Prescriptions for Healthcare Marketing in 2018

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Technology is changing the game for all businesses, and marketers are also finding new ways in which to do their jobs more effectively. Now healthcare marketers are discovering the ways in which they can use technology to identify and engage their target market.

In order to identify the priorities for healthcare marketers in the upcoming year, Affect, a public relations and social media agency specializing in technology, healthcare and professional services, spoke with a panel of senior healthcare executives from organizations like, Illumina, MDxHealth, Pfizer and Phoenix Children's Hospital. Based on those discussions, it published a guide to navigating major trends in healthcare marketing in 2018 with a look at five key areas:

  1. Advanced social media use to increase awareness  and loyalty
  2. Highly customized content plus promotion
  3. Creative media relations
  4. Emerging tech campaigns
  5. Business-oriented metrics

I spoke with Melissa Baratta, SVP and healthcare practice lead at Affect, about the state of healthcare marketing in today's environment. She said that because of the increasingly important role technology is playing marketing, “the role of marketers for healthcare is shifting.”

It's a challenge for markets “to stay on top all of these tech trends in the industry” that they need to incorporate into their marketing content while also leveraging technology in their role as marketers. In fact, some marketers see their jobs as “so tech-driven” that they have to have the capability of a CIO. The call for such a high level of technological ability makes some believe that the marketer's role “may have to split into different roles” down the line.

However, that's not necessarily a negative thing, Baratta explains. “There's excitement, looking at how to put all the pieces together, trying to figure out how to use technology to their advantage.” They know that technology offers them a “better way to market now.”

Some are “incorporating more advanced analytics, using AI for big data,” she said. With so much data to work through, they find that they need to use AI tools to handle it efficiently. On that basis, they “can better segment audiences,” and work out better alignment with business-oriented metrics.

Baratta says that “more alignment between marketing and sales” is needed. “At end of the day, all are working toward same goal.” Marketers do realize that, and as a result CMOs are now very “revenue-driven, and really focused on business oriented metrics.”

Consequently, one of the focal points set for marketers for the coming year: “to have the financial metrics” in place to make sure they are on the same page as sales. This is a change from the past in which “they didn't really have solutions on metrics side.”

Precise metrics also play into fine-tuned marketing. The goal is to reach the “right audiences with at the right times with the right content” and also connect the “results back to financial metrics,” Baratta explained. “Audience segments are more important than ever,” she declared. Technological solutions can show marketers what audiences “want from a content perspective and how to reach them effectively.

Social media plays a part in that. Some people suggested that “social media is becoming its own workflow,” she said. That a change from its previous categorization as a subset of PR or even “ignored altogether.” Marketers have to recognize the increasing “opportunities for engagement” offered by social media.

Live video is one of the ways healthcare marketers are effectively reaching out to audiences. Jared Johnson, manager of marketing technology and analytics at Phoenix Children's Hospital, was quoted in the report, saying: “We started live video streaming, we began a series of Facebook Live Q&A videos with hospital stakeholders, and we were the first children's hospital to Periscope a surgery.”

Baratta said that though, the organizations was “a little bit nervous” about broadcasting the surgery live, they found it extremely rewarding. Parents responded very positively; seeing the surgery alleviated many of their worries about the procedure for their children.

I asked if mixed reality was being used in this space. She answered that a few said they were trying things in VR, but its expense prevents it from being “mainstream” now. She thinks that will take another couple of years to happen.

While some healthcare marketers are using email and text messaging, they will have to think about not crossing over into what people consider invasive. They “need to find the right balance” to deliver just “the right amount of communication” to their target audiences and not too much, she explained.

Overall, though, it's clear to Baratta that “technology is the number one thing impacting healthcare marketing.” Going into 2018, healthcare marketers have to be extremely “tech savvy” to be on top of their game.

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