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Attracting and retaining new primary care patients

A modern marketing and advertising guide

Today’s healthcare consumers are busier than ever, which makes it more important for primary care practices looking to grow their business to meet their patients where they are. This means connecting in a digital world where consumers routinely make their purchase decisions. Healthcare is no exception. For primary care practices, a strong digital marketing strategy and web presence are critical factors in the quest for more patients.

Family practice and internal medicine providers who shift their marketing strategies from outdated tools like newspaper ads, direct mail and broadcast to highly targeted digital campaigns are likely to see higher website traffic, stronger conversion metrics and more new patients.

Primary care doctor

Why modern marketing matters for primary care

The days where word-of-mouth marketing was all a good primary care practitioner needed to attract more patients and grow their business are over. Today, primary care practices also require a solid web presence, page one search engine results, online patient reviews, and a stellar web design.

Primary care providers who want to be found in a world of online search also need a sound digital marketing and advertising plan. Your primary care marketing strategy should not only generate awareness for your brand and business, but should also provide all the information a prospective patient needs to affirm that your practice is a top choice. This means a strong website design with compelling content, an outstanding online reputation to include positive patient reviews and testimonials, and the tools they need to seamlessly book an appointment with the click of a button. Used in tandem, these strategies can help primary care practices win over new patients and achieve long-term practice growth.

The primary care landscape: A competitive overview

Independent family care and internal medicine offices are fast becoming the minority with more large health systems, urgent care chains, big tech companies and retail giants getting into the primary care business. Independent practices and general practitioners who want to thrive amidst the consolidation of healthcare need to be able to compete in a digitally-driven environment.

From Walmart to Amazon to CVS, large companies everywhere are looking to capitalize on the growing demand for healthcare services. While they can’t offer the personalized care that a local private practice can deliver, these organizations often have massive marketing budgets that can be difficult to compete with.

In many cases, patients who are flocking to these non-traditional care settings are those who are seeking the convenience that many smaller primary care practices often don’t offer. Differentiating your practice by offering services and tools like online scheduling, extended hours (nights and weekends), telehealth, and other simple conveniences can help your office compete with those larger entities vying for your new patients.

Elements of a successful primary care marketing strategy

Establishing the right marketing mix for a primary care practice begins with an understanding of the patient search journey. The patient search journey refers to when, where and how patients search for healthcare information online and which factors drive their choices.

We know that three-quarters of patients search for information on health care and health care providers online. When they search for a primary care doctor in your area, do your office and providers rise to the top of search results? Once a prospective patient finds you, do you have the right website design and strategy to make a great first impression? From there, do you have the top-notch online reputation needed to win them over and convert them into new patients?

General practitioners who want to thrive in today’s competitive landscape need to deploy the right blend of patient acquisition and retention strategies, as well as a comprehensive practice growth plan. This all starts with implementing the right tools and tactics needed to launch a successful marketing strategy for a general practitioner. Today’s top advertising and marketing strategies for primary care providers include:

  • An eye-catching website design that’s easy to navigate, optimized for use on a mobile device, and loaded with compelling content that connects with patients of all ages.
  • A powerful web presence that reaches beyond your URL to ensure your practice shows up in popular online directories such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Vitals.
  • A comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that will help your practice land near the top of the search engine results page (SERP), ensuring prospective patients find your practice first.
  • A content marketing plan that includes social media, blogging and email marketing campaigns all designed to help primary care providers connect with current and prospective patients.
  • A reputation management program that drives positive online reviews and testimonials that demonstrate to prospective patients that your providers deliver high-quality care and an exceptional patient experience.
  • Ongoing outreach efforts that help strengthen the patient-provider relationship, such as targeted email campaigns with relevant health information, routine appointment reminders and more.
  • A paid digital advertising strategy that drives prospective primary care patients directly to your website, bringing a higher volume of qualified new patient leads to your practice for greater conversion.

When it comes to new patient acquisition, convenience is the great differentiator

80 percent of patients indicate they will consider switching providers for greater convenience.1

With more options available making it easier than ever before to access a primary care provider, independent practices need to consider convenience as part of their marketing and patient acquisition strategy. After all, today’s savvy patients are demanding (and getting) convenience in every other facet of their lives. From Amazon and DoorDash to grocery delivery and online banking, today’s busy consumers aren’t used to waiting for anything — and that includes getting an appointment with their doctor. If your primary care practice doesn’t offer online scheduling, you could be missing out on appointments from busy prospective patients searching for a new practice after hours. By the morning when your office opens, they’re likely to have forgotten all about the need for their annual physical exam.

