about your medical center. By creating testimonials and stories of their experience, you can show new patients that you are a reliable source of information—establishing credibility with your potential patients. Success stories are always a prime reason new patients go to hospitals and become loyal customers. Always ask for feedback from patients to improve your digital marketing strategy.

2. Videos

Create videos such as tips about health, how to maintain a healthy body, or real patient success stories

A medical center can benefit from digital marketing by creating videos that focus on health topics, how to maintain a healthy body, and actual patient success stories. By providing valuable information to patients and potential patients, a medical center can help them make informed decisions about their health care.

Additionally, a medical center can improve its online presence and attract new patients by creating engaging videos.

Inspiring Video Examples:

  • How to beat obesity according to our three medical experts (Dieticians, Endocrinologists, and Bariatric Surgeons)
  • Our cancer patient shares her success story on beating to odds
  • Prevent malaria by using these simple tips

Where can you post your videos?

  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Facebook
  • TikTok
  • Linkedin
  • Mix
  • Tumblr

A medical center can benefit from digital marketing by creating videos about health and how to maintain a healthy body. Videos can promote services, educate patients about medical procedures, and highlight real patient success stories.

3. Social Media

Use social media to distribute the videos and create groups on social media. 

Digital marketing is a powerful tool that a medical center can use to reach patients and create a relationship with them. Using social media, a medical center can distribute videos about their services and create groups on social media for patients to connect. This allows patients to learn about the services and treatments available at the medical center. It also allows them to ask questions and share experiences with other patients.

  • Linkedin – share testimonials to entrepreneurs, professionals, and CEOs
  • TikTok – share testimonials, share tips, how-to videos
  • Instagram Reels – share testimonials, share tips, how-to videos
  • Facebook – create groups, create a page, post videos, share testimonials on your page
  • Mix – post videos
  • Twitter – post updates, post videos, share tips about healthy living


4. Blogging & Backlinks

Create blog content and testimonials of patients, and post testimonials or patients’ positive experiences!

A medical center can use blogs to create health content and testaments of patients. Blogging can help hospitals communicate with patients and potential patients and attract new patients. Additionally, blogging can help hospitals to improve their online presence and reputation. A medical center can increase traffic to its websites and drive more leads through marketing campaigns by creating engaging content.

  • Hire bloggers to write about your hospitals, services, workers, and patients. These bloggers should have followers.
  • Hire writers to post blogs on your website
  • Backlinks to strengthen your Google rankings
  • SEO to optimize and strengthen your Google rankings

5. Customer Experience

A medical center must deliver an exceptional customer experience!

Why does healthcare facility need to deliver an outstanding customer experience to their patients?

Digital marketing can help a medical center deliver a fantastic customer experience. By using digital channels to reach patients and promote their services, a medical center can create a more engaging and personalized experience for their patients. This will help draw patients back to the hospital and ensure that they receive the best possible care.

How can medical centers deliver an outstanding customer experience to their patients?

Digital marketing can play a significant role in improving the customer experience for a medical center. By using digital tools to engage patients, a hospital can create a more positive and efficient patient-care experience. Digital marketing can help a health care facility keep patients informed of their health and wellness, provide timely information on services and treatments, and connect patients with the resources they need. By creating a compelling customer experience, medical centers can attract new patients and retain current ones.

  • Leveraging technologies such as the use of telemedicine
  • Automate schedules of essential dates by sending greeting cards on their birthday
  • Email marketing during seasonal festivities such as Christmas,
  • Sending messages via text or email marketing. Reminders of their next checkup or laboratory tests

6. Create Value

Create value, incentivize your patients, give gifts, pamper your patients!

Why do medical hospitals need to create value, incentives, and provide gifts?

Medical centers are uniquely positioned to create value for their patients, incentivize them, and give away gifts. It will generate loyalty and buzz for your patients.

Value: A medical center can create value for its patients by providing high-quality care at an affordable price. Patients appreciate this type of care because it is reasonable, and they know they are getting the best possible care.

Incentivize: A medical center can provide incentives to its patients by offering rewards such as free services or discounts on future visits. This encourages patients to visit the medical center and keep them healthy.

Give Away / Free Gifts: A medical center can also give away gifts to their patients to show appreciation. This indicates that the medical center cares about its patients and wants them to stay healthy.

How can hospitals create value?

Digital marketing can help a medical center create value for their patients, incentivize them to use the center’s services, and give away gifts. By using digital marketing tools, health care facilities can create a more personalized experience for their patients and increase the likelihood that they will choose to revisit the center in the future.

