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? This month for our roundup on health IT marketing we decided to round up our marketing experts and tell us what we might see in the new year. Here is what we found out.
The war for talent will take on new meaning for those growing their health tech PR and marketing teams in 2022. The challenge for employers will be finding new ways to attract, retain and motivate their teams. With many now working remotely, it has become even tougher to keep employee engagement high. Being in the tech space, it’s tempting to rely on digital tools.
The advice from Gallup, a leading voice in employee engagement, is to focus on relationships at work. What are you doing to foster personal connections? Give your team members opportunities to connect with each other and try not to use technology to substitute for real human connection. The war for talent entails winning the hearts and minds of your people.
2022 will be the year healthcare organizations deepen their efforts to (re)gain the hearts and minds of current and potential patients. Traditional marketing techniques—generic email newsletters, cold calls, unwanted text messages—are no match against the near-endless sea of social media misinformation. Clinicians continuously reassess care and treatment plans based on the strength of the patient’s response; healthcare marketing should be no different. Throw out your playbooks, think like consumers, and enable flexibility with data-driven feedback loops that allow for near-real time course corrections.
Health IT marketing teams will dust off event budgets for conferences and exhibits. But even as we return to events in real life, I think there will be renewed focus and continued growth in digital marketing strategies. Many health IT marketing teams saw the power of digital campaigns – from increased sales pipeline to marketing attribution capabilities. It’s a crowded space we work in but this coming year will bring continued testing for digital marketing across multiple channels.
With growing competition and consolidation, health systems will be getting more creative in how they position their service lines and digital health offerings. All roads lead to patient engagement coming out of a pandemic, and technology is the next generation of competitive differentiation. We’ll see more health systems touting technology solutions that advance goals such as improved care, especially as it relates to access and health equity. Increasingly, we’ll see a trend of technology vendors working closely with health systems in guiding strategic communications to their regional markets about the value of the solutions, with a focus on metrics related to improved care and cost savings.
Healthcare has traditionally lagged behind other segments when it comes to innovating the way we work. The tools to conduct effective digital marketing practices have existed for quite some time, but the pandemic has given the industry a giant shove forward to realize the value of digital in healthcare. This has been coupled with a continuing trend of healthcare consumers doing more of their own research and seeking out the resources needed to understand their healthcare options. We’ve seen this play out in the clinical trial space in dramatic fashion. Patients are being recruited to studies with much greater frequency through social media and search advertising versus the traditional means of physician referral and flyers in hospital waiting rooms. Many studies I’ve worked on have recruited entirely through social media, in some cases thousands of patients. Going into 2022, the headwinds of COVID and consumer empowered healthcare will continue to push this digital revolution in the way healthcare marketing is conducted.
Health equity emerged as a key topic during the pandemic, and I think we’ll see continued editorial focus on healthcare initiatives aimed at supporting all patients equitably, whether they’re home-bound, rural, disabled, or otherwise. Health IT vendors may also see additional pressure to offer enhanced patient personalization, communication, and education support due to new patient expectations around digital engagement.
I see the following on deck for marketing professionals who operate within the B2B environment:
- Continued transformation in the use of new technologies to help optimize marketing initiatives—from marketing automation to account-based marketing—to improve lead management and the overall sales experience.
- Adjusting to the demand by business professionals (as well as consumers) for greater privacy protections and control over their data. The privacy protections implemented in Canada and the United Kingdom will proliferate in the U.S. over the next several years and digital advertisers need to change their tactics in order to be successful (examples include implementing first-party data and zero-party data collection to gather information about prospects in order to continue to provide relevant promotional messaging).
- More finely tuned content that focuses on: storytelling (positioning the decision-maker—not the solution—as the “hero”); personalization (serving up content that is relevant to the decision maker’s role, line of business, and addresses their unique challenges); and simplicity.
- Expansion of hybrid events that address the needs of audiences who wish to remain engaged virtually as well as those who wish to return to in-person networking.
