What is healthcare marketing? How does it differ from marketing in other industries? What are its unique challenges and risks? Healthcare marketing is promotion of a brand and engagement with key audiences, such as consumers and B2B decision-makers, through a diverse battery of strategic communications. This will include paid media such as digital and social ads, earned media PR pieces such as press releases, op-eds and bylines, often showcased in traditional or online publications after being pitched to reporters, and owned-media content like patient testimonials, video tours, and social media posts.
The purpose of this promotion may include achieving high authority in a niche or specialty, raising the visibility of a brand, convincing the best and brightest in a field to seek careers with a company, or showing prospective customers the value of a healthcare product, service, or facility. With deep understanding of healthcare audiences’ behavior patterns, and intuition founded in data and experience about the optimum channels and forms for communications in a given campaign, Communication Strategy Group (CSG®) is able to create, promote, secure media placement for, and gauge the impact of all the vital elements of healthcare marketing in order to move our clients toward their goals.
Health system marketing branches into so many different categories in such competitive spaces, from insurance to aging to records, that it requires a certain level of sophistication to navigate—this marketing may require multiple customer journey maps, behavior-design-driven content, influencer relationships, content optimization strategies, PR and compliance expertise, and more. For this reason, a partnership with an agency versed in the use of these tools and tactics may be the quickest way to avoid a steep learning curve and see the greatest return on investment for your healthcare marketing spend.
Why Marketing Is Important in Healthcare
Marketing and healthcare are well-matched for many reasons. For one, healthcare audiences, private, corporate and professional, tend to present multiple opportunities over the course of a single inquiry for retargeting, especially through digital content. 71% of patients use online reviews as their first step in making a decision about healthcare providers. 88% of those searching for health information start with search engines. Online research is perhaps the single most important driver of brand recognition, thought leadership and SEO performance for healthcare companies today. Since the information people are seeking in this context pertains to their physical wellbeing, they are willing to spend more time digging for authoritative content, engage with it more seriously when they find it, and return to searches again and again until they are confident about their understanding of a matter. No surprise, then, that healthcare practices and organizations that take the time to start blogs see an average of 55% in traffic growth , and 11% growth on ROI in their first year.
Also, the general advantages of marketing apply in healthcare: any strategy that doesn’t include marketing prongs leaves organizations more exposed to failure. Relying on PR alone means there’s no backup plan if media pitches don’t achieve the desired outcome, and it can also result in businesses being outcompeted by others that have curated a robust array of content to catch online searches by patients, vendors and healthcare professionals.
Marketing For Different Healthcare Products & Services
Within healthcare marketing, there are many different areas where efforts should be concentrated. Each requires different emphases, different content, and a different strategy to catch whatever audience is most desired at their point of need.
Providers face a changing landscape where patients are well-supplied with digital resources to differentiate between options and have the savvy and time to do it. This new reality calls for insightful, purpose-driven marketing that puts professionals’ achievements and distinctions on full display, especially with earned media content such as patient reviews that tend to have a significant impact on care decisions.
As modern consumers shy away from purchasing from unfamiliar companies in verticals like retail, they shy away from healthcare systems whose strategic communications do not match their motivations and pain points. Likewise, healthcare professionals want to join prestigious organizations where their own reputations will flourish. Finally, public health often depends on the artful distillation of a health message and the creation of materials to support it. Brand consistency, visibility, and reception matter every bit as much in healthcare as elsewhere, if not more. Whether it’s for promoting the excellence of their personnel or communicating to the public in a crisis, healthcare systems use marketing and PR every day and will need to maintain their focus on approachable, trustworthy communications going forward.
As a new industry, telemedicine presents challenges of authority and visibility to the companies within it. However, through the parallel upward trends of increased mobile use by patients and awareness by these companies of the importance of intentional content generation and PR, barriers to telemedicine becoming a major player in healthcare are poised to fall away rapidly. With telehealth services seeing 63-fold increases in demand in 2020, this burgeoning market stands ready to seize the advantages of strategic communications.
To sell medical devices, healthcare companies must go through the rigors of marketing in all other industries. They must get in touch with their own company identity and values, develop messaging, map customer journeys, identify friction within their funnel, anticipate objections, distinguish themselves from competitors, devise coherent content strategies that include many prongs of content and multiple tiers of activity, execute those plans with precision, and use data to adjust as necessary. But with a commitment to that comprehensive marketing approach, the results can be striking.
Standing at the intersection of financial services and healthcare, healthcare insurance companies need marketing to stand out from a host of similar competitors, drive traffic to their pages and compete for keyword rankings, generate leads and convert them at a high rate, highlight their brand accomplishments and solidify their brand story. Also, as the industry grapples with the task with conveying the value of greatly multiplied products, clear, concise educational messaging and marketing content will help brands position themselves as trusted advisors to people across demographic segments and find the right product to promote with the right audience. Marketers in this space will need the insight and expertise to find creative solutions that drill down to the core of a company’s mission.
