5 Decisions That Can Make Or Break Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy

Here’s the situation. You have limited marketing resources. You’re operating in a healthcare market that is confusing, constantly changing and includes a cast of new characters. While wanting to connect with a consumer who is more informed and more empowered. With an end goal of trying to harness the collective power of multiple stakeholders to affect better health. How to put forward your best healthcare marketing strategy? Here are five keys that can make or break marketing for healthcare organizations.

1. Isolating the real challenge to overcome

All great healthcare marketing strategy solutions start with an accurately defined problem and a correct diagnosis of the course of action that needs to be followed. So fundamental to ensuring your precious marketing dollars are working as hard as they can, is making sure that they’re being harnessed correctly. Typically, the problem is one of three things:

a. Does your healthcare organization, or some facets thereof, have a brand reputation problem? Is there something about the brand and specifically peopleʼs relationship with or beliefs about it (whether internal or external) that is holding back volume.

b. Do you have a product or service delivery problem? Wherein what your consumers are being presented doesn’t work for them – whether because of convenience, accessibility, performance or provider.

c. Or do you have a problem of effective communication? Because you’re not telling the right story, it’s not working in the right way or you’re not targeting the right audience. In a sense this should be welcomed as it’s much easier to fix brand communication than the brand itself, your product or service, or the business.

Regardless, your first step to strengthening your medical marketing strategies and solving your challenge is correctly diagnosing it. Because we all know the impact of a bad diagnosis.

2. Ensuring your agency has a deep understanding of your business

In general, what separates people at the top of their profession from others? They know more. The same should hold for your agency partner. It’s not enough for them to be a “tourist” in your healthcare category. They need to know your vertical like a “native.” They need to live there.

The people who work on your business at your agency should understand every aspect of your healthcare organization’s business model – from infrastructure to your offer, your customer and your revenue streams. Deep understanding also gives your agency the ability to develop powerful “grounded” insights into the purchase behavior of consumers who clients may be too close to. Insights can also inspire new product or service concepts and new angles to address healthcare marketing problems. Too many agencies rely on their clients to give them insights, because they’re “light” when it comes to understanding the way the business really works. But effective healthcare marketing strategy should only be borne from a deep understanding of the business.

3. While expertise is powerful, so is a fresh point-of-view

While we believe in the power of in-depth industry knowledge, we think healthcare marketing techniques are most potent when combined with outside category inspiration. One without the other makes for less courageous and stand-out healthcare marketing solutions. The key is to be able to take your knowledge, shake it up and apply it in new ways. In this way, we as your agency can help you become the disruptor rather than the disrupted. Your expectation should be that your agency, within reason, should continue to question everything about your brand and business proposition, with no regard for sacred cows. Of course, timing is everything and not everything needs to be (can be) put up for debate every day.

4. Integrating transparency and customer experience into marketing strategy 

Across all categories, there is a call for more transparency. In healthcare, this plays out by consumers faced with high-deductible health plans and increasing out-of-pocket expenses demanding quality and cost information. They seek answers to questions such as:

  • Where can I get the best care for my money?
  • How does my physician stack-up?
  • What will my true out-of-pocket costs be?
  • What are the implications of going out-of-network?
  • If my doctor ordered this test or drug, does my insurance cover it? If not, why not?

Net: healthcare marketing strategy must include ways to let people know how you’re doing in terms of cost and quality. As an example, United Healthcare and other payers have a cost estimator app available online to members. On the provider side,  health systems are sharing quality information on their websites. Two examples include: Advocate Health in Chicago producing an annual value report revealing its performance on a number of quality metrics. And Texas Children’s Hospital showing how their quality performance compares to other children’s hospitals in the United States and how they compare over time.

As it relates to customer experience, today’s healthcare consumer has options, and they’re well aware of them. Retailers offering speed and personalization are trumping generalized service offerings as user experience rises as a key leverage point. Millennial patients in particular are no longer willing to navigate voice prompts when trying to make an appointment; they will simply hang up and call another provider. They will also walk out of a waiting room if ignored for too long. This applies to every aspect of user experience as it becomes easier for patients to seek alternatives. For healthcare payers and providers that respond to today’s modern healthcare consumers, the rewards are large. The winners will share one thing in common: the understanding that consumerism is king.

5. A collective definition of effectiveness

How are you judging the effectiveness of your marketing? How about your CEO and your Board? It’s critical that all are on the same page about what success looks like. Is the end-game award-winning marketing campaigns? Given the ever-changing shift in marketing budgets and the availability of analytics, integrated strategy and award-winning campaigns are no longer enough for brands to justify agency partnership. Today, you probably believe as we do that data-proven results are the #1 “got to-have-it” indicator of success. Which means results that impact the
bottom line and the growth of your business. Ultimately, it’s about marketplace results.

At Trajectory, we’ve been building healthcare brands and businesses since 1999. Reach out to us to talk about how to strengthen your healthcare marketing strategy.


Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.