17 Healthcare Marketing Tips to Stay Competitive


Healthcare is Sluggish

Ever notice how severely slow healthcare marketing can be when it comes to adopting modern marketing strategies? Check out these stats:

The healthcare and pharma industry is still expected to have the smallest digital ad spend share by 2020 – image source

When you compare the adoption of digital marketing strategies across industries, healthcare is certainly straggling behind. On average, the percentage of overall marketing budget dedicated to digital marketing is 24% with organizations spending $205,757 on digital marketing annually:

2017 average digital healthcare marketing budgets – image source


This means many healthcare companies continue to allocate a large chunk of their marketing dollars to traditional media. Traditional media channels like TV, radio, outdoor, print, and direct mail come with a high sticker price – it’s no wonder these forms of advertising eat up most of the marketing budget.

There are, of course, many reasons why this lag could be happening:

  • Regulatory standards and lengthy approval processes
  • Concerns with bioethical issues
  • Distrust with unchartered territory and unfamiliar types of ad formats and ad spend
  • Belief that traditional media purchases are still integral to ROI

And the list goes on…

These reasons, however, aren’t enough to turn a blind eye to industry trends.


The Patient Experience is at the Forefront

Buzzwords like patient engagement, patient centricity, patient-centered care, patient power, patient empathy, and so on, all focus on healthcare consumerism and the patient experience.

A prediction by Gartner claims that “by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will focus their efforts on the customer,” which for healthcare, means a focus on the patient experience.

How engaged is your patient audience? – image source


According to MM&M’s Healthcare Marketers Trend report, when targeting market segments in pharma, there’s a growing perception that patients and consumers are perceived as an audience of top importance. While physicians and specialists are still ranked as top priority by 62% of the report respondents, the patients and consumers audience comes in second, at an increasing rate.

Modern digital healthcare marketing efforts can help achieve a successful patient experience, entirely from A to Z. That’s why we’ve gathered 17 healthcare marketing tips that you can incorporate into your marketing plans right away. Here they are:


17 Healthcare Marketing Tips

Healthcare Marketing Tip #1: Have a mobile-first strategy

According to this State of Digital Marketing in Healthcare report, healthcare organizations are not truly prepared for mobile, and only 33% consider a mobile-first strategy to be essential. Go beyond the mobile responsive design and create a designated mobile-only experience.

There’s too much evidence nowadays, showing our increasing reliance on mobile usage, to ignore the need to focus on a mobile user experience.

We’ve gone beyond the desktop usage level – image source


To stay ahead of the industry curve, it’s imperative to scrutinize your entire mobile strategy for your users to make sure every interaction with your brand goes smoothly. This includes everything from your messaging to user experience. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your visitors:

Mobile users are 5x more likely to abandon the task if your mobile site isn’t optimized – image source


Some advantages to having a mobile-first strategy:

  • Your content is prioritized above everything else
  • It allows you to create a UX that aligns with how your audience is behaving
  • It decreases the download times of your most important site content
  • It offers a standardized experience across all platforms


Healthcare Marketing Tip #2: Include micro-moments

Micro-moments are an effective way to stay in touch with your consumers during every step of their buyer journey. If you tailor your content and experience to each stage in the journey, the micro moments can turn into micro conversions and help nudge your audience further along the sales funnel.

According to Google/Ipsos Consumers in the Micro-Moment:

“Of online consumers, 69% agree that the quality, timing, or relevance of a company’s message influences their perception of a brand.”

If you speak to each of your consumer’s needs and break up your marketing messaging into little chunks at each stage, the patient experience can be customized and tailored at each micro-moment.

Google lays it out for us in these types of micro-moments:

  • “I-want-to-watch-what-I’m-into” moments – feeding passions or interests
  • “I-want-to-know” moments – learning, exploring or researching
  • “I-want-to-go” moments – seeking direction from search to action
  • “I-want-to-do” moments – seeking instruction
  • “I-want-to-buy” moments – deciding what or how to buy

Which micro-moments are you addressing in your messaging? – image source

A successful “I-want-to-go” moment could exist in your messaging within online communities. We conducted a Behavioral Intent Study and surveyed 433 patient influencers across seven condition areas and found that 91% of participants said that online communities play a role in their healthcare.

Online communities serve as a significant resource to many patients and could be an important platform for creating micro-moments for a wide variety of healthcare brands.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #3: Increase your credibility

Protect your reputation online by building credibility. You can do this through testimonials, reviews, ratings, and social shares.

