Think about the last time you went online to search for healthcare information. Maybe it was for quick answers about possible causes of the lingering headache you’ve had over the past few weeks. Or maybe you wanted tips on the best way to remove a stubborn splinter from your first grader’s foot.
It isn’t surprising that your first inclination would be to open up a browser in Google – before even calling your doctor’s office. Pew Research Center data shows 77% of all health inquiries begin at a search engine, with 72% of total Internet users say they’ve looked online for health information within the past year.
So, what does this mean for healthcare marketers?
As a result of this change in patient decision-making, digital marketing in healthcare has become critical. Digital helps to successfully communicate with, acquire, engage, and retain patients and physicians.
In today’s digital world, it’s crucial for marketers in any industry to develop a multichannel marketing strategy that reaches consumers on the channels they prefer to use. For healthcare marketers in particular, the challenge is to develop tailored messaging across channels that promotes patient engagement and a healthier society overall.
Let’s take a look at 20 campaign best practices for healthcare marketers to improve their organizations’ bottom line and create better outcomes for patients:
1. Allocate sufficient digital marketing spend
Digital marketing isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a new concept: Statistics show that an average firm allocates about 42% of their marketing budget to online expenditures.
The trick, however, is for marketers to determine where and how to allocate the online portion of their budget among various channels (i.e., search engine marketing, online display advertising, social media, mobile, etc.). With a healthcare CRM system in place, marketers can expand their patient marketing reach by building, deploying, and tracking multichannel messaging that maximizes their return on investment.
2. Develop a collaborative process for the marketing team
Given the wealth of patient information available to today’s healthcare marketers, it’s critical to not only integrate multiple data sources in a healthcare CRM but also to align marketing efforts with other departments (sales, contact center, etc.) across the organization. A truly integrated marketing program requires a cross-disciplinary approach that leverages patient insights from across departments and ensures a coordinated effort and consistency.
3. Incorporate new ideas and channels
A cross-disciplinary strategy can’t just be added on top of existing marketing infrastructure, however. In order to maximize marketing effectiveness, it’s important to keep current with the shifting healthcare landscape, incorporating new ideas and channels into the program as needed.
FICO data, for example, shows 80% of consumers now want the option of using their smartphones to interact with their healthcare providers. What this means for marketers is that the consumer public has gone mobile – and marketers must tailor programs and messaging accordingly.
4. Align with consumer information
Despite increasing pressure to move toward digital media, marketers also need to be able to show a positive ROI associated with digital efforts. The best way to do this is to align marketing efforts to consumer insights and business intelligence.
This is where the analytics side of the healthcare CRM platform comes into play. After data has been compiled and integrated into the system, marketers can explore and analyze information, attributing marketing efforts to clinical and financial outcomes.
5. Leverage social media
As noted in Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey, 92% of consumers trust opinions from people they know. In the healthcare space, this translates to patients trusting online healthcare content that comes from doctors and nurses.
The challenge, of course, is getting this inevitably busy group to contribute the kind of content patients are looking to consume. One way to do this is encouraging patients to educate themselves on certain topics using live tweeting. In 2013, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center capture the attention of thousands of twitter users by live-tweeting a total knee replacement. This ultimately built interest and trust in the hospital.
6. Be proactively reactive
No industry is experiencing as much transformation as healthcare is. For healthcare marketers, this presents both challenges and opportunities. Proactive marketers will watch for changes in trends and consumer interests and behaviors – and be ready to respond.
By leveraging real-time reporting and analysis, marketers can take advantage of unexpected opportunities (i.e., mobile marketing, live tweeting, etc.) that may not have been possible in the past.
7. Don’t be afraid to experiment – and fail
In 2015, the Apple Watch was released. This wearable technology initially intended to provide a way to keep users connected to their phones without holding their phone. However, the Apple Watch’s utility for healthcare has quickly been realized – users are now making healthy lifestyle changes, including walking more often, making healthier dietary choices, and playing sports more regularly. In fact, 83% of Apple Watch owners believe the device positively contributes to their overall health.
The resulting imperative for healthcare marketers is to embrace change – because change in the healthcare industry is here to stay. It can be daunting to explore a new tactic or channel, as opposed to relying on proven techniques, but without experimentation, it’s impossible to know what works and what doesn’t.
8. Establish trust
As any healthcare marketer knows, establishing trust is integral to patient engagement from the first office visit throughout the entire care continuum. But creating the type of connections that inspire proactive patient care over the long term is easier said than done.
The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics shows that 40% of online healthcare advice comes from social media, providing healthcare marketers with the opportunity to engage a large percentage of patients via the networks they seek out for medical information.
9. Leverage competitor intelligence
As the $3.5 trillion healthcare industry continues to evolve, competition among healthcare organizations will become increasingly significant. Proactive healthcare marketers understand this and keep current on what their competitors are doing to inform their own healthcare marketing strategies and remain top of mind with consumers.
Specific tactics will vary among marketers, but examples of how to leverage competitor intelligence might include competitive auditing or simply monitoring competitors’ social profiles. The end result is understanding the competition and getting actionable strategies based on analysis.
10. Look toward the future – and stay grounded
Since the nature of digital marketing is to be constantly evolving, effective healthcare marketers make it a priority to be aware of shifts in legislation, technology, innovation, etc. At the same time, marketers may also need to take a “wait and see” approach in some areas.
As noted above, we have already seen the impact of newer communications channels such as mobile and social media on the healthcare industry. The question then becomes: How can healthcare marketers prepare themselves for the next wave of digital marketing innovation?