Offering a seamless digital experience – from appointment scheduling to a patient’s first appointment and beyond – can help you attract and retain more patients and grow your practice over time. For a primary care provider, this means employing the use of digital tools to modernize the patient experience. Here are a few examples:

  • Optimal online performance, which means your website loads quickly, offers a clean web design, and is optimized for use on a mobile device.
  • Online scheduling, which makes it easy for website visitors to convert to new patients anytime, day or night. It also streamlines appointment rescheduling and cancellations.

68 percent of patients revealed that they prefer providers that offer the ability to book, change and cancel appointments online.2

  • Text messaging, which allows your patients to communicate with you on their own time, rather than sitting on hold or waiting for a return call.
  • Telehealth, which offers convenience and simplifies routine care and follow-up for your primary care patients. For patients who lack access to healthcare services close to home, telehealth can extend the geographic reach of your office and make it easier for patients to get the care they need.
  • Automated patient satisfaction surveys, which allows patients to share their feedback while providing primary care practice operators with the timely information needed to improve operations.
  • Email campaigns, which deliver relevant and timely health information straight to your patients’ inbox and keep them engaged in between appointments.
  • Online bill pay, which offers patient convenience and optimal practice revenue cycle.

In today’s technologically-savvy landscape, they can truly help differentiate your primary care practice from the competition and grow your business over time.

More on modernizing the patient experience here
Why your healthcare practice must offer online scheduling
Giving patients what they want in 2021: Top recommended actions for healthcare practices
Using digital tools to reduce waste when receiving and exchanging patient information

Make a memorable first impression with a top-notch website design and strategy

In many cases, your website is your best opportunity to make a great first impression. It’s the one place on the internet where you have full control over the look, feel and messaging needed to connect with prospective patients while introducing your practice and general practitioners. Think about the words and tone you use, as well as the colors, fonts, imagery and graphics, and choose those that will resonate with prospective patients. If you offer services that differentiate you from your internal medicine and family medicine competitors (i.e. onsite x-ray, lab, extended office hours, telehealth, urgent care services, etc.), be sure to feature those front and center on the homepage and throughout the site.

At the same time, remember that patients looking for a primary care provider are digitally-savvy and expect a memorable website design and a seamless online experience. This begins with great online performance — meaning a website that loads quickly, is mobile optimized and features intuitive navigation. Be sure it’s easy for visitors to find the information they need, including your services, location and a full list of your providers (with detailed bios). Finally, every page needs a clear call to action. It should be easy to book an appointment from any page on the site. While a link to online scheduling is best, at a minimum, provide a click-to-call phone number for mobile users.

But your patient’s online experience shouldn’t end with their first appointment. Keep them coming back by providing a steady stream of relevant blog content and email campaigns, online bill pay and the ability to book, reschedule or cancel appointments on your website.

Rise above the competition with search engine optimization (SEO)

Even the best primary care practices need a comprehensive search engine optimization strategy to thrive in today’s competitive landscape. Think about it this way: You could have the very best website and the most exceptional patient care team, but if prospective patients can’t find you in today’s digital world, how will you attract the new patients you need to maintain continuous practice growth?

That’s where an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy can help drive more visitors to your website for greater new patient conversion. Since 75 percent of patients search for healthcare or a healthcare provider online, it’s critical to ensure your general practitioners and primary care practice pops up near the top of the search results.

While there are many marketing tactics that can be effectively managed by practice administrators, search engine optimization is one strategy that’s typically best left to the experts. That’s because the search engine algorithms are constantly being adjusted, and therefore the best practices for being found in a digital world are evolving all the time, too.

Fortunately, there are a few key SEO strategies that have stood the test of time. Those include:

  • The use of relevant keywords across your website and online presence via profiles such as Google My Business, Yelp and Vitals. For primary care, this may include primary care, family medicine, internal medicine, family practice doctor, general practitioner, etc. Other relevant search terms may include chronic disease management, annual physical exam, routine check-up, etc.
  • The implementation of a content marketing plan that includes regular blogging on your website (1-4x per month is ideal), social media posts that link back to your website, targeted email campaigns to generate website traffic and a commitment to keeping your website content fresh and updated with new and relevant information (e.g., new providers, added services, changes in operations or hours, etc.).
  • An online reputation management strategy that increases the volume and frequency of your primary care practice’s online reviews on popular sites such as Google, Yelp, Vitals, etc. That’s because Google actually recognizes online reviews as a key indicator of your practice’s relevance in the community – and as such, rewards those practices with more patient reviews by bumping them up in search engine results.

