Medical clinic advertising: the boring (but effective) way to advertise

When you search for “medical clinic advertising” the Fates of search engines suggested that you are looking for examples of advertising medical clinics, so I prepared some before we dive into the boring but effective way to advertise with success.

When you think of advertising and how creatives make them, you might think of a scene from Mad Men where the team is working late over drinks brainstorming a genius idea that later becomes a famous business case in school.

There’s a mystery to the process that is sexy as hell and a little confusing. Today, we’ll look at a more modern approach that works well specifically for digital ads.

7 medical clinic advertisement examples

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of creating effective ad campaigns, let’s look at a few medical clinic advertising examples from the real world.

medical clinic advertising - dispatch health example
medical clinic advertising

The boring (but effective) way to medical clinic advertising success

Ads should often be our last resort since it’s such an obvious marketing channel that there are rarely any hidden treasures anymore. People tend to love ads because it’s a proven channel but that also means no secret bonuses.

At a venture-backed startup with a portfolio of different performance marketing channels, advertising should play be the smallest portion. There are definitely gains to be had, especially in the beginning as we can carve out small pockets that bigger fish don’t see the benefit in competing for. 

At some point, we begin to see diminishing returns as we scale direct response ads (ads where we expect a certain action to be had after clicking such as booking a consultation), as especially patient targeting is challenging outside of search.

Out of an entire portfolio of sales channels, advertising tends to be the one most of us focus on yet among the least impactful I’ve seen. Of course, the big question is what to do instead and it’s hard to give you a specific recommendation for growth hacks since they usually only work for a limited time because of a market opportunity that competitors haven’t realized or taken advantage of yet.

Growth hacks in the medical industry are often related to the regulations as they dictate a lot of the work we do. The exercise I like to do to brainstorm growth hack ideas is to create a canvas for myself without being allowed to use the existing popular channels like search and Facebook ads.

For example, creating partnerships with pharmacies if you are a care provider or vice-versa. Giving ourselves rules of what we can’t do seems unnecessarily limiting but I’ve found that it spurs creativity.

Running ad campaigns effectively

To build ad campaigns that perform well at scale, best practices don’t work. We need outliers to drive home the bacon. We need to think as investors do with their portfolio strategy.

It turns out to be common for investors to place bets on several businesses knowing full well that half might go sideways, a few will fail hard and one or two will hit it big and pay for all the other ones and then some.

Instead of assuming that we have a genius idea, we can follow the same protocol and focus on iterations and experimentation rather than the results. Out of ten ads, we just need one to be an outlier. 

So far so good. Now, we could go about testing all the random ideas we have like different call to action text, adding our phone number, a million different image ideas, and on and on. The reality that we learn when we first start running ads is that many elements in an ad surprisingly make little to no difference.

That’s where the boring but effective advertising strategy comes in. There are just a few elements that make a big impact so we can move faster by focusing on making them work well instead of optimizing everything. 

I suggest starting out by experimenting in three stages. Stage one is around the audience targeting, two is the angle, and stage three is the ad itself and often just the headline as it is more important than many other elements within the ad.

Working with a ton of clients over the years, I’ve noticed that audience targeting is one of the things that are the most overlooked, which is fun because that determines if our ad will work before we even spend a single dollar. No matter the ad and budget we have, if we reach the wrong people, nothing will work. The problem is that it’s often unclear specifically what our targeting configurations mean.

For example, if we choose to target someone based on their location such as a specific address, how do we know that it is accurate? Is it because they ‘checked-in’ there on Facebook? Because their phone’s location tracker last reported that they were there when they opened the app? When was that and did they just check their phone but not open the app?

It’s hard to get any specific answers to these questions from the large ad platforms and with a million other tasks on our plate, it’s not like we have a ton of time to seek out the answers anyway.

Next up is the angle.

It goes by many names and the essence is that it tells us the overall direction our ad campaign should go in. Often that is defined by the problem that we help the customers with – that’s why we first pick the right people to reach.

Now we need to figure out which problem we solve for them or which benefit we offer them. If you’ve been split testing different problems or angles before, you’ve probably realized just how different the performance can be. 

An example is urgent care and the ability to see a physician fast like in this example with Christiana Care.

medical clinic advertising - christiana care example

Another angle could’ve been that it’s near your home so you don’t have to go far. These examples are sometimes more clear with dentists that may cater specifically to children or people with dental anxiety. Those are angles too.

Sometimes we confuse the angle with a specific element within the ad like the headline or the wording of it. The angle is the overarching problem we solve and tells us which direction to go in for the visual we use to portray our idea or what our headline should talk about but not necessarily the specific words to use (that comes later) just that it should be about urgent care and not waiting in line – if we go back to the example above.

Assuming that your customers are the right type of people, the angle tends to make or break your campaign’s performance entirely. We can either throw pasta against the wall, brainstorm ideas, and see what sticks or we can do our homework before and talk to the audience to get some ideas about what problems they have that we might solve and choose the winner based on a split test of those ideas.

Finally, in the last round of testing, we have the ad itself.

By now, we’ve found the right type of customers and the problem they care about the most. Now it’s time to optimize the elements of the ad itself and squeeze the last juice out of it. I made a faulty assumption early in my career that we have to test every element but it turns out when you do, that most don’t really make that big of a difference.

In this section, I’d spent almost all my time on the headline since that’s the first thing people see and the rest doesn’t matter if the headline isn’t attractive as they’ll never get to it. This is a good time to involve more junior staff that wants to practice since we’ve already solved the two most impactful items of our advertisement’s performance, and anything else we’ll squeeze out will help but often doesn’t change the trajectory of the campaign.

If you are looking for ideas, I liked the book Great Leads.

Hacks to overcome the challenging regulations in medical clinic advertising

Trick #1

The first trick is not to use the same ad for different segments of patients. Brainstorm different types of patients and make different ads for each type depending on what they want from your medical clinic. As a rule of thumb, one ad should convey one idea to one specific type of patient.

Trick #2

Many of us struggle to build high-performance ad campaigns because of the strict regulations in medical clinic advertising. One approach to tackle this is to keep the ads slightly more broad or vague and then specify the language as you attract patients away from the external ad platform and onto your own environment where you have more control and things are slightly less public.

The first could for example be a Facebook ad that drives someone to your email list as the medication app Calm did with its 15 seconds of silence-ad. It shows what they are all about and allows the team to build a campaign that then retargets those who were interested enough to watch all of the 15 seconds in the video. That counterintuitive step likely creates great engagement and because Facebook has an auction system where the price is based on the engagement with users, they were likely getting a great price for their healthcare ads compared to competitors.

Trick #3

Set aside enough money. This might sound obvious but if you feel like pausing an ad before your experience is done, we can only conclude that we didn’t have enough money to finish the experiment – not what the results were as it could’ve been impacted by other things.

If you run a small clinic and are just looking for a couple of new patients a day, a few thousand dollars a month might be fine but if you are working at a venture-backed startup, that will probably be the same will probably be your daily baseline budget to start out with. If you don’t feel as if your budget is strong enough for ads, pick another channel first or you’ll constantly be on your heels.


  • Medical clinic advertising can feel like there are lots to learn and if we group it up into three different things to experiment with, it’s easier to remember. It also helps us focus on what creates an impact on our bottom line rather than what feels creative and fun 
  • The most important step is making sure you reach the right people since, if you don’t, anything else you do won’t matter

By Aske

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