Podcast #96

Full-Funnel Healthcare Marketing: How to Engage Patients at Every Step of Their Journey

Join us this week on Ignite as CEO Alex Membrillo and Chief Strategy Officer Rich Briddock dive into the complexities of HIPAA-compliant full-funnel advertising strategies. Tune in to discover insights on crafting engaging content tailored to each stage of the marketing funnel, along with strategies to enhance patient acquisition and elevate conversion rates.

Episode Highlights:

Rich Briddock: As healthcare decisions become more of a consumer decision, people are looking at healthcare brands the way that they look at brands in other verticals, like they look at e-commerce brands or other service brands.

Potential patients need to know you and they need to trust you before they’re going to buy from you. We have moved away from a generation that just took a doctor referral and that was gospel. People are doing more shopping by themselves, and now you get into a point where really people are doing a lot of comparison shopping even across healthcare brands. Your brand has to be able to stand out, and you can’t stand out when you are just doing bottom-of-the-funnel engagement, trying to reach people when they’re right there by that conversion.”

Episode Overview

A comprehensive full-funnel marketing approach plays a crucial role in establishing connections with patients across all phases of their healthcare journey. In this episode of Ignite, hosts Alex Membrillo and Rich Briddock discuss the shift away from relying solely on bottom-of-the-funnel marketing tactics and the emergence of full-funnel media strategies to effectively engage and convert patients.

The conversation explores the role of pixels in conversion tracking and remarketing and highlights the current constraints within healthcare marketing. It emphasizes the need for a more comprehensive approach, acknowledging that patients today seek brands they trust, requiring a deeper connection and understanding before making healthcare decisions.

The episode also dives into various tactics and channels beyond traditional search engine optimization (SEO) and maps. Our hosts discuss the importance of leveraging platforms like paid social advertising, display advertising, native advertising, and implementing upper-funnel content strategies.

Despite the challenges posed by the limitations on pixel tracking, the conversation sheds light on alternative ways to measure the effectiveness of these strategies.

Overall, our hosts advocate for a shift towards full-funnel marketing in healthcare, emphasizing its increasing importance in a competitive landscape where relying solely on bottom-of-the-funnel strategies may no longer suffice. Tune in and learn how to embrace diversified full-funnel strategies to effectively engage and convert healthcare consumers at various stages of their decision-making journey.

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: I missed you guys. How long has it been? A week? Two weeks? It’s going to be back. Everybody. What’s going on? Welcome to Ignite. I’ve got Rich [unintelligible 00:00:34] here. What’s up, Rich?

Rich Briddock: What’s up, Alex?

Alex: He’s poor, but we call him Rich. It’s good to see you again, buddy. His kids are draining him. How many kids have you got now?

Rich: Still four.

Alex: Still four.

Rich: Still four.

Alex: You never know. Every year there’s one more.

Rich: Yes. [laughs] Not anymore.

Alex: No? [laughts] [unintelligible 00:00:52] evaluation. Think [inaudible 00:00:55] marketing. There was a lot of things we used to be able to do with full-funnel media strategies and now we can’t. So, today we’re going to be talking about all the different kinds of ways we can circumvent some of the things that we used to be able to do with pixels that now we cannot very, sadly, but there are still lots of exciting full-funnel media strategies that work, that drive down CPL. We’ve seen it ourselves. Just PPC alone doesn’t do the trick anymore. That’s why Meta’s profit just today released, I don’t know when this episode’s be released, but 23% in the quarterly earnings up over last year. Why? Because full-funnel advertising works.

Rich, what’s going on? What are the things we used to be able to do with our friend, the pixel, that now the pixel’s the enemy we cannot do anymore?

Rich: I think there’s two key things that we used to be able to do with our friend, the pixel. One was conversion tracking, so just measuring how many conversions each marketing campaign or channel is driving. Then the other is remarketing. Essentially, re-engaging with advertising users who have been to your site or done certain things on your site, and it was the pixel that you would use to basically put those people into audiences. Right?

Alex: Okay.

Rich: And, say, “I know you went to this page about this condition, so I’m going to remarket to you with an ad to try and get you to essentially book an appointment with me because I know you’re interested.”

Alex: Got it.

Rich: You can’t do that anymore-

Alex: Can’t do that.

Rich: -through a pixel. Because of some of the limitations that we have in healthcare around conversion tracking and around remarketing, it’s less easy to just rely on bottom-of-the-funnel conversion acquisition. I think also what is putting pressure on just focusing on bottom-of-the-funnel marketing and healthcare, is that advertisers are becoming more sophisticated. Healthcare advertisers are becoming more like brand advertisers, who as healthcare decisions become more of a consumer decision, people are looking at healthcare brands the way that they look at brands in other verticals, like they look at e-commerce brands or other service brands.

They need to know you and they need to trust you before they’re going to buy from you. If you think that we are moved away from a generation that just took a doctor referral and that was gospel, to now people who are doing more shopping by themselves, and now you get into a point where really people are doing a lot of comparison shopping even across healthcare brands. That brand has to be able to stand out, and you can’t stand out when you are just doing bottom-of-the-funnel engagement, trying to reach people when they’re right there by that conversion.