  • Testimonials – testimonials are qualitative and personal, and appeal to the emotions. They complement the quantitative data and stats that back up your brand. According to Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina, a good testimonial is short, direct, and authentic.
  • Reviews – ProBlogger’s How to Write a Must-Read Product Review claims among the most common reasons why people look for product reviews are: to learn the pros and cons, to find out about other user experiences, and to ultimately learn if the product is worth buying. KissMetrics suggests using Facebook Reviews, YouTube Video Reviews, and niche review sites, and rewarding customers who take the time to review.
  • Ratings – Ratings have historically played a significant role in determining a brand’s credibility, whether it’s the ratings of a TV network in determining where to purchase media or a product rating that shows the average number of stars as a scale. Nielsen has adopted a new rating system that incorporates Facebook and Twitter into its social network measurement system. According to a Cornell University study, “in the eyes of consumers, the numerical ratings are seen as an objective measurement of a business’s quality.”
  • Social shares – Different from social media follow buttons, according to Hubspot, social media share links and buttons “allow you to expand the reach of your content to new audiences and generate new visitors back to your website.” Within online patient communities, we found in our Role of Patient Influencers: How do patients truly share information? report we found that:
    • 87% of study participants say they share health information via Facebook posts, and
    • 81% of study participants say they share health information via Facebook messages.

There are numerous ways to peg this effort digitally, especially with the surging of information-sharing behaviors online, hence Healthcare Marketing Tip #4.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #4: Consider information-sharing behaviors

In our Behavioral Intent Study, we found that 87% of our 433 patient influencer participants are likely to ask their physician or health professional about a specific medication when the info from a pharmaceutical company is shared by someone seen as influential in the online health community.

We also found 75% of online sharing is done through private channels.

Wondering how to access these private audiences? That brings us to the next tip.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #5: Get intimate with online patient communities

Tapping into online patient communities and truly understanding where, why, and when they hang out online to share health information can be a major game-changer in your healthcare marketing plan. 

Social listening and connecting with influential Patient Leaders can lead to a whole targeted audience that would have otherwise been closed off.

Medical Economics lists out these four reason why online patient communities should be embraced:

  • Education and experience
  • Resources and information for caregivers
  • Place for interaction
  • Improve outcomes

Building trust among Patient Leaders is an effective way to access their private online communities. When a trustworthy Patient Leader who speaks on behalf of her online community, in turn, trusts an educational resource with the purpose of improving outcomes, the information is more likely to be shared among her private online audience. There are numerous ways to build trust among Patient Leaders, one of which is Healthcare Marketing Tip #6.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #6: Feature Patient Leaders in ad creative

The concept of User Generated Content (UGC) is defined by Tint as “any type of content that has been created and put out there by unpaid contributors…or fans.”

Marketing Land touts UGC as ideal for any content marketing strategy because “you can take any piece of UGC and use it across virtually any channel, at any time” to build brand equity.

In one case study, we found that featuring an influential Patient Leader in creative content generates a level of trust among online community audiences, apparent in the 7x increase in visits to a pharma brand resource sharing hub


Healthcare Marketing Tip #7: Improve your social media game

Social media is playing an increasingly dominant role in the customer health journey. Take a look at these stats:

  • More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health – source
  • 41% of people said that social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility – source
  • 40% of people polled said info found on social media affects how they coped with a chronic condition, their view of diet and exercise, and their selection of a physician – source

There’s more to boosting your products and services on social media than meets the eye. It’s a best practice to tailor your messaging to the various nuances and personalities of each social media platform. Tailored messaging plays a central role in making your content relevant, trustworthy and relatable to your audience on various social media platforms.

Here are some ideas and types of content (which you’ll need to tailor across channels) that you can post on your social media platforms, whether through an organic post or a sponsored ad:

  • Answer a health question
  • Interview a patient
  • Share something about a patient community
  • Share your story
  • Share something inspirational
  • Share an attention-grabbing stat about a condition area
  • Share a Patient Leader video
  • Correct a common misconception in the healthcare industry

Not only is tailored messaging important, but it’s also critical to focus on social media targeting and reaching your key audience. Social media promotions can be challenging – here are some useful targeting tips for healthcare companies: 

  • Lookalike audiences – in Facebook, you can create a Lookalike Audience from a chosen source audience. If you can access a proprietary healthcare consumer audience that fits your target market, this can be helpful in increasing your number of new, ideal customers.
  • Demographic – depending on the platform, you can zero in on audience segments like age, gender, location, language, industry, company, company size, role, etc.
  • Interest groups – another way to target your audience is by interest-level categories. This can provide another level of personalization to new audience members by segmenting your content to tailor to various lifestyles, hobbies, groups, etc.
  • Retargeting – by dropping a script tag in the footer of your website, you can display retargeting ads to your site visitors as they browse other sites. This can be very effective if you segment your visitors and tailor your messaging to the various stages of the buyer journey.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #8: Aim for precision medicine in messaging and branding

In precision medicine, the patient’s time is seen as being as equally valuable as the doctor’s time. The concept entails a retail-consumer relationship that features a 1:1 experience enabled by technology.

