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The components of an effective healthcare marketing strategy

Author's avatar By Gavin Llewellyn 10 Nov, 2021
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How to take a strategic approach to your healthcare marketing planning in 2022

Over the last 18 months, the healthcare sector has gone through a period of rapid change. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the way that people think about and interact with healthcare providers and provides many new healthcare marketing opportunities for businesses.

Healthcare marketing refers to the marketing strategies healthcare providers, insurers, suppliers, and advocacy groups use to attract new patients and increase awareness of their healthcare business.

Earlier in the summer, we outlined some of the marketing trends that the healthcare sector is experiencing. Some of the key trends from Smart Insights’ pharma and healthcare marketing trends report included:

The consumerization of healthcare

The consumerization of healthcare is the trend of people influencing and controlling their medical and wellness care. It’s an acknowledgment of the need for healthcare providers to develop strategies that fulfil customer needs and preferences.

Healthcare consumers want to have the same type of experience that they have from other businesses. The major tech brands, including Amazon, Netflix and Facebook, have changed our perceptions of what’s acceptable and we now expect a similarity level of choice in other sectors.

healthcare experience

The growing importance of omnichannel healthcare

Unlike other industries, where large-scale omnichannel transformations have already taken place, healthcare companies have fallen behind. With the changing shifts in consumer expectations, the ability to provide an omnichannel experience will become more important.

In many cases, the information consumers want is not available online and changing channels cannot be done easily because the different channels are not connected. A consumer who leaves an online site and contacts an offline channel (e.g. a call center) must often start all over again, a process that leads to frustration and confusion.

Viseven describes the movement from multichannel to omnichannel within healthcare as a
process that results in the connection of all channels through the customer journey as shown in this diagram:


omnichannel healthcare

On-demand healthcare

On-demand healthcare connects patients to the healthcare providers available in real-time
through websites, mobile apps or even home visits. On-demand is something we have become accustomed to in the retail space and is a trend that’s growing in healthcare as a result of changing consumer expectations (see the consumerization of healthcare above).

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that health and wellbeing is an important priority for people. Even if it’s not coronavirus, there are many other diseases and conditions that require prescriptions. As the pandemic evolves, the remote/virtual telemedicine and on-demand healthcare services will remain as the “new normal”.

It’s expected that more people will request digital healthcare technologies and companies such as PlushCare, Doctor on Demand and Push Doctor have taken advantage of this trend:

Healthcare app

It’s against this backdrop that healthcare marketers must plot a path forward to help their brands stand out, engage consumers and make an impact in 2022. Within this post, we will look at some of the main components to create an effective healthcare marketing strategy.

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The RACE Framework

The creation of any strategy requires structure to bring together all the different components into a format that can be easily communicated across teams and stakeholders. The absence of a structure can lead to at best-muddled thinking and at worst duplication of effort and conflict.

Smart Insights’ RACE marketing planning model provides a framework that meets the challenges of reaching and engaging audiences to drive conversion to sales and encourage repeat business. It is structured around the classic marketing funnel and gives marketers a blueprint for building an integrated marketing strategy that covers the full customer lifecycle:

Omnichannel Marketing funnel

The RACE Famework enables us to identify some of the areas healthcare marketers should consider as part of their marketing strategies, integrated across reach, act, convert, and engage.

REACH more customers through your healthcare marketing activities.

The consumerization of healthcare means that there is now an increased level of competition to win people’s attention. In order to effectively reach potential consumers, healthcare brands must follow the marketing effectiveness and brand-building principles that other sectors, including retail and consumer goods, have already adopted.

Strategy: Develop a distinctive brand

Developing a healthcare brand with a set of distinctive brand assets will create the memory structures needed to help brands come to mind for consumers in the market for healthcare services.

Marketing guru Tom Roach summarise the importance of being different as follows:

“Sameness is commercial suicide – whether your chosen way of being different is differentiation or distinctiveness or like me you’re a cakeist and would ideally want both. Yet there’s a growing ‘sea of sameness’ out there, and the sea levels seem to be rising.

