How to Outsmart vs. Outspend the Competition with Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy

by | Dec 2, 2020 | Healthcare Industry Insights | 0 comments

Gain a competitive advantage while conserving costs in the COVID-19 era with an effective healthcare marketing strategy.

It’s time to take a more cere­bral approach to health­care marketing.

Whether your health­care brand is a new entrant, a chal­lenger or the clear leader, the mar­ket has become more com­pet­i­tive. On top of that, expec­ta­tions from your board, lead­er­ship team and oth­er stake­hold­ers aren’t get­ting any low­er. Addi­tion­al­ly, resources are increas­ing­ly lim­it­ed as hos­pi­tal and health sys­tem rev­enues declined sharply due to COVID-19.

How should your health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy adjust to meet con­sumer needs and lead­er­ship expectations?

Doing more with less” has always been a health­care marketer’s mantra. This mind­set is now mis­sion-crit­i­cal as you work to engage con­sumers, grow rev­enue and gain a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic that is impact­ing vir­tu­al­ly every aspect of health care.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy into 2021

A num­ber of indus­try reports illus­trate the impact of COVID-19 on health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy and budgets:

  • COVID-19 accel­er­at­ed the shift from a bud­get-based cul­ture to a per­for­mance-based cul­ture that is marked by improv­ing per­for­mance every day (COVID-19 Bull­dozed Bud­gets and Now Hos­pi­tals Are Shift­ing from a Bud­get-Based to a Per­for­mance-Based Cul­ture in Becker’s Hos­pi­tal Review).
  • Nine­ty per­cent of mar­keters expect their over­all depart­ment bud­get to decrease or stay the same next year. Near­ly 40%, how­ev­er, are grow­ing their dig­i­tal invest­ment (Health­care Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Trends report from Geonet­ric and eHealth­care Strat­e­gy & Trends).
  • Dur­ing COVID-19, top mar­ket­ing pri­or­i­ties have focused on social media (48%), cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tion (34%) and con­tent mar­ket­ing (33%). The three areas of bud­get cuts include media spend­ing (39%), con­trac­tors (37%) and team mem­bers (36%) (How COVID-19 is Shift­ing Pri­or­i­ties for Health­care Mar­keters from Bina­ry Foun­tain).
  • Brand dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is even more para­mount dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, as “com­pas­sion confusion”—caused by a steady feed of mes­sages relat­ed to healthcare—makes it chal­leng­ing for hos­pi­tal cam­paigns to stand out. (7 Ideas for Smart Hos­pi­tal Mar­ket­ing Cam­paigns Right Now in Becker’s Hos­pi­tal Review).
  • Eighty per­cent of con­tent mar­ket­ing bud­gets decreased or stayed flat due to COVID-19. Eighty-four per­cent, how­ev­er, expect to spend the same or more on con­tent mar­ket­ing in the next bud­get cycle (State of Health­care Con­tent Mar­ket­ing from True North Cus­tom).

The com­mon threads in these and oth­er reports make it clear that health­care mar­ket lead­ers are invest­ing in strate­gies designed to define their brands, demon­strate unique val­ue and dri­ve growth. What isn’t obvi­ous is how to com­pete with con­strained resources in a crowd­ed dig­i­tal landscape.

We’re Here to Help

Here’s how you can out­think your com­pe­ti­tion in the areas where health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy deci­sions and invest­ments are most impactful.

Brand Development

Brand devel­op­ment is an ongo­ing process of refin­ing brand stan­dards and style guides based on evolv­ing trends and con­sumer pref­er­ences. Ensure your brand strat­e­gy is con­sis­tent and con­nects with con­sumers as indi­vid­u­als and influ­ences both the per­cep­tion of your brand and the suc­cess of every dig­i­tal and tra­di­tion­al cam­paign component.

The pan­dem­ic has forced health­care orga­ni­za­tions to reeval­u­ate brand strate­gies. The most effec­tive cam­paigns are inte­grat­ed to engage con­sumers online and through com­ple­men­tary offline chan­nels to dri­ve behav­ior change and ser­vice line revenue.

