Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing

This post is the second in a four-part blog series. Be sure to check out part one, three, and four for more information on why hospital marketers must transition from traditional marketing campaigns and embrace digital marketing. This post discusses the value of digital marketing campaigns vis-à-vis traditional marketing campaigns.

The Digital World Has Arrived!

If you are still not convinced of the importance of digital marketing in a healthcare environment, take a look at these statistics:

  • 72 percent of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year (September 2012 survey).
  • 8 percent of patients say digital services play an important role when choosing a physician.
  • 2 percent of 25-34-year-olds say they would like their physician to offer online scheduling.
  • 8 percent of all patients said they would like to view their test results and diagnosis online.

The digital world has arrived and even your patients and non-patients are embracing it.

Traditional Marketing Campaigns: Why They No Longer Work

Many marketers that have moved away from traditional campaigns to digital marketing will tell you that traditional marketing campaigns do not work.When asked why, they cite reasons that include:

  • Many campaigns have no call to action.
  • If they have a call to action, it is not appropriately timed.
  • If they have a call to action and the recipient wants to respond, it requires him/her to stop what they are doing and use another communication channel (e.g., send a postcard/email or make a call), making for an awkward, disconnected process.
  • Most direct mail campaigns contain a general message that is not tailored to a specific audience.
  • Most direct mail campaigns are “spray and pray blasts”; that is, you mail to as many recipients as your budget allows without regard for targeting.
  • Most hospitals do not measure the success of direct mail campaigns and if they are measured, you can only count “hand raisers,” which provides no way to qualify leads.
  • It is impossible to attribute revenue to a specific direct mail campaign.

The following table summarizes these differences and compares them with digital marketing.

digital healthcare marketing

With healthcare revenues declining, management is cutting administrative costs and realizing they can no longer afford to keep a marketing department that is nothing more than overhead.

Marketing teams in hospitals in the U.S. are visible and must justify their experience by demonstrating what incremental revenues their campaigns generate.

Making the Move

Are you now convinced of the need for a digital marketing strategy? Here’s where to start.

Like all marketing activities, you start with the plan — a Digital Marketing Campaign Brief. The campaign brief details what you plan to do and why. This includes identifying your target markets and your key performance indicators — the metrics you will use to determine the success of each campaign. It also defines the campaign tactics — what activities you are planning and what is the call to action.

Key sections within the Digital Marketing Campaign Brief include:

Targeting and segmentation

  • It is always advisable to transition to digital marketing in phases, and that starts with who you plan to target. To that end, look to your Service Line Directors to identify service lines to target, e.g., plastic surgery, geriatrics, etc.
  • You will also want to segment your target lists; separating patients from non-patients is a good first step. Identify small segments to test and adjust as you go.

Call to action

  • For every marketing action you take, you want to offer something of value to the consumer. We call these “calls to action.” A call to action can and should be different for every campaign, included in every part of a campaign, and must consider the stage the consumer is at in the marketing funnel.

Marketing content

  • Many calls to action will deliver content, whether it is an article on a specific topic, a brochure, a data sheet on the service, a newsletter, a case study, etc. Once you have identified the content assets you need to support your digital campaign plan, inventory what you currently have and put a plan in place to develop the remaining content.

Identify and track metrics

  • For each campaign, it is critical that you identify the metrics to track success up front and understand that these metrics will be different for each campaign type. The types of metrics you assign to a particular campaign will also change over time as your team and the campaigns mature.

Next Steps

For many healthcare marketers, it can be tough to simply abandon the tactics we know and love. However, digital opens up opportunities to better target our audience and by combining traditional and digital tactics, we can create a more effective overall strategy.

Improve Patient Engagement With Digital Marketing


Gary Druckenmiller

Gary Druckenmiller

Gary Druckenmiller, Jr. is Vice President, Customer Success at Evariant. He functions as lead strategist, digital marketing thought leader and C-level executive sponsor for all of Evariant’s enterprise clients, primarily focused on advising health system leadership of opportunistic methods to improve their digital presence and interactive growth potential. Prior to Evariant, Gary served as Vice-President for Harte-Hanks, responsible for healthcare digital strategy and deliverables including multi-channel campaigns, paid digital media, social media, CRM and analytics. Gary has been with Evariant for 8 years and can be heard often on the hospital marketing speaking circuit. Gary has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Bentley University.
Gary Druckenmiller