  • Use social media to send gifts such as free consultations. Create groups on Facebook for a free consultation.
  • Use email marketing for incentives such as free consultations, free tests or treatments, or discounts on future visits.
  • When a patient visits your hospital, you can offer gifts such as greeting cards, food, drinks, or even free tickets to the cinema. Don’t forget to post those gifts on your social media. Your patients will appreciate the thought, whether small or big.

7. Personalize the Experience

A medical center must personalize the experience of their patients!

Why must a medical hospital personalize the patients’ experience?

Medical centers must personalize the patients’ experience to stay competitive. By understanding the needs of their patients, medical centers can provide them with the best possible care. This involves using digital marketing techniques to engage and attract new patients and retain current ones. By tailoring their marketing efforts to meet the specific needs of their patients, medical centers can create a more positive patient experience that will keep them coming back for treatment.

How can a medical center personalize the patients’ experience? 

You need to gather data about your patients. Ask your patients about their personal lives, hobbies, and interests. Ask patients about their work, children, travel, and hobbies. This information can be helpful for future conversations and discussions.

  • Use Patient’s Preferred Name on texts messages and email marketing
  • Use All Possible Channels for Engagement. Including email marketing, social media, and text messages
  • Always Meet and Greet with a smile when patients visit the physician’s office.

8. Loyalty Programs

Medical hospitals must create loyalty programs to retain their existing patients!

Why does a medical center need to create loyalty programs for their patients?

A loyalty program is an effective way for a medical center to keep its patients loyal and engaged. Patients who are loyal to a medical center are more likely to return, refer friends, and recommend the center to others. In fact, research has shown that patient loyalty can result in up to 20% increases in patient volume and 30% increases in revenue.

There are many reasons why a medical center might want to create a loyalty program. Perhaps the facility seeks to increase patient satisfaction rates or track customer behavior to improve service quality. Loyalty programs also generate valuable data that marketing managers can use to understand purposes. For example, hospitals may want to know which treatments are most effective at retaining patients and which messages are working best with specific demographics.

How can a medical center create loyalty programs for their patients?

Digital marketing is a powerful tool that a medical center can use to create loyalty programs. Digital marketing includes all forms of communication, including email marketing, social media, and text messages. Using multiple channels, a medical center can ensure that its messages reach as many patients as possible. Additionally, hospitals should always meet and greet patients with a smile. This simple gesture can go a long way in building trust and loyalty.

  • Some medical centers are offering their patients a variety of perks to increase loyalty, such as free online consultations.
  • Some medical centers partner with local restaurants, hotels, or other businesses to provide loyal patients with discounts or other benefits.
  • Hospitals may provide vouchers for free parking, food, and other benefits based on a patient’s level of loyalty to the hospital.

9. Always Communicate

Healthcare facilities must keep their patients informed all the time!

Why must a medical center keep patients informed via text, email, WhatsApp, or social media?

Medical hospitals are constantly trying to find new and innovative ways to keep patients informed about their treatments and progress. Patients want to be kept up-to-date on their health and any changes that may occur, so digital marketing can be a great way to do this.

How can medical centers keep patients informed via text, email, WhatsApp, or social media?

Some methods that have been found to be effective include text messaging, emailing, WhatsApp messaging, or social media. Patients appreciate being kept up-to-date on their care in a way that is convenient for them. In addition, healthcare facilities can use digital marketing to attract new patients and retain current ones.

Digital marketing is an extremely important tool for a medical center to keep patients informed. By using these various channels, a medical center can ensure that all patients have access to the information they need and that it is delivered in a way that is convenient for them.

  • Text messages
  • Email
  • WhatsApp or Messenger
  • Social media

10. Referral Program

Health care facilities or hospitals must implement a referral program

Why do health centers need to Implement a Referral Program?

A referral program is an excellent way for a medical center to increase its referral traffic. Referred patients are more likely to revisit the medical center and recommend it to others. Referral programs can also generate leads and promote brand awareness.

Referral programs are a great way to increase the number of patients that visit your medical centre. By rewarding patients for referring their friends and family members, you can incentivize them to visit your facility. Additionally, referral programs can help you build relationships with new patients, leading to more business down the line.

How can hospitals need to Implement a Referral Program?

A medical center is always looking to improve its patient experience, and a referral program is one way to do that. Referral programs incentivize patients to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about their experience at the medical center.

  • Incentives can include discounts on services.
  • Free lunches or dinners, or even gift cards.
  • Referring patients can earn rewards such as gift certificates or VIP access to special events at the medical center.


Harvard Strategy 3: The 5Cs Analysis

This section will discuss the 5Cs analysis for developing a marketing strategy and correlate it with health centers, hospitals, health care facilities, and clinics.

When developing a digital marketing strategy, the medical centre must consider the 5Cs: Company, Collaborators, Customers, Competitors, and Context.

