Marketing isn’t rocket science, but healthcare marketing almost is. And it can skyrocket your company if you do it right.
You’re on the best page for that.
- The particularities and challenges of healthcare marketing
- The best solutions to overcome those challenges
- A straightforward, 7-step marketing plan you can implement today
- Examples and models you can mimic today
Let’s dive right in.
- Healthcare marketing is intricate due to the complex nature of the industry. For success, it’s crucial to comprehend these intricacies and fine-tune strategies to cater to specific audiences.
- Analyze and understand the market:
- Recognize and adapt to changing market dynamics.
- Pinpoint your ideal audience segments for targeted marketing.
- Closely observe and understand the strategies of competitors.
- Delve deep into buyer preferences and tailor offerings accordingly.
- Keep an eagle eye on regulatory changes that can impact marketing decisions.
- Set goals:
- Define clear and measurable objectives for your marketing campaigns, such as boosting sales, enhancing brand recognition, or strengthening customer interactions.
- Develop your marketing mix:
- Forge a well-rounded marketing plan, leveraging the 4 Ps: Product (what you’re offering), Place (where you’re offering it), Price (how much you’re charging), and Promotion (how you’re creating awareness).
- Build your strategy:
- Website: Routinely assess and refine your website, ensuring it offers a seamless and user-friendly experience to visitors.
- SEO: Enhance your online presence by optimizing your site to feature prominently in search results.
- Online communities: Foster and maintain active engagement with both healthcare professionals and patients, serving them enriching content that addresses their needs.
- Influencer marketing: Collaborate with reputable industry creators to amplify your message and build trust.
- UGC: Harness content generated by users as it resonates with authenticity and genuine experiences.
- Email marketing: Strategically segment your email list and personalize content to resonate with specific audience groups for meaningful engagement.
- Product sampling: Elevate product familiarity and usage through strategic sampling, adhering to relevant guidelines.
- Ads: Amplify your brand’s visibility through targeted advertising, and incorporate UGC to counter any potential ad fatigue.
- Continuously gauge the efficacy of your marketing campaigns, ensuring they align with and progress toward your pre-established KPIs.
- Use insights from your measurements to finetune campaigns, remain abreast with evolving industry trends, and incorporate innovative strategies to stay ahead.
- Successfully navigating healthcare marketing requires a meticulous understanding of the market, setting definitive goals, and relentless optimization based on real-time feedback. If navigating this terrain seems daunting, inBeat – a full-service marketing agency for healthcare companies – offers expert consultation and guidance to pave the way.
What Is Healthcare Marketing?
Healthcare marketing aims to promote and sell medical treatment & equipment.
Unlike marketing in other industries:
- Healthcare marketing is a highly regulated field due to the ethical implications of promoting medicine.
- Healthcare marketers must adhere to extensive regulations that govern consumer advertising.
That’s not all:
The goal of healthcare marketing is to educate healthcare professionals and the general public about the benefits of a specific drug.
Side note: Yes, you address two audiences: healthcare professionals (HCP) and patients. Here’s why:
Traditionally, people would trust their healthcare professionals, who would respond well to
Fun fact: These people represent a pharmaceutical company and promote medical products to doctors.
But the term healthcare representative or rep may also refer to the person delegated to take medical decisions for a patient.
That aside, let’s note that unsuccessful healthcare sales representatives cost the healthcare industry $1+ billion annually.
Remember: You need to help patients make informed decisions about their health, and it may not be through reps
Also, your industry places a greater emphasis on scientific research and data to support claims about your products’ efficacy compared to other sectors.
All that means healthcare marketing requires a unique approach that prioritizes patient safety and education.
You’ll learn how to do that below. But first:
5 Healthcare Marketing Challenges…
Let’s dive straight into it:
1. Focusing Too Much on Advertising the Drugs Instead of Talking to the Patient
Many times, companies can become overly fixated on selling their healthcare products, forgetting the needs and concerns of the people they serve.
And yes, you need excellent audience segmentation for that. The one-size approach of targeting everyone with the same ad no longer works.
This approach often results in missed opportunities to connect with customers and build relationships.
Talking to the patient helps you:
- Understand their needs better.
