A successful marketing strategy is just as important in healthcare as it is in other industries — especially as savvy consumers increasingly shop online for medical services.
Optimized search engine results for healthcare providers can reach wider audiences than non-optimized results. Social media ads can target specific patients and providers, sending tailored messages to the right people. Innovations in telehealth and mobile health can expand healthcare access in previously underserved regions — and healthcare marketing strategies can make such services known.
A successful healthcare marketing strategy can make healthcare more efficient and accessible by:
Growing a trusting patient base
Improving patient satisfaction
Recruiting top-quality healthcare professionals
Healthcare in the digital age
Around 90% of U.S. patients use online reviews to evaluate their doctors, according to a 2020 Software Advice survey. The study of over 1,000 participants also found that 71% of prospective patients considered online reviews when choosing a new doctor.
Americans are increasingly using the internet to learn about and access healthcare. Findings published in the 2019 issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that the number of healthcare users with access to the internet increased from 63% in 2003 to 81% in 2017. Yet, researchers for Public Health Reports found that around 61.5% of U.S. adults looking for health information on the internet experienced some form of frustration.
Well-designed healthcare marketing strategies can reach patients in online spaces, reducing the stress associated with researching a new care provider or learning about new treatments.
What is healthcare marketing?
Healthcare marketing deploys communication strategies to inform audiences about health and healthcare resources. Using paid advertising, email, social media, videos, and search engine optimization (SEO), healthcare marketing delivers valuable content to a targeted audience.
In the increasingly competitive healthcare landscape, there is a growing need for the use of digital marketing platforms and market analytics tools. Additionally, everyone in healthcare — not just professionals in marketing departments — should accept the responsibility to embrace a patient-centric mindset and learn basic marketing skills for the digital age.
Healthcare marketing factors
When designing a healthcare marketing strategy, healthcare organizations should examine multiple marketing factors, including target audience, strategic positioning, and customer segmentation.
Considerations when refining a marketing strategy for healthcare include gathering information on the audience the campaign seeks to connect with.
Often, the target audience is a prospective or existing patient base, but sometimes healthcare marketing strategies focus on providers, public officials, educators, or other professionals who may benefit from health products and resources. For example, a pharmaceutical company may market a new drug therapy to physicians, who may recommend it to their patients.
Good questions to ask when conducting market research on a prospective healthcare audience include:
- What does the audience need? How are their needs currently being met?
- What are their lifestyles?
- What do they value in their healthcare services, providers, and treatments?
- How loyal are they, and how receptive are they to emerging technologies?
- How do they seek answers to medical questions? What sources do they rely on for information?
- How frequently do they seek services?
In addition to identifying key features of a target audience, a successful healthcare marketing strategy considers the barriers that may prevent an audience from accessing the product or service. Common barriers to access include financial limitations, a lack of transportation, and inaccessibility of services (in rural communities, for example).
Strategic positioning is a process by which an organization sets itself apart from competition.
Through strategic positioning, a healthcare organization specifies the benefits it provides to target customers. Whether it’s a new prescription drug with fewer side effects, a user-friendly telemarketing app, or a compassionate care team specializing in palliative care, naming and refining the specific need a product or service meets can help keep a healthcare marketing campaign focused and grounded.
An early step in taking a strategic position is helping an organization develop a clear, communicable mission and set of values. A target audience should know what a healthcare organization does, what it stands for, and what consumers can expect from it.
In healthcare marketing, customer segmentation has to do with dividing a target audience into different subgroups for the purpose of providing ever more tailored advertising.
Customer segmentation often involves dividing potential and existing customers along four lines:
- Geography: Where do patients live? What goods and services are already accessible for patients in the area?
- Behavior: What patterns of behavior do existing or potential patients exhibit? How do they currently learn about new healthcare options? How often do they use healthcare? How often do they seek new treatments and services?
- Demographics: What are the patients’ ages, genders, incomes, living situations, and education levels?
- Psychographics: What are the patients’ values? What do they care about? What are their attitudes toward healthcare professionals and the healthcare system generally?
Applying the four P’s of marketing in healthcare
Developing a successful marketing campaign for a healthcare organization or healthcare practice may entail utilizing the 4 P’s of marketing: pricing, product, promotion, and place.
Employing the four P’s can help to position a healthcare product or service at the right place, at the right time — resulting in efficient and effective communication.
The price of healthcare, especially in the U.S., may be an especially compelling selling point for potential patients and providers. Finding ways to reduce the cost of treatments or deliver services more efficiently can improve access to essential healthcare.
Deciding on a fair price, and communicating the value of the good or service to the target audience, should be a part of any memorable healthcare marketing campaign.
Product (or service)
Healthcare marketing campaigns that peddle sub-par products will suffer in the long term, so refining the specific product is essential. By conducting assessments, reading reviews, and taking feedback seriously, healthcare leaders can refine and improve their product — whether it’s a specific treatment or a service provided by a local physician.
Every successful healthcare marketing strategy includes some way of providing outreach to the target audience. That’s promotion, the third P of marketing. Whether their strategy involves SEO, social media, or rebranding, healthcare organizations need ways to amplify their message and establish a clear communication channel between themselves and their audience.
Finally, healthcare marketing strategies must consider place — the location where their organization, goods, or services become reachable to their target audience. Place may become a feature in the marketing itself (e.g., emphasizing the convenience of accessing telehealth providers from the comfort of a person’s home).
Become a leader in healthcare marketing
Healthcare marketing strategy involves coordinating digital and offline channels to convey a tailored message to a specific target audience. Whether that audience includes new patients, experienced providers, or health educators, a successful healthcare marketing strategy will consider the myriad of ways that people can access efficient, high-quality healthcare.
Healthcare marketing doesn’t start and end with marketing departments; healthcare leaders understand the importance of improving health outreach and education with a strategic, patient-centered approach.
Developing strong marketing strategies begins with the right experience and education. Explore degree programs that can help professionals fuse leadership principles with industry knowledge to improve quality of care, such as Dignity Health Global Education and Northern Arizona University’s online Master of Business Administration in Healthcare program. The curriculum, designed by leading healthcare industry experts, provides graduates with a blend of lecture, direct engagement with healthcare professionals, and an applied practicum to prepare graduates for a successful career in healthcare administration. Find out more about the unique MBA in Healthcare program from OpusVi and NAU today.
- Deloitte, 2022 Global Health Care Sector Outlook
- Healthworks Collective, “Strategic Positioning for Healthcare Organizations”
- Houston Chronicle, “Health-Care Marketing Objectives”
- Intrepy, “Healthcare Marketing in 2021: Strategies and Tips to Grow Practices”
- Journal of Medical Internet Research, “Tracking Healthy People 2020 Internet, Broadband, and Mobile Device Access Goals: An Update Using Data From the Health Information National Trends Survey”
- Journal of Medicine and Life, “The Impact of Marketing Strategies in Healthcare Systems”
- Public Health Reports, “Online Health Information Seeking Among U.S. Adults”
- Software Advice, “How Patients Use Online Reviews”
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The National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives (NALHE) and Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) are aligned in their mission to increase access to high-quality education and equity in healthcare