For senior living providers and the B2B infrastructure that supports them, marketing serves the essential role of aligning customer emotion with values enshrined and services offered by a company. Because the act of choosing a retirement community holds such importance in a person’s life, this industry abounds with opportunities for compelling content marketing in particular. Thoughtfully cultivated brand awareness and strategic communication allows these companies to allay concerns in advance, showcase strengths and set themselves apart through earned media and resident testimonials, create compelling content with emotional weight behind it, aim that content where it where it needs to go and ultimately inspire seniors and their families to trust an organization with caring and providing for them later in life.
Nonprofits, Associations & Foundations
Healthcare nonprofits often play a vital role in connecting people with healthcare resources and support. These organizations rely on marketing principles for goals ranging from planning digital engagement strategies and testing messaging all the way to performing post-mortems on past campaigns and refreshing their brand image. As the power of digital marketing grows with increases in device use, healthcare nonprofits leverage purposeful content, PR communications, and refined analytics to achieve visibility and engagement by audiences.
Common Healthcare Marketing Challenges
Healthcare marketing involves satisfying not only implicit challenges of credibility, accessibility and relatability, but also stringent explicit regulations designed to protect the public’s privacy and safety. This complicates the task of marketing more than in other industries, sometimes to the point that medical providers and practitioners may decline to market themselves at all for fear of falling out of compliance with state licensing boards. A marketing partner for healthcare companies must understand all the restrictions that apply to content and messaging in this space and find ways to drive the outcomes their clients need without stepping out of compliance.
For a start, marketing efforts in healthcare must earn an audience’s trust, convey sometimes highly technical information in a way the audience understands and find a way to give the message emotional resonance, connecting a company’s story with the life stories of the people being addressed. This requires intricate understanding of not just the audience’s motivations and concerns, designated in detail in customer journey diagrams or personas segmented by audience, but also a well-defined brand complete with greenlit messaging for sensitive topics.
As a healthcare company’s marketing begins to take shape, it can drive traffic to its owned content, compete better in SEO rankings and forge an identity as a thought leader in the industry. Positioning a client as a trustworthy resource in healthcare and showing search engines the client is generating useful, engaging content is something CSG accomplishes through balanced, adaptive communications batteries. These may include the following elements, but do not rely too heavily on any of them: short- and long-form content generation, PR pitches, traditional ads, social media activity, interviews, podcasts, testimonials, reviews, and the like. Maintaining the balance between these elements, adjusting them in realtime and analyzing their effectiveness is a challenge in itself, requiring a high level of marketing acumen.
As for formal regulations, a number of governing bodies cooperate in the oversight of healthcare marketing, raising the complexity of maintaining compliance. Pharmaceutical marketing materials, for example, most often come under limits set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while healthcare insurance marketing usually brushes up against the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Industry marketers are charged with walking a fine line: targeting and retargeting audiences accurately, expressing value propositions clearly and creating excitement and awareness about products and services without overstepping into promissory language, language too technical or ambiguous to hold up against consumer protections, or unauthorized disclosures of patient information.
How to Know if Your Healthcare Marketing Is Effective
As with marketing in other fields, knowing the effectiveness of healthcare marketing is a matter of choosing key performance indicators (KPIs) wisely and tracking them well. The exact KPIs businesses choose depend on their individual goals. They often choose to track a few or many metrics at once, such as page views, conversions, time on page or scroll depth, backlinks, keyword rankings, recruitment leads, or sales conversions. Over time, the data harvested from these indices can give an organization a useful meta-picture that includes a sense of the performance of their content, the accuracy and reach of their message and their relative prestige or authority in their space.
How to Calculate ROI on Healthcare Marketing
Return on investment (ROI) calculations are made first by determining the dollar amount of value that a given marketing strategy has returned—which is an art in its own right, to understand which, read our ROI post—subtracting the cost of the strategy from that number, and then dividing the result by the cost of the cost again. This gives a company a fixed point to travel from, allowing them to gauge the strength over time of new content and new marketing campaigns. The orientation this provides is important in healthcare. Without it, companies cannot be sure that they’re breaking into the markets they target, appealing to the right audiences, or in general improving their marketing performance.
Develop Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy with Us
CSG are industry leaders in using marketing solutions to give healthcare companies greater visibility, greater brand consistency, greater engagement from key audiences, better content performance, more cost-effective marketing arrays, and bolstered thought leadership in their fields. To discover what a committed, insightful marketing partner could do for your healthcare organization, reach out to us for a consultation.