- Create more effective healthcare marketing strategies that resonate with them.
You must address them correctly if you want them to purchase your products.
2. Lots of Paperwork
The healthcare industry relies heavily on documentation and paperwork, from obtaining regulatory approvals to documenting clinical trials and accurately tracking sales data.
That’s not all:
- You must ensure your paperwork complies with strict regulations and quality requirements.
- Any mistakes could lead to significant fines or reputational damage for your company.
That translates into time and labor-consuming processes that slow down your marketing process.
Pro tip: A good healthcare marketing agency like inBeat has the necessary resources and training to handle the paperwork effectively.
Your healthcare company must navigate different and ever-changing regulations. Rules about drug promotion differ according to country and region.
Plus, these regulations are subject to change at any time.
For marketing teams in the healthcare industry, this means staying up-to-date and ensuring that all promotional activities comply with local laws.
And all that while creating compelling, thumb-stopping messages that increase sales.
4. Evolving Technology
Another pressing challenge in your industry is the rapidly evolving technology landscape.
We know it can be difficult for drug companies like yours to keep up with new trends and platforms.
Plus, the spread of online disinformation means your company must be extra careful with product promotion and the complex regulatory environment you’re in.
Side note: Many healthcare companies turn these threats into opportunities, connecting with patients and healthcare professionals through:
- Educational apps
- Engaging with consumers on social platforms
But we’ll discuss how to stay on top of emerging trends and leverage the latest technologies in a second.
5. Patients Want More Information and Respect
Another issue is striking a balance between:
- Providing patients with the information they want and need
- Being mindful of their mental health and well-being
Fact: In today’s information age, patients expect access to much more information than they did in the past.
This includes information about medications, their benefits, and their potential side effects.
However, with this increased access to data comes the potential for information overload and anxiety.
That means you must practice strategic, thoughtful, patient communication. You should:
- Be respectful of their mental health, and:
- Provide them with clear and concise information.
That brings us to the next point:
…and Your 4 Best Solutions
After we’ve analyzed the problems your industry is facing, let’s look at the solutions.
Later, we’ll show you how to create a strategic marketing plan according to these solutions.
1. Value-Based Patient Care
The success of healthcare marketing in today’s landscape requires an unwavering focus on value-based health care, with digital channels serving as a powerful tool for relationship-building and targeted engagement.
Value-based health care entails:
- A shift towards patient-centricity
- Empathetic approach
- Emphasis on outcomes
Relationship-focused digital marketing channels are key because you must communicate directly with patients and healthcare providers.
Basically, you’ll funnel your marketing efforts toward building trust and engagement.
And for that, you need personalized messaging addressing the unique needs of each audience segment. This precisely targeted segmentation allows you to understand your patient needs and, therefore:
- Build long-term relationships based on shared values.
- Tailor your marketing efforts to those needs.
- Drive improved health outcomes.
Remember: You’re offering both tailored results and a relationship – the foundation of brand loyalty.
Becton Dickinson constantly underlines its inclusive, value-based healthcare practices on its social media accounts:
2. Personalized Customer Experience (through Technology)
In the highly competitive world of healthcare, you’re constantly competing for the attention of your healthcare providers and patients.
Pricing and efficacy are crucial factors in your drug’s success, sure.
But healthcare companies must also focus on creating an exceptional customer experience at all stages of the marketing funnel.
This positive and personalized experience leads to increased:
- Product satisfaction
- Patient adherence and retention
- Growth and market success
For example, patients, caretakers, and individual physicians can benefit from app reminders, personalized social media groups, and gadgets like smartwatches to monitor their conditions.
Artificial intelligence will also likely play a more significant role in the near future.
And to create all that, you need:
- A comprehensive strategy based on data analytics
- Accurate segmentation
- Customer journey mapping
- Lead nurturing
GE Healthcare emphasizes its patient-centric approach while also promoting its employees and humanizing its brand:
3. Leveraging Social Media (Omnichannel Marketing)
Leveraging social media and omnichannel marketing allows you to take advantage of the opportunities presented by new technologies. That helps you both:
- Serve your patients better, and:
- Drive growth.
