What makes marketing in the health IT space unique? Who are the movers and shakers? What’s working, what’s trending? Where can you learn more? For our December Minutes we have asked our health IT Marketing community to give us thoughts on what health IT marketing might look like in 2021.
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Our industry will look for creative and meaningful ways to generate leads in the void of HIMSS and other in-person events in 2021. We predict marketers who tested the waters with virtual events in 2020 will employ tactics to encourage webinar or virtual conference registrations. After all, a registration means an email address, which leads to future email drip campaigns for sales and marketing teams. Personalized experiences to entice participation should be high priority this year. For example https://eatngage.com/ promises a “webinar dining room experience to boost attendance and eliminate no shows”. If we can’t meet in person, unique ways to educate and entertain are paramount to rise above the competition.
The pandemic has transformed and fast-tracked several significant marketing trends that will guide strategic 2021 marketing decisions, including:
- The acceleration (and primacy) of digital marketing, with a focus on improving the patient experience. The pace of digital transformation will increase, as will investment in technology, to improve the customer experience by reducing friction and making practical, helpful information more available and convenient. Marketing leaders will focus on strengthening their organization’s online presence and reputation by providing customers with a great online experience that includes honesty and clarity on solutions.
- Expansion of data-driven marketing. With the continued surge of available data to analyze, the use of AI-based tools that use real-time data and feedback to empower decisions and improve customer satisfaction will expand.
- Quality content continues to be king. Expect a continued focus on producing germane, timely, and engaging content in a variety of formats (e.g., videos, blogs, papers, timely virtual events) that attracts and educates prospects and is easily shareable across multiple online platforms.
The continued pivot toward virtual and hybrid events. Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. These events enable organizations to reach more prospects and customers – though their biggest challenge will be engaging effectively with participants during events. Content must be delivered by strong speakers on high-value, relevant and interesting topics. Marketing leaders should utilize innovative event technologies to engage attendees and foster interactions by polling participants with interesting questions and sharing results immediately. Networking is an important reason that participants attend events. Giving attendees opportunities to network with one another and engage with speakers is key.
For companies focused on marketing to hospitals and health systems, the pandemic changed the rules of engagement in 2020 and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It will likely take years – if ever – before we see a return to traditional industry conferences where people participate in person. Healthcare marketers will need to go virtual, remain agile and do so with purpose to manage decreasing budgets, buyers focused on the front line, and larger demands from company leadership to scale.
Traditional digital and virtual marketing efforts will need to expand with frequent success-measure monitoring. Marketing teams will need to enable their sales reps to sell virtually, supporting them with digital tools and a more differentiated message that compels buyers to pick up the phone, answer an email or see a product demonstration.
The shift from in-person events to virtual ones will continue, requiring marketers to keep a keen eye on what works in terms of duration, gaining participants’ attention, and mastering the various technical platforms used by different conferences. Companies will need to embrace creative and personalized ways to reach audiences and achieve stickiness, such as rich and personalized snippets of content that are repeated and curated across various digital platforms and venues.
Compelling thought leadership that displays a social conscience will be essential for educating the industry and public about issues beyond a company’s core product and services. A B2B marketing approach must now also include a B2C strategy. It will be important for companies to generate a groundswell of support from influencers and demand from end users to help inspire decision makers to buy a product or solution. The frontline worker’s voice is stronger than ever. Healthcare marketers must educate the public, share real-world stories, and show how their company protects and supports frontline workers.
2021 will involve a laser-like focus on delivering marketing in a digital space, as lack of travel forces in-person tradeshows and events to play a secondary role. This presents an opportunity for more print; personalized account-based marketing campaigns that include tactile items as well as digital counterparts to replace the lack of in-person events. Marketers have to keep in mind the healthcare audience will themselves be focused on finding products and services that will make their lives easier, financially better, and don’t interrupt their daily workflow that has already been severely impacted by the pandemic.
Just as some people have discovered the joys of sourdough starters and sewing, the pandemic seems to have created windows of revival for other ‘slower’-tech marketing ideas, such as dimensional mailers. Beyond that, empathy and understanding are among the most important considerations for us in 2021: The healthcare leaders we would like to connect with are under tremendous strain dealing with COVID-19, and all of our outreach has to be sensitive to that reality.
I predict that marketers will go deeper into, rather than broaden, their marketing technology [martech] stack. Marketers have invested numerous resources over the past five years to automate, expedite, and improve their lead generation and management activities. Particularly during this pandemic and with a watchful eye on budgets, the level of investment in new systems will be limited. In the meantime, marketers will seek to fine-tune, perfect and enhance the viability of their interconnected systems and will create stronger competencies around technology and the flow, use and analysis of data to support shifting marketing strategies.
Digital advancements have revolutionized marketing and how we connect with customers. Whether your customers are consumers or B2B, they expect and recognize more personalized marketing tactics like account-based marketing (ABM). ABM has been in existence for quite a while now, with non-healthcare industries reaping its benefits for many years.
For 2021, the accelerated shift to ABM in the healthcare industry is going to be a significant one. With customers looking for more personalized experiences, Health IT companies implementing an effective ABM strategy will cultivate stronger relationships with customers and ensure more successful marketing outcomes in the coming year.
