Posted: October 4, 2017

Channel proliferation is no joke. Keeping up with traditional marketing channels, like print and email, along with social, search, and newly emerging opportunities can create a web of potential touch points so dense it's almost opaque. You can choose to hide away with your confusion and frustration, or you can look at your marketing options as a positive. After all, your healthcare consumers are individuals, each so different that employing several approaches at once means you have an excellent chance to engage more of them on a personal level. You just need a detailed and documented strategy.

Strategy Tactics
Personas: Marketing successfully to a wide range (instead of a specific target group) means understanding the nuances between not only the age groups of your consumer audience but also their preferences for receiving information and how they then use the information they get. This is where persona building really comes in handy.

There's no need to create a persona for every single person that may engage with your health system. You can build personas using all different types of criteria: by age, by interests (mothers, Boomers, etc.), or by conditions, to name a few. In other words, personas are based on commonalities that segments your audience.

Journey Mapping: After you know who your consumers are, you need to understand where to reach them. As you map each persona's journey, think of the most common path or touch points for that group — bariatrics patients might enter your system through a seminar, then have a consultative appointment, then go through qualifying weight loss and follow-up appointments before scheduling surgery and post-operative visits, for example. Start by mapping these journeys and personas based on your most strategic service lines.

You can begin your journey mapping with social and search ads to target specific cohorts for immediate results you can track. With search and social ads, your consumers start their journey in one place, maybe find you on a different channel, and hopefully you can then bring them to a direct visit to your site. To get a good picture of how consumers found you, you need the right tracking and analytics tools equipped to handle long lead times (months) across both digital and offline touch points.

Once you've grabbed your consumers' attention, you have to be ready with backup content or strategy in case they dig deeper. If a consumer finds your organization with an online search after seeing an ad (as is the go-to habit of many consumers today), your organization should top the search results. And when they visit your site, relevant and valuable information should be available for them in one click, whether that's Find A Doc, bill pay, online appointment request, or content related to a specific condition.

Evaluation: A report from the American Marketing Association found that good advertising approaches can change healthcare consumer behaviors, but because measuring those results is so difficult (how can a consumer tell you exactly how your message changed a behavior?), marketers have to depend on longer term results to see if there's any impact, especially in healthcare with such long lead times between first impression/touch/click and scheduled appointment or bill pay. This means tracking everything so that over time you get a better picture of what's effective and what needs to change.

The Power of Analytics
Analytics are an excellent way to see how many visits you'll get to your site, but you can also learn more. By directing consumers to a specific page on your site and then gathering data through heat maps and looking at things like bounce rates, you'll get a better understanding of the consumer experience.

If consumers are staying long enough and looking around a bit, you'll know your marketing efforts are starting to have an effect. (Though the biggest indicator is always going to be if they're clicking to schedule or if you can track their website activity through to a phone call or appointment.) Analytics can help you figure out if consumers are getting the information they are looking for on your site and reading your provided content. If they are overwhelmingly leaving a page that you expect them to take some time on or are consistently missing a call to action, it's time to find out what's causing their user experience to be less than great.

Balanced Spending
Modern Healthcare reported an uptick in healthcare marketing spending, and marketers need to make sure each dollar is spent wisely and targeted with a specific outcome in mind. Gone are the days of “spray and pray" marketing. Because you can measure marketing effectiveness these days, a campaign that brings in consumers but leaves them unable to understand your web content or not identify with your message is not a good use of media spend. Moral of the story: make sure both your campaign and your web presence are on target.

Building a healthcare digital marketing technology strategy that covers a lot of ground but allows you to track your efforts will provide a solid picture of both ROI and where your approach needs extra work (or is working especially well). Implement strategies that appeal to your entire base and use a mix of tried-and-true methods and cutting-edge approaches. Done successfully, you'll have captured a traditionally loyal consumer base who will both return to your organization and remain satisfied with the relationship.

Want to learn more healthcare marketing tips and tactics for success? Download our Healthcare Digital Marketing Toolkit.