For exam­ple, a mod­ern brand strat­e­gy includes blogs and social media to gen­er­ate aware­ness and engage­ment, as well as paid search and social ads to dri­ve lead vol­ume. Each of those chan­nels are com­ple­ment­ed with direct mail pieces, dis­play and native adver­tis­ing, stream­ing ser­vice pro­mo­tion, and more.

How to Outsmart Your Competition

Get clos­er to your cus­tomers by research­ing the peo­ple you’re reach­ing to inform design and mes­sag­ing deci­sions. Ask for reg­u­lar feed­back about your brand and the expe­ri­ence con­sumers have with you online, through tra­di­tion­al chan­nels and when they step through your doors.

Com­mu­ni­cate with a con­sis­tent tone, voice, theme, design style and more across all chan­nels and cam­paign com­po­nents. This means using tra­di­tion­al media, stream­ing ser­vice pro­mo­tion, direct mail and oth­er out­lets in a way that com­ple­ments high­ly tar­get­ed search and social media adver­tis­ing.

Avoid invest­ing in large-scale research projects that are often expen­sive and time-con­sum­ing. Instead, con­sid­er the Milk Test. In the words of Sales­force Direc­tor of Mar­ket Strat­e­gy Math­ew Sweezey, “You don’t need to take 100 sips of milk to know it’s bad.” He points out that a small, rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple set—even as few as six peo­ple who reflect your tar­get audience—can offer insights that inform your brand priorities.

Digital Marketing

Dur­ing COVID-19, an effec­tive approach to dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cen­ters around build­ing inte­grat­ed cam­paigns that lever­age the appro­pri­ate dig­i­tal and tra­di­tion­al chan­nels to meet cam­paign goals. This includes think­ing first about the tar­get con­ver­sion and over­all per­for­mance goal, the bud­get avail­able to achieve those goals, and what indi­vid­u­als will be the most valu­able tar­gets. From there, you can deter­mine the chan­nels and mes­sag­ing that will be most effi­cient and effective.

Dig­i­tal strat­e­gy should be hor­i­zon­tal­ly inte­grat­ed with tra­di­tion­al media, and brand efforts should be well aligned with ser­vice-line growth. This requires a more strate­gic approach to cam­paign plan­ning and mov­ing away from one-off ser­vice line efforts that occur spo­rad­i­cal­ly through­out the year. Instead, focus on inte­grat­ed cam­paign strate­gies that build brand aware­ness and affin­i­ty and dri­ve the right patient volumes.

How to Outsmart Your Competition

Stop chas­ing shiny new objects and throw­ing more bud­get at new chal­lenges. Instead, think cre­ative­ly to opti­mize your dig­i­tal approach. Often­times, new tools and chan­nels are used with­out think­ing about how the con­sumer will inter­act with your brand and what mes­sage will res­onate. These efforts may draw unnec­es­sar­i­ly from your budget.

Focus paid search tar­get­ing on terms that sig­nal a consumer’s readi­ness to con­vert. This ensures your bud­get is spent on the high­est qual­i­fied leads and avoids unnec­es­sar­i­ly dri­ving up the cost per click and sub­se­quent total cost per lead and bud­get by bid­ding on over­ly expen­sive key­words and terms. Fur­ther, use brand­ed search strate­gi­cal­ly. If no com­peti­tors are bid­ding on your brand, you may leave your own brand out of your ad tar­get­ing as well, rely­ing on organ­ic search. If you’re focused on a ser­vice line or mar­ket with big names like Cleve­land Clin­ic or Mayo Clin­ic, be inten­tion­al about how you try to com­pete for that traf­fic, and work to opti­mize SEO to bal­ance your budget.

Make sure your paid social media strate­gies are deliv­er­ing the right mes­sages to the right consumers—and use the right chan­nels. Face­book is get­ting old­er (and nois­i­er), so for ser­vice lines like urgent care or women and chil­dren, include Insta­gram in your ad strat­e­gy as well.

Exper­i­ment with high­ly engag­ing chan­nels with a broad nation­al audi­ence like Pan­do­ra, Hulu, YouTube and more to reach your tar­get com­mu­ni­ties and build brand aware­ness.

