6 Modern Rules of Healthcare Marketing

modern healthcare marketing channels

Let’s face it: healthcare marketing has changed. Modern times call for modern rules for marketing to healthcare professionals, and traditional media, while still effective, is slowly dying. With the rise of mobile health technology, more healthcare marketers are turning to mobile and social media advertising versus TV and radio, and email marketing versus direct mail. Why? Online marketing via the web and mobile media allows for greater reach, engagement, and ROI than traditional media.

However, to attract and engage patients and healthcare professionals online, content must be readable, relatable and relevant to the individual. To tailor your content accordingly, you must first begin by developing “Buyer Persona” profiles, which represent your ideal target audience. Use this template or create your own, but make sure to include the demographics, psychographics, and behavioral characteristics that allow you to identify who’s who easily. Once you’ve built your Persona profiles, the next step is to apply a few rules for targeting those people.

Here are a few modern rules for marketing to patients and healthcare pros online:

Segment contact lists for better email marketing

It’s no longer effective enough to blast a weekly email newsletter to all the contacts in your database. Because people have different needs and interests, contact lists should be segmented accordingly. Depending on the psychographics, demographics, and behavioral characteristics of your target audience, you can slice and dice your email list in many ways to send more custom content. For example, some of the ways that you can segment your email list are according to geography, content topic, or interest level. Whatever you decide, make sure you employ a segmentation strategy that makes sense to your business so you can achieve better reach, engagement, and ROI.

According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, 39% of email marketers who segment their lists see better open rates; 28% see lower opt-out and unsubscribe rates; and 24% see better email deliverability, increased sales leads, and greater revenue. These statistics demonstrate that people will engage more with content that is tailored to their needs and interests, whereas untargeted content will usually just be ignored, deleted, or marked as “spam”. When subscribers report your emails as spam, or you have high Hard Bounce and Unsubscribe rates, this can lower your SendScore. In turn, a low SendScore impacts your email deliverability, causing emails to be automatically sent to spam folders regardless of whether that contact has subscribed to your emails.

Make content digestible and easy-to-read online

With shrinking attention spans, content needs to be easy to digest online. Focus on short, shareable content that provides value up front. The use of headers, bolded text, hyperlinks, and images lets readers quickly scan content to find the pieces of information that matters most to them. According to a blog post from healthcare marketing firm Smith and Jones on 2015 hospital marketing trends, most people won’t even scroll through a lengthy infographic anymore. And because infographics tend to be among the most popular types of content that get shared on social media, it should be quickly comprehensible.

Headers and bolded text work well because they break up text and call attention to key points in the copy. Hyperlinks do the same, but they play an even more important role. They give credit to the original source, which helps build trust with readers, and enable returned links to your site, also known as “Inbound Links”. Because 1,700 – 2,500-word blog articles tend to generate 15x more Inbound Links than shorter posts, content should be well-researched with hyperlinks and provide a great level of detail. Therefore, it’s important to make those articles scannable. Headers, bolded text, hyperlinks, images, and videos all do this.

Get creative and tell a story through visuals and video

It’s no surprise that the most engaging content is that which tells a story or is visually engaging. Use images and infographics, or videos in your content including blogs, social media posts, online ads, and emails. 70% of marketing professionals report that video converts better than any other medium according to MarketingProfs via this video marketing SlideShare presentation:


Optimize content for all marketing channels including mobile

When building your healthcare content marketing plan, consider the marketing channels that will be part of your mix, like Social Media. Then determine the content to create for each channel, like videos or blog articles. If you’re creating a blog post, can you repurpose the article’s image for use on other social channels to get more people to view your content? What dimensions does the image need to be for Facebook? For Twitter? For other marketing channels? Milestone images on Facebook’s Timeline, for example, should be 843 by 403px in dimension, whereas a Link image should be 1200 x 630px.