In terms of healthcare marketing, convenience and even more personalized experiences can be your path to new competitive currency. Value your consumer’s time and tailor your messaging, delivery, and user experiences even more – and make it a top priority.  

An example of how this concept was successfully applied is in Evolution Health’s anti-smoking campaign, which took place in Canada. They segmented their audience into various groups, and found that among the young smokers aged 18-24 who predominantly spent time on Facebook on mobile devices, a text message campaign with both proactive and reactive tailored messaging was most effective. 

The result? At three months, 32% quit smoking and 73% had plans of quitting. Evolution Health went on to include in phase II of their campaign 1:1 text chats with quitline specialists.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #9: Gut check your messaging with market research

Why use your gut when you can test your messaging and campaign ideas with real audience members before spending your ad budget?

Market research is a great tool for uncovering insights about your target audience. Through surveys, community insight groups, and focus group sessions, you can better understand what resonates with your target audience and validate whether your marketing message is on track or not.

According to MarketResearch.com, these are five benefits of market research reports:

  • Gather industry information quickly
  • Validate internal research
  • Get a holistic view of the market
  • Use objective data to make informed decisions
  • Strengthen your credibility and reputation

In a monARC case study, the biopharma company hired Patient Leaders to serve on an advisory board which enabled them to glean important feedback from members who spoke on behalf of their communities. The ideas that the Patient Leaders provided, along with their consultation, made a large impact on the outcome of the company’s health initiative.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #10: Consider programmatic video buying

Mashable found that 15% of people use YouTube as a resource for health information.

Do you have a video campaign in your current marketing plan? – image source


Last year, EMarketer estimated programmatic digital video ad spending will increase to $10.65 billion and make up 74% of total digital video ad spending by 2018.

That’s quite the escalation in ad spend – image source


What is programmatic video? Simply put, it’s automated, real-time buying and selling of video ads.

According to AdPushup and the Internet of Advertising Bureau, there are three types of video ad impressions to consider:

  • Instream – linear video ads with various starting points (pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll) that disrupt video
  • Outstream – these are displayed on top of the content and don’t disrupt video
  • In-display – video served in the display ad unit (rich media, in-banner, in-feed, etc.)

Some advantages that Digital Bee lists for programmatic video buying are:

  • Uses socio-demographic and behavioral data for your targeting
  • Makes it possible to buy just the audience vs place/time on media buying platforms
  • Allows real-time adjustments and optimization to your campaign
  • Ideal for brand awareness campaigns


Healthcare Marketing Tip #11: Focus on search (SEM & SEO) efforts

Let’s first define SEM & SEO:

SEM is search engine marketing, which Wikipedia defines as a form of internet marketing that promotes sites by increasing their visibility in results pages. It includes both optimization (SEO tactics) and paid advertising.

SEO is search engine optimization, which is a sector of SEM. Hubspot and Google’s Knowledge Graph define it as the process of maximizing the number of visitors to your site, using tactics to make sure you appear at the top of the results list.

Search engines play a significant role in a patient’s search for health or medical information. According to a PEW research report:

“When asked to think about the last time they hunted for health or medical information, 77% of online health seekers say they began at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Another 13% say they began at a site that specializes in health information, like WebMD. Just 2% say they started their research at a more general site like Wikipedia and an additional 1% say they started at a social network site like Facebook.”

While these terms and tactics aren’t new to digital marketing strategies, you can focus on combining your SEM and SEO effort by making sure these elements are included in your plans:

  • Keyword strategy – make sure your brand, key phrases, unique value propositions, condition areas, etc. are intentionally and appropriately sprinkled into your online content
  • Ad extensions – be sure to include your sitelink extensions, call extensions, and location extensions when purchasing your PPC media
  • Conversions – the more you can engage your audience with compelling and authentic content, the more likely your clicks will convert.

According to MD Connect:

“…the higher Google will rank your paid ads and web pages. Moreover, inserting your messages directly into your target demographic encourages word-of-mouth discussion among patient communities and popular forums.”


Healthcare Marketing Tip #12: Incorporate native advertising

Incorporating your ad content into an environment where your ads appear to be a natural fit can be an effective way to increase engagement from your target audience. Not only can the information come off as relevant to the content on the platform or site, but your ads can also serve as resourceful and educational info.

According to a Business Insider article, spending on native ads is estimated to reach $21 billion by 2018. Add to that, native ads on social media (social-native), including Facebook News Feed ads and promoted Tweets, will draw a majority of the native ad revenue through 2018.

Social-native is increasingly becoming more prominent in native ad spending – image source


In the world of influencer marketing, creators of native ads base their content off of relevancy vs the number of followers they may have, and align content with interests and styles.

