Digital marketing for specialty clinics in 3 easy (action) steps

Running digital marketing campaigns for specialty clinics is one of my favorite types of businesses to promote because they tend to solve unique problems that are important in their patients’ lives.

The specificity of the work makes it easier to promote and in this article, we’ll look at three key steps to build powerful digital campaigns that drive patients to book appointments and warm up the leads that might still be tinkering with the idea of using your clinic’s services.

That can help keep a steady and more dependable flow of patients month after month in a world that can otherwise feel quite cyclical and unpredictable, which (as you might have already experienced) can lead to overbookings and makes it more difficult to scale your clinic’s network and deliver a strong patient experience.

There are too many types of specialty clinics to cover them all here but examples could be

  • cardiology
  • dentistry
  • dermatology
  • ear, nose, and throat (ENT)
  • gastroenterology
  • gynecology and obstetrics
  • neurology
  • nutrition
  • oncology
  • ophthalmology
  • orthopedics
  • podiatry
  • physical therapy
  • sports medicine
  • urology

Lucky for us, the process for building winning digital campaigns follows the same process no matter the clinic.

Step 1 in digital marketing for specialty clinics: Which problems do we help patients fix?

The first thing we have to nail down before building a digital marketing campaign is why our patients come to visit us at the clinic. It’s probably not because they love the waiting room but rather that we can solve a particular problem that is important to them.

The easiest way to do this is to brainstorm which type of examinations or consultations your patients ask for the most and what difference it makes for them in their life day-to-day.

For example, in dentistry, a patient might have crooked teeth that make them feel too embarrassed to smile while showing teeth.

If you don’t know for sure, now is a good time to find out by creating a simple process with your front desk personnel asking the patient to fill out a short survey as you check them in or while they are in the waiting room.

Doing an ongoing survey will also give you an understanding of if the patient’s reason for coming changes over time and if it was a result of the digital campaigns or something else.

We all love the idea that with digital campaigns we can track the performance to understand exactly what works. That requires that patients book through the entire digital flow, which isn’t always the case. In my experience, there is a decent chunk of patients that don’t and instead call or reach out in other ways after seeing the campaign.

People a lot smarter than I have long understood that the problem we solve itself is by far the most important aspect of making a digital marketing campaign for specialty clinics drive a good return on investment. If you choose to fixate on one chapter in this article in particular, let this be the one.

For example, a patient might to go an ophthalmology clinic or optometrist because they are looking to solve one of these problems:

  • Vision test for a specific purpose (e.g. driver’s license)
  • Buy glasses and sunglasses with the same strength for free/at a discount
  • Figure out which type of glasses looks good on their face
  • Figure out how to protect the eyes after Lasik surgery

Once you have your list of patient problems, you can simply pick one you think is best and move on to the next step in the article. Keep in mind that not all problems are created equally – for example, patients might be much more serious about LASIK surgery than buying a pair of sunglasses.

If you are up for doing the extra homework, there’s an advanced action step we can use to help decide which problem to help solve because we can generally only focus on one idea at a time to not confuse the patient and get the best results. Except in situations where we are split testing which problem is the most popular with an ad campaign for example.

Advanced action step

Next, we’ll brainstorm which problem is the most enticing for a patient that is new to the clinic, in order to impress them. Then we’ll build an offer for that specific problem to bring them in – the offer can be thought of as the way we describe the problem and the solution to the patient, and which features and benefits they get from solving it with us rather than at another specialty clinic.

Think about how the problem can be broken up into several smaller steps/offers to make it a smaller decision for the patient to test drive your clinic and get an amazing experience so they’ll come back.

For example, if the problem we solve is helping patients wanting to do LASIK eye surgery, we brainstorm several different types of offers:

  • Cheaper price
  • Faster recovery times
  • Combo: the surgery comes with after-surgery protection gear and a proven process for avoiding screens for the recommended time period

We can then run a digital ad campaign to test exactly how the market responds to each of them and stick with the most popular option.

