Your Comprehensive Guide to Healthcare Marketing Strategy in 2021

by | Aug 4, 2021 | Consumer Engagement, Service Line Growth | 0 comments

Learn how to plan and implement a modern healthcare marketing strategy that delivers improved financial performance and elevates your role within the organization.

Pri­or to the pan­dem­ic, the pace of change in health­care mar­ket­ing was glacial. The reg­u­la­to­ry cli­mate, provider/payor rela­tion­ships, lack of access to cus­tomer data, long deci­sion cycles, inter­nal pol­i­tics and oth­er nuances made for a chal­leng­ing mar­ket­ing environment.

The new era of health­care mar­ket­ing is here.

Thanks to COVID-19, a slew of new com­peti­tors and inno­va­tion inspired by con­sumer demand, the rate of progress now reflects a steady cur­rent as mar­ket forces converge. 

These trends, which should be fac­tored into any post-pan­dem­ic health­care mar­ket­ing plan, include:

  • Health­care con­sumers con­tin­u­ing to delay screen­ings and treat­ments due to fear and mis­in­for­ma­tion, while expect­ing a fric­tion­less expe­ri­ence when seek­ing med­ical care—and ready to switch providers if expec­ta­tions aren’t met
  • Physi­cians and oth­er health­care providers strug­gling to seam­less­ly inte­grate tele­health and oth­er dig­i­tal tools for care delivery
  • Exec­u­tive lead­er­ship hold­ing mar­ket­ing increas­ing­ly account­able for rev­enue growth and return on investment
  • Pent-up demand and con­sumerism fuel­ing a renewed focus on patient acqui­si­tion, espe­cial­ly for sports med­i­cine, total joint replace­ment and oth­er elec­tive procedures

As a result of these accel­er­ants, there’s nev­er been a more excit­ing time to be a health­care mar­keter.

With our con­sumers seek­ing clar­i­ty and our orga­ni­za­tions ral­ly­ing around care­givers, mar­keters are ris­ing to the occa­sion and improv­ing the health of our brands and communities. 

Whether you are a vet­er­an or new to the indus­try, this com­pre­hen­sive guide to health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy will inspire your engage­ment and growth ini­tia­tives in 2021.

You’ll get insights on these crit­i­cal ele­ments that impact the suc­cess or fail­ure of a health­care mar­ket­ing plan:

  • Goals
  • Key per­for­mance indicators
  • Audi­ences
  • Trends and tactics
  • Resources for pro­fes­sion­al development

The Why: Healthcare Marketing Goals

The objec­tives that health­care mar­keters are try­ing to achieve are as var­ied as the orga­ni­za­tions they rep­re­sent. How­ev­er, the com­mon thread woven through­out most hos­pi­tals, health sys­tems and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions is the man­date for growth. 

This trans­lates into a health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy designed to increase brand pref­er­ence and loy­al­ty, as well as direct­ly dri­ve patient volumes.

With lim­it­ed resources, com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties and increased com­pe­ti­tion, it’s impor­tant to estab­lish clear goals that line up with lead­er­ship expec­ta­tions and mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ties. Here are a few desired out­comes you’ll find out­lined in the most effec­tive strate­gic plans.

Engage health­care con­sumers. The sen­ti­ment that “they would have come any­way” is final­ly near­ing extinc­tion in health­care, with mar­keters earn­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty as the nexus of orga­ni­za­tion­al, mar­ket, and, most impor­tant­ly, cus­tomer insights. 

By under­stand­ing the needs, moti­va­tions and intent of con­sumers — whether work­ing moms, your Medicare audi­ence or the health­care-averse 26–44 demo­graph­ic — and guid­ing them on the jour­ney to bet­ter out­comes, health­care mar­keters are becom­ing agents of change in an indus­try where that remains the only constant. 

Engage physi­cians and oth­er health­care providers. While con­sumers are gain­ing con­trol over their med­ical choic­es, physi­cians still have con­sid­er­able influ­ence over health­care deci­sions. Under­stand­ing how they pre­fer to receive infor­ma­tion and posi­tion­ing your orga­ni­za­tion as a trust­ed part­ner is the most effec­tive way to build long-term rela­tion­ships with refer­ral sources.

Grow pri­or­i­ty ser­vice lines. Now more than ever, health­care mar­keters are charged with dri­ving rev­enue for their orga­ni­za­tions. This requires a sig­nif­i­cant shift in health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy and sophis­ti­ca­tion for many orga­ni­za­tions lack­ing the tal­ent and tools required to tar­get the ide­al cus­tomer, gen­er­ate demand and nur­ture leads through to a goal conversion.

