Your health system just opened a new specialty clinic and hired world-class physicians to staff it. To jump start business, you invested in display and video advertisements across multiple mass market channels, then waited for the money to roll in.

And waited.

Sometimes, appealing to the crowd just crowds you out of the market. When you have a niche product, you're not selling to the masses. You're selling to individuals, and the best way to reach them is with a marketing strategy called “microtargeting." Employ it properly, and you can successfully promote any healthcare product, no matter how rare the need.

Let's take a look at how it works, the digital tools that can make it work, and some relevant insights from expert sources, including venture capitalist Mary Meeker's highly regarded Internet Trends 2018 report.

Large Organization, Small Customer Base
Microtargeting refers to the practice of identifying and engaging narrowly-defined demographic populations who share highly specific characteristics. Newsworthy for its deployment in recent election campaigns, marketers use it to promote a high-profit niche products or services.

So, why would a hospital or health system, which earns revenue from volume services and a large customer base, want to target only a few dozen people with a campaign? It's because your most expensive specialty "products" — heart surgery services, for instance — will have a relatively small "sales" volume and customer base.

Microtargeting is the opposite of mass-marketing, which is based on sending everyone the same generic content and is most appropriate for products with mass appeal, branding campaigns and public relations management. Mass marketing sells diet soda to everyone who wants it. Microtargeting promotes inpatient obesity therapy clinics to individuals who need it.

Imagine owning a lead list of adults with profitable insurance types who live within your service region, have a history of purchasing fad diet plans, are active on certain social media platforms, and clicked on at least one weight loss ad in the past 90 days. Such a small group of people would fly under the radar in a mass marketing campaign.

Let's see how you can put them on your radar.

The Meeker report highlights the rise of “personalization" in e-commerce in the 2010s. Today's consumer wants to be treated as an individual, not just another number in a mass marketing campaign. Microtargeting can define groups so precisely that it's the next best thing to having individual customer profiles.

Does your organization use customer relationship management (CRM) software? Drill into it for nuggets of revenue growth opportunities gold. Healthcare providers already interact with consumers on a deeply personal level, so a well-designed database can sort through them for small populations that might be candidates for, say, a series of drug trials whose participants must meet strict demographic parameters.

Once you have created one or more high-value lead lists, you'll need high-value content to target them effectively. So, how's your content management system (CMS)? If it's integrated with your CRM, you can write a generic template for a landing page that invites recipients to join an unspecified drug trial, modify different versions for each specific trial or population, top it off with some personal information — name, residence etc. — and send it a campaign to everyone on a list that pushes them to their personalized landing page.

If done correctly, it will appear so personalized that they'll barely recognize it as form content.

Social Media
After a long adolescence, social media is finally maturing as a marketing tool, as marketers become more efficient at exploiting its ability to create detailed user profiles.

The good news is that click thru rates (CTR) increased significantly from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018. On Facebook, it rose from just over 1% to 3% (page 75), according to Meeker. On Twitter it rose from .88% to 1.51%, according to the analytics firm AdStage.

At the same time, the cost of ad views per thousand (CPM) also shot up 24% on Twitter, from $5.20 to $6.46, according to AdStage. On Facebook, eCPM (similar to CPM, but based on all formats, such as cost per view, cost per click and cost per action) also rose significantly, according to Meeker.

Does this signal an overall industry trend toward more expensive online advertising? Perhaps, but in any case online marketers should always aim their budgets as efficiently as possible. Microtargeting is all about getting the best bang for that buck — like A-B testing, but on steroids.

Not sure how to start? Don't have a microtargeted list handy? Create a “funnel campaign" that curates a large population into smaller, more well-defined groups of hot leads. Here's the basic procedure.

1. Start with a very large, very generic list of potential consumers, such as all consumers in your CRM database or all local subscribers to one social media platform.
2. Send everyone one mass market message promoting something: a generic service line like primary care, a consumer survey, a charity event, whatever. Invite them to send you a reply, complete a survey, or otherwise respond.
3. Funnel anyone who responds into subgroups, based on the nature of their response and the information that you glean from it. For those who don't respond, you can send more initial messages if you wish, until they do or you decide that they never will.
4. Create custom-tailored content for each subgroup — helpful information, service line specifics, whatever — and send it to them. Once again, give them a way to respond.
5. For those who do respond again, rinse and repeat, funneling each respondent into smaller and smaller groups until you have well-defined target lists of consumers who like interacting with you.

While it may sound counter intuitive, microtargeting can also support local outreach efforts, a critical element in maintaining a provider's reputation and brand within their service area. The American Hospital Association recommends using data from “microtargeting surveys" to become “culturally competent" and “improve service for the local community."

Finally — and unsurprisingly — Meeker reports that consumer healthcare spending on healthcare is skyrocketing, both directly and via rising premiums. Your customers are, as a matter of necessity, becoming smart shoppers who expect value for their heathcare dollars. Microtargeting will help you to send the right message to the right consumer at the right time.

Want to learn more about how to automate targeting and advanced consumer analytics? Download our Definitive Guide to Healthcare CRM.