Even though we might have good guesses, we are unlikely to know which one of the offers will work best to attract patients interested in solving this problem. Luckily, we don’t need to as we can use digital marketing tracking to let the patients vote for us with their bookings. How we do that is a longer process that I won’t cover in this article but I do outline one version of how to do it in this article on Google ads for doctors.

Step 2 in digital marketing for specialty clinics: Which types of patients do we help?

During a particular project in the industry, I was researching our users to understand who we were serving and what kind of patterns we could extract. The average service usage was decent but what I found when I dove deeper, shocked me.

The usage was not as great as it first seemed among most of the users but there was a subset of patients that were ‘extreme users’ of our services if we can call it that. 

Their usage was five or tenfold that of the average customer. I was confused. 

I immediately arranged interviews with the physicians that most commonly saw them during examinations and consultations and reached out to the patients, as well, to understand what was going on.

Eventually, a pattern emerged: chronic diseases.

Not all types of customers are created equal. Some will want to pay very little, don’t appreciate your care experience while others love it and will pay lots. 

When we look at which types of patients to help, the simplest example is considering who would normally visit a high-end private clinic compared to a free public clinic. Or, consider the pricing of cancer treatments or screenings compared to a typical general checkup or eye examination.

The geographical location might be a relevant way to segment due to the locations of our clinics but I invite you to look beyond that for ways to stand out. For example by the type of disease or type of solution (if we have a particular solution to a problem that isn’t common such as alternative medicine).

For digital marketing for specialty clinics to offer a high return on investment, we have to target the right people and figuring out who’s best to reach is the first step.

The second is reaching who we intend with our campaign.

This sounds simple but digital platforms and tools tend to oversell what they offer. Facebook ads are a great example. At one point, I ran an experiment targeting foreigners from certain countries living in certain other countries and built a marketing funnel that lead them from the ad to a chatbot that was designed as a quiz where one of the questions was regarding their location.

It turned out that the vast majority of the people I reached were locals or even people that were located in other countries than those I intended to target.

I have nothing against Facebook — I just want to be able to reach the people I intended to reach. The challenge is that it can be hard to tell if we reached the people we intended or not but it can make or break our digital marketing campaigns.

digital marketing for specialty clinics

Step 3: How aware are the patients of your clinic compared to other solutions?

When we have a clear understanding of the problem we solve and the specific group of people we help, the final step is to bridge the gap between those needing our help and the services we offer.

This is where many brands go wrong and let company politics take over – often as a result of the boss wanting to decide on this part rather than letting the team of experts they hired, do their job.

The most common approach we see in the wild is that a brand shares what they want in the voice that suits them best. It usually goes something like this: “We are the best at …”

Another approach that tends to be more effective is starting with the mindset of the patient and the time and place we intend to reach them and then tailoring our message to that.

There is an awesome awareness scale explained in the legendary book Breakthrough Advertising and it is a great way to figure out what kind of message to create depending on how much the customer knows about the clinic, services and competing clinics already. 

It is arguably the best way to group patients and effective digital marketing campaigns for specialty clinics.

For example, we tend to see the biggest difference between potential patients that know what they are looking to buy, and are simply looking for the best offer and price (highly aware) in a sea of competing specialty clinics. It might be an adult who is looking to get braces to improve their smile.

In the other end of the spectrum, we have someone who isn’t even aware that braces is the solution, they just know that they feel embarrassed by their crooked teeth and want a solution.

For a digital marketing campaign to be effective, we’ll wanna show the price and offer (hard sell) to the one potential customer. At the same time, we will wanna help the other customer figure out which solutions there are first and then position braces in an attractive way — all before we show them our offer so we know they are ready to see it.

We can almost look at this as the temperature of the customers and then tailor specific campaigns to each of those stages. We all want to help the ones most ready to buy but the reality is that it’s also the most competitive and expensive to acquire.


  • The three key steps to digital marketing campaigns for specialty clinics are knowing which problem you solve, for who and how aware they are of the solution they need
  • We tend to see the biggest difference when we narrow down and select the problem we solve

By Aske

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