And let’s face it:
The vast majority of your patients, HCPs, and caretakers actively use social media platforms daily.
Consistent messaging on social channels allows you to:
- Market your healthcare products on these platforms.
- Connect with your target audience by building a community around your brand.
- Showcase your values.
- Remain top-of-mind of your patient populations.
Remember: Use different channels to engage with customers throughout their journey.
LinkedIn helps engage your HCPs audience, while Instagram and TikTok allow you to build meaningful relationships with your Gen Z and Millennial patients.
Bayer uses its social media platforms to connect with its different audiences constantly:
4. Resources and Information
We already discussed how the rise of social media and the internet gives consumers access to more information than ever before.
- They crave more information, but:
- Some of the resources they’ll find are potentially fake.
Still, you can’t dismiss the fact that people are taking a more active role in their health outcomes.
Your audience is searching for trusted resources and educational materials to help them make informed decisions.
Remember: Become that source of valuable and reliable information for your audience.
Give more to get more.
That mindset will help you build trust with consumers and healthcare professionals and improve patient outcomes.
Side note: High-quality information can differentiate your product from competitors, showcasing its unique benefits.
GE Healthcare is ideal in the area of education and resources, with a wide range of materials for different audience pain points:
How to Build a Successful Healthcare Marketing Strategy Step-by-Step
Now that we’ve seen the challenges and opportunities in your industry let’s craft a plan that helps you leverage both.
Marketing research helps you understand risks and opportunities so that you can create solid plans.
The areas to focus on include:
- Your company
- Customer insights
- Market trends
- Competitive analysis
Side note: You need specific models to research these areas comprehensively.
We’ll share the most successful ones from inBeat’s arsenal.
1.1. Company Audit
When you’re conducting your company audit, you’ll focus on:
- External factors
- Internal factors
Internal factors are easier to monitor and more controllable. You’ll want to think of your:
- Market share
- Existing product portfolio
- Human resources
- Specific product characteristics
- Unique technologies
- Brand positioning
- Relationships and reputation
- Unique selling points
- Previous marketing efforts
External factors are easy to analyze through the PEST model:
- Political: Legislation, policies, lobby groups, potential conflicts, etc.
- Economy: Current situation, trends, and predictions
- Social: Demographic and cultural trends
- Technological: Anything new that disrupts or changes your industry
1.2. Customer Analysis
During customer analysis, focus on:
- Generational trends and insights
- Demographics variables
- Social media distribution
- Customer behavior patterns
- Consumer segments
- Who buys and uses the products
- The products they’re buying
- Purchase criteria
Pro tip: You should also consider geo analysis to prioritize specific countries.
- If you operate online, analyze traffic growth for those regions.
- If you own a global brand, conduct separate analyses for each product.
Draw your information from:
- Sales team data
- Customer feedback
- Online reviews
- Social media engagement
- Website traffic analytics
Pro tip: You can use a tool like SEMrush to get traffic analytics data, such as demographics and channels your audience uses.
And unlike Google Analytics, these tools reveal the same data about your competitors.
This information will help you identify your customer persona:
- Who they are.
- What they want.
- What challenges they face.
For example, Cardinal Health understands its audience values mental health discussions:
1.3. Market Trends
Market trends in your industry reveal what your audience wants, what channels they’re using, and where demand stems from.
That will help you:
- Hone your offer.
- Improve communication around your products and services.
So, look at your sales data and website traffic information. Analyze:
- Overall market traffic acquisition
- Growth according to each source (paid marketing, direct marketing, social media, etc.)
Pro tip: Perform keyword analysis to find trending keywords in your industry. All major keyword research tools allow you to see those trending keywords.
This will help you:
- Write according to your audience’s search intent.
- Connect with your audience more intimately by adopting their language.
Insider tip: You can also research market trends to find potential distributors or partners.
For example, at inBeat, we analyze the most successful resources in your industry and the channels that bring the most buyers.
We then analyze these websites’ traffic quantity and quality, current partnerships, and audience overlap.
1.4. Competitive Analysis
Your competitors are excellent sources of information.
You can learn from their mistakes and successes, honing your marketing strategy. You can also review benchmarks and understand industry trends better to improve your marketing mix.