Whether pro­mot­ing front-line ser­vices like urgent care and diag­nos­tic imag­ing or dri­ving vol­ume for dia­betes care, bariatric surgery and ortho­pe­dics, an effec­tive ser­vice line mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy cre­ates a fric­tion­less path to the customer’s best next step on the health­care journey.

Increase patient engage­ment. With peo­ple delay­ing crit­i­cal care dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, health­care providers need to focus on patient engage­ment in your exist­ing cus­tomer base— and mar­ket­ing is unique­ly qual­i­fied to influ­ence behav­ior. This is espe­cial­ly crit­i­cal for those liv­ing with chron­ic con­di­tions and those who need rou­tine med­ical care.

The Who: Healthcare Marketing Audiences

There’s no one-size-fits-all health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, and under­stand­ing your audi­ence is fun­da­men­tal to deliv­er­ing effec­tive out­comes. Your patients, prospects and even non-con­sumer audi­ences are at var­i­ous stages of the health­care jour­ney, and they’re seek­ing infor­ma­tion for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, at dif­fer­ent times and in dif­fer­ent ways. 

While tun­ing your mes­sage to seg­ments like Gen­er­a­tion X can gen­er­ate aware­ness and cre­ate affin­i­ty for your brand, mar­ket lead­ers think beyond typ­i­cal demo­graph­ics when design­ing a health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy that moves the nee­dle on patient vol­ume and revenue.

No longer a cost cen­ter for most health­care orga­ni­za­tions, mar­ket­ing is now a pri­ma­ry dri­ver of ser­vice line vol­ume and patient rev­enue. This ele­vat­ed role is dri­ven by the shift from sea­son­al cam­paigns to hor­i­zon­tal­ly inte­grat­ed strate­gies tar­get­ing can­di­dates for high-val­ue services. 

Top health­care mar­keters are lever­ag­ing dig­i­tal health­care mar­ket­ing chan­nels and tac­tics that advance con­sumers from aware­ness to action—accelerating the health jour­ney and dri­ving patient volume/revenue for pri­or­i­ty services.

Here are just a few of the most com­mon audi­ences to con­sid­er when plan­ning a health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy that dri­ves growth:

Women and Baby

Women often make OB/GYN deci­sions based on con­ve­nience, access and com­fort of providers and facil­i­ties, along with ameni­ties like mod­ern birthing suites. Build­ing rela­tion­ships when women are active­ly seek­ing preg­nan­cy infor­ma­tion and posi­tion­ing your brand as a com­pas­sion­ate guide on the jour­ney is key to an effec­tive health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. Engag­ing preg­nant women and new moms typ­i­cal­ly extends to the fam­i­ly, trans­lat­ing into addi­tion­al growth in pedi­atrics, urgent care, ongo­ing OB/GYN care and a vari­ety of oth­er health­care services.

Can­di­dates for Joint Replace­ment and Oth­er Ortho­pe­dic Procedures

Elec­tive spe­cial­ty care has a longer deci­sion cycle, requir­ing a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment of time and mon­ey for con­sumers seek­ing sur­gi­cal inter­ven­tions for pain relief. An effec­tive health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy tar­get­ing these audi­ences should illus­trate how your ser­vices will help them achieve a high­er qual­i­ty of life fol­low­ing their expe­ri­ence. This approach will engage con­sumers ear­ly in their jour­ney and accel­er­ate the time­line from aware­ness to action.

New Movers

More than 1 in 10 Amer­i­cans move every year, and there’s a good chance your local com­mu­ni­ty is now home to house­holds who are active­ly seek­ing trust­ed resources like health­care providers. Beat­ing your com­pe­ti­tion to a new mover’s mail­box, inbox and social media feed is crit­i­cal to build­ing their trust as stud­ies show about 70% of brands select­ed for pur­chase come from the ini­tial con­sid­er­a­tion set.

The How: Healthcare Marketing Trends and Tactics

While growth is the goal for most hos­pi­tals and health­care sys­tems, the path to get there is var­ied based on mar­ket dynam­ics, brand per­cep­tion and oth­er fac­tors unique to each orga­ni­za­tion. How­ev­er, there are sev­er­al health­care mar­ket­ing trends and tac­tics that when applied strate­gi­cal­ly can guide con­sumers and gen­er­ate expo­nen­tial returns rel­a­tive to the investment. 

Here are the most effec­tive tac­tics employed by health­care mar­ket lead­ers in 2021:

Build com­mu­ni­ty and cre­ate a con­ver­sion path on social media.

