The demands on healthcare marketers have never been greater: differentiate the brand in an increasingly competitive market and guide consumers on their healthcare journey—all while driving volume and likely with limited budgets at their disposal. Here’s how to build a healthcare marketing plan that focuses on initiatives with the greatest impact.
The word “unprecedented” gets thrown around a lot these days, with the label given to everything from the demand for water to interest in cybercrime. The description is arguably most apt when applied to the financial pressures faced by hospitals and health systems—and those pressures are mounting in marketing and communications departments.
Even before the pandemic, marcom teams were juggling competing priorities and dividing time between myriad disciplines. In the latest By the Numbers report from the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development released in 2017, at least 50% of marketers surveyed were responsible for 19 disparate job functions ranging from media/public relations and brand strategy to market research and community education.
The New Normal for Healthcare Marketing
The global health crisis has only magnified these challenges, while simultaneously reshuffling priorities for the foreseeable future. A Greystone survey of hospital and healthcare system marketers conducted in early April found nearly 60% are marketing services related to COVID-19 only, and most feel it will be either “a few weeks” or “up to a month” after the crisis diminishes before hospital marketing activities largely return to normal.
Despite these headwinds, healthcare marketers are a linchpin to leveraging the heightened appreciation for healthcare providers and advancing rebound and recovery strategies for their organizations. Marketing has the clearest line of sight to brand priorities, market dynamics, consumer needs and competitive pressures; however, developing and deploying effective marketing strategies now requires a significant pivot from the plans in place before the pandemic.
If you’re struggling to decide which marketing initiatives to maintain, shift or shelve, here are a few critical questions to ask while re-evaluating your healthcare marketing plan in light of COVID-19. Taking an objective look through these three lenses can narrow your focus and guide your prioritization efforts.
Will this initiative deliver value to the organization?
The first step in re-evaluating plans and establishing priorities is to align with leadership on the definition of value—and for most in the C‑suite, financial recovery is paramount.
While mission-minded initiatives that support community education and population health are important, the transformation of marketing from cost center to revenue driver—and ultimately finding customers—is essential for long-term success.
To achieve this goal, market leaders are shifting priorities from COVID-focused communications to building a pipeline of candidates for high-value services. By balancing patient education and engagement strategies with campaigns designed to capitalize on pent-up demand and drive revenue growth, marketers can have a lasting impact on the health of their communities and organizations.
To help you fill the funnel for high-value services, we hosted a webinar on What You Can Do Now to Drive Revenue Growth while operating during the COVID-19 era. Get highlights from the presentation and watch the recording here.
Will this initiative deliver value to the communities served?
Once marketing is aligned with leadership on goals and desired outcomes, the next step is pinpointing the ideal audience and solving their unique needs. Many consumers are experiencing “peak pandemic advertising” from the crush of COVID-focused messaging. A commitment to customer-centric marketing is essential for making an authentic connection that motivates action.
One of the primary needs driven by the pandemic is for timely, accurate healthcare content that guides decisions and allays fears in returning to care. To find clarity, consumers are looking to hospitals and health systems as trusted sources of information, with many considering local providers even more credible than the federal government and national news outlets.
This increased demand for healthcare content applies across all demographics, especially young adults. Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) of Millennial and Gen Z respondents in a survey titled “Youth in Pandemic” want to consume coronavirus-related content online and 50% said that updates on their social feeds “make them capable of getting through this.”
So how can marketers find, engage and convert the right communities to drive results?
In the words of Cleveland Clinic Senior Director of Content and Creative Services Amanda Todorovich, “Make your audience your universe.” That sentiment reflects the driving force behind the hospital’s content strategy—including the Health Essentials blog that generates more than 8 million sessions each month. Their success is predicated on featuring the type of content you’d find on a retail website, with topics like How to Work from Home and Still Be Productive and Cures for COVID-19 Cabin Fever.
As their approach illustrates, engaging today’s healthcare consumers requires a significant shift in content strategy. To guide your efforts, we’ve developed an eBook that identifies four pivotal areas that can make or break your healthcare marketing plan during the pandemic and beyond.
Can this initiative be more effective if we partner with experts?
Finally, when establishing priorities, it’s important to recognize the areas where your team is strong, and identify where guidance and support from strategic partners can amplify or accelerate marketing initiatives.
As noted above, moving the revenue needle is more important than ever. However, it’s also more difficult to find, engage and convert the ideal patients and prospects due to media fragmentation and the competitive landscape. Overcoming these hurdles requires expertise in modern marketing disciplines like website strategy and digital marketing, which were the areas where healthcare marketers gave themselves the lowest grades in the latest State of Digital Healthcare Marketing Report.
While the inclination might be to place these initiatives on the backburner, a better alternative is finding partners with proven expertise and a well-defined process. Identifying the right resources and involving them early will ensure your COVID-era healthcare marketing plan—and most importantly, your marketing performance—is successful.
We’re Here to Help
Our team of healthcare marketing experts can deliver results for your priority services.