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5 Healthcare Digital Marketing Strategies to Embrace in 2016

By December 28, 2015December 31st, 2015Digital Marketing, Healthcare

The age of the healthcare consumer is squarely upon us, creating both opportunities as well as confusion for organizations looking to understand the best way to reach, engage and attract new patients. With 2016 nearly upon us, let’s agree that we want to make the new year as successful as possible… and this starts by understanding the top digital marketing strategies and how to implement them.  

But, before we delve into it, it’s vital to understand how much things have changed over the last few years for healthcare marketers. Consider this statement from PwC’s The Birth of the Healthcare Consumer report:

“There’s a new boss in U.S. healthcare: the consumer… The healthcare market as we know it is being upended, and the consumer is in the driver’s seat.”

And where do healthcare consumers spend more and more of their time? Online, on mobile devices and continually searching for health-related information. Which brings us to trend number one: 

1. Native Ads

native-ads-example2015 could certainly be known as the year of ad blocking. “Advertising represents $350 billion of the U.S. gross national product, and consumers depend on it to help make $9 trillion of annual spending decisions,” reports Advertising Age. “Some websites, particularly those with millennial audiences, are already losing up to 40% of their ad revenue because of ad blocking.”

But ad blocking technology doesn’t block native ads from displaying. So, what are native ads and why should you think about using them to attract patients?

According to Sharethrough, “Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.”  Native ads look and use content that feels like non-promotional articles and headlines. Sometimes known as sponsored ads or advertorials, native ads resemble editorial content that visitors actually read.  In fact, “consumers look at native ads 52% more frequently than banner ads1” making them an ideal addition or alternative option for healthcare marketers looking to reach more prospective patients. For those using thought leadership and content marketing to drive more traffic, native ads are highly effective with consumers viewing “native ads 2% more than editorial content.”

2. Social Ads

We all know how huge social media is, but did you know that by 2017 digital ad spending is predicted to outpace TV ad spending? Magna Global predicts digital ad spending will grow by 17.2% this year, reaching nearly $160 billion. By 2016, an anticipated growth of 13.5% would make digital the largest advertising category by the end of 2017. And according to eMarketer, “by 2017, social network ad spending will reach $35.98 billion, representing 16.0% of all digital ad spending globally.” Social media users have risen by 176 Million in the last year alone, according to Social Media Today. And with the multitude of platforms available to reach consumers, healthcare marketers should not ignore adding social ads to their larger campaign efforts.  Not convinced? Consider the following benefits:

  • Granular Targeting: The targeting options for social ads are unsurpassed. Depending on the platform, they can include the following: age, location, language, gender, education, interests, friends, friends of friends, relationship status, actions taken, occupation and job title.
  • Cost Effectiveness: Social ad spending is generally pay-per-click. Combine this with the granular nature of targeting, and you’re able to create effective campaigns without a huge marketing spend. Unlike traditional, offline advertising, social ads allow you to be more effective and efficient

3. Podcasts

Ahhh, the ole podcast. Really? Yup, they’re back and bigger than ever. Consider these stats:

  • 46 million Americans listen to podcasts monthly, and the average listener listens to six a week, according to Edison Research.
  • The percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the past month has almost doubled since 2008, from 9% to 17% by January of 2015. The percentage listening in 2015 was up two points over 2014 levels (15%). Source Pew Research Center
  • Mobile devices are increasingly the preferred way to listen to podcasts. Libsyn also recorded that, of their 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, 63% were requested from mobile devices – up from 43% in 2012. Source Pew Research Center

While more and more big brands are turning to podcasts, like Netflix, Prudential, Umpqua Bank and GE, smaller brands and even individuals are gaining huge audiences. Podcasting offers healthcare marketers an incredible opportunity to reach millions of people looking to learn more about specific health conditions, diseases and treatments.  

Memorial Care Health System is a great example how to leverage the power of podcasting.  Offering podcasts on a wide range of topics, from arthritis to women’s health, the podcasts feature speciality doctors and experts discussing the latest treatments, along with educational information for patients looking to learn more. The podcasts can be downloaded directly from Apple’s iTunes or from the hospital’s website.

4. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation, like podcasts, has been around for many years. While not necessarily a trend, it’s an area healthcare marketers fall short of using at all or using effectively. According to emailmonday, adoption and investment in marketing automation differs heavily per industry, with the healthcare industry considered a laggard — meaning they are yet to actively consider wholesale adoption of marketing automation.


Having worked with multiple healthcare systems and hospitals, I can agree there is a lack of marketing automation usage. Perhaps it’s because marketing automation requires more work and a longer process for converting consumers into patients. But my experience has shown marketing automation is vital to converting prospective patients into patients. More than ever, people are using search engines and health information websites to find specific answers and insights into symptoms, diseases and treatments. According to the Pew Research Center, “80 percent of Internet users have looked online for information about any of 15 health topics such as a specific disease or treatment.”  This means healthcare marketers must be able to reach and communicate with people looking for information. Providing educational content in the form of downloadable guides and other relevant information is the best way to get prospective patients into marketing automation campaigns.  

According to Google, before making an appointment, “patients put time and consideration into their research, with 48% taking over 2 weeks to research before booking, and 61% visiting 2+ hospital websites before converting.” Using marketing automation, healthcare marketers must begin leading prospective patients into an ongoing conversation that ultimately advances them into making an appointment – or at the very least, placing them into a database for future nurturing opportunities.

5. Mobile

I know, I know, you’re probably tired of mobile being continually touted as the next big thing. But, just like last year and 2014 and 2013, mobile continues grow in usage, but more importantly it’s becoming the go-to device for how people experience the Internet. According to Forrester’s Predictions 2016: The Mobile Revolution Accelerates, “Contrary to most business leaders, consumers will stop considering the mobile Internet as a scaled-down subset of the ‘real’ Internet. Mobile devices will become the go-to technology, even in mature economies where people can use alternative devices at home.”

The ramifications for healthcare marketers means thinking mobile first. Everything from how to you reach prospective patients online through how you convert them into patients must focus on the mobile experience.

These 5 digital marketing strategies are just scratching the surface for what healthcare digital marketers should focusing on in 2016. Check back soon when we’ll cover wearables, personalization,  Facebook Messenger for businesses and many other exciting trends coming in 2016.



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