When performing competitive analysis, start by determining:
- The range and intensity of your competition
- Your shared audience
Remember: A competitor becomes more threatening when they have:
- A low price, with the same qualities and functionality
- A similar price, with better product features and functionality
Here are the steps to conducting a competitive analysis:
- Shortlist your competitors. They can be direct if they offer the same product or indirect if they offer different products but satisfy the same need.
- Discover your competitors’ most successful products.
- Use a research tool to estimate each page’s traffic quantity and quality.
- Look at their most important traffic sources (e.g., paid ads, organic traffic, social media, or specific creators or influencers).
- Determine the campaigns that bring them the most traffic.
- Find their best content assets,
Pro tip: Identify two of the most important criteria for your business to create a competitive map.
Let’s say your key criteria are drug costs and quality. Your map looks like this once you place your competitors on it:
This will help determine your position according to your competition.
2. Set Goals and KPIs
The previous step was arguably the most important in your strategy because actionable insights are the basis of any successful plan.
Here’s how you can set your goals and KPIs:
- Conduct a SWOT analysis:
- Strengths: What you’re doing right in your marketing efforts
- Weaknesses: Your gaps and mistakes (e.g., inefficient marketing, lack of certain resources, specific product features, etc.)
- Opportunities: Potential strategies and resources, such as social media trends, new markets, or potential influencers
- Threats: Potential challenges and issues, such as political issues, changing healthcare regulations, or your competitors’ new resources and marketing strategies
- Conduct a TOWS analysis: This approach will help you leverage the findings in your SWOT analysis to figure out a strategy.
Turn your strengths into opportunities.
Use strengths to fight against threats.
Leverage opportunities to overcome weaknesses.
- Set your goal. Determine a specific, realistic objective you can take on to achieve your business goals.
- Set your KPIs: You must specify key performance indicators from the start to know whether you’ve reached your goals.
Let’s imagine we have a healthcare company specializing in cancer treatments.
Our SWOT analysis can look like this:
- Strengths: Highly skilled research and development team and a strong reputation within the medical community
- Weaknesses: High production costs and limited distribution channels
- Opportunities: Increased funding for cancer research; expanding our product line to treat other conditions
- Threats: Increased competition and changes in regulations
Our TOWS analysis shows that:
We can use our research and development team to get more funding to expand our product line.
We can leverage our reputation to get more coverage.
The expanded product line helps us combat competition and regulation changes.
The increased coverage will help us gain a competitive edge.
We can get more funding to mitigate production costs and obtain more distribution channels.
We create plans for each worst-case scenario to avoid potential PR and marketing crises.
Our marketing goal will therefore be twofold:
- Market development: We’ll use partnerships with health and wellness influencers in New York or any other location to promote our existing treatments to a new market.
- Product development: We’ll add new treatments and technologies, promoting them to our current audiences.
Side note: You should also add some timelines and numbers to make these goals more specific.
Here are our KPIs:
- New sales
- Increase in website traffic
- Brand awareness
- Positive sentiment
- The number of partnerships with influencers
- The number of positive media mentions and coverage
3. Perform Audience Segmentation
Audience segmentation involves identifying and grouping your target audience into segments. You aim to tailor campaigns and messages that resonate with them.
At this point, you will use the research you’ve done in section 1.
Here are your steps:
- Identify the unique demographics and characteristics of each segment.
For instance, different age groups might have varying medical conditions. In this case, your marketing message should target specific ailments.
Alternatively, they can face the same medical conditions but experience different symptoms or potential results.
- Choose your channels.
After creating these segments, choose specific communication platforms to reach them according to your marketing funnel.
- Industry studies in niche magazines are better for reaching HCPs or highly informed caregivers: These are people near the bottom of your sales funnel. They either consider you a great option or are ready to purchase your products.
- If you want to build a relationship with potential customers, choose digital platforms: Creating relatable memes and leveraging trends helps you connect with people near the top of the sales funnel.
