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Multilocation Marketing in Healthcare: The Biggest Challenges

Multilocation Marketing in Healthcare: The Biggest Challenges

Building a multilocation healthcare business expands your reach, patient base, and profit margin. 

But, these benefits come with several unique marketing challenges. 

The good news? They also come with remarkable marketing opportunities. 

In this article, I identify several common challenges and how to overcome them with effective marketing strategies. 

12 Marketing Challenges Unique to Multilocation Brands

Multilocation businesses typically prioritize revenue cycle management, billing, coding, collections, and other cost-cutting methods. 

While these are undoubtedly important, many fail to consider that a comprehensive marketing strategy can offer a significant competitive advantage and the power to drive substantial growth.

Here are some of the most common challenges of running a multilocation business and how to overcome them with strategic, data-driven marketing.

1. You don’t have a multilocation marketing plan

If each location runs its own marketing strategy—you’re losing time, money, and resources. You’re also delivering confusing and disjointed messages to doctors, staff, patients, and referring doctors.

A multilocation marketing plan requires careful consideration of the unique needs and characteristics of each location while also maintaining consistency and alignment with your overall brand messaging and marketing goals. It must address these key areas

  • Listen
    It must listen to and understand what healthcare consumers say about your products and services. 
  • Engage
    It must engage your target audience on their preferred channels. 
  • Connect
    It must connect with consumers personally to build trust and loyalty.

Here are a few elements to consider when building your plan

  • Competitive landscape
  • Target audience
  • Market positioning
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis
  • Budget
  • Patient experience
  • Strategy and tactics (e.g., traditional advertising and digital marketing)
  • Metrics and reporting
  • Staff training
  • Public relations

2. You don’t know what you stand for

As you develop a marketing plan, articulating your guiding principles is essential for maximizing efficiencies, improving the patient experience, and driving growth and profitability. 

These principles also set brand expectations with new acquisitions as your business grows.

  • Define a unique selling proposition (USP)
    Your unique selling proposition sets your brand apart from competitors and gives patients a clear reason to believe. It should be precisely defined and communicated consistently across all locations.
  • Create a strong brand positioning statement
    Clearly communicate each location’s unique value proposition, target audience, and key benefits, and consider their local market conditions and consumer preferences.
  • Create clear and consistent messaging
    Your brand messaging must align with your USP and positioning and be consistent across all locations. This includes your tagline, mission statement, website content, social media profiles, and shared content.
  • Standardization
    Building and implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each location is essential for maintaining consistency across your operations, services, and products. A big part of this includes training staff to deliver the same level of service, quality standards, and messaging across all locations.
  • Patient experience
    Develop a personalized patient experience at every consumer touchpoint to build trust and loyalty and have teams quickly respond to consumer inquiries or complaints to retain and build patient volume. 
  • Continuous improvement
    Build processes that continually identify areas for improvement and implement changes as needed. Examples include conducting regular performance reviews, analyzing patient feedback and online reviews, and tracking key metrics.

3. You haven’t chosen a brand architecture model

Brand architecture defines the relationship between the parent brand and each location (and their unique offerings). An established brand architecture ensures your brand stays organized across locations while giving each the flexibility to adapt to their local market.

Multilocation businesses have several options when it comes to choosing a brand architecture

  • Branded house
    A single, strong parent brand that is applied to all products, services, and locations.
  • Endorsed brand
    A single, strong brand that supports each location, while each has its own brand identity.
  • House of brands
    Multiple sub-brands that operate independently, each with its own brand identity.

No matter which architecture model you choose, every brand that knows what they stand for has 

  • Purpose—your reason to exist beyond just making a profit.
  • Vision—something to strive for; a big, hairy audacious goal.
  • Mission—how you will work toward reaching your goals.
  • Values—that guide your communications and actions.
  • Personality—how you act and speak to your doctors, staff, patients, and referring doctors.
  • Position—what sets you apart from competitors.

4. You aren’t delivering a consistent message

Creating and promoting consistent messaging across all locations and channels is essential for building and maintaining brand equity, trust, and loyalty among your patients, doctors, and staff.