- Podcasts will be more important in the Health IT space – There’s only a handful of decent podcasts in Health IT right now, and we are not going to be back to normal just yet. So, for those who can create breakout new podcasts, this easy-to-consume-during-work-or-downtime medium can be leveraged by smart marketers. Partnering with someone who already has a great podcast or building your own would be smart for a scrappy organization looking to make a smart marketing investment to tell compelling stories. They are also easy to embed just about everywhere on the web and can be easily reused and converted into other content.
- Webinars will still be valuable, people will figure out the “virtual conference” – At least for the first part of 2021, we’re not going to be meeting in person, so those who still want to have a conference will have to make it virtual. More than any industry, healthcare seems to rely on these. Many organizations were sort of winging it in 2020, but in other industries, people have figured out how to nail a good virtual conference. Whether it’s having food, beverage, and giveaways delivered to attendees, celebrity live-streamed performances, or offering free sessions and perks, those wanting to engage their audience for a user conference or trade show should look to other industries and emerging virtual exhibit organizations that have really pulled it off. It’s likely if people do this well, some component of virtual conferences will be here to stay when we switch back to “regular conferences”. Some examples to take notes from: Adobe Max, Zoomtopia, C2 Resilience and Halfstack.
- Telehealth as the new EHR – Telehealth is here to stay, and the telehealth giants that are emerging will be at the center of a whole new ecosystem of health IT. Smart marketers will figure out how to make their products relevant to a whole new set of buyers or reinvent their offerings in this new space.
- Adding back a human touch – 2020 left everyone feeling disconnected, stuck in their homes and unable to “do business” in the traditional way. As with the successful virtual conferences, marketing efforts that can add back a human element, or even a tactile element of any kind will set themselves apart from the competition. Whether it’s having samples or physical delivery of something to the audience somehow, or even personalized “perks” delivered electronically, or gamifying experiences with personalized perks – finding a novel way to break through the electronic barrier will make a huge difference in 2021.
- The CEO of Pfizer or Moderna will be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2021, and Time Magazine will survive through 2021 to give this award
- The July 2021 deadline for FHIR Patient Access will reveal that payers don’t understand the quality of the clinical data they are responsible for
- Brad Pitt will play Anthony Fauci’s character in a movie
- The healthcare IT community will reconvene at HIMSS 2021 and it will be very hot
2020 was, without a doubt, the most challenging year. While challenging, it has reshaped the way we look at marketing and public relations, and three concepts will be crucial when talking to both employees and client audiences in 2021. Re-imagine engagement by shifting focus from high-production-value to more low-fi deliverables that are more timely, relevant, and authentic. Focus on community building by hosting engaging, virtual entertainment events for employees and clients. Re-evaluate your marketing stack and shift resources and investments to channels that drive more relevant engagement (e.g., digital ad spends and podcasts instead of conferences).
Events in 2020 — BLM, #MeToo as well as pandemic-exposed inequalities — have heightened organizations’ awareness of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In 2021, brands will emphasize DEI in their corporate messaging. Leadership will be more mindful of how DEI is depicted on their web sites and in press releases and marketing materials. With the intensifying shortages of RNs, PCPs and IT talent, clients have already started asking for help with recruitment marketing (using DEI as a differentiator). I predict more collaboration between PR and HR.
As healthcare public relations and marketing professionals look toward 2021, it is critical we don’t fall back into the trap of “because we’ve always done it that way.” It is an approach that has plagued healthcare for too long, and one which was largely abandoned in 2020 as we collectively attempted to navigate the shifting sands of an unprecedented global pandemic. Too much will remain in flux for marketers to fall back on their 2019 “playbook” in 2021. For many brands this will mean regularly reexamining their strategic blend of paid, earned and owned media to identify the right ratio and allocate time and resources accordingly. The climate will likely (hopefully) look very different in January than it will in July, which will require many brands to pivot strategies to best address the evolving needs and priorities of their customers. While those with a strong covid-19 story will likely fair well with the press and be able to secure consistent, high impact earned media coverage, others will need to lean more heavily on paid and owned media. With greater emphasis on content marketing, “noise” levels will be high, and brands will need to explore increasingly creative and engaging formats, including video, animation and other digital interactive assets and platforms. Whether sponsoring and simulcasting a live virtual event in parallel with HLTH or turning a physical HIMSS booth into a virtual experience, brands will continue to explore new and innovative ways to reach, engage and influence their customers and prospects. The most effective marketers will regularly put themselves into the shoes of their key stakeholders to understand the challenges and opportunities they face today, as well as those they are likely to face in the future.
COVID-19 Has Robbed Us of a Lot; Let’s Not Forget the Gift of Gratitude
By Jodi Amendola, CEO, Amendola Communications
COVID-19 brought a year filled with uncertainty, change and lots of hardship. The impact of the pandemic has taken its toll on many of us. With the election behind us, Thanksgiving around the corner, and 2021 ahead, let’s be grateful for the many gifts we have, the successful marketing programs achieved and both our personal and professional COVID bright spots.
12 ways marketing will be different in 2021: Part I
By Cait Greeley, Social Media Manager, Clarity Quest
With the year we’ve had in 2020, there is no doubt that we have all learned how to accept change, be innovative, and look at challenges from a new perspective. Here’s what our marketing experts think is in store for 2021.
This blog post will be a three-part series featuring their responses and predictions for what we can expect in 2021, how we can make the most of business opportunities, and where we might see marketing take a different role.