We envision our future roles as healthcare marketers as more about driving population health initiatives forward. In reality, we’re all chasing high-value patient volumes.
Competition is fierce due to both traditional and non-traditional players, showing the impact of competition on healthcare marketing efforts in real-time. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly both challenging and critical to stand out as a healthcare brand.
Here are insights and best practices on differentiating your organization based on our work with hospitals and health systems nationwide.
What does it mean to say the market is competitive?
In our view, highly competitive markets have a few key characteristics. Typically, there are at least 2–3 health system providers. These include local or regional brands with at least one flagship hospital and, often, a number of additional specialty and outpatient facilities. Today, there’s increased competitive pressure from retail health brands, freestanding urgent care providers and emergency centers, telehealth options through employer-sponsored insurance plans, and more. For healthcare marketers, we’re often thinking about how to capture as much of the commercial volume as we can in our local markets. This is particularly true for high-value services like joint replacement, bariatric surgery, maternity, cardiovascular, oncology and more.
Standing out in competitive markets
To overcome increased and evolving competition, create horizontally integrated campaigns that connect consumers with the right messages. These campaigns must go through the right channels, at the right time and with the right call to action (CTA) to guide your ideal consumer to the next step on the healthcare journey.
For health systems with little or no competition, engaging consumers in your market area via digital-only channels, your community magazine or discrete brand messaging might be effective. That’s certainly not the case in highly competitive markets. A multichannel approach is critical to ensure that you’re not only matching the competition but creating differentiation and preference.
There are a few must-have tactics to master in this scenario:
- Effective paid search that targets high-value keywords and competitive brand terms. In crowded markets, your cost-per-click is typically going to increase significantly. This makes it critical to hone in on your target keywords and terms, as well as constantly optimizing both your bid and messaging strategy.
- Paid social media strategies that leverage unique and high-quality content. Social media continues to become noisier and more crowded, and it takes more creativity to stand out. Leverage great content, including blogs, video and infographics to help your content get noticed and generate more engagement. Further, make sure you’re using the right social channels. A few years ago, Facebook was a no brainer for any healthcare service line campaign. While that continues, diversity is critical and we recommend Instagram ad placement (specifically through Facebook Business Manager) for services like OBGYN, primary care, urgent care and pediatrics.
- Direct mail campaigns that focus on primary service lines. Done right, direct mail continues to be an effective way to drive volumes for services like colonoscopies, discounted heart screening programs, mammograms, primary care and more. We also recommend minimally implementing a new mover program to engage new residents looking for a healthcare home.
- Content hubs and blogs that promote a variety of content. As a revenue-generating activity, blogging is growing in both popularity and value in healthcare marketing. When planned, created, deployed and promoted effectively, content marketing supports both your brand and your service line growth priorities, becoming a no-brainer for systems in crowded markets.
Beyond these must-haves, we always recommend allocating some of your media budgets to experimental and traditional marketing efforts. A few additional channels we like include Pandora, Hulu, YouTube and native advertising.
The importance of messaging and experience
In any marketing plan you put in place in a crowded market, it’s critical to remember the impact of competition on your healthcare marketing efforts. Your money will only be as well spent as the content you create to support the strategy.
We believe that paid advertising is simply placing content on various platforms to connect with target audiences. Ads are content, and many agencies and digital marketers lose sight of this, focusing instead on the targeting and tools. However, great ad copy and effective landing pages can maximize investments significantly by driving both more clicks and better conversion rates.
To create great campaign content and assets, think about who you’re reaching, what matters to them about their healthcare experience and how to best guide them to the next best action. It’s critical that the entire consumer journey be positive, starting with the first digital or print encounter a consumer has with your brand. Reducing friction from Google Search or ad engagement through to conversion is a must in the modern era, and will drive better lead volumes for your organization.
In closing, holistically consider your brand and service line growth strategies when you’re playing in a competitive market. And with time and budget contraints: Consider working with key agency partners to make sure that you’re everywhere your competitors are, and then some.
We Can Help Your Healthcare Brand Stand Out
Our team of healthcare marketing experts understand how to compete—and win—in an increasingly crowded healthcare market.