Pivoting Your Marketing Strategies to Thrive During the COVID-19 Pandemic

One of the many challenges that medical practices have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping the lines of communication open with their patients. To address this issue, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology hosted a virtual Practice Management Workshop presentation on marketing strategies that practice managers can use to keep their patients informed and engaged in the current era of telemedicine and social distancing. The presentation was led by Christy R. Johnson, Digital Strategist at o2Ideas, Birmingham, AL.

Given the financial challenges brought on by the pandemic, using cost-effective marketing techniques and ensuring the best return on money spent on social media campaigns has never been more important. Ms Johnson said that to achieve these goals, practices need to make a strategic pivot when it comes to their marketing. “Pivoting is a lateral move that creates enough value for the patient and practice to share,” she noted.

Ms Johnson explained that a successful pivot requires attention to the following 3 main principles:

  • Practices should examine how they might realign themselves with the trends that have emerged because of the pandemic, such as e-commerce and social media.
  • Practices must consider what they do well and how those skills may be redeployed in a different way, in addition to their traditional business model.
  • The pivot must be sustainable from a financial standpoint (ie, the potential return on investment should be closely evaluated).

Look for Marketing Trends and Opportunities

Practices should realign with emerging trends during the pandemic and leverage available technology in the best way possible. It is important to go beyond regular mail and pivot to a strong presence in social media and other methods of communication, using all available tools.

“Social media is now more valuable than virtually any other medium, as it can have great reach without a large investment,” Ms Johnson asserted. She advised practice managers to focus on Facebook and Instagram, rather than being stretched too thin among all the available social media platforms. An organic reach can be achieved with Instagram, whereas a paid strategy is necessary to have a broad reach on Facebook; practices may consider utilizing both strategies for maximum benefit. She also said that practices should implement a regular posting schedule, perhaps 3 posts per week including the stories featured within Facebook and Instagram.

Ms Johnson stated that maintaining communication with patients through other avenues (in addition to social media) is equally important. She suggested that practices send out e-mails on a weekly basis and explore the functionality available on patient portals and technology already in use to further reach patients, either by e-mail or text. Strong search engine optimization is vital as well, and practices may want to consider hiring a professional to ensure that their website is searchable and can be discovered easily by patients.

Ms Johnson said that traditional media formats, such as billboard and radio, are probably not the best options in 2020 because billboards often do not provide a return on investment and radio advertising tends to be effective only on a hyper-local station.

Employ Cost-Effective Marketing Strategies

Ms Johnson said that a pivot must be financially sustainable and marketing campaigns do not need to be costly. Free services, such as Hootsuite and Later, allow for scheduling and automatic publishing of content on social media platforms. Mailchimp provides a free e-mail marketing service for up to 2000 subscribers.

There are also a variety of free resources available that practices can use to create professional marketing materials. Canva is a graphic design tool that can be used to create graphics for social media and e-mail campaigns. Stock photography and video services such as Pexels, Freepik, and Unsplash provide images for marketing campaigns. In addition, the Adobe Lightroom mobile app is a useful resource for photo editing. For practices seeking assistance in this area, she said that local universities can be a great resource for recruiting marketing interns who may be interested in taking on some work. There may even be someone already employed in the practice who has a talent in this area.

Despite the increased demands on time and resources placed on medical practices as a result of the pandemic, there are still cost-effective ways to reach patients and maintain a healthy marketing presence. By taking an intentional approach, there are tremendous opportunities for practices to thrive.

“A focus on communication and a fresh look at ways to consistently connect with patients will be vital as practices continue to adapt to the new normal,” Ms Johnson concluded.

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