What is medical lead generation? Healthcare lead generation means gathering leads for healthcare businesses, usually by collecting contact information about an individual who is looking for a consultation or exam with a physician.
Besides patients wanting to book right now, there are different levels of interest depending on the type of consultation they are looking for. For example, parents with a child suffering from a chronic disease might join a newsletter sharing insights about that disease without any pressing issues they are looking to get examined right away.
Targeting this type of lead can be a great way to scale the volume of new patients without sacrificing the lead quality as we eventually run out of new ad placements to capture “book now” leads on. Not to mention that even when we’ve won those, a new player will eventually join with higher margins, retention or desperation and be able to push us out of our winning ad positions just like we did with our competitors when we entered.
Another example of healthcare lead generation is for businesses selling to the healthcare industry. In that context, it is usually the contact information of purchasers or physicians within healthcare organizations that makes decisions about what kind of equipment to buy.
In this article, we’ll dive into digital lead generation for healthcare consumer startups. Search marketing is the obvious channel, and if you are just getting started you might prefer this article on healthcare keywords or this one on Google ads for doctors.
Today, you and I will look into what we can do once our search marketing is performing well and we are looking to scale the volume of our patient acquisition. The ideas will be focused on venture-backed startups as we have a unique situation where time is essential and the deadline for hockey stick growth was yesterday. I’ll not cover organic traffic here although it can be a vital part of patient growth when the time is right.
Healthcare lead generation: what happens when the search channels are maxed out?
Search works well to get off the ground and fits like a hand in a glove to get on-demand patient bookings right off the bat.
And after that, we might expand with SEO to reach potential patients one step further up the funnel – before they are ready to book a consultation but are looking for information related to their symptoms or the best clinics. That will often get us enough customers to test and tweak the product for product-market fit.
Sooner or later, we might discover certain seasons in on-bookings throughout the year, where we need more physicians available and demand becomes more and more challenging to satisfy profitably. It isn’t only a lead generation challenge but that is what I’ll focus on in this article.
The demand and new patient growth become harder and harder to scale in the same way as before, and more challenging to forecast in the growth predictions.
Most traffic sources aren’t worth it for us at this point since they can’t drive enough traffic at scale to be worth the effort and at this stage, we don’t have the luxury of time to personally optimize a wealth of small channels every day. Social media is one of the biggest channels out there but at the same time, feels like the least likely channel to drive patient bookings from, so what do we do?
Scaling demand-based bookings beyond search
Social media and the healthcare industry are not a natural fit, and if you’ve tried running cold audience campaigns (or even a warm one) with ads leading to a booking, you’ve probably realized that it doesn’t work that well.
The CAC and CPL tend to be so high that it isn’t a viable channel in the marketing mix for serious growth.
The logical attempt might be to brute force it with discounts. Not possible. People still don’t care about their health enough to do anything more than necessary – and a discount won’t convince them otherwise. Most people just don’t care about their health unless they are sick.
In general, Facebook ads offer some of the most creative targeting options these days and I tried “clever” tactics like carpet bombing people near hospital or clinic addresses, but found that targeting wasn’t precise enough at the moment to make a difference. It can work if the facilities are out of the city without too many other things nearby.
Retargeting the search traffic that landed on our website via social media based on how long ago it was since they last visited the website isn’t too bad. Meaning that the ads were more aggressive the first few days and had a different offer as time went on without a booking.
But none of the tactics worked insanely well with social media ads as the targeting generally doesn’t allow us to target someone who needs a physician right now. It’s just the nature of social media where people go if they are bored, procrastinate and are wondering what their friends are up to.
What worked a lot better was changing the idea that we had to reach people right when they were looking for a booking like everyone else does.
In one of my favorite marketing books Breakthrough Advertising, the author talks about targeting leads based on their level of awareness. It is intended for direct response sales pages with a bigger bridge between those who know less about what they are looking for compared to those who are fully aware of their problem and looking for a solution. We can adopt a similar approach for our patient leads generation as you might have already done with different healthcare search keywords.
