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.

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