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Best Practices for Marketing to Healthcare Professionals

Some best practices for marketing new technologies or new products to healthcare professionals include incorporating email marketing and creating buyer personas.

1. Incorporating Email Marketing

  • According to Healthlink Dimensions Healthcare Professional Communication Report for 2018, about 73 percent of medical professionals prefer being reached through emails.
  • Healthcare professionals prefer pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturers who present them with the opportunity to “learn about their industry.”
  • When sending emails to healthcare professionals, marketers should specifically provide educational materials such as industry studies, collected insights on patient demands, and detailed breakdowns of new products.
  • The content of the email messages should be interesting and portray key features through distinct tactics. Marketers should provide a simple layout, graphs, bullet points images, and other points to make email more digestible and memorable.
  • Marketers should consider focusing on peers rather than patients hence “physicians prefer a more clinical perspective when reading about new treatments and technology.” They should also consider the use of video content which is engaging and mobile-friendly.
  • For example, when emailing cardiologists, marketers should consider the type of cardiologist they are marketing to and obtain competent medical advisors who can guarantee that the healthcare language and “targeting in the campaigns make sense for physicians.”
  • Medical professionals are more inclined to open emails that they can relate to and respond to. If a marketer is sending an email about post-surgical rehabilitation, they should consider using a mix of imagery that involves surgeons and physicians.
  • Marketers should consider attaching real statistics to the content and finding testimonials that show how well they can make patients feel. For example, make use of messages such as “Worker’s Compensation Specialist. Use a verifiable claim like over 85% of our patients can return to work.”
  • Incorporating email marketing is provided as the best practice because it’s been featured in multiple authoritative sources for marketing new technologies or new products to healthcare professionals.

2. Creating Buyer Personas

  • A study conducted on over 350 CMOs revealed that marketers who provided personalized customer experiences witnessed double-digit returns.
  • A compelling way to reach medical professionals is to create buyer personas, including one for each profession. For instance, medical device firms require personas for private practice physicians, surgeons, and hospital chief information officers, at the least.
  • Buyer personas are imaginary, generalized descriptions of an ideal client. Personas enable marketers to internalize the typical consumer they are seeking to attract, and relate to their clients as real humans.
  • A buyer persona gives a specific perception into each target consumer’s precise motivations, frustrations, key activities, key issues concerns, and opportunities. This enables marketers to use distinct approaches, messaging, images, and language on the client.
  • For instance, “amidst the target audiences for the Georgia Institute of Technology are doctors and hospital CIOs. The organization created six buyer personas to market its electronic health records technology, including Strategic Steve — “Future-oriented CIO of a large urban hospital.”
  • Creating a buyer persona is provided as the best practice because is been proven by healthcare marketers to offer double-digit returns.

Best Practices for Marketing Healthcare Products to Consumers

Even though the process of marketing new healthcare technology and products to consumers might differ depending on the specific consumer (physician, patient, or prescriber) and the type of product, there are two things to keep in mind when developing the messaging. Marketers need to lead with the problem rather than the solution to make consumers develop a strong will to act. The focus needs to be on the consumer experience and journey, using compassionate, safe, friendly, and emotive means to convey the message. Outlined below is more information about the best practices.

