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Choosing a Healthcare Digital Marketing Partner: 5 Key Considerations

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Every digital marketing agency believes they can provide a one-stop solution to any marketing problem. Most will say that effective marketing is the same no matter the industry. But healthcare is not just any industry. Neither a product nor a service, healthcare demands a unique and hyper-focused understanding of how prospective patients and their families choose care for varied conditions and services. From knowing the difference between atrial fibrillation and angina to understanding if hip replacements referrals are patient- or referring-physician-driven, successful healthcare marketing starts with a strong understanding of the healthcare journey.

Your next marketing partner must be able to implement the effective, results-driven strategy your health system needs. When you’re ready to select a digital marketing partner, make sure they excel in these five key areas:

1. Transparency and Truthful Partnership

The best partnerships are mutually beneficial. Any marketing agency that doesn’t ask to work with you, rather than “for” you, should be suspect. The most successful digital marketing executions come from strong collaboration between agency and client.

Is your digital partner:

  • Asking what your health system’s or hospital’s business goals are?
  • Willing to have the tough conversations with you if they believe an idea or direction isn’t right for you?
  • Viewing your budget like it is their own, making decisions that carefully consider priorities and resources?
  • Leading with business and success strategy, not technology?

Generating measurable results, including patient volume?
Your digital partner should be able to answer “Yes” to all the above questions. They should be transparent in all the work they do with you as their client. If your agency can’t show you an ad spend report or tell you where your display ads are appearing, then it may be time to reconsider your partnership.

2. Strategy-Driven Versus Trend-Followers

Every healthcare organization talks about exploring the latest in digital trends. From apps for patient education to Alexa skills, there’s a seemingly unending list of digital offerings available in the market. Yet not all digital trends will be a good fit in a healthcare environment, fit your organization’s budget or operational abilities, or move from trend to mainstream use.

Make sure your strategy and goals drive your decisions on marketing and technology, rather than the other way around. Don’t waste resources, budget, or time developing technology that won’t be adopted by your patients or providers even if it’s built perfectly. Let your digital marketing partner help you identify where to “invest and plan” versus “watch and wait” when it comes to new technologies. The right partner can help drive internal alignment and goal-setting when it comes to newer tech like chatbots, rather than just saying “Yes” to the work because they can do the technical pieces.

3. Personalization

Every healthcare organization wants to create an “Amazon” — that level of personalized experience for patients. Personalization, or providing a digital experience that is personal, relevant, and convenient to increase patient engagement, is never “one-size-fits-all.” It requires mapping the patient journey, developing strong KPIs, and connecting your audience’s needs to those KPIs.

Your digital partner should be able to recommend and implement the right personalization channels and technologies to meet your goals. They should have experience in a wide range of key marketing services, from creating website content and functionality allowing user-specific settings to nurture/drip email campaigns targeted digital ads or CRM-CMS-EMR integration and they should be able to produce a seamless, personalized experience for any consumer. It’s not about clicks and views. It’s about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time to drive results.

4. “Code Talkers” and “Silo-Breakers”

To justify marketing efforts or request marketing dollars from healthcare leadership, you get one shot to make an impression. It’s imperative to have a digital partner that can “translate” marketing language to your C-suite.

You need your agency to act as a “code talker,” presenting data that matters to your leadership and that they understand:

  • Return on investment
  • Number of patients acquired
  • Calls to the call center
  • Brand awareness over time through market research studies
  • Value of brand awareness

For example, your digital partner should define not only what click-through rates mean for the success of a digital search campaign but also the difference between correlation and causation to the ROI of that campaign.

In addition, your agency partner should act as a “silo-breaker.” A good agency can identify and bridge operational gaps with service-line leaders, call center managers, and IT to fix the issues that negatively affect the patient experience. Your agency needs to understand the operational flow within a hospital and be able to seamlessly integrate with marketing, technology, and operations teams starting on day one to deliver the best digital experience possible.

5. Patient-Driven Strategy

As a marketer, you know that the more targeted your campaign is, the better the conversion rate will be. The same applies to your digital strategy. Targeting is even more important (and more complex) in healthcare marketing compared to other fields, because the emotional needs of your audience are different depending on their situation and can fluctuate throughout their healthcare decision.

A healthcare-focused digital agency should understand how patients make decisions based on the clinical service they seek, clinical condition, and demographics. Personas and journey maps allow you to create a strategy that is personalized to your target audience and one that can flex as the patient’s journey changes. Make sure your agency partner comes to the table with these strategy-focused strengths:

A strong understanding of healthcare personas. Many digital marketing agencies don’t differentiate between healthcare consumers and consumers of other services and products. Your agency partner should come in knowing what the typical healthcare consumer’s needs are and then refine that understanding based on your unique patients, markets, and service lines.
The ability to apply this understanding to your total campaign strategy. Whether you’re looking to reach patients through targeted advertising, a full calendar of ghostwritten blog articles, or a large-scale website redesign, your marketing partner should know how your personas and patient journeys will factor into each key strategic decision along the way.

The Right Fit for Your Health System

Even if your digital agency fits all these requirements, the most successful partnerships still need to have one more thing: chemistry. Find a digital partner who knows your business goals, provides effective digital marketing strategy, and fits effortlessly with you and your marketing team. Contact us today to learn more about our proven digital marketing solutions.

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Chandra Craven

Chandra M. Craven is a Healthcare Digital Strategist who partners with national healthcare marketers to meet the patient consumer's demands and needs. Through her work, she ensures every type of patient's voices and needs are heard and included within communications and marketing efforts.

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