June 28, 2017

Content, data and healthcare marketing; where are we going?

We recently attended the annual conference put on by the New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCo). This is our third year in a row of attending and it’s always been informative and fun – this year there was even a lobster bake.

As in past years, there were a variety of sessions focusing on subjects ranging from marketing strategies for value-based growth, to customer resource management frameworks, to consumer journey mapping. Throughout the range of subjects covered, we found a few common themes that serve as key takeaways for those of us interested in understanding where healthcare marketing is heading.

  1. It’s still about solving problems.

Something we already preach but always a great reminder for us all – approach marketing as a problem-solving machine. If you don’t have your problem or challenge clearly defined (which, admittedly, can take a chunk of leg work), your solution and the means and manner in which it’s activated will suffer. As a result, your solution will be as watered down as the problem or challenge you are trying to solve. There is no substitute for taking the time to thoroughly understand the issue at hand, and the audience in question.

2. Content = marketing.
While it’s not a new concept, content marketing is gaining further traction as a key tool for healthcare marketing. Custom, patient-centric content is becoming more and more of the focus as the healthcare industry learns from and adopts inbound marketing. This comes as no surprise – aside from word of mouth, what better way is there to establish expertise and build trust? That is the path to conversion.

We were reminded that the most effective content generates an emotional connection with the target audience. Meaningful, relevant and valuable content has a better chance of being noticed and remembered. The healthcare industry provides a rich landscape for content marketing, as healthcare organizations are dealing on a daily basis with stuff that really matters: illness, family, wellness, and big life decisions.  Pair those stories with targeted marketing techniques and compelling, relatable imagery for a powerful content experience.

As we all know, strategic content is not always easy to generate, especially when there isn’t a framework in place to guide efforts. If it was easy, everyone would do it well…but they don’t. A clear content marketing strategy is a must. Aligned with your goals, a strong content marketing plan will inform planning, distribution and measurement. See how design can help your content generate an emotional reaction from patients.

3. The informed circle of marketing.

Marketers’ unprecedented access to data, analytics and consumer insights means there’s no excuse for irrelevant content. While using data to inform marketing is not a novel concept, these days, marketing is really more about “listening” and “providing” as opposed to “broadcasting” and “offering.” And, the “listening” and “providing” should never stop, with the ongoing cycle of research, measurement, analysis and development.

Having this information can be particularly useful when budgets are tight and cuts are needed. More than likely, you will have marketing materials out there that can benefit from a clearer definition of the target audience (e.g. your monthly newsletter). Customer insights can go a long way to help develop a tight, efficient content marketing strategy and can help keep marketing costs down. Equally as important, they can ensure that you are providing truly valuable, helpful information to the audience you serve.

We find that marketing conferences are always worth it for the connections created and the networking opportunities, but walking away with actionable knowledge and new insights makes them truly valuable. This year’s NEHSCo conference was one that confirmed our own musings about the future of healthcare marketing and reaffirmed our enthusiasm for work in this field.

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