Why Frequency in Healthcare Marketing Matters

by | Feb 26, 2020 | Digital Strategy

We’ve probably all heard the old marketing adage: It takes about seven impressions for prospects to remember your brand and consider buying from you. Content cadence and frequency is as critical as content quality when it comes to building awareness, preference and loyalty in healthcare marketing—and striking a balance between engaging and fatiguing your audience can be tricky.

As anyone who’s discovered a brand or bought something from them based on a digital ad, blog post or magazine article knows: Timing matters in marketing. And while heart screenings and hip replacements aren’t exactly impulse buys, connecting with consumers who aren’t familiar with your brand—and making it easy for them to find your content and take action when they’re ready—can have a big impact on performance.

We know there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare marketing, but let’s take a look at what the data says about frequency, along with our experience in helping healthcare organizations engage consumers through the most popular marketing channels.

Email Marketing

While shiny new channels like chatbots and TikTok garner most of the attention from marketers, there’s an overlooked platform that consistently delivers results: email. In fact, Litmus research found that email marketing returns $38 for every dollar invested, and healthcare consumers love email so much they’d even be willing to pay per interaction with a physician. With 99% of consumers checking their email every day, reaching them with relevant content on a regular schedule is a critical piece of an effective healthcare marketing plan.

What the data says:
According to a MarketingSherpa survey, 61% of users prefer receiving a promotional email at least once a month, and 15% say they wouldn’t mind receiving a promotional email every day. (Entrepreneur)

In our experience:
Sending emails to a list of patients or prospects without their permission is never a great idea. So assuming your audience wants to hear from you, here is what we have found most effective:

  • For health and wellness email newsletters designed to generate awareness and build trust as part of a robust content strategy, set a goal to send every other week or even weekly if possible. Even better, offering multiple subscription options based on the user’s desired frequency (like we do) ensures you’re reaching the audience not only how but when they want to hear from you.
  • For nurturing prospects generated by a health risk assessment, paid search campaign or other source, a cadence of 5–12 total messages in the two months following lead creation is ideal to move consumers toward a goal conversion. The total number of messages and the time between them will vary based on the campaign goals and MarTech tools used.

Blog and Social Content

Your digital content says a lot about your brand. If your site and social media content is static for weeks (or worse, months), any traffic received will leave visitors with a negative impression—and they likely never come back. Your digital content will become increasingly important as brands like Amazon and Walmart condition healthcare consumers to expect an online experience similar to retail brands.

What the data says:
You might be surprised to know that while there’s a surplus of data about why blog posts are integral to marketing, there’s not much on the ideal frequency of posting. This is because, well, it depends. (Hubspot)

In our experience:
Search is the No. 1 source of site traffic for leading health systems, and while building organic rankings doesn’t happen overnight, a commitment to posting quality content on a consistent schedule can accelerate the process. Once keyword research and other elements of content planning are complete, we recommend a minimum of weekly blog posts promoted at least 2–3 times on social media and via email. For larger health systems/teams in highly competitive markets, we suggest 4–10 new or updated blog posts per month. This will ensure your site shows up when consumers are seeking health information (and ranks above competitors).

Print Marketing

Compared to your email inbox that receives an average of 121 messages per day, your mailbox is practically desolate. Print offers as close to a guaranteed interaction as it gets with 80% of direct mail recipients reading or scanning each piece before throwing any of it away. This means that marketers who aren’t leveraging print are leaving opportunity on the (coffee) table.

Whether it’s a custom publication to build awareness and trust or a postcard offering service line prospects a free screening, print could be what connects with your audience, especially if it is targeted, integrated with digital channels and delivered on a consistent schedule.

What the data says:
Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed by Epsilon enjoy getting mail from brands about new products, and 41% of Americans look forward to checking their mail each day, according to Gallup.

For a custom magazine, the Content Marketing Institute asserts that the most effective frequency is quarterly or more.

In our experience:
Having developed thousands of hospital publications and direct mail campaigns over the past 30 years, we can definitively say that the ideal frequency is … it depends.

Several factors drive the frequency conversation in healthcare marketing, including goals, audience preferences and budget. That said, here are our general guidelines for print marketing resources:

For direct mail used as part of an integrated campaign to drive service line growth, a monthly cadence is a good place to start. Anything less frequent is more likely to get lost among the credit card offers and, increasingly, catalogs.

For publications designed to influence consumer perception/choice and physician referrals, we recommend a quarterly delivery schedule at minimum. This allows healthcare providers to cover timely and seasonal topics along with promoting a variety of service lines within each issue.

Digital Advertising

With online resources starting to replace a physician's referral for many consumers—and healthcare organizations ramping up digital ad spend in response, the element of frequency to ensure your message meets consumers where they are in the patient journey is becoming even more important.

What the data says:
Facebook research, done in conjunction with Oracle and based on tracking sales response to ads for packaged-goods products, finds the ideal average exposure frequency is one to two impressions weekly over at least 10 weeks for a campaign. (AdAge)

In our experience:
While optimal frequency can be a moving target depending on the campaign focus, target audience and budget, we generally ascribe to a rule of at least three exposures before measuring results and optimizing as needed.

It’s especially important to understand the correlation between how frequently you post an ad and the ad’s relevance score, and to track the latter on a regular basis, as relevance score tends to drop as frequency increases. Ads that have high relevance scores early in the campaign typically see those scores drop as the ad is served to the same audience multiples times.

A Few Final Words on Frequency in Healthcare Marketing

While it’s clear that the ideal frequency varies based on the goal, audience and channel (among other factors), there are universal guidelines that can inform how often you engage your audience.

No matter the channel, keep these five marketing tenets in mind to determine the right frequency for delivering healthcare marketing content:

  1. Know your audience. How often do they prefer to receive content? If you're unsure, simply ask!
  2. Think quality over quantity. Like the person who chooses her words carefully, strive to add value with every content asset and campaign you create rather than add to the noise.
  3. Make every touch matter. Avoid random acts of content and only deliver content when you have something meaningful to say.
  4. Keep score. Another adage that bears repeating: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it"—so make sure you’re tracking the right metrics that can inform cadence (and other elements of content strategy).
  5. Test and learn. What works today might not work tomorrow (especially when it comes to search), so experiment with multiple frequencies to find the sweet spot for your audience and marketing goals.

Let's Talk Timing (and More)

Our healthcare marketing experts are ready to tailor a strategy that ensures your content reaches consumers, physicians and other audiences at the perfect time.