Deliv­er a fric­tion­less path to request­ing or sched­ul­ing an appoint­ment. Use online sched­ul­ing options, call cen­ters that pro­vide excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice or, if all else fails, a con­ver­sion-opti­mized cam­paign land­ing page where con­sumers can request (and receive) a call back to sched­ule an appointment.

Use tools like down­load­able treat­ment guides to gen­er­ate qual­i­fied leads. This allows you to cap­ture a consumer’s email when they down­load the asset, then send them a series of nur­tur­ing emails to fur­ther the rela­tion­ship and dri­ve down­stream encounters.

To engage with cur­rent patients and grow share of wal­let, devel­op email mar­ket­ing inclu­sive of nur­tur­ing jour­neys that con­tin­ue to build rela­tion­ships and dri­ve consideration.

Content Marketing

By using con­tent mar­ket­ing to spark inter­est and dri­ve behav­ior change, mar­keters are out­smart­ing the com­pe­ti­tion by effec­tive­ly build­ing brand rela­tion­ships, enter­ing con­sumers into the mar­ket­ing fun­nel and nur­tur­ing them toward a rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing call to action.

Cre­ative strat­e­gy and effec­tive con­tent are crit­i­cal to opti­miz­ing results across dig­i­tal media and max­i­miz­ing invest­ments in new mar­ket­ing tools. Con­nect­ing with a tar­get con­sumer with the right mes­sage, at the right time and through the right chan­nel is crit­i­cal in an envi­ron­ment where con­sumer atten­tion is increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to earn.

It’s impor­tant to note that con­tent mar­ket­ing should nei­ther be all about what you as a health­care brand want to talk about nor should it be sole­ly about what peo­ple in your mar­kets are active­ly search­ing for. The key is think­ing first about your goal con­ver­sions and high pri­or­i­ty ser­vices and then using SEO research to solid­i­fy how to cre­ate con­tent that will solve spe­cif­ic prob­lems for your tar­get audience.

This approach ensures con­tent will have strong organ­ic per­for­mance while also sup­port­ing ser­vice-line growth pri­or­i­ties and the var­i­ous cam­paigns that you exe­cute via social media.

How to Outsmart Your Competition

Let data dri­ve deci­sions around top­ics, angles and calls to action. Include an analy­sis of cur­rent and past per­for­mance, com­peti­tor per­for­mance trends, and local search trends to iden­ti­fy gaps in con­tent and oppor­tu­ni­ties for improved organ­ic results in your con­tent strat­e­gy and plan­ning activity.

Not all con­tent needs to be cre­at­ed from scratch, nor should it be. As you plan con­tent each month, make sure you’re updat­ed and repost­ing old con­tent to ensure you’re nei­ther rein­vent­ing the wheel unnec­es­sar­i­ly and to ensure you’re not adding dupli­cat­ing con­tent and cre­at­ing a sce­nario where mul­ti­ple pages com­pete for the same key­word traffic.

Ensure your social media cam­paigns and con­tent mar­ket­ing strate­gies are close­ly aligned. Blog con­tent should be lever­aged in social cam­paign strate­gies as con­tent aligns with ser­vice line goals to cre­ate syn­er­gies between growth efforts, SEO strate­gies and brand-build­ing priorities.

Use calls to action and con­tent that align with where a con­sumer is on their deci­sion-mak­ing jour­ney, and align your con­tent with SEO best prac­tices to ensure high organ­ic performance.

Lever­age the capa­bil­i­ties of your CMS plat­form. These tools allow you to per­son­al­ize the expe­ri­ence for web­site vis­i­tors and under­stand their behav­ior on your site, enabling you to con­tin­u­ous­ly opti­mize con­tent and move con­sumers through your site.

We’re Here to Help You Outsmart Your Competition

With these insights as a guide, your 2021 health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy and bud­get can deliv­er long-term val­ue to your orga­ni­za­tion and community.

Sign up for updates!

Sign up for updates!

Get marketing tips delivered straight to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!