1. Lead with the Problem

  • When marketing a new health product or technology to consumers (physicians, prescribers, and patients), it is advisable to lead with the problem rather than the solution. An illustration of leading with the solution for a newly released bronchodilator would be, “The first PBS-listed dual bronchodilator for the treatment of COPD,” followed by several data points. This presents the audience with the solution but no explanation for why it is needed in the first place, leaving them with the tedious task of finding a connection to their world.
  • When marketing the bronchodilator to a physician, a perfect way to structure the message would be by starting with the problem that is being solved, phrasing it in a way that is relevant to the doctor or other consumer interacting with the material. This could entail the following messaging:
  • This messaging instantly hooks the audience by providing a solution to a problem that they face. After establishing the problem, you can now introduce the solution by saying something like, “Try X, the first PBS-listed dual bronchodilator”. Engagement and interest are created within the audience. This goes hand in hand with messaging that addresses pain points, drivers, and triggers.
  • Structuring the message by leading with the problem drives engagement in digital media where there is limited attention. It sets up questions and a strong will to act. Digital marketing with messaging like “Are monotherapies no longer effective for your COPD patient? Click here to find out how what more can be done,” drives more action compared to a simple list of the product’s features.
  • Successful companies focus on messaging by addressing physician and patient pain points. Before the launch of a neurology drug by a major pharmaceutical company, the marketing team determined that getting patients to start on therapy was a major challenge for physicians. They then led with this pain point, among others, during the launch, making the drug successful.
  • Research by Deloitte and Bain proves that this is a best practice by saying that successful drug launches are driven by messaging that addresses exactly what physicians and other payers demand, for the improvement of patient adherence and significant simplification of their lives. It also helps to understand how physicians prefer to be engaged, and the pain points experienced by them and their patients, to efficiently tailor the message.
  • For pharmaceutical technology, the marketing message should prove that you know about the patient’s, hospital’s or facility’s pain points, understand their unique challenges, and have brought a solution that is tailor-made for them. For example, a manufacturer of new prosthetics with special joint cushioning can state that they aim to reduce the risk of complications arising from total knee replacement.

2. Focus on the Consumer Experience and Journey

  • When marketing healthcare products and technology, customer experience and journey need to come first. This requires putting the customer at the launch’s center and appealing to their “emotional, behavioral, and clinical needs.”
  • New products and technology face the challenge of arousing physicians’ and patients’ curiosity and getting them to break their habits. Using a perfectly designed poster showing the patient’s journey when using the new drug can help with breaking these habits. The fact that the poster targets the consumer journey and experience can make the prescriber find value in it since they can use it in conversations with patients as the drug’s effects become more visible or as the condition evolves.
  • A report by McKinsey & Company reveals that best-in-class healthcare technology and pharma companies launch experiences, differentiating themselves through messaging that reveals the customer journey instead of isolated touchpoints.
  • A highly consumer-focused marketing approach for a new biologic drug for a physician who is not confident about prescribing it can involve the provision of compelling case studies and real-life situations that illustrate the effectiveness for different patients. A rep marketing the healthcare product (drug or technology) can coherently link all touchpoints to a pre-planned journey. Any questions that are raised in one interaction are then followed up and answered in the next one to create a flowing, fulfilling, seamless, and memorable consumer experience.
  • To improve the consumer experience, marketers need to use messaging that strikes up emotional connections with the patients and other consumers. Evidence of the effectiveness of using compassionate, friendly, and safe messaging can be seen from a statement by Ellis Medicine’s CEO, Paul Milton, that patient satisfaction can be achieved when they have genuine and compassionate experiences.
  • For new medical devices that have short product life cycles, purchase decisions are in most cases driven by emotions. The device marketing campaign needs to be rooted in the value that is brought to the customer, using emotive and empathetic storytelling to convey the message.
  • An example of a focus on consumer journey and experience for successful marketing can be seen through Blatchford, a leading manufacturer of prosthetics, orthotics, artificial limbs, wheelchairs, and special seating. The company’s marketing provides real-life stories and case studies of people that have benefited from the products and technology with clear indications of their experiences. This tactic has situated it among industry leaders since consumers appreciate the compassionate and emotive messaging that is used.

Industry Benchmarks for Measuring Digital Healthcare Marketing Effectiveness

The cost of patient acquisition, click-through rate, website traffic, and response time are four industry benchmarks for measuring digital healthcare marketing effectiveness.

1. Cost of Patient Acquisition

  • Often considered the most relevant metric, determining patient acquisition cost helps the brand know what to measure. This metric considers how much it would cost to acquire a single patient while analyzing the different sources with which to acquire them.
  • The sources might include referrals, paid search, and social media, each of which may have varying costs per lead. Taking note of the lifetime value of a patient is essential when considering this cost.
  • For example, an initial cost investment for a patient might be up to $500. However, the patient’s lifetime investment upon acquisition could amount to $10,000, making the initial investment worth it.
  • In determining the effectiveness of the patient acquisition source, it is possible to track a lead from the pay-per-click ad to the landing page or from a social media post to contacting the healthcare organization. In doing the same, brands can determine the most effective method, i.e., the method with the highest return on investment (ROI) for their market and know where to invest.

