Four Signs of Digital Readiness in Healthcare Marketing


In 1962, Thomas Kuhn introduced the idea of “paradigm shift.” He argued that advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions”, and in those revolutions “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.”

Marketing has evolved depending upon the different stages of economy. Before industrialization, marketing as a discipline wasn’t prominent except for the limited purpose of exchange or barter. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that the concept of mass production came to be as a way to dispose of marketable surplus profitably from producer to consumer.

Marketers outside of the healthcare arena argue that we are – and have been – in the throes of a paradigm shift. The labels used for the crux of the shift are many; push vs. pull, transactional vs. relationship, monologue vs. dialogue, single channel vs. multi-channel, product-centric vs. customer-centric, acquisition vs. retention and satisfaction, mass consumption vs. mass customization, product driven vs. value-driven… and the list goes on and on.

There’s no denying there’s been a shift. Or that there is need for change in how marketers connect to their healthcare audience. Healthcare marketing is in dire need of change. The mentality pervasive in many organizations is similar to Henry Ford’s widely quoted remark about the needs of automobile buyers “They can have any color they want as long as it is black”. Does that feel like an attitude present in conversations with members of your internal teams?

People want what they want, and don’t want what they didn’t ask for. 

The shift that is occurring in healthcare marketing is a move from the old paradigm of dependence on mass promotional campaigns, to the new one that embraces digital marketing and content marketing, thereby giving people what they want, when they want it. This isn’t to say components of traditional marketing are going away, they just need to be relegated to their proper place.

The type of change we’re talking about is hard. Very hard. It’s a lot of work and you have to constantly fight against the desire to do things “the way we’ve always done them.” Status quo dominates because it is relatively easy, it’s what we know and it’s what the boss wants, right? But according to Darwin, following status quo is a recipe for failure.

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it’s the one most responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin

Being responsive to the type of change we’re talking about requires something Chris Bevolo—healthcare marketing expert—calls “digital marketing mastery.” He spoke at a recent healthcare marketing conference about what it takes to help you define healthcare digital marketing mastery and how to track your progress toward it.

  1. Digitally driven. A digitally-driven organization is one where digital strategies, channels and tactics are a priority, not supporting elements. Marketing plans, efforts and budgets focus on digital first over mass media strategies. Web strategies start with a “mobile-first” mentality.
  2. Brand-powered. A brand-powered digital approach means your organization’s desired brand position and attributes are reflected as much as possible in all channels. Digital marketing is leveraged as a way to build brand whenever possible. Traditional mass marketing are very limited in their ability to truly build or change brand. Since we know brand isn’t what you say but what you do, digital marketing can go beyond mere communication and actually impact your healthcare consumer’s experience in a deeper way.
  3. Content relevancy. Relevancy is about audience, but it’s also about context. Digital marketing allows for more accurate and flexible use of relevant content to specific audiences. The goal is to understand the audience, situation and context to avoid delivering irrelevant and unnecessary content and resources.
  4. Goal-oriented. All digital marketing efforts should be easily tied to strategic business/marketing goals. Digital channels, tools and content provide you an opportunity to have a two-way interaction with your healthcare audience where you can leverage relevant calls-to-action wherever appropriate. This is one of digital’s greatest assets.

Think of mastering digital marketing in terms of a marathon, not a sprint. Moving to the new paradigm will take time, so be patient. But most of all be responsive to change, by being an agent of change in your organization.

Chris Bevolo is a well-known healthcare marketing expert, speaker and author of Joe Public Doesn’t Care About Your Hospital, a book I highly recommend every healthcare CEO and marketing professional read. His sequel, Joe Public Doesn’t Care About Your Hospital II is due out this fall. To be notified of its release, sign up here.

AcrobatAnt Healthcare Marketing & Advertising
1336 East 15th Street
Tulsa, OK

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