The discipline of healthcare marketing continues to progress at a rapid pace. This is perhaps best illustrated by strategic plans and budgets that increasingly reflect lower (or no) investments in legacy tactics, which often create high visibility but low actual value to the organization or community—like national health observances.
The challenges healthcare marketers have been faced with the last few months have driven a more definitive shift in strategy, leaving disparate email blasts, local radio advertising and other vestiges of a bygone era behind as we head into the next decade.
Today, an aligned strategic marketing approach focuses on reducing friction, promoting access across digital channels and using the appropriate traditional outlets that drive engagement. That balance is becoming critical to success.
Yet, there is still a sacred cow that has remained static on the marketing plan for most healthcare organizations: promoting national health observances.
From month-long celebrations of heart health in February to diabetes seminars and screenings in November—and events tied to dozens of events in between—national health observances often command an outsized amount of time and resources compared to the relative return on investment. With COVID-19 accelerating change in all areas of healthcare, the time to reimagine how marketers approach national health observances to meaningfully engage patients and promote priority service lines is now.
In the wake of the pandemic, declining ED visits and revenue shortfalls are shifting marketing priorities away from tactics powered by inertia and toward growth-focused initiatives. Savvy marketers are challenging the status quo and letting community needs and organizational goals drive marketing priorities.
The imperative to generate revenue applies to all planned initiatives and investments, including the promotion of national health observances. If you're charged with building volume and boosting revenue, here’s how to embrace this changing of the seasons and take a long-term, growth-focused approach to raising awareness and motivating action.
From Seasonal Campaigns to Long-Term Growth Strategies
A hallmark of modern healthcare marketing is the shift away from ad hoc, siloed campaigns reaching a wide audience to horizontally integrated strategies targeting specific consumers.
To apply this model to national health observances, market leaders are moving away from discrete tactics or events tied to the seasonal awareness calendar and creating a marketing flywheel that generates long-term growth for high-value service lines. Defined as a “continuously improving set of repeatable, tactical investments that scale with decreasing friction,” a flywheel typically involves content and search engine optimization (SEO) combined with strategic calls to action to find, engage, nurture and convert ideal prospects into customers and brand advocates.
Here’s an example of a marketing flywheel:
- Grow and engage your audience through paid search, social posts and email to grow your marketing opt-in list.
- Refine the customer experience and content effectiveness through historic optimization of blog posts and A/B testing for email.
- Measure effectiveness of key metrics like traffic, engagement and conversions.
- Deploy a new marketing initiative: social campaigns, series of blog posts or podcasts, webinars, etc.
- Amplify the reach of that initiative through paid and organic content promotion.
- Repeat the cycle through tactics designed to grow and engage the audience as outlined in step 1.
To implement this growth-focused approach to national health observances, there are common threads that apply to each service line represented on the national calendar.
Before: The primary objective was raising awareness of the health issue in focus during a particular period (e.g. Heart Month in February).
Now: Smart marketers are moving consumers from awareness to actions that accelerate the health journey and drive patient volume/revenue for priority services.
Planning and Measurement
Before: Each national health observance was promoted through individual campaigns and content with defined start and end dates.
Now: Market leaders have advanced from one-off campaigns to iterative calendars that continuously integrate and optimize service line content across channels.
Before: Health awareness information focused on evergreen, boilerplate content designed to educate consumers of signs, symptoms and risks.
Now: Content marketing initiatives are simply tuned to promote health observances by promoting relevant topics and targeting the right audience based on goal conversion.
Trending Topics for Priority Service Lines
To shift from steady state to a flywheel, growth-focused approach to promoting health observances, start with researching the topics both your audience cares about and that promote a valuable conversion. This is a proven model employed by healthcare leaders like Cleveland Clinic—the #1 hospital blog in America with 10 million visitors per month—that effectively leverage content and SEO to drive consumers from engagement to conversion for high-value service lines.
Based on both search research and conversion points that typically add value, here are a few suggested topics for engaging patients and prospects for high-value service lines associated with prominent national health observances:
Trending topics in heart health are tied to diet and exercise, as well as the impact of stress and mental health on cardiovascular wellness. Many health systems focus on preventive care and routine screenings to build their cardiovascular practice.
- The science behind Omega-3 fatty acids
- Why walking is the most underrated form of heart-healthy exercise
- What does a cardiac stress test identify and what to expect
- The link between heart disease and stress
- Breaking down 5 of the trendiest diets and their impact on heart health
Women’s Health (May)
Top topics related to women’s health reflect opportunities for healthcare organizations to offer guidance on staying healthy while managing family, career and other priority service line topics, particularly for OB/GYN.
- How menopause can cause heart health changes
- What vitamins should women take on a daily basis at 40/50/60+
- The safest ways for women to lose weight post-menopause
- Your guide to losing weight and getting back in shape safely post-baby
- Most common health problems faced by working women—and how to avoid them
Mental Health (May)
Mental health was a serious problem prior to the pandemic, and stressors associated with COVID-19—including fear of infection, rising unemployment and isolation due to social distancing—have only magnified these concerns. Content priorities reflect the anxiety, depression and fear many Americans are facing in light of the pandemic. Content often speaks to family and friends who would help a loved one pursue help.
- Helping a child suffering from anxiety disorder and/or panic attacks
- Mental health warning signs to watch for in teen and young adult men
- How to talk about your depression with friends and family
- How to address mental health concerns during COVID-19
- Does health insurance cover mental health treatment?
- Best ways to support a loved one struggling with addiction
Breast Cancer (October)
Like other categories, topics tied to breast cancer appeal to an interest in how lifestyle choices impact risk.
- Does birth control cause breast cancer?
- The best diet to prevent—or beat—breast cancer
- Can men get breast cancer?
- Is there a correlation between hair dye and breast cancer risk?
- The link between breast cancer and menopause
Typically, health systems promote prevention, education and medication management when they run diabetes campaigns. Today, coronavirus news is important, too, as the link between diabetes and COVID-19 risk and morbidity becomes increasingly clear.
- Why COVID-19 is more dangerous for people with diabetes
- The best prediabetes diet in 2020
- Can you reverse type 2 diabetes?
- Building healthy habits in your children when diabetes runs in the family
- Is a vegan diet right for managing diabetes?
With these topics as a guide, your strategy for promoting national health observances can shift from calendar-driven tasks to an audience-centric model that delivers long-term value for consumers and the organization.