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The power of digital healthcare marketing

June 11, 2024

Healthcare consumers—like audiences everywhere—are online 24/7. This means healthcare organizations need to meet them where they are, and when they’re in need. Patients and their families crave an experience that is accessible, reliable, and personal. Digital technologies check all those boxes. Healthcare advertisers—including many of our clients—have used a digital-first approach to their marketing communications efforts for some time, including the delivery of care in a digital patient experience.

Digital communications, however, are not only important for patients and their families. They can be used to reach internal and other external audiences, especially in the recruitment and retention of team members throughout the organization. As a result, healthcare marketers are elevating the sophistication of their websites, increasing the frequency and relevancy of their social media efforts, and optimizing their online content.

The supremacy of the digital front door

Data from doctor.com shows that 86% of U.S. adults use the Internet to make healthcare-related decisions, with 63% choosing one provider over another due to a strong online presence. Even when patients are referred to a particular provider, 88% of them read the reviews of that provider, and half of them say they decide not to schedule if the provider’s online listing is incomplete. It’s also important to maintain strong links to and from your site because patients have stated they consult an average of three sources and read at least 10 reviews before feeling like they can trust a provider.

Patients desire digital self-service—like the ease and accessibility they find in non-healthcare experiences and apps. A recent survey presented by “eHealthcare Strategy & Trends” found that the top five ways visitors use healthcare websites include finding a provider, scheduling an appointment, paying a bill, receiving virtual care, and researching provider reviews. Successful healthcare organizations will be the ones that offer seamless digital patient journeys—from research and initial appointment scheduling to virtual consultations and post-appointment monitoring.

Social is paramount, too

Besides shoring up your owned media with a high-quality, relevant website, healthcare marketers should commit strongly to using their social media platforms to build meaningful engagements with their patients.

According to recent data from eMarketer, this applies to all generations, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. It’s not surprising that 93% of Gen Z respondents have used social media to “look up specific health-related information,” but nearly two-thirds of Baby Boomers (65.9%) have done the same. Interestingly, every generation also uses every platform (from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn to TikTok, Snapchat, X, Reddit, and YouTube). What varies is how much each generation engaged with each particular platform. It is worth nothing, however.

(Note: YouTube is the most used platform by all generations.)

Investing in digital marketing

A recent survey of healthcare marketers revealed the importance of investing in digital marketing. Respondents in the survey were grouped into three equally sized categories based on their self-reported digital marketing efforts relative to their competitors.

Based on these self-reports, respondents were then labeled as representing “leader, laggard, or average” organizations. The self-reported leaders spend significantly more on digital marketing than other organizations, with the median investment by leaders 86% higher than the median investment by laggards. As a percent of their overall marketing budget, leader organizations are investing 67% more than laggards. Roughly 14% of all survey respondents indicated that their digital budgets were not part of their marketing budgets but were housed in another part of the organization (e.g., with the IT department).

After years of delays due to COVID and mounting financial pressures, many healthcare organizations are specifically turning their attention to their website. According to the survey, roughly 40% of respondents are planning, or are in the process of, redesigning their sites. Tight budgets, however, mean that interest in changing content management system (CMS) platforms is still relatively low (20%) compared to the expected number of redesigns.

Want to learn more about The Martin Group’s work with our diversified roster of healthcare clients? Click here.

Kelli Putney

Vice President | Senior Healthcare Advisor

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