More on search engine optimization
Page 1 potential: 5 tactics to get your healthcare practice toward the top of search results
Helping healthcare practices get found online: Search ranking factors and trends from SEO experts

How online reputation management pays off for primary care practices

For primary care, family practice and internal medicine providers, reputation management is the new word of mouth. In fact,71 percent of patients say their first step in finding a new doctor is looking at online reviews3. This means those primary care providers and practices with an excellent online reputation are more likely to score new patients than those with poor or neutral patient reviews. In fact, nearly six out of ten patients won’t consider a provider or practice with anything less than an average 4-star rating. That’s why a solid reputation management strategy is a sound investment that drives business growth.

Building a strong online reputation for long-term practice growth

Many primary care providers think their online reputation is out of their hands. While you can’t fully control your patient reviews, there are several proven tactics that can help primary care practices and providers enhance their online reputation and patient reviews. Practices with better reviews demonstrate to prospective patients that your primary care providers have a stellar reputation in the community and that they’re likely to get the quality care and service they’re looking for at your practice. Here are a few proven reputation management strategies to help keep your patients happy and your online reputation positive.

  • Improve the patient experience. Today’s busy patients put a premium on convenience. For primary care practices, that means the easier you make it for patients to do business with you, the more satisfied they’ll be. Introducing digital tools designed to modernize the patient experience, such as online scheduling, digital registration and intake, telehealth, automated reminders and text messaging, can streamline the patient experience and lead to happier patients.
  • Implement automated patient satisfaction surveys. Asking your primary care patients for their feedback after each appointment not only lets them know you care about their experience, it actually increases the odds that they will submit a proactive online review. PatientPop research indicates that patients who receive an automated survey are 50 percent more likely to share their feedback via an online patient review.
  • Be responsive to feedback. Whether you receive feedback via a satisfaction survey, an online patient review, or email, dissatisfied patients should hear from you directly — and promptly. Monitoring feedback regularly can also help you keep a pulse on patient sentiment, which can lead to changes in operations that will improve the patient experience over time.

More patient reviews = more website traffic for primary care providers

Aside from making a positive impression on prospective patients, there’s another important reason to focus on reputation management and enhancing your practice’s online reviews. What many primary care practices don’t know is that Google pays attention to your patient reviews, too — and the volume and frequency of reviews you get has an impact on where your practice shows up in local search results.

That’s right. When it comes to online search, Google (and other search engines) prioritize those primary care practices with more patient reviews. That’s because a stronger online reputation signals that your practice is frequented often and has local relevance. This shows that your online reputation is an important part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

More on online reputation management
Creating and maintaining a 5-star reputation for your healthcare practice
The risks and potential rewards of negative patient reviews
Ways to manage your reputation during COVID-19

Content marketing for the general practitioner

Today’s healthcare consumers love digital content. Whether it’s video, blog, or social media, prospective primary care patients are spending much of their time online. In fact, the average adult spends nearly three hours a day4 on their smartphone.

Primary care practices that take advantage of this captive audience by generating relevant and timely content can improve awareness for their practice and position themselves for long-term growth.

There are dozens of ways to connect with prospective primary care patients. Here are a few of the top proven strategies for family medicine, internal medicine and primary care practices to consider:

  • Blogging: Regularly publishing content that promotes your practice and providers as experts in their field serves many purposes. First, it can improve your search engine ranking and website traffic since doing so will impact your relevancy score with Google and other search engines. Secondly, it can help generate awareness for your practice, providers and services — particularly when used in conjunction with social media. Lastly, blogging can help you stay connected with existing patients by sharing education and information from their primary care team.
  • Social media: More than 80 percent of Americans5 use at least one social media platform, making it a great way to stay in front of prospective patients of all ages. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are great venues for sharing compelling information that relates to your primary care services.
  • Targeted email marketing: Personalized, segmented messages that deliver relevant content based on demographics or diagnoses can help keep your primary care practice top of mind, while strengthening the patient-provider relationship.