We have found in our own case studies, Patient Leader creative and UGC create a sense of authenticity and trust among online communities, two key ingredients to building awareness and increasing engagement in a campaign (refer to Healthcare Marketing Tip #6).


Healthcare Marketing Tip #13: Create smarter content

Creating smart content is yet another way to customize and tailor your messaging to your audience. Whether your marketing messages are deployed in the format of drip email campaigns, newsletters, PPC ads, landing pages, opt-in forms, or even your site content, by including elements that change according to who’s looking at your content, you can drive engagement.

Smart content creates a highly personalized experience for your audience, based on their previous behaviors. Here’s a HubSpot example:

You can go from default footer CTA (addressing the top-of-funnel visitor) to smart content CTA (addressing mid-funnel visitor who has downloaded a piece of content). Depending on the user’s actions, the next piece of content displayed is tailored accordingly.

There are many tools out there that can help with implementing smarter content. Bound presents us with an example of how a marketer would use smart content in a healthcare-specific product campaign using their Get Smart Content tool. Here’s the scenario:

With these insights, the healthcare marketer is “able to serve up their healthcare-specific product content and a case study on mobile visualization tools and dashboard immediately when that prospect visits the site.”

If you have the resources, using smart content tools like HubSpot, Quark, Vertical Response, MindTouch, and Bound can improve your content marketing ROI.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #14: Invest in marketing automation tools

Similar to smart content tools, marketing automation tools allow you to manage entire campaigns based on predetermined behaviors, so you can push out custom messages that are based on previous actions.

Here’s an Orlando Health example of how they incorporated their marketing automation tool into the CRM in their New Mom campaign: 

By following this automated messaging flow, Orlando Health was able to increase their ongoing patient engagement level. Their automated content campaign covered an expansive 12 months of resourceful information.

Martin Jones of Cox believes the benefit of using marketing automation tools in healthcare is something that can help patient engagement and education:

“If we can get the right people the right information, and walk them through the right sequence of steps (or story), we can bring in more of the people who need treatment while saving money by reducing preventable cases and false alarms.”

He believes that by using marketing automation tools, patients can better receive the right information at the right time, which will improve the quality of their treatment, whether it’s preparing for surgery, recovery, physical therapy, or taking medication.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #15: Test your usability

Usability testing demonstrates to you how real users are navigating your site pages. By testing your user experience, you can evaluate and improve your customer experience.

Jakob Nielsen at Nielsen Norman Group defines usability with five components:

  • Learnability – how easy is it for users to do basic tasks the first time they see your site?
  • Efficiency – how quickly are users performing the tasks?
  • Memorability – when users return, are they still up to speed?
  • Errors – how many and how severe are the errors, and are the users able to recover?
  • Satisfaction – how pleasant is the experience?

According to Oxford College of Marketing, here’s how site usability relates to revenue growth:

Additionally, knowing that 79% will search for another site to complete the task at hand, it’s best to conduct rounds of user testing to ensure your user experience is top-notch and that you’re not missing out on traffic engagement.


Healthcare Marketing Tip #16: Increase UI speed

Every second counts when it comes to your user interface. Here’s a chart by Kissmetrics that shows how page abandonment increases as your page load time increases:

Here are 10 tips from Crazy Egg on what you can do to shorten your load time:

  1. Minimize HTTP requests
  2. Reduce server response time
  3. Enable compression
  4. Enable browser caching
  5. Minify resources
  6. Optimize images
  7. Optimize CSS delivery
  8. Prioritize above-the-fold content
  9. Reduce the number of plugins you use on your site
  10. Reduce redirects


Healthcare Marketing Tip #17: Clean up your design

Designing your site pages to accommodate these three stats and their respective tips can be helpful in increasing your conversions and page engagements.

  • Stat: once on a site’s homepage, 86% of visitors want to see information about that company’s products/services – source
    Tip: make sure your homepage includes explicit and easily digestible information about your products/services
  • Stat: once on a company’s homepage, 52% of visitors want to see “about us” information – source
    Tip: include trustworthy info about your company and its purpose on your “about us” page. This is your opportunity to build credibility and show empathy as a thought leader in healthcare and/or as a company with intentions of solving the many problems and challenges that patients and caregivers face.
  • Stat: 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive – source
    Tip: use sufficient white space and categorize your content into clean buckets. This will keep your info simple, organized, and easier to ingest.

Closing Thoughts

Understanding that the healthcare industry lags in adopting modern marketing tactics, I encourage you to tackle these 17 healthcare marketing tips to better optimize your patient experience before your competitors do.

Staying ahead of the industry curve can greatly impact your ROI and improve the results of your digital marketing effort.

Which healthcare marketing tactics have you implemented, and what was the impact on your patient engagement?

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