Customers: Patients of a Medical Center

Clearly define the demography of the patients. Who is the target market of the medical center? 

A medical center can benefit from digital marketing if they clearly define the demographics of their patients and target market. By understanding who is visiting the medical center, hospitals can create targeted content and advertising that is more likely to be relevant and helpful. Additionally, medical centers can improve their overall image and attract new patients by targeting specific audiences with tailored messaging.

Company: The Medical Center

Clearly Define What the Company is All About

When analyzing a medical center, the number one issue is to determine the company’s sustainable competitive advantage. Clearly defining the sustainable competitive advantage for medical center means:

What are the unique selling proposition of the doctors, medical facilities, and staff? Digital marketing can be a powerful tool for health centers. Medical centers can use digital marketing to create a robust online presence, target patients with relevant content, and build relationships with patients and potential patients. By using digital marketing, medical centers can differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract patients who may be interested in their services.

Who are the target patients? A medical center may benefit from digital marketing if they can identify their target patients. The target patient is typically someone who needs medical care or services, either because they are ill or injured or looking for information about health and wellness. Health centers should also target patients who live in the area and those who might be interested in the center’s services.

What is the current competitive landscape? Once a medical center understands its competitive landscape, it can create a unique selling proposition that differentiates it from its competitors. Additionally, by targeting the specific needs of their target customer (patients), a medical center can increase the likelihood that they will be successful in attracting and retaining patients.

Cultural context: The cultural context of a country or region is also essential when developing a digital marketing strategy. For example, in Japan and the Philippines, social media is used extensively to communicate with patients and their families. While in Australia, email marketing is the most common method to communicate with patients. By understanding the cultural context of a country or region, a medical center can create

Collaborators of the Medical Center

Identify the Collaborators. Who are the contractors, 

Identify the Collaborators of the medical center. This revolves around the supply chain.

The medical center’s collaboration typically includes the hospital’s external contractors, biomedical suppliers, administrators, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. To effectively market the medical center’s brand to the patients, it is vital to identify and understand its collaborators. This can involve researching who is most likely to interact with the medical center online and offline. Additionally, it may be helpful to consult with the hospital’s marketing team to develop a cohesive digital marketing strategy.

Competitors of the Medical Center

Clearly Determine the Competitors of the Medical Center

When considering digital marketing for a medical center, it is essential to clearly determine the competitors of the health center. By doing so, healthcare organizations can develop strategies to help them stay ahead of the competition. By understanding their main competitors, hospitals can better tailor their marketing efforts and focus on areas where they can hold an advantage. Additionally, medical centers can make informed decisions about how best to allocate their resources by knowing what they need to do to stay competitive.

Context of a Medical Center

Determine the Area Where the Medical Center Has No Control

These are areas where medical hospitals have no control because they are classified as external forces that will significantly impact the business profitability, marketing efforts, and patient acquisitions.

Context includes six external areas where medical hospitals have no control: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental. Each of these areas will have a significant impact on the medical hospitals’ revenue and patient acquisitions.

Medical facilities may influence (to some degree) the external factors that influence their revenue and patients acquisition if they do the following.

  • Medical hospitals must band together and create an association
  • Create a website – this platform will enhance the medical centers and physician’s advocacy which patients can read online.
  • Create social media – this is the communication platform of the healthcare centers and physicians in advancing their cause towards the government, economy, society, and environment.

Digital marketing can help a medical center if the 5C analysis is well defined.


Harvard Strategy 4: Aspiration & Action Decision

This section will discuss the aspirational plan and the action plan needed by medical hospitals.

The Aspiration Decision

The aspiration decision is what a medical center hopes to achieve in the market. This includes increasing revenue, market share, and customer satisfaction from patients and stakeholders. This could be anything from increasing brand awareness, increasing patient visits, or generating more revenue.

It’s crucial for a medical center to have a clear vision for what they want to achieve and then work towards it. By setting goals and working towards them, companies can ensure that they’re moving in the right direction.

A digital marketing manager should ask, “Where are we right now in our digital marketing, and where do we want to go?”

The Action Plan Decision

To effectively market multiple medical hospitals, it is crucial to understand the “Marketing Mix” of the 4Ps: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. The digital marketing manager must explore how each of these factors can be used to promote the healthcare facilities.

Product – What products and services do health centers offer to the patient? What makes them unique from other health care centers?

Promotion – This is where medical hospitals can leverage their digital marketing plans. What are the narratives and stories? What channels will medical centers utilize to communicate effectively to their existing and potential patients?

Placement – Where do the healthcare centers operate? What is the culture? What languages and dialects do patients use? Patients must clearly understand the tone of voice key messaging of a medical center. Creating a compelling narrative and stories for digital marketing and communications must be clear so they can have a significant impact.