Let’s make it clearer:
Sales funnel stage
Target audience action
Becoming aware of their problem
Social media messages; ads
Finding your product
How to guides and other strategies to fight a medical condition; influencer marketing
Evaluating different options
Comparison guides and reviews; product sampling
Evaluating your unique selling points
Closing the deal
Interacting with your brand
Building engaged online communities
4. Define Your USP
Before deciding your strategy, it’s essential to define your unique selling point.
Let your audience know your competitive edge so they’ll know what makes you different.
Pro tip: Formulate this USP for each audience segment, leveraging their pain points.
Let’s imagine another healthcare company. This one retails supplements that shrink uterine fibroids.
We have two audience segments:
- Patients: Our supplements are clinically proven to reduce the size of uterine fibroids by up to 33% without invasive surgery or hormone therapy. You will decrease the discomfort and inconvenience of fibroids and reclaim your quality of life naturally.
- Medical professionals: Our supplements are clinically proven to reduce the size of uterine fibroids in just 12 weeks without invasive surgery or hormone therapy. Our product is easy to incorporate into your current treatment plan and is backed by extensive scientific research.
5. Build Your Strategy
There are different strategies you can build into your healthcare marketing plan.
We’ll discuss a few of the best ones below but know that you can always mix and match them.
5.1. Update Your Website
Conduct a website audit to identify:
- Technical issues
- Broken links
- Slow load times
Make the website more user-friendly:
- Add high-quality images and videos.
- Improve the navigation.
- Simplify the overall layout.
- Incorporate interactive elements like quizzes, calculators, and video tutorials to engage users and offer valuable information.
- Feature clear calls to action throughout the website, such as “Learn More” or “Contact Us,” to encourage users to take the next step.
5.2. Healthcare SEO
Healthcare SEO refers to optimizing your website for search engines. The four main steps are:
- Use relevant keywords according to your audience’s search intent.
- Create high-quality content.
- Improve your internal link structure.
- Build backlinks.
Of course, you should also improve your title tags, metadata, and other technical SEO aspects.
5.3. Online Communities
You can use online communities to connect with healthcare professionals and patients in several ways:
- Creating a company-specific online community: Think of a forum or social media group where healthcare professionals and patients can discuss their pain points and potential solutions.
- Participating in other online communities: You can become vocal in patient advocacy groups or healthcare professional forums. The goal is to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
- Conducting online surveys and focus groups: Gather feedback from the people in your online communities. Learn their opinion on product effectiveness, patient outcomes, and brand perception. This will help improve your marketing efforts and product offer.
- Providing educational content: Remember to become a valuable resource in your community. Entice your audience with webinars, podcasts, and blog posts. Use this opportunity to educate your existing audience and attract new markets.
Medtronic has created an online community of people with diabetes using the hashtag #MedtronicChampion. Notice that the brand also uses its employees as brand advocates, thus strengthening this community:
5.4. Influencer Marketing
Influencers amplify your message on social media, creating brand awareness and generating interest in your products.
- For a healthcare professional, hearing about a product from a trusted source increases the likelihood of a recommendation.
- For a patient, an influencer’s endorsement can instill confidence in the product and make them more likely to try it.
Pro tip: You don’t necessarily need an influencer with a large following to achieve good results. Instead, focus on niche engagement.
Nano- and micro-influencers typically have the highest engagement rates and audience trust because they address specific niches.
But micro-influencers will be the best solution if you also need a broader reach.
Think doctors, nurses, or health bloggers. These content creators can increase brand awareness, build trust, and accelerate sales.
Here are a few marketing tactics you can try:
- Host virtual events: Webinars or live streams are a good source of information regarding your products. It also allows your influencers to interact with your audience, responding to their questions and thus increasing consumer trust.
- Create educational content: Have your influencers create review videos, podcasts, or blog posts that provide valuable information to your audience. Ensure your products are promoted along with useful information.
- Run social media campaigns: Contests or giveaways can engage your audience and increase sales. Besides, you will benefit from a boost in visibility.
Pro tip: Double-check regulatory guidelines when running your influencer marketing campaign, given the sensitive nature of the healthcare industry.
For example, Pfizer connects to its audience by addressing the sensitive topic of Alopecia areata through two key nano-influencers in the niche:
User-generated content (UGC) refers to any content created and shared by users. UGC is a worthwhile digital marketing tactic because it builds trust and credibility with your target audience.
