How to Prioritize Your Healthcare Marketing Plan with Limited Resources

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.

Healthcare Content Marketing: The Only Constant Is Change

Cleveland Clinic’s creative director talks about about the organization’s decision to redesign their Health Essentials blog, which was already one of the top visited healthcare news sites.

For healthcare marketers vying for attention from increasingly health-curious and digitally savvy consumers, staying relevant is an ongoing challenge that requires continuous improvement. This is especially true when it comes to content marketing, with new channels emerging and search engines constantly tweaking their algorithms (Google made more than 3,000 updates last year alone).

We spoke with Anne Drago, creative director at the Cleveland Clinic, about her experience in leading a high-profile transition designed to elevate the organization’s already highly successful healthcare content marketing strategy.

In an upcoming panel discussion at the Health Summit at Content Marketing World, she will be giving a behind-the-scenes look at how Cleveland Clinic transformed a corporate-minded blog into a robust health media site trusted by millions worldwide.

Why do you feel this topic is relevant for today’s healthcare marketing professionals?

There is an important lesson in sharing our website redesign story: Just because something is working (and working EXTREMELY well) doesn’t mean that it can’t evolve into something even better. Health Essentials is one of the top-visited healthcare news sites in the country—we currently average 7 million unique sessions per month. [NOTE: The blog now receives more than 10 million visits per month, based on a recent interview with Cleveland Clinic Senior Director of Digital Marketing and Health Content Amanda Todorovich for the Healthcare Insight podcast.]

The site was definitely in need of a visual refresh, but we also looked at opportunities for improvement, as far as driving and retaining more traffic, and dove right in. We were on a relatively tight budget, so we capitalized on using our highly skilled, in-house designers (who have a better sense of the intricacies of the brand) to design the creative approach.

However, it is also important to know when it’s necessary to bring in outside help for these large-scale projects. Our partnership with 10up was crucial to the success of this redesign—we were able to rely on them for the things that our team doesn’t have an abundance of, like developers and UX specialists.

Can you share an anecdote or experience that illustrates how Cleveland Clinic put this idea into practice?

We have a team of six incredibly talented designers who work on most of the visuals for our content marketing efforts and anything related to Health Essentials. An in-house creative team provides an extreme value to Cleveland Clinic in that we (among other things) understand the brand, internal nuances and the healthcare market. We live and breathe the brand, and most of us have been working in it all day for many years. We are also committed to doing best-in-class creative work.

Due to the scale of our projects, there are times when we simply don’t have the resources to execute a project from start to finish. But we’ve learned to partner with companies who can help us execute where we cannot.

What types of consumer and/or physician data are you leveraging to drive creative decisions for the Cleveland Clinic blog and other channels?

With our website redesign, the focus was stepping away from being a blog—we looked at other media sites for ideas and inspiration.

We rely on Google analytics to inform the decisions we make. We know that nearly 80% of traffic to our site comes from mobile devices, so we made creating an amazing mobile experience the priority.

Through data, we also knew site visitors headed to one single page (whether driven there from organic search, social or an enewsletter) and then left the site. We wanted to change that pattern by getting more relevant content out in front of them by including related articles and health content from Cleveland Clinic’s Health Library on each article. Knowing that the home page wasn’t highly trafficked at all, we were able to remove the ads that appear on that page in favor of creating an overall experience that feels more like a media site.

With regard to social media, our entire design team creates Cleveland Clinic’s Instagram stories that appear on our account each day—each driving to an article on Health Essentials. Data has driven everything from the types of articles we focus on, creating new content types using Instagram tools (like polls and quizzes), all the way to what kind of visuals to use (or NOT to use).

What is the most important thing that you want attendees to take away from your presentation on healthcare content marketing?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be constantly experimenting and evolving your approaches. We have a work culture where its OK to take risks. In fact, experimenting is actually encouraged by our leadership, all the way up to our CMO. If something doesn’t stick, we then know (still valuable) what doesn’t work.

Don’t be afraid to try new content types to see how they perform. Do more of what performs best, then try to improve upon that.

Listen to your users. For instance, we had a couple of comments come through on Facebook regarding the usability of our interactive infographics. We evaluated their feedback and realized our approach to interactivity was confusing at times. So, we began fine-tuning our approach to usability and interactivity.

Our designers collaborate closely with our writers. We are truly a team and trust in each other’s expertise. It’s important to include designers in your start-of-work meetings. Designers are problem-solvers, but they need to understand the problem first.

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Setting the Pace for Voice Search Content Marketing in Healthcare

Comscore predicts that half of all searches will be performed by voice before 2020. Find out how marketers at one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country are leading the way by leveraging “the shiny object” into a voice search content marketing strategy that actually works.

Serving North Texas for more than 100 years, Children’s Health is consistently named one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Part of the team stewarding the brand and growth strategy of Children’s Health is Courtney Cox, digital marketing manager, who will be sharing her expert perspective on voice search and real-world examples at Content Marketing World 2019.

We spoke with Courtney in advance of her presentation titled “You Will Fail at Voice Search.”

Q: Why do you feel the topic of voice search content marketing is relevant for today’s healthcare marketing professionals?

There are so many reasons voice search makes sense for health care. First, when you think about being at home and trying to administer medicine, or take your kid’s temperature, or look closely at a spot on your partner’s arm, you don’t have your hands free to use your phone to look things up. We’ve lived in a world for the last decade where our phones have become increasingly powerful. They give us the access to literally all the world’s knowledge, but frankly, the experience sucks. It’s so disruptive and unnatural to pick up your phone in the middle of living your life to look something up. Voice maintains that accessibility to knowledge in a way that fits much more organically into the way we live our lives.

The second major reason voice search is relevant for today’s healthcare marketing professionals is that our patients often lack the physical ability to interact with a phone. Whether they have a vision impairment, a mobility issue or they’re just too ill to go through the motions, voice search enables patients to access information despite physical limitations.

Q: It feels like early stages for voice applications in healthcare marketing; when do you estimate the majority of hospitals and health systems will adopt voice as part of their content marketing efforts?

It will be much faster than mobile, but not fast enough to keep up with market demand. Look, users are adopting voice technology faster than any other communication device in history. The healthcare industry can be very conservative when it comes to taking risks with new tech. Voice will be no different. You have your pioneers that have already begun to experiment, but realistically, it’ll be at least another five years before it’s commonplace and probably 10 before healthcare voice marketing will have matured.

Q: Can you share an anecdote or experience that illustrates how Children’s Health put this idea into practice?

Once we got a taste of that first voice search result, which was a search for “why can’t my kid sleep?” our team was hooked.

I’ve always been the type of person that wants to experiment with new technology, and we’re lucky to have leadership that allows us to explore and try new things. We decided we were going to give organic voice search a shot, and set out to find existing content that ranked for voice. We had exactly one ranking that we could find, but we never stopped after that first taste.

Now we have hundreds of voice positions, and we add more every day. But we’re still chasing dominance.

Q: What is the most important thing that you want attendees to take away from your presentation on voice search content marketing?

The most important thing I want attendees to take away from my presentation is to start now. The folks that are experimenting and trying this stuff out now will dominate share of voice for the next decade. We’ll be the ones everyone else is trying to mimic and beat. Don’t you want to be a part of that, rather than trying to catch up?

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