Creative content marketing ideas for primary care providers

If you need some ideas, here are just a few examples of potential primary care content marketing tactics to consider:

  • A blog explaining the risks of unmanaged diabetes and how their primary care doctor can help them keep their condition under control.
  • A heart health-focused email campaign targeted at patients with risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity.
  • A Q&A with one of your providers about the importance of routine health screenings.
  • A Facebook post reminding patients to schedule their annual flu vaccine or physical exam.
  • A men’s health campaign offering education and information on low T, erectile dysfunction (ED), chronic disease management and more.
  • A Twitter post highlighting the latest FDA-approved treatments for obesity.
  • An email introducing a new service or offering, such as concierge medicine or a new weight management program.
  • A back-to-school blog post promoting healthy sleep habits, nutritious lunch ideas and backpack safety.

Still stumped? Here’s a list of common primary care topics to consider for your next blog post, social media and/or email campaign.

Common Primary Care Topics, Conditions, Treatments & Services

  • Family Medicine/Family Practice
  • Pediatrics/Pediatric Care
  • Internal Medicine
  • Urgent Care/Walk-in Clinic
  • Telemedicine
  • Concierge Medicine
  • Integrative Medicine/Regenerative Medicine
  • Lab Services
  • IV Therapy/Dehydration
  • Allergies/Allergy Testing
  • Pain Management
  • Physicals/Physical Exams/Annual Physicals/Wellness Exam
  • Medical Weight Loss
  • Arthritis
  • Depression. Anxiety & Mental Health
  • Chronic Disease Management
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
  • COVID-19 Testing/COVID-19 Vaccine
  • ADHD/ADD and ADHD Treatment
  • Women’s Health
    • Routine Screenings
    • Wellness Exam/Pap Smear
    • Hormone Therapy/Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Men’s Health
    • Routine Screenings
    • Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
    • Low T
    • Testosterone Therapy/Testosterone Replacement
  • Dermatology Services
    • Annual Skin Checks
    • Mole Removal
    • Botox, Laser Hair Removal
    • Skin Tightening
    • Body Sculpting/Body Contouring
    • Sculpsure

Reminder: Be sure to use the keywords and phrases your patients are most likely to use (i.e. keep it simple and in layman’s terms). This will help support your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

Used together, these content marketing strategies can generate awareness for your primary care practice, increase website traffic, drive appointment volume and improve patient retention.

More on content marketing
7 blog post types for healthcare marketing
5 fast tips: How healthcare practices should use social media during COVID-19
What doctors should know when blogging about hot medical topics

Good to grow: Proven strategies for primary care practice growth

Practice growth isn’t something that just happens by chance. Practices that grow are those that have a coordinated growth strategy in place. Advertising and marketing are important for driving patient acquisition, but practice growth is about more than just attracting new patients. Primary care practices looking for long-term sustained growth need a patient retention plan, and should also be focused on strengthening the patient-provider relationship. Each of these strategies should be outlined in a comprehensive plan that includes reasonable goals for growth.

To monitor performance against your growth strategy, a practice growth platform can help you keep a close watch on key performance indicators such as website statistics, search results rankings, new appointment volume and reputation management insights. Having this information available at a glance makes it easier to know if your primary care marketing and advertising efforts are paying off or if you need to shift strategies. Better insight into your primary care practice’s performance can lead to greater practice growth over time.

More on practice growth platform
What is a practice growth platform and how can it help private practices achieve 2021 goals?
5 ways every healthcare practice can get more from a practice growth platform
Making your healthcare practice a thriving business: Four must-haves for a technology platform

Best practices for primary care advertising

Advertising can support your organic digital marketing efforts by broadening the reach of your brand. And paid advertising doesn’t have to cost a fortune. One of digital marketing’s greatest benefits is that it allows primary care practices to start small and scale over time. Here are several proven advertising strategies to help promote your primary care practice.

  • Google ads, also known as pay-per-click advertising, allow primary care practices to move up to the top of the search results page for greater visibility and website traffic — and the great news is that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
  • Social media advertising allows you to reach more users than you get with organic posts. A combination of boosted posts and ad campaigns mean you can deliver a blend of educational and promotional content that will drive awareness for your primary care practice.
  • Online banner ads allow primary care practices to display customized ads on popular websites where prospective patients spend time. Ads click through to your website, improving your website traffic, practice awareness and new patient volume.

These digital advertising tactics work well in conjunction with any traditional marketing efforts you may have in place, including direct mail, broadcast or print advertising campaigns.

12019 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report, NRC Health
2Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey
3"How Patients Use Online Reviews," Software Advice
4“Average US Time Spent with Mobile in 2019 Has Increased,” eMarketer
5“Percentage of U.S. population who currently use any social media from 2008 to 2021,” Statista

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