Here are some ideas you can implement today:
- Display patient reviews and testimonials on your website: This helps you provide valuable insights from other customers and build trust.
- Use patient photos and videos in marketing materials: This tactic makes your company more relatable, also dispelling fears regarding potential side effects.
- Run social media campaigns: For example, you can encourage users to share their experiences with your products through photos or videos. This approach builds engagement and creates a sense of community among users.
- Collaborate with patient advocacy groups: These groups are treasure troves of UGC, such as patient testimonials or videos that showcase your products’ impacts on patients’ lives.
Abbott Laboratories offers an excellent example, constantly promoting patient success stories on their social media channels:
5.6. Email marketing
Email marketing is valuable, but you must handle it correctly to maximize its results.
Here are the precise steps:
- Build an email list: Encourage healthcare professionals and patients to subscribe to your newsletter.
- Segment the list: Use variables such as job title, specialty, or patient demographics. Segmentation is key to sending relevant, personalized messages that engage your audience.
- Personalize your emails: And it’s not just about using each person’s name. You should also send them customized news and product updates to help people take the desired action.
- Include clear calls-to-action: Encourage recipients to take action, whether you want them to click on a link to learn more about a product or sign up for a webinar.
- Monitor and analyze email metrics: Keep track of your open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. The point is to evaluate your email campaign’s effectiveness and implement the necessary improvements.
This email from the telehealth app Hims ticks all the boxes:
5.7. Product Sampling
Product sampling increases engagement and encourages people to test your products.
Pro tip: Ensure your sampling programs comply with relevant regulations and guidelines, such as those related to promoting prescription drugs.
That said, here’s how you can do it:
- Offer samples at medical conferences and events: Allow HCPs to try your products and understand their benefits and side effects.
- Provide samples to patients: You can sometimes offer samples to patients prescribed your medications. This approach to marketing improves patient adherence and product satisfaction.
- Offer samples through physician offices: Consider a physician sample program or patient education materials.
- Use social media and email marketing: Good tactics include offering exclusive discounts or promotions to those who sign up for samples.
- Partner with patient advocacy groups: These communities help you reach out to patients who are in need. As a result, you hit two birds with one stone:
- You improve patient access to life-saving treatments and:
- Build relationships with significant communities.
Ads help you reach a broader market and build your visibility fast.
While drug ads are less trusted than other tactics, they’re faster and better targeted.
Pro tip: Power your ads with UGC or influencers to slash ad fatigue.
You should also test your creative assets continuously to zero in on the best-performing ones. That will improve their effectiveness so you can reach your marketing goals faster.
Novartis’s “Monster in the Dark” ad is a neat example because it’s attention-grabbing and expressive:
Measuring the results of your healthcare marketing strategy is essential because it:
- Determines if your efforts were successful.
- Identifies areas for improvement.
- Supports decision-making.
For example, if your campaign had a high engagement rate and low conversion rate, you can:
- Consider if the message and campaign goals align with your product or service: Potential customers may engage but not convert if there is a disconnect.
- Evaluate if the call-to-action is clear and persuasive: A strong call-to-action can significantly boost conversion rates.
- Check if the landing page is optimized for conversions: Ensure simple navigation and a clear path for customers to convert.
Remember: To measure the results of a marketing campaign, use your KPIs as guides.
Analyze and adapt your marketing campaign according to the insights above.
- Test your creative assets to use the most appealing ads.
- Use dynamic retargeting to reduce ad fatigue.
- Leverage UGC and influencer marketing to reach new audiences.
- Keep track of your competitors’ marketing and product strategies to leverage the opportunities they find.
- Monitor market trends and take advantage of technological improvements.
- Create content magnets such as free calculators or gadgets that make your brand go viral.
After reading this mammoth guide on healthcare marketing, you now know how to create a winning strategy that takes advantage of market opportunities and minimizes your risks.
You also know that doing it requires a lot of care and research.
Follow the models, plans, and examples we included in this article. And if you need expert assistance – inBeat is just a strategy call away.
Get in touch now, and we’ll help you craft a winning healthcare marketing strategy that flourishes your company.