A dig­i­tal health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy is a must-have in today’s always-on envi­ron­ment, and social media, in par­tic­u­lar, has emerged as one of the most effec­tive chan­nels to reach con­sumers. Specif­i­cal­ly, Face­book is often the first step on the patient jour­ney as friends and fam­i­ly mem­bers share COVID-relat­ed updates, provider rec­om­men­da­tions and reviews of their health­care experiences. 

By post­ing organ­ic con­tent and tar­get­ed ads that align with each step on the jour­ney, health­care mar­keters can make sure they’re con­tribut­ing to the con­ver­sa­tion and mak­ing it easy to con­nect when the time is right.

Cre­ate and pro­mote con­tent that your audi­ence cares about. 

With peo­ple spend­ing more time online and brands like Ama­zon and Net­flix rais­ing the bar for dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence, con­tent is emerg­ing as the crux of a mod­ern health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. Whether fea­tured on a web­site, land­ing page, social media or in your con­sumer pub­li­ca­tion, con­tent is an essen­tial part of the patient expe­ri­ence and health­care mar­keters must be high­ly inten­tion­al about the focus, for­mat and finan­cial impact of con­tent devel­oped for their patients and prospects.

Opti­mize con­tent for search.

While 1 in 20 search­es is relat­ed to health­care and organ­ic search dri­ves near­ly 3x as many vis­i­tors to hos­pi­tal sites, the harsh real­i­ty is that most web con­tent is not opti­mized for search—and there­fore receives zero organ­ic traf­fic. Anoth­er painful truth is the trend toward zero-click search­es: As of 2020, Google now claims the major­i­ty of organ­ic traf­fic through fea­tured snip­pets and oth­er ele­ments that can sat­is­fy the search with­out a sin­gle click. The good news is that zero clicks doesn’t mean zero views.

For health­care mar­keters, these shifts mean that when devel­op­ing your web­site and oth­er com­po­nents of a dig­i­tal health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, each piece of con­tent must be cre­at­ed with both the audi­ence and algo­rithms in mind.

Meet con­sumers at the moment of need through paid search.

Google defines the Zero Moment of Truth as the exact win­dow of time when con­sumers are con­duct­ing online research pri­or to pur­chase. This is a piv­otal point in the patient jour­ney and to cap­i­tal­ize on the oppor­tu­ni­ty, health­care mar­keters should deliv­er rel­e­vant, con­ver­sion-focused ads that offer both the infor­ma­tion con­sumers need and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to connect.

Engage, nur­ture and con­vert leads with email mar­ket­ing.

Email is hav­ing a resur­gence as a key dri­ving of mar­ket­ing per­for­mance. By deliv­er­ing mean­ing­ful con­tent to the right con­sumers when it’s most rel­e­vant, email can be an incred­i­bly low-cost way to dri­ve action. Fur­ther, as you dri­ve top-of-fun­nel engage­ment through tools like HRAs and down­load­able guides, you can nur­ture those leads through a drip email sequence over the fol­low­ing 4–6 weeks to inspire them to take the next step. 

What’s Next: Resources to Ensure Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy Stays Relevant

In this flu­id envi­ron­ment, keep­ing up with indus­try trends is table stakes. The tac­tics and trends that help gain com­pet­i­tive advan­tage today could be obso­lete this time next year (e.g. Google makes thou­sands of updates to its algo­rithm each year).

As a health­care mar­ket­ing agency, we’ve com­piled a few resources to help keep your fin­ger on the pulse of an evolv­ing industry. 

Health­care mar­ket­ing pod­casts — Along with our Health­care Insight for Mar­keters series fea­tur­ing experts from Cleve­land Clin­ic, HCA Health­care and oth­er lead­ing brands, here are a few of our favorites:

Health­care mar­ket­ing blogs and pub­li­ca­tions — Check out these lead­ing indus­try resources — and if you’re not already receiv­ing our Health­care Insight mag­a­zine, be sure to sign up for a free subscription:

Health­care mar­ket­ing con­fer­ences — Until in-per­son con­fer­ences are back in full swing, health­care mar­keters should embrace vir­tu­al events.

Make sure to con­sult our com­pre­hen­sive guide to health­care mar­ket­ing con­fer­ences when plan­ning your 2021 calendar. 

Health­care mar­ket­ing asso­ci­a­tions — Here are a few of the lead­ing groups for indus­try news and trends, peer net­work­ing and pro­fes­sion­al development:

Health­care mar­ket­ing inter­views — We recent­ly launched a series of video inter­views with mar­ket­ing lead­ers at major health­care brands. Each 15-minute seg­ment is packed with proven insights and fresh ideas to guide your health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. Check them out!

Let’s Plan Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy

Learn how we’re guid­ing health­care clients to engage their com­mu­ni­ties and dri­ve vol­ume for pri­or­i­ty ser­vice lines.

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