2. Click-Through Rate

  • The click-through rate (CTR) assesses the effectiveness of a digital campaign (email or online). A successful digital healthcare marketing campaign is measured based on users who click on it rather than its viewers alone.
  • According to SmartInsights, the average CTR for display ads across all ad formats is 0.5%, 0.1% for rich media ads, and 0.83% for a Facebook ad regarding the healthcare industry.
  • Email engagement CTR benchmarks for the sector, according to GetResponse Email Marketing Benchmarks, include an open rate of 35.54%, CTR (5.69%), click-to-open rate (16.01%), unsubscribe rate (0.36%), and spam rate of 0.02%.
  • A value of CTR and/or click-to-open rate below the average indicates that the campaign needs to undergo a digital diagnosis to determine the cause. The same rule applies when users are unsubscribing faster than those who are signing up.

3. Website Traffic

  • When using a website to drive healthcare marketing, it is vital to consider the overall traffic, page views, bounce rate, conversion rate, and the site’s search engine optimization (SEO) performance. High performing pages based on these metrics indicate an effective campaign and money well spent. Using Hubspot’s Keyword Tool, or Moz Local can help to compare search engine rankings with competitors.
  • The bounce rate indicates the percentage of users that leave a site without completing any action after viewing a page. Brands can track the bounce rate on their website using Google Analytics, and while this won’t explain while they are leaving, it would determine pages where marketing efforts need to be reviewed and revisited.
  • Since the amount of time a user spends on a website determines their engagement, the higher the bounce rate, the more the brand loses potential conversions.
  • Google Analytics can also be useful in tracking the conversion rate of the website. After establishing the website’s traffic goals, brands can combine the conversion rate and traffic metric to determine its performance.

4. Response Time

  • Contrary to the opinion that customer service is mainly useful for shopping, healthcare organizations stand to benefit from the same. Complaints and bad reviews can damage a brand’s reputation significantly, and in the digital age, such information circulates faster.
  • Patients are peculiar about the service they receive from healthcare organizations during their appointments. However, “appointment reminders, follow-ups and the response time to their questions and concerns” are also vital to their relationship with the company.
  • As such, healthcare organizations should consider their email and phone call response times, as well as social media in customer service. Consumers on social media usually expect to receive a response within an hour of sending their messages.
  • When tracking the customer service response time, brands could utilize a system that logs the complaints and response times of the user and digital team. Also, Facebook tracks the response time for brand pages.

Marketing Trends: Healthcare Professionals

Two trends in marketing to healthcare professionals are the use of mobile digital advertising and the adoption of paid speaking. More information regarding these trends is provided below.

1. Mobile Digital Advertising

  • Pharma companies are increasingly allocating their budgets to digital advertising, especially on mobile. Healthcare mobile advertising is expected to grow 15% in the upcoming years, as marketing campaigns targeted to health care providers (HCPs), “place a strong emphasis on mobile.”
  • This trend is driven by the fact that HCPs are searching for healthcare information on their mobiles, as 8 out of 10 HCP’s use their mobile devices to look for work-related information and check their mobiles over 10 times every day.
  • For example, Boehringer Ingelheim has collaborated with Aptus Health, which specializes in mobile ad campaigns, to develop a mobile campaign targeted for HCPs, pharmacists, and patients.

2. Paid Speaking

  • After having a fall in previous years, paid speaking is again becoming a trend among pharma companies to reach HCPs. Through this marketing strategy, companies pay physicians to speak to HCP audiences about specific products.
  • The trend is driven by this strategy’s efficiency. According to Mike Luby, the founder, president, and CEO of HCP Concierge, paid speaking’s efficiency “is off-the-charts good.” He stated: “In just about every case I can think of, it would be marketing negligence not to put huge dollars against this.” Also, this strategy has become a trend because paid speaking has evolved, as today pharma companies choose a variety of speakers that are respected by HCPs.
  • Novartis is one example of a company at the forefront of this trend. The company has recently spent “millions of dollars” on speaking programs, and even had to pay $678 million to settle a lawsuit for doing so.