Here’s an infographic from AdWeek that provides the different image dimensions for the major social networks according to Mainstreethost:

When creating content, it should be optimized, not just for individual channels, but for different devices as well. Over 2.25 billion people access the internet via their cell phones, and mobile healthcare marketing statistics. Because of the large, and growing number of mobile users, content should be easily readable and clickable on mobile devices. If you’re a healthcare practice trying to get someone to confirm their appointment, for example, you need to consider the fact that this person might be checking that email from their mobile device. Can they easily open the email? Click through to your website and read the content without squinting their eyes? Confirm the appointment at the click of a button? Mobile content needs to incorporate ease-of-use, and that means optimizing your content for mobile. To check whether your content will render correctly, use Screenfly.

Other key ways to optimize your content include adhering to email, social media, blog title lengths. Email subject lines should be no more than 28-39 characters, and blog titles no more than 55 characters. If subject lines and titles exceed these lengths, they’ll be cut off in the Inbox or search results with an ellipsis that replaces the cut-off content. As a result, long social media posts might not get shared or commented on, like Tweets, as text would need to be cut or modified, also known as a #MT or “modified tweet”.

Use social media for more than just physician networking

First thing’s first: before you decide to use social media within your healthcare organization, establish a social media policy. Here are five examples of smart healthcare social media policies that will help you strike the right balance between specificity and brevity when documenting your social policy. MayoClinic, for example, has a short, but detailed, social media policy on their website that instructs employees on general guidelines, endorsements, friend requests, and other specifics of their policy.

With the right social media policy in place, you can use social networks for providing health advice, customer support, physician referrals, networking, and creating brand awareness for your health organization or non-profit. Four years ago, Carilion Clinic of Virginia’s Roanoke Valley started the #YesMamm campaign that has demonstrated the power of hashtags on social networks like Twitter. The campaign created breast cancer awareness and shed light on the importance of getting a regular mammography.

Inbound Marketing giant, HubSpot, named it among the top eight examples of brilliant healthcare marketing. To date, Carilion Clinic has 4,345 followers on Twitter and 7,024 friends on Facebook which demonstrates that with the right strategy and rules in place, social media can be an effective marketing channel.

Measure your medical marketing and test new strategies

When implementing any marketing plan, one of the most important things you should do is establish which key performance indicators (KPIs) to use to measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategies. For example, if your marketing goal is to get more referrals from physicians and specialists in your network, you might use social media to build and manage your referral network. The metrics you would, therefore, want to measure are Reach (how large is your audience), Impressions (how many people saw/shared your content), and Engagement (how many people clicked/shared). Other popular social media metrics according to Buffer include:

  • Audience growth rate = a comparison of your audience today to your audience yesterday, last week, last month, etc.
  • Average engagement rate = individual post engagement compared to overall followers.
  • Response rates = These can be measured as the speed with which you respond to comments and replies on social media, or how quickly your marketing or sales department follows up with leads from social.

By establishing the right marketing metrics as part of your plan, you’ll be better able to measure what’s working or not to determine what strategies to test or implement next. One way to determine what’s working or what’s not is to conduct an A/B test. For example, Google ran more than 7,000 A/B tests in 2011, 40 of them to determine which shade of blue earned the most clicks. Judging from the Google Analytics page and my color picker, I’m going to guess that shade was #448AFF.


As technology and healthcare marketing strategies change, so must the way you target individuals. People have different needs and different ways of consuming media, so content must be tailored. Therefore know who your Buyer Persona is, and his/her needs, and behaviors. For example, a patient may need to see a specialist, but he or she frequently misses appointments, so as the primary care physician, you need to send a reminder to that patient. How does he/she prefer to communicate? What media does he/she consume? What type of content resonates best with him/her?

Consider these questions and incorporate these modern rules into your healthcare marketing and you’ll increase engagement with your patients or other Buyer Personas. As a result, you’ll attract more patients through online marketing or positive word-of-mouth referrals. More referrals mean more patients, and more patients mean greater ROI, especially when they’re patients who apply the advice provided in your content that keeps them healthy. Therefore make sure your content is relevant, relatable, and easily readable to your audience.

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