Often, we can break a patient’s journey down into four stages:
- What causes a headache (here they might be looking for information)
- What cures a headache (here they might be looking for a solution and learn that a consultation is relevant)
- Best pediatric clinic in seattle (now they are looking for a specific clinic to visit)
- Dr. Chan’s pediatric clinic seattle book consultation (now they are looking to book with that specific clinic)
Usually, digital patient acquisition is centered around stage three and four as they have the strongest intent and works well with direct response campaigns since there is a clear result coming out of the interaction.
Reaching people before they need a booking is a whole different game and is often considered branding, which is hard to measure the outcome of compared to other digital campaigns since digital tracking isn’t as advanced as we often like to think. For example, how do we measure word of mouth besides results of that campaign from a small set of specific, trackable, referral campaigns?
Sure, we can survey people and ask where they heard about us but we won’t know for sure. Think about the signal we as a patient send to our friends by recommending a good therapist or even asking for a recommendation in the first place.
A better performing approach than the random Facebook ads tactics is building a funnel that targets people who don’t necessarily have the need to see a doctor right now but likely will in the future – an earlier awareness stage. Patients or close family of patients with chronic diseases often have an ongoing concern and are likely to be interested in information that helps their case, as they foresee having to see a physician sooner or later.
Even if we target a mass market, we’ll usually see better results by building more targeted funnels with specific messages based on different segments like different chronic diseases. Instead of a “book now” lead campaign, we might offer a free checklist in exchange for their email address followed by an automatic email campaign to stay top of mind over time.
It allows us to win them over by building trust with them over time at a much lower CAC than when we are competing for ‘book now’ patients and we sidestep the entire problem with scaling demand-based bookings and seasonality.
The big win
The big win here is actually less of a marketing play and more of a product play. Following the same approach as above with a non-demand-based funnel, we can grow by leaps and bounds through tweaking one of our healthcare products to fit social media naturally if we gauge that there is enough of a win in terms of targeted traffic to be had to make it worth it.
Consider, just for a second, selling insurance via social media ads instead of on-demand consultation bookings for physicians. Sure, we have to create an angle that is attractive but once that’s done, we can make that channel work. With on-demand physician consultations like telemedicine, we have to do that AND find a way to reach them when they have a need.
One of the biggest challenges here, from a marketing perspective, is to make people interested as most don’t care about healthcare until they are sick enough to see a doctor.
The B2B2C alternative: healthcare lead generation with Linkedin ads
A totally different approach is using LinkedIn ads for healthcare lead generation. It tends to be less affordable than other social media ads and most marketers use it for B2B lead generation because of its amazing targeting options. Most marketers who try their ads for direct patient bookings realize that the ads tend to be too expensive or not perform well enough to make it worth it.
But a less than obvious approach is targeting an employee within a company to be our hero and present the service to the rest of the team, for example through employee benefits.
Eventually, that checkup can turn into sales directly for you if you have a product they can buy without needing to see a physician right now.
In order for this campaign to perform well, we’ll need an offer that HR employees or whoever you go after, will love so it needs to be something that helps them do their job or makes their life easier or they won’t care.
It can be challenging to think up what that might be so my preferred approach to move fast is interviewing a few of the employees and creating something free they can sign up for in exchange for their email address (e.g. a free pdf). That way we can warm them up before doing the sale and each sale will often be many employees at once rather than single patient consultations.
Offset the expensive lead price
One of the tricks we often forget in the fast campaign launch with a deadline yesterday is that our ads perform a lot worse if our website loads slowly. In fact, studies show that just seconds can change our conversion rate dramatically and make our CAC or CPL go through the roof.
I’ve found that with ads, it’s a lot more important than with organic traffic and the best tools to get a quick idea are tools.pingdom.com or Google’s page speed insights, although the latter seems like it is never truly happy no matter what we do.
Images are usually the big offender so just minimizing them makes a big difference. Often, it will be a headache between marketing and tech to optimize the load speed so if you use certain landing pages, consider using landing page software just for those but be sure to check that that software (e.g. Clickfunnels) actually loads FAST for your service area. Most don’t, especially the cheaper solutions. Even the most persuasive landing page won’t sell if people never reach it.
- Search marketing is the obvious channel to start with and after, it can be challenging to figure out what to do next to scale
- Social media isn’t a natural fit for on-demand healthcare lead generation but can be made work by tweaking the funnel product
- Landing page load speed can be one of the biggest offenders messing with your ads performance, so if your ads aren’t performing well, it might be one of the first things to check