Marketing Trends: Healthcare Consumers

The healthcare industry is not as advanced as other verticals regarding consumer marketing and engagement. However, the pandemic is pushing the industry to adopt new strategies, while consumers have a newfound appreciation for healthcare services and providers. Social marketing, personalized and informative content, and multichannel are some current trends impacting the healthcare industry.

1. Social Responsability

  • Social marketing is not a new concept for healthcare. Many companies focus their marketing efforts on social responsibility. However, they often fail to translate these efforts into engaging stories that will resonate with consumers. For reference, a study conducted in Korea discovered that 78% of consumers took interest in corporate social responsibility activities undertaken by pharmaceutical companies; however, only 26.9% were aware these activities were happening.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts can go beyond traditional donations and programs. Patient stories are gaining momentum in the industry. “To find patient advocates, social media is a great tool,” explained Nancie George, head of content at Oshi Health, “It’s really about working with people who have identified themselves as an advocate and want to be contacted to share their story.”

Drivers

  • COVID-19 is changing consumers’ priorities and expectations. They expect more from companies and are more likely to become clients with the company responding to the pandemic in a manner they consider adequate.
  • Morning Consult surveyed 2,200 Americans and asked how they expect brands to act during the pandemic, and how it impacts the likelihood of choosing it. Although the survey was not specific to healthcare services, it is worth noting how consumers expect companies to do their parts:

COnsumers

  • Interestingly, older people are more likely to value companies’ responses than Gen Z and Millennial:

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  • Medical professionals are also in an excellent position to leverage their influence, given how highly regarded they are at the moment:

Expectations

Companies at the Forefront

  • Health tech provider, Epic, is launching webinars and whitepapers about COVID-19, and “profiled a rural Pennsylvania healthcare system helping patients prepare for their first telehealth appointments.”
  • UnitedHealth has won awards for improving communities. The company also announced a $10 million commitment to support George Floyd’s kids, and Minnesota businesses affected by the protests. It also matches employees’ contributions to non-profits. UnitedHealth proudly showcases its donations and efforts on social media.

2. Informative and Personalized Content with a Human Touch

  • Healthcare companies must produce content that is educational, useful, and compelling. Heather Swedin, global head of employee communication for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, expects that content marketing will continue at center stage; however, more emphasis will go towards value creation than volume. She further adds, “People want and expect to receive personalized content that speaks to their needs. As a result, I think we’ll see hyper-targeting taking an audience-led approach to content.”
  • According to Deb Pappas, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the type of content the center offers now has been “more of a key driver of consumer engagement” than changes in marketing budgets. They are providing content in the form of blog posts and videos.
  • She explains that these videos are not limited to health tips, “a ‘Building Resilience’ four-part series of videos and blog posts with one of our developmental pediatricians, as well as practical tips like ’14 ways to celebrate your child’s birthday during COVID-19′ and ’14 ways to celebrate your child’s graduation during COVID-19′. Both blog posts have resulted in top ranking in Google organic search results, more than seven minutes average time on page, our lowest bounce rates, and the No. 2 and No. 17 most visited pages on our website year to date”.
  • Kelly Jo Golson, of Aurora Health, echoes Pappas’ sentiment, stating that they have turned their marketing budget to education.
  • Nonetheless, informative content may not be enough, as people are looking for comfort and empathy. Valerie Simon, chief marketing and communications officer of Atlantic Health System, states, “People don’t engage with systems, they engage with people.”
  • It is not only for hospitals and healthcare systems. Health tech companies should also put “faces and experiences behind the products and services offered.”
  • As for how the content is delivered, there has been a surge in the adoption of video in medical marketing. For example, 39% of potential patients “call to make an appointment after watching a video on a healthcare topic.”

