Healthcare Marketing Trends in the Fourth Quarter and Beyond

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Healthcare marketing has seen many changes over the last few years. Leading that charge has been the growth of digital tactics in healthcare marketing plans. Digital will continue to grow, and healthcare marketers need to know what else is on the horizon.

As 2017’s fourth quarter is looming larger and next year’s marketing plans are hot topics, it’s not too late to look at some of this year’s key hospital marketing trends. I expect that most, if not all, will continue to gain traction well into 2018.

1. Location-based marketing: Trends such as hypertargeting with geoconquesting and geofencing have continued to grow in popularity. Hospitals and practices can now target people who visit one of their locations, a competitor’s location, or those who go to a nearby gym or shop at a farmers market. In addition to strengthening engagement with existing patients, you can drive awareness and build volume by delivering content that, while unexpected, puts you on a prospective patient’s radar. The key here is to put yourself in the mindset of a patient – where and when will they most likely be thinking about or want to interact with your brand? If you can pinpoint places that make sense, you can use that information to serve helpful content to consumers when they are most likely to engage with it.

2. More personalized, less invasive digital ads: Take advantage of mar-tech to identify user interests and deliver personalized, relevant content with tactics like paid search, native advertising, and retargeting. Factoid: on average, native ads (ads that match the function and format of a website) are viewed 53% more than banner ads, according to Dedicated Media. Retargeting can remind a consumer that you’re there at the time when they potentially need your services the most. Again, putting yourself in the shoes of a patient is extremely helpful here. The more you can personalize and target your advertisements, the better.

3. Smart content: With increased competition for consumer attention, along with limited consumer engagement bandwidth (EB), your content must be fresh, reliable and social-sharable to build trust and inspire loyalty. As healthcare organizations increase their focus on wellness and prevention — and less on illnesses — content that empowers consumers (such as blogs about fitness and healthy cooking videos) will gain attention and outsmart your competition. Blogs can be especially helpful, as they can be used for multiple purposes. The initial blog posting can aid in search engine optimization (SEO) for your website while simultaneously providing patients with helpful content that positions your brand as a thought leader. But even after you’ve posted your blog, content can be repurposed for public relations by pitching your content to online trade publications.

4. Video: Web video is especially popular with healthcare consumers because it can translate complex information into digestible and relatable stories. Video’s audience appeal is now about four to one over text, so take advantage of the timeliness, immediacy and educational impact of live streaming on websites and social media platforms. Keep in mind that a great story can inspire loyalty, engage consumers, boost click-through rates and help with lead capture. If you tell a great story, your audience will want to be in the next chapter. And don’t feel like you have to coordinate a professional video shoot to start engaging with your patients. If you have a quality story to tell, even a simple iPhone video can be a great way to show your patients the “behind-the-scenes” story.

5. Internal alignment to impact patient experience: Is your staff on board with your brand messaging? Having (and frequently sharing) a brand positioning statement that resonates with employees and their community will encourage them deliver a higher level of customer service. It should be your mantra, your touchstone, the statement that connects you with your community. Ditch the old mission statement (that your employees don’t know) and replace it with one that will contribute to building positive internal and external perceptions and ultimately improve the patient experience.

These five trends are not an exhaustive list, but they are a good starting point for any healthcare marketer looking to plan out their 2018 marketing budget. As healthcare marketing continues to become more and more about relationships and the one-to-one conversation between the provider and the consumer/patient, I expect these “trends” to become standards for delivering the right message at exactly the right time.

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