Price – How much does a medical center charge their patients compared to their competitors. What is the reasonable price for a product or service rendered by medical centers? Pricing must be communicated clearly so patients may understand clearly the offerings of health centers.

The marketing mix is a decision-making framework that helps medical hospitals identify and prioritize the four essential elements of their digital marketing strategy: product, promotion, placement, and price. The framework is used to analyze a company’s current marketing situation and make decisions about how best to improve it.

Research Shows that Patients are Searching Online Before Visiting Hospitals.

Digital marketing is vital for health centers because most patients are searching online before seeing a doctor and visiting medical facilities. According to numerous research by healthcare professionals, hospitals, marketing companies, and research institutes, patients will consume information, interact, engage, and watch videos on the internet before going to health care centers.

Here are some of the research findings: Medical Center Research

According to the result of a survey of more than 1,700 U.S. adults, it was revealed that four out of five patients used the internet to make a medical-related search in the past 12 months.

  • 81% of patients will read reviews about a provider even after they have been referred
  • 80% have used the internet to make a healthcare-related search in the past year.
  • 63% of respondents will choose one provider over another because of a strong online presence.
  • 60% of respondents have chosen one provider over another based on a positive online reputation.

Google: Medical Center Research

According to the study, Google partnered with Compete, Inc. to field 500 hospital researchers to understand what influences hospital selection and what role digital plays in the journey.

Some of the findings from this study include that patients are increasingly looking for online tools and resources when making their decision and that the online presence of medical centers has a substantial impact on how patients perceive their care.

Here’s what the study says about patients’ journey to the hospital:

  • 84% of patients use both online and offline sources for hospital research.
  • Search drives nearly 3x as many visitors to hospital sites compared to non-search visitors.
  • Patients primarily search on symptoms and condition terms towards the moment of conversion.
  • 44% of patients who research hospitals on a mobile device scheduled an appointment.
  • 53% of patients who did not watch a hospital video were unaware they existed.


BMJ Open & Univ. of Pennsylvania: Medical Center Research

Medical-related internet searches of patients had doubled before they were admitted to the emergency room, according to a new study from BMJ Open and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine. After examining the patients’ Google search histories and comparing them to the patients’ electronic health records, the study found that this increase was most pronounced among those more likely to visit the hospital. This means that patients search on Google for their health-related problems before going to the hospital.

Oxford University: Medical Center Research

According to Oxford University research, more than 70,000 websites post articles, blogs, videos, and other health-related information online, while over 50 million people seek health information on the internet.

National Health Library: Medical Center Research

In another study in Asia, Hong Kong, 98% of the population owns a phone, and 80% owns a personal computer with high access to the internet. Among the respondents, 92% of them went to the internet to search for health-related topics within 12 months. The National Health Library research mentions that online searches include information about their health, health promotion activities, risks to one’s health, and illness. The high rate of internet penetration in Hong Kong leads to health awareness and health consciousness among the population.

  • The primary type of information sought includes healthy lifestyle advice (healthy eating and physical exercise) and prevention of chronic or infectious diseases.
  • A majority (97%) of these respondents agreed that the Internet was often the first medium they used to seek health information. 

Therefore: Digital Marketing is Vital for a Medical Center

With multiple research, studies, and surveys from marketing companies, healthcare professionals, and medical journals, we can conclude:

  1. The majority of the patients use the internet to find information about their health conditions.
  2. Patients are using Google before visiting a doctor and medical centers.
  3. Patients are actively engaging and interacting online.

This research suggests that hospitals should provide online resources and information about their services available to patients.


Learnings: Harvard Digital Marketing Strategy for a Medical Center

Digital marketing strategies for health care centers are essential to maintaining a robust online presence. By using the right tools and strategy, healthcare centers can create a robust online presence that helps them attract patients, increase brand awareness, and build customer loyalty.

Digital marketing can help increase website traffic and foot traffic, improve online reputation, attract new patients, and retain existing ones. By understanding the different types of digital marketing and implementing a plan that aligns with your hospital’s goals, you can create a successful online presence.

Multiple studies show that patients use the internet to consume information about their health and search on Google before visiting doctors and medical centers. If your healthcare facilities and services are unavailable on the internet, then you are losing clients.

Medical Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, UAE, beautiful and advanced healthcare facility Middle East
Harvard Digital Marketing Strategy – Medical Center. Photo Source: King’s College Hospital Dubai


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Robert Bagatsing

Robert Bagatsing

Chief Editor and Founder | Social Entrepreneur | Social Investor | Survived Strategic Marketing @ Harvard Business School | San Beda Grad | Proud Father to Lincoln Martin | Based in Manila, Dubai, Melbourne
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