Consistent messaging can also help improve operational efficiencies by streamlining marketing efforts (saving time and money!), improving employee training, and increasing brand recognition among patients. 

For example, how do you want to handle inbound inquiries? Do you want phone inquiries, emails, texts, and form submissions to continue going to each practice, or would you prefer to have them re-routed to a centralized call center? 

5. You don’t have doctor alignment

Regardless of the ownership structure, it’s important to remember that doctors are a highly influential force in any hospital or practice.

As your healthcare brand grows, getting continuous doctor feedback, buy-in, and cooperation on your overarching medical philosophy is essential to its success.

Everyone within the business must remain flexible and cooperative to ensure a smooth transition. To do this, provide doctors with a clear outline of internal and external benefits following the acquisition:

  • Consistent patient experience
  • Better quality of care
  • Easier access to improved technologies
  • Improved compensation and benefits packages, 
  • More buying power
  • Fewer practice management tasks and responsibilities

6. You haven’t created a culture of buy-in around your brand

When doctors and physicians are aligned with your integration plan, getting buy-in and cooperation from all stakeholders (e.g., clinical and administrative staff, employees, suppliers, and patients) will be a much easier task.

As with any organizational change, there is a period of uncertainty and unrest. Support your doctors and physicians by building a people-first culture that makes your staff feel valued and delivers a consistent patient experience in each location at every transition phase. 

Here are a few benefits of creating a culture of buy-in:

  • It leads to a more cohesive and successful brand.
  • It ensures all locations are aligned with the brand values, mission, and objectives.
  • It improves employee engagement and satisfaction.
  • It leads to higher employee retention and a more positive culture.
  • It encourages innovation and creativity.
  • It delivers a more consistent experience among locations.

7. You’re not retaining patients

There are several things a multilocation healthcare brand can do to retain patient volume, even if they’re currently experiencing a decline.

Start by taking steps to improve the patient experience. Help patients feel valued, listened to, and respected. For example, you can start by providing convenient and accessible services (e.g., online appointment booking, telemedicine services, and mobile apps) and minimizing wait times.

Understanding the unique pain points of your local audiences, improving internal operations, building a structured communication strategy around alleviating their fear, uncertainty, and resistance, and managing their perception will be well worth your time and effort.

Also, your front office staff is crucial in assuaging patient uncertainties. Prioritize training for front office staff and those dealing directly with patients so that they can respond positively and persuasively to questions and concerns.

8. You don’t understand your local audiences

Multilocation businesses need on-point healthcare marketing services catering to all brick-and-mortar locations—not just one. This ensures each that location gets the appropriate attention and online coverage to adequately inform their communities about their products and services. 

Here are a few questions to consider

  • Does each location offer a unique specialty?
  • Are the locations urban, suburban, or rural?
  • Are you tailoring services to meet local needs?
  • Are you tailoring your messages to ensure they resonate with local patients?
  • Do you understand the cultural and demographic differences that impact their healthcare needs and preferences?
  • Are you adapting your services to serve those needs better?

There are also several things you can do to ensure your practices rank high in local search results

  • Create unique paid search ads for each location
  • Create unique landing pages for each location for better SEO and to avoid duplicate content
  • Create a comprehensive Google Business Profile for each location
    • Be consistent with listings (e.g., business name, address, contact information, etc.)
    • Ensure all listings are complete, accurate, and up-to-date
    • Post regular updates and respond to patient reviews
  • Implement local SEO strategies
    • Include location-specific keywords in their content
    • Create content that is relevant to local audiences
    • Use local schema markup
    • Get listed in local directories
  • Encourage patients to write reviews
  • Consider each location in your internal email communications (e.g., share local news, highlights, or spotlights for each location in your corporate communications)

9. You haven’t implemented a multilocation SEO strategy

Multilocation healthcare brands must consider and cater to their unique search engine optimization (SEO) challenges to improve visibility, target local patients, improve the (local) patient experience, and increase traffic (leads and conversions). 