Even when the worst parts of the pandemic are in the rear view mirror, we will need to embrace the ways in which COVID has permanently altered and advanced the approach to med tech and healthcare marketing. While some in-person meetings are starting up again, sales teams will likely continue to have less access to clinicians, administrators and executives than they did pre-pandemic; this trend will amplify the already growing hunger for digital marketing investments. Additionally, in tandem with the healthcare market’s increasing focus on actionable data to improve patient care, marketers also will leverage more advanced tools that utilize data to help drive outsourcing decisions and better outcomes.
During the past two years, we’ve seen a significant shift in the media landscape due to the crazy-busy pandemic-driven news cycle—especially when it comes to pitching thought leadership to healthcare and life sciences journalists, who are on the front lines covering COVID-related news. That means it’s more important than ever to focus on best practices around securing thought leadership-driven interviews and byline placements. For example: 1) Keep in mind that news worthiness is paramount. Don’t pitch a nothing press release to your valued media contacts, or they may not open your next email that has critically important breaking news. 2) It’s also important to tie what a company does to bigger industry trends, such as artificial intelligence, natural language processing, or solutions to problems such as data overload or prior authorization. 3) It’s more important than ever to have customer champions who can tell your story and have peer-to-peer conversations, with a focus on, ‘I used this product/solution to improve my metrics and outcomes, and you can too.’ 4) Lastly, don’t be afraid to be controversial or provocative. For example, I saw a prediction quote recently from a health system executive that said: ‘Due to the pandemic, nothing is going to change.’ I haven’t decided yet how I feel about that prediction, but I certainly haven’t forgotten it. In some ways, nothing is changing when it comes to executing a strong thought leadership-driven PR program—and in other ways, everything has changed.
With a significantly larger proportion of their target audience working from home and more prone to distraction, healthcare marketers will need to be more agile than ever in their marketing approaches, using all available and appropriate channels to share key messaging with prospects. This includes ensuring website content tells the right story while being optimized for search engines; meeting potential buyers where they are at virtual, in-person or hybrid events and in relevant online communities; and performing both traditional and non-traditional public relations outreach. Supporting positive word-of-mouth will be crucial – marketers should cultivate KOL relationships and make it easy for clients to be brand ambassadors. We also anticipate the accelerated adoption of AIML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) for more effective data-driven analyses to rapidly optimize and better personalize campaigns.
As management and control of the pandemic continues to progress, healthcare marketers will opt for in-person, face-to-face conferences, workshops and events as a primary marketing channel. Although the transition to virtual during the pandemic was a necessity to maintain continuity and presence, returns were never as significant as live events. Look for increased opportunities to congregate and support event-based marketing initiatives. On the digital marketing front, social media will continue to play a dominant role in every healthcare organization’s marketing and communications strategy. Because of the speed to response, ability to shape the conversation and accessibility of social media channels, digital marketing will continue to generate a growing base of participants and supporters, reflecting the continued march toward the consumerization of healthcare.
Dorit Baxter, Chief Marketing Officer, Connect America
As the pandemic ushered in a much-needed increase in digital transformation and technology adoption in healthcare, it also has created a more informed healthcare tech buyer. From payers to large health systems to smaller physician groups, all are becoming increasingly smarter about the underlying technology and nuances of different solutions. Solution providers who only talk about AI or the next ‘shiny object’ will fall short. Healthcare organizations will only partner with those who show proven outcomes—both from a care and cost perspective—as well as demonstrate how they can be implemented without friction or address point-solution fatigue.
Prediction 1: Expect a big shake-up among healthcare brands as new competitors enter the marketplace and consumers migrate to other providers and sources of care.
Prediction 2: After a brief hiatus in branding investment, healthcare organizations will seek to restore trust or gain trust from new consumers. Meaningfulness will be the new desired brand attribute.
Prediction 3: Marketers will enact campaign strategies around bottlenecks in healthcare service delivery: namely, supply chain shortages, labor shortages and high ER volumes.
Providers Embrace Influencer Marketing – Whether on TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook, a growing number of providers are finding success with influencer marketing. Doctors that become internet celebrities are often booked for months. This trend has been aided by telehealth, which has enabled healthcare practitioners to see patients outside of their immediate geographic area. As healthcare becomes increasingly consumerized, more providers will make strategic investments in social media as a new form of engagement to attract both patients and fresh talent, particularly in light of the previously mentioned labor shortages facing rural providers.