11. Reach the right audience with advanced targeting
The goal of any marketing campaign is to reach the right people with a message that resonates with them. Employing the right tactics to reach this audience can also help save some of the marketing budget. Advanced targeting and geo-fencing are two strategies healthcare marketers can use to ensure relevant users see their campaign.
Advanced targeting takes advantage of predictive modeling to score potential patients in order to identify and target those who are most likely to respond positively to communication. When advertising on social media, targeting options like “interest targeting” ensures the right audience sees health systems’ ads.
Geo-fencing allows marketers to target users on their phones within a 5-10 mile radius of a specific location, and can be used competitively. For example, a hospital could serve ads to people who are waiting at a nearby facility.
12. Take advantage of marketing automation
Certain marketing tactics, like email appointment reminders and follow up care instructions, are repetitive and can actually see higher levels of engagement if automated. In fact, marketing automation can help transform healthcare marketing departments from a reactive body to a proactive one.
For the long lead attribution periods of certain service lines, marketing automation can help nurture inactive consumers until they convert, or support ongoing engagement of existing patients over a long period of time. The goal is to automate the communication process so health systems continue to engage their patients and build loyalty over time, even outside of the clinician’s office.
13. Try A/B testing
A/B testing is defined as a method of comparing two versions of a web page or app against each other to determine which one performs better. In practice, this tactic allows healthcare marketers to make data-informed decisions about patient communication and messaging to ensure they have the greatest impact on their audience.
When starting out with A/B testing on a digital marketing campaign, it’s important to define metric goals so that marketers can measure success effectively. Other tips include starting small and taking it slow – marketers should make their first test on button colors, for example, to see which results in the highest click-through rate, and give each test sufficient time to run to get an accurate result.
14. Make strategic adjustments in real time
Even the greatest campaign idea could fall flat with target audiences after launching. For that reason, it’s critical that marketers track performance over time to get an accurate representation of which campaigns and messaging work best. With this insight, they can optimize campaigns in real time to ensure they’re getting the most out of the spend.
The benefit of digital marketing (versus traditional marketing tactics) is being able to pivot a marketing strategy throughout the campaign timeline to optimize engagement and boost success.
15. Employ remarketing
Remarketing advertisements can be a great tool to re-engage users who visited a site and dropped off. This digital tactic allows marketers to reach this audience by showing display or social media ads about their practice while they’re on other sites. In fact, remarketing can be a great way to lower the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) of campaigns.
Gary Druckenmiller, Evariant’s VP of Client Solutions, notes that your marketing dollars will be going down the drain without a remarketing campaign in place because many visitors start activity on sites but simply don’t convert. Setting up a remarketing campaign in Google AdWords, Facebook, or Bing can help keep CPA low and conversions high.
16. Focus on the user experience
Healthcare consumers are now expecting personalized communication and higher quality of care from their clinicians. The healthcare industry can borrow from the retail’s marketing tactics to succeed in a consumer-driven market. For example, marketers should make sure their website is optimized for mobile users – studies have shown 79 percent of users will search for another site if the one they land on doesn’t meet expectations.
Health systems should also strive to provide holistic experiences for consumers and patients. All customer touch points, including the website, emails, requesting an appointment, and online patient tools, should be optimized and designed to offer a similar experience for users.
17. Meet consumer research with content
Due to the value-based trend in healthcare, research has become a big component of consumers’ health decisions. In fact, prior to booking an appointment, 77 percent of patients used search, 83 percent used hospital sites, and 50 percent used health information sites.
As a result of this, healthcare marketers need to empower their consumers with relevant, transparent information on their website. Effective healthcare content marketing answers common inquiries that patients or consumers may be searching for, such as information about services lines, patient portal access, physician directories, and insurance coverage.
18. Add conversion opportunities
Any digital marketing campaign would be amiss without a call to action. For new website visitors, frequent opportunities to “Schedule an Appointment” and “Talk to a Representative” could urge them to schedule a visit or learn more about a particular facility.
For existing patients, easy patient portal access and downloadable resources can help users quickly access medical records or give them the opportunity to learn more about a previously diagnosed condition. Healthcare typically has lengthy lead times – for example, from first ad clicked to coming in for an appointment – so a clear CTA can help guide users to take the next step.
19. Track and measure ROI
In order to create successful digital marketing campaigns, marketers need to know what worked and what didn’t in past campaigns, including which content users find engaging and how many people actually become patients.
To get this insight, marketers must set goals prior to launching a campaign, as well as track and measure success and ROI after it has run its course. This practice is necessary to successfully engage consumers in a competitive market.
With this insight, marketers can answer bigger questions, such as “Was this campaign worth the investment?” and “What is the most profitable digital marketing tactic for our health system?”
20. Don’t forget about physicians
Digital marketing tactics shouldn’t just be used to acquire or engage patients. Research has shown that combining physician with consumer marketing initiatives can result in significant operational and financial returns, such as increased customer retention, and increased patient visits.
One major health system used a combination of traditional marketing, physician relationship management, and digital marketing to target consumers and referring providers with online display ads, PPC, and emails about new physicians. As a result of this year-long campaign, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health) saw 1,322 unique new primary care physician appointments scheduled.
A shifting healthcare landscape demands a proactive approach to healthcare that is more efficient, effective, and personal. As a result, the healthcare industry must meet consumer demands with effective digital marketing techniques. The above tips represent a few of the ways healthcare marketers can leverage their messaging to educate, inspire, motivate, and engage consumers to the extent that they become actively involved in their own care and healthier over the long term.