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

By 2022, more than half of U.S. homes will have smart speakers — and nearly 3 in 4 people have used voice search within the past month. 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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