July 16, 2021  |  Sara Defibaugh

Essential Healthcare Marketing Trends To Watch

The last two years have been significant in the realm of marketing. From COVID-19 changing the landscape of how we approach messaging to iOS 14.5 completely altering the way advertising is utilized on Facebook, there have been shifts in how we approach marketing strategy creation and execution with clients—and this is no different for our healthcare vertical.

Healthcare took the brunt of the impact of the pandemic. For all healthcare industries, unemployment rates skyrocketed. Budgets were cut and marketing teams were downsized—and that’s not even touching on the severe physical and mental health impacts on front-line workers who fought the pandemic head-on.

Although the impacts of the pandemic were great, the core values and functions of our healthcare partners have not changed. Healthcare has simply evolved, and this evolution is the key to a successful marketing approach.

Last year, researchers published findings on the importance and need of a value-centered communications approach in healthcare—an approach that puts consumers at the center of an organization’s messaging versus value-based outcomes that reduce the consumer to a number.

This study, coupled with the lessons learned from 2020 and early-2021, revealed a new wave of healthcare marketing and its corresponding trends. Not only are these trends vital to a 2021-2022 marketing strategy, but they will also set the tone for healthcare marketing strategies in the years to come.

Social Marketing

As the world watched how countries handled COVID-19, a few made their mark with their quick and effective handling of the virus—one of those being South Korea. South Korea is, in fact, so highly regarded in its handling of COVID-19 that the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health published a report that analyzed the methods they used to prevent a severe COVID-19 outbreak and enhance effective contact tracing.

On a similar but separate vein, another study titled COVID-19: Lessons from South Korean pandemic communications strategy was published in December 2020. This report is a gold mine for healthcare marketers. The study showed how South Korea was able to successfully disseminate vital information on COVID-19 through communications strategies, and how this led to necessary citizen compliance. At the heart of it all is a concept called social marketing (not to be confused with social media marketing).

First, let’s dive into what social marketing is. As defined by iSMA, social marketing is the use of marketing concepts integrated with other communication approaches to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good. While social marketing is often used in collectivist cultures, like South Korea, it is not uncommon for American nonprofits to use this approach too.

As explained in the study, social marketing encourages voluntary exchange—aka, people willingly accept what the messenger is offering because they sincerely believe that the offer will benefit them. When it comes to public health messaging, by providing transparent and comprehensive information disseminated by credible spokespeople across multiple media channels, fear and confusion are erased and replaced with a willingness to comply.

Let us apply this to Bloom clients. We work with highly regarded dental sleep medicine doctors focused on treating obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that impacts around 18 million people in the United States. Focusing on messaging about the impact snoring has on both patients and their loved ones—combined with statistics/data, educational videos, and patient testimonials—our client, Sleep Dallas, has seen a 45% increase in website traffic and a 26% increase in year-over-year revenue.

Digital User Experience

If you work in healthcare communications, names such as ZocDoc, Vitals, and WebMD probably ring a few bells. Not only are these sites used as doctor directories, but also to enhance patient booking. By creating a quicker and easier user experience, these digital platforms are setting an example for healthcare organizations.

As society embraces the simplicity our digital world offers us, PatientPop found that 42% of potential patients prefer to book an appointment online versus calling the practice. Not only that, but as of 2019, 66% of U.S. healthcare organizations were providing or planned to provide online scheduling. If your organization is not utilizing the simplicity of online booking and digital communication, you risk losing new patients to practices that have adapted to the ever-growing digital presence.

An enhanced digital experience doesn’t stop there. According to Hibah Khalil of the University of North Florida, “the quality of [a] website plays a major role in influencing consumer behavior and the retention effect rate”. Through their research, they found that the quality of a website impacted meeting business goals, and the initial intentions of the consumer. That said, not only has online booking stood out as vitally important to consumers, but the quality and ease of navigation on a website. Investing in a website that is built on what’s most important to consumers will not only enhance website traffic but will increase leads and brand awareness through enhanced SEO.

Content is King

Digital content creation is vital for many reasons, with stats like this showcasing just how important it is for businesses to focus on their digital strategy. In 2018, for example, 80% of doctor.com survey respondents used the internet for a healthcare-related search. That same survey revealed that 63% of respondents would choose one provider over another if they had an engaging online presence.

Not only does having an online presence persuade new patients to book with you, but it also cements credibility. To stand out, healthcare providers must utilize a mixed content marketing strategy. This involves the use of blogs, social media marketing, videos, a content hub on their website, and much more. Each type of content plays a bigger role in making your organization seem more credible, trustworthy, and reliable than the others—eliminating the comparison component. In an age where consumer’s expectations are higher than ever, providing the information they need to feel at ease is everything, and to a degree, an obligation.

At this point, you may be wondering what content you should utilize. According to a study by contently.com, videos are eight times more engaging than written content (think videos vs. blogs); and not only that, but 75% of marketers notice better ROI when they use visuals to share their messages. By utilizing sites such as Instagram and Youtube, you will net better results than some of their social media family members. That doesn’t mean that Facebook or Twitter should take the back burner, especially if your key demographic is in the 25-44 age bracket, as those individuals are more likely to use Facebook than 18-24-year-olds or 55-65-year-olds.

Understanding your audience’s wants, needs, interests, and demographics will help guide you in the right direction. While it is important to remember what generally works and what doesn’t work, applying key concepts such as visuals over copy can only be successful if utilized in combination with the nitty-gritty of your particular target audience.

Healthcare organizations and patient providers depend on marketers to maximize their ability to help others. By staying on top of the latest trends and being open to updating how we approach marketing strategy, we, as marketing professionals, are not only setting ourselves up for success but our clients, too.

Need a little help with your healthcare marketing? Bloom can help!

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