Drivers

  • Consumers’ demand for online health information is reshaping the industry. For example, 7% of all daily Google searches are health-related. Online tools are changing how consumers make decisions and their demands, and putting pressure on traditional healthcare players. Consumers want to participate in their care decisions.
  • Not only are they looking for information, but they are also acting on it. Fifty-eight percent of patients surveyed by Stanford Medicine and Rock Health said they proposed diagnosis to a physician based on information they found online, 56% suggested a treatment plan, and 53% the provider to prescribe or discontinue a drug, a proportion 79% higher than in 2015.
  • Younger consumers are more likely to adopt this behavior, but it is still applicable to all generations:

Online

  • COVID-19 is another driver for this trend, as consumers are looking for information they can trust. They are more likely to trust healthcare leaders than the government. As such, 31% of consumers said they feel more positive about healthcare organizations since the outbreak.
  • Despite the interest, most health-related content fail to engage audiences. For instance, healthcare content generates an average of 385 social shares, but the median number of social shares was only 67, which suggests that most stories “failed to break through aside from a few significant top-performers.”

Companies at the Forefront

  • Cleveland Clinic’s “Here’s the Damage Coronavirus Can Do To Your Lungs” had experts quote and a link to a video with a lung pathologist. It was shared 26,000 times on Facebook. Meanwhile, 23andMe published a study looking at the connection between genetics and COVID-19. It has 601 reactions, 400 shares, and 200 comments on Facebook, way above average for the company. On Twitter, it was shared 2,200 times and received 2,300 likes, while other posts fail to achieve 100 likes.
  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock launched a three-part video series showing employees sharing information on their process to ensure facilities are safe in a campaign called “Behind the Mask.” Jennifer Gilkie, Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s vice president of communications and marketing, explains “We deliver care for a population of over 1.9 million people across northern New England, so we have planned a robust distribution plan including video distribution on a YouTube playlist, postings on our patient-facing brand social media channels (specifically Facebook and Twitter) and our Dartmouth-Hitchcock website, a playlist linked in our patient communications platform (myDH) and shared in our Health & Wellness email newsletter, which gets distributed to approximately 15,000 subscribers.”

3. Multichannel Strategies and New Channels

  • Healthcare CMOs and executives are reporting that multichannel strategies are creating the best results, even though most are still struggling to adopt a fully functional multichannel strategy.
  • Eighty-six percent of healthcare marketers surveyed use common digital marketing tactics (websites, social media, digital ads), while 77% are also using non-digital marketing.

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  • Zero-click search is an emerging trend, as 48.96% of all Google searches in the United States ended without a single click, using only the featured snippets or Google Knowledge Graph.
  • Dan Dunlop, principal of Jennings Healthcare Marketing, believes 2020 will see a proliferation of health-related podcasts.
  • Multiple analysts believe voice search is also a rising trend.
  • A study conducted in 2019 by Voicebot unveiled that even though only 7.5% of consumers have used a voice assistant for a healthcare search, 51.9% would like to use it. The most common use is to ask about illness symptoms (72.9%), followed by medical information (45.9%), location of a provider (37.7%), treatment options (37.7%), nutrition (29.4%), and find a doctor or provider (28.2%).

Voice

Drivers

  • The main driver behind the trend is patients turning into healthcare consumers. They are modeling their experiences with healthcare services after encounters with retailers and fintech.
  • Dan Gandor, Abbvie’s Director of U.S. Customer Experience, stated, “Take med-legal along for the journey. Several of them might not be digitally savvy. They need to understand channels and realize things are fluid. Remember, it’s a journey and takes a village of marketers to succeed.”
  • For medical device companies, in particular, the entrance of tech giants in the field, such as Apple and Amazon, is likely to drive the need to improve the consumer journey and experience even further. It will be vital to ensure that consumers can get the information they need in a seamless and convenient fashion.
  • Quantzig, an analytics advisory firm, says that medical devices companies need to “formulate an effective multichannel marketing strategy.” The firm worked with an undisclosed medical device company to develop a seamless customer experience by implementing a multi-channel strategy, which was able to lower the customer acquisition rate by 15%, improve customer conversion by 24%, and enhanced consumers’ perception of the company.

Companies at the Forefront

  • Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Atrium Health are introducing voice assistant options. Giant Eagle Pharmacy worked with Amazon and Omnicell to allow consumers to request prescription refills via voice.
  • Geisinger combines “email, direct mail and social media messaging that connects to a landing page or call center” to engage consumers. The highest level of engagement was on social media, particularly YouTube.
  • Takeda is implementing a patient-first mobile journey, including a mobile e-card, which provides patients with savings and communication streams.
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