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Optimize each location’s web content to ensure it ranks nationally and locally 
  • Optimize each location’s web content to ensure it ranks for multiple cities or business addresses within the same city

To do that, businesses must implement a multilocation SEO strategy requiring a skilled healthcare SEO agency. Along with various technical tasks, multilocation SEO includes local SEO practices for each location to enhance its visibility and credibility using consistent and accurate information. Tactics may include

  • Local keyword research
  • Local landing pages
  • Google Business Profile optimization
  • Directory listing management
  • Review and rating management
  • Local link building

10. You don’t have a strong doctor referral program

A strong doctor referral program is essential for increasing patient loyalty and supporting word-of-mouth marketing, which can drive long-term growth for the brand.

Recruiting, hiring, and training a team of physician liaisons can be essential to help your business grow through doctor referrals. 

What’s more, you can and should leverage your physician liaison “on the ground” strategies with “air war” content and B2B digital marketing strategies.

11. You don’t have a provider recruiting strategy

If you’re short-staffed in one or more locations, analyze the current compensation package and workplace culture before recruiting physicians, nurses, and physician assistants. A robust recruiting strategy is essential to adequately address workforce shortages, maintain quality of care, keep up with demand, stay competitive, and build your brand reputation.

While many doctors, physicians, and nurses want to do what’s best for their patients, they also want a lucrative compensation package and an organization that shares their mission, vision, and values. By developing an effective recruiting strategy, you can attract and retain top talent and ensure your multilocation healthcare brand provides high-quality care to patients. A healthcare recruiting strategy may include

  • Clear job descriptions
  • Competitive compensation packages and benefits
  • Employer branding
  • Employee referrals
  • Recruiting events
  • Recruitment partnerships (e.g., educational institutions, universities, or other healthcare organizations)
  • Diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Interview process

12. You don’t have scalable programs

When marketing several locations, it’s important to consider the unique offerings at each (e.g., competitive outreach, levels of care, service offerings, priorities, specialties, providers, etc.) and build programs that can accommodate where they are now and where you want them to be in the future.

To ensure growth and success, it is crucial to create a unique marketing program for each office that follows branding and messaging guidelines and supports their individual growth needs and goals.

Tactics may include

Optimizing location pages for each business website

When it comes to local search, having a well-designed landing page for every location is crucial for dominating local search results.

Whether patients need a primary care physician or specialist, they often search for nearby health facilities. An SEO-optimized location page helps search engines rank your local businesses based on their proximity to user searches and present them to relevant audiences.

Leveraging online reviews

Online reviews are one of the top three ranking factors for local search. 

Encouraging patients to share feedback on their experience and developing a thoughtful response strategy can significantly impact your search engine ranking. Google’s algorithm values patient reviews and greatly influences whether someone clicks through to your website.

The best way to manage Google reviews for multiple locations is to create a Google Business Profile (GBP), which offers location management functionality. To add multiple business locations, your business must first verify a primary GBP listing, then each location can be individually created, edited, updated, and managed.

Using directories and local SEO

Local directories make it easier for people in your community to find your business, products, and services. These directories can also help boost your local SEO strategy by increasing the online visibility of each location and building high-quality links back to their pages.

Add each practice location to these directories to improve your online presence and increase brand exposure to local searchers

  • Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Healthgrades
  • Vitals
  • WebMD
  • RateMDs
  • ZocDoc

Dominating Local SERPs (paid, organic, local search)

Combining the local SEO strategies above with comprehensive paid and organic search strategies that differentiate your businesses with location-specific keywords can help move your locations into the highly coveted Google Local Pack.

Building relationships with referring doctors

Leverage the skill, experience, and expertise of physician liaisons and providers to grow your business and create more opportunities with referring doctors in your area.

Examining analytics for each location

Once you build a primary Google Business Profile and add your practice locations, you can easily track and examine analytics for each using Google’s Looker Studio. This free tool lets you easily connect to various data sources (Google Ads, Analytics, and social media platforms), view data by locality, and share insights with stakeholders.

This data also provides crucial insights into location performance (e.g., total page visits, form submissions, phone calls, or other crucial conversions), allowing businesses to identify where additional optimization or different SEO strategies are needed.

Building and maintaining an effective marketing strategy for a multilocation business is challenging. However, with the right tools, tactics, and support team, you can streamline challenges of all sizes, outpace your competition, grow brand recognition, and increase revenue.