The idea of competitive advantage is intrinsically linked to difference. Which is why the marketing sections of business books always say the same thing – difference matters – and no marketing professors ever advocate sameness as a winning strategy.”

Vitality is a great example of a brand that has built and nurtured a pool of distinctive assets (the distinctive pink colour, Stanley the Dachshund, brand ambassadors like Jessica Ennis) over the last few years that it draws on across different communication channels:

Health benefits

ACT: Influence healthcare customer interactions

As consumers become more confident in seeking different healthcare services, marketers have an opportunity to support their decision-making process through useful, relevant, and engaging content.

Strategy: Create relevant, engaging content

Content marketing strategy involves defining both the best content types and formats to support customer journeys and selecting how to reach audiences via content distribution. This process is summarized in Smart Insights’ content marketing blueprint:

Inbound marketing

Healthcare companies have the option to produce content for every stage of the journey, from brand awareness at the REACH stage through to nurturing ongoing relationships in the ENGAGE stage. Florida-based healthcare organization Orlando Health has created a comprehensive content hub as well as a great series of videos on YouTube where doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners talk about who they are, their work experiences, but also how different medical conditions are treated:

Healthcare content marketing

CONVERT more healthcare marketing customers

The majority of us now spend our time online via our mobile devices and it’s a trend accelerated during the pandemic. This means increased opportunities to convert customers online.

Strategy: Optimize mobile-first digital experiences

Consumers expect the same quality of experience from healthcare brands as they do from retail, fashion, or even financial services providers. It’s therefore essential for healthcare marketers to take a mobile-first approach when creating digital experiences across every stage of the consumer journey.

By interacting with consumers on their mobile devices, marketers can also use behavioral and locational data to personalize their content and increase conversion. Some key mobile user experience considerations include:

  • Consider what you are asking your audience to do on their mobile and the easiest hand position for this activity (first diagram)
  • This will influence your mobile content and design (second diagram)
  • Apply data-driven testing and analysis to ensure the customer journey is fully optimized across all devices

Healthcare UX marketing


Engage: Healthcare marketing for retention

To create advocacy, referrals and repeat business, healthcare brands need to consider their approach to customer relationship management (CRM). This is important to create both an accurate view of who has bought and interacted with the business and so that more effective, personalized communications can be developed for future campaigns.

Strategy: CRM and customer retention

One of the challenges marketers face in this era of multichannel marketing is the vast amount of data generated and collected across channels. Overwhelmed by this data, brands sometimes default to generic, non-personalised campaigns. However, the advent of customer data platforms (CDPs) offer healthcare marketers an opportunity to unify and present data at an individual customer’s level. This is the ‘Single Customer View’, which makes the goal of personalisation at scale achievable.

This visual explains the type of data included within a CDP and how it is used.

Healthcare marketing data sources


This goes beyond traditional CRM. Creating a lifetime of value for customers, so they’ll give a lifetime of value back, is only possible within an ecosystem that provides a unified view of the customer and their needs. Personalized interactions with customers based on their preferences, either stated or derived, create loyalty and alignment with customer insights.

Your 2022 healthcare marketing strategy

As you can see, 2022 brings plenty of opportunities for healthcare/pharma marketers looking to develop new marketing strategies to win customers and grow their business. Smart Insights can help. Find out more.

Can your Pharma or Healthcare business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get started now
Build your personal brand

Author's avatar

By Gavin Llewellyn

Gavin Llewellyn (LinkedIn) is an independent consultant. He is a Chartered Marketer who specialises in digital marketing, specifically in social media, SEO and online strategy. Gavin blogs at One Too Many Mornings where he offers advice, guidance and ideas on how individuals and companies can use digital marketing effectively to get found online, build engagement and generate conversion. You can Follow Gavin on Twitter.

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Digital marketing for the Pharma and Healthcare sector

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