Marketing can be a challenge for many healthcare entities. Yet a large number of organizations are doing an excellent job — and reaping the rewards, including garnering attention for their tactics. In fact, healthcare marketing spending is on the rise, according to a recent study. Spending doubled from 1997 to 2016, reaching about $30 billion a year. By comparison, automotive marketing spending is almost $35 billion a year.
Among the healthcare marketing initiatives getting noticed for their innovation and impact, are three standouts — the Philips Foundation’s “Better Me, Better World” campaign, the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials blog, and the Mayo Clinic’s marketing approach. These organizations’ marketing successes offer tips that can inspire other healthcare entities to pursue more powerful marketing programs.
In 2017, Philips launched an initiative that gives people the opportunity to support global healthcare causes through its Philips Foundation, called Better Me, Better World. With an overarching goal of supporting three billion people per year by 2025, Philips offers support on a wide range of causes from caring for at-risk mothers and children, to first-aid education, to community access to healthcare and healthy lifestyles for children.
The campaign was supported and promoted through a website, social media channels, digital public relations, email marketing, paid media advertising, live streaming and events. The campaign garnered extensive press attention, including, for example, Campaign Asia. In 2018, the campaign’s website was nominated for a Webby award. The campaign was supported on social media by the hashtag: #MakeLifeBetter. It enabled Philips to connect with the public in a more engaging way, asking them which causes matter most to them. Philips focuses its efforts on the issues that garner the biggest impact.
Make personalized connections with your target audience. In an age of connectivity, Philips understands that making a personal connection and a commitment to making the world a better place can bolster a marketing program. Its #MakeLifeBetter campaign has enabled Philips to connect with its consumers in a way that resonates with their social conscience. By understanding what matters to people, the organization is able to create innovations that make a real difference to the way people live. Not only that, but the platform provides users with personal benefits by giving them the opportunity to help prioritize the causes that Philips supports.
Create cross-channel digital campaigns. Digital channels, especially real-time channel integration, were the key to the campaign’s success. In other words, Philips didn’t just post one-off messages on Twitter. Instead, the organization integrated messaging across all of its platforms. For example, when it created a compelling message to post on social platforms, it also featured the message on its website, sent in an email and shared it with the media via a digital press release.
A key value of inbound marketing is producing materials that educate audiences rather than merely sell products and services. This is what the Cleveland Clinic has achieved with its Health Essentials blog, where it publishes valuable health and wellness information on everything from nutrition to parenting to mental health. The clinic first began marketing on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but, as those platforms became increasingly populated, the clinic decided it needed to focus its marketing messaging in a more structured format.
The Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials blog draws millions of visitors every year (51 million in 2017). It’s a standout success in an industry that tends to under-appreciate the power of a robust blog. The clinic’s dedication to this marketing vehicle has garnered wide-ranging attention from several media outlets, such as Crain’s Cleveland Business to Digital Commerce 360.
The secret to the Cleveland Clinic’s success is generating a lot of marketing data and using the data in multiple ways, such as determining what to publish to build stronger relationships with its audience. The clinic relies on platforms such as Google Analytics and Atomic Reach to gain valuable insights on everything from topics to images based on the data gathered.
Don’t publish more content — publish better content. When the Cleveland Clinic launched its blog, the team was publishing three to five posts per day, and years later they still publish three to five posts a day. However, now the content is driven by data so that it resonates more powerfully with readers. This supports the clinic’s primary marketing objective: building brand awareness by being a resource that people trust for advice about health and wellness.
Be useful, helpful and relevant. This is what Health Essentials strives for on every channel. What’s more, it speaks to consumers’ demand for usable information that will help them make decisions versus just stories about new procedures that a facility wants to promote. As a result, the clinic resists the common urge to focus on healthcare stories designed to simply pull on people’s heartstrings. Instead of coming across as a bad infomercial, the blog is viewed as providing information people can actually use to improve their health and lives.
Use data to determine the best time to post. Just as they use data to determine blog post topics, images and other details, the Cleveland Clinic also uses data to determine the ideal times to post new content. Different demographics engage with content at different times and in different ways. Say the clinic publishes a blog post at 9:00 a.m. They won’t promote it on every social media channel right away. For example, a post about parenting may get more traction from busy parents at 9:00 p.m. after school and work, rather than when parents are busy getting the kids off to school in the morning.
The Mayo Clinic uses stellar marketing to establish itself as a true leader in healthcare. One of the secrets to its success is being innovative. In fact, the Mayo Clinic was innovative back in 1997, when it bought a domain name — long before other healthcare entities were even thinking about marketing at all, let alone marketing online. Today, its website is not only graphically pleasing but also provides clear pathways to educational resources.
Twenty years after launching its website, Mayo Clinic has fully embraced digital in every way because it understands that technology is a leading way that today’s consumers are becoming informed before making healthcare decisions. As a result, digital marketing reaches patients at their moment of need, when and where they are looking for it. In fact, the Mayo Clinic devotes nearly two-thirds of its marketing budget to digital. In mid-2019, Mayo had 1.9 million Twitter followers and 1.1 million likes on Facebook.
The clinic has amassed a higher-than-normal social media following largely because it doesn’t shy away from hot topics that start conversations and encourage engagement. Its non-traditional approach to marketing has paid off in increased brand awareness, engaged customers and stronger relationships — and lots of media attention from several media outlets, including HealthLeaders and MD Connection.
Let patients lead the conversations. Instead of just promoting themselves as many health systems do, Mayo Clinic has its followers take center stage. They use social media to answer questions, share patient stories and raise awareness for better health. It’s a conversation, not a broadcast. For example, in 2015, the Mayo launched the #StrongArmSelfie campaign to spread awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screenings. Thousands of people took pictures of themselves flexing their biceps and posted them on social media.
Constantly innovate. Mayo Clinic has built its entire marketing strategy on innovation. After launching a successful website, blog and social media platforms, the organization is not resting on its laurels. It’s continuing to launch marketing innovations, such as mobile apps for accessing health information and scheduling appointments, uploading videos onto YouTube of surgeries in action to answer questions and calm fears, and scheduling virtual Q&A sessions with physicians to create better doctor-patient relationships.
Some industries, like healthcare, feel particularly challenged when it comes to marketing their organizations, building their brands and attracting attention. But these three entities prove that effective marketing is possible to achieve. The biggest takeaway is that in each case, these organizations thought about the target audience and what would appeal to them. That is always the best place to start — and the best way to begin building a marketing program that resonates with your target audience.