Alex: Search SEO maps. It’s not enough at a certain point but a newer brand to digital marketing or a big brand that hasn’t done it like still the best place to play, it just caps out. The value, the effectiveness, it caps out at a certain–

Rich: It caps out. Also, you need to think about some of the business challenges that you might have in specific markets. If I’m a new brand and I’ve just gone into a market where there are a ton of competitors that are well-known and have good reputations, and I’m just trying to fight at the bottom of the funnel against those competitors, chances are my conversion rates are going to be really low even if I’m engaging with the right users.

Because they’re going to click on your ad, and look at you, and they’ve never heard of you, and then they’re going to click on the next person’s ad and look at them, and they’ve known them, they’ve seen a Facebook ad, they’ve read a blog post by them, they’ve been educated by them, and it’s an easy choice. They’re going to be like, “Okay, I understand who this is. I know who this brand is. They’ve helped educate me along the journey. I’m aware of them. I have some level of brand rapport with them, trust with them, but this brand is a no-no.” I think, again, can you use these bottom-of-the-funnel tactics in isolation for demand capture?

Alex: Yes.

Rich: You can, but if you think that your patients and your patient value is not everybody’s worth the same and you want a certain type of patient, chasing the ones that are really high value, like often healthcare companies will be chasing a matriarch, those people, it’s worthwhile investing in and trying to engage with those people and build your brand with those people, further up the funnel, because they are high ticket value patients.

Alex: All right. Let’s talk about what some of those strategies would be. Outside of search, SEO maps, what else do we do? I know, and de novo is a special thing, right? We’re going to blast social media, the upper funnel channels, hit search really hard, but aside from de novos and trying to get a launch done there, consistent advertising to an existing location that’s been around, what are the tactics we employ? Then be specific. We’ll give the secrets that we will do actually on those channels.

Rich: I think it depends on where your audience is. The common channels for full-funnel are going to be things like paid social advertising, display advertising, native advertising. Then, also, upper funnel content strategy on the SEO side. Instead of just trying to rank for location pages, are you writing educational blog content for people who are seeking out questions at the beginning of their health journey? You could even do things like cold email outreach if you can reach that segment that you’re trying to target, which is, again, maybe the matriarch, and if you have those lists, Gmail promotions, discovery ads.

There’s loads of ways to reach these people. In terms of what we do to try and engage them, if you think about the funnel from top to bottom as why the service or the category, then why the brand, and then why now, again, at the top of the funnel, it’s probably going to be videos talking about the benefit of the treatment, benefit of service, what is the problem that you’re trying to solve for them, that your solution will solve. Then what is their outcome once they’ve had your solution.

Then when you get to the middle of the funnel, it’s probably– That could be like blog posts as well as videos, right?

Alex: And advertising that.

Rich: And advertising that and amplifying that content. Then, when you get to the middle of the funnel, that’s where you’re starting to talk about differentiation. Why my brand? Why would I buy from Cardinal Digital Marketing as opposed to some other agency?

Alex: Because it’s a ginger media leader.

Rich: Because it has a ginger media leader with a cool accent and nine kids. [chuckles] At that point, you’re talking about differentiation.

Alex: What’s an example of a provider group differentiation ad? More doctors, higher qualified, more surgeons closer to you.

Rich: You have to be careful with this. Because it’s got to be what the user cares about, not what how you want to present.

Alex: [crosstalk] surgeon FYI.

Rich: Right. Things like board certified, that might mean something to providers, but it often doesn’t mean things to patients. What patients usually care about is, “Is my insurance going to cover it?”

Alex: Same-day appointments.

Rich: Can I get in the same day? Are you close and convenient? What is the quality of the care going to be? Those kind of things.

Alex: Outcome-based data.

Rich: Outcome-based data. Are you going to make it easy for me? Do you have weekend hours? Do you have extended hours? Those kinds of things. Basically, the things that most of us care about in most of the transactions that we make, “Is it going to be good?”

Alex: Because I wonder if it’s part of it. We think all doctors are equally as good as each other. We really just want access.

Rich: Access is a huge case.

Alex: Unless you go in high acuity plastic surgery, or I have this weird mole on my eye, I’m probably going to do some research on that, but for the most part, like general derm, dentist, or– You’re just looking at it now.

Rich: [laughs]

Alex: Now you can stop looking at it. For the most part, though, it’s like we think all providers are the same, so really I just want to access it. Those are the value props, right?

Rich: Yes. I will say, yes, you’re not going to probably research a provider to the nth degree for something simple like that, but if you go to Google and they’ve got a 1.2 out of 5 stars on that location, the chances of you going to them are almost zero.

Alex: I don’t know. I just chose a GI doctor with really low scores because I liked them.


Alex: If I’m not around for another episode of Ignite, because they tore my mouths up. The first channels we’re leaning on for full-funnel media social, that’s the easy one. What are we doing on there? It’s a lot of video. Let’s be honest here. Lots of videos and then you can’t retarget, so we make sure they watch a certain amount, and then we show them another video. Is that what we’re doing?

Rich: Yes. I mean that’s the beauty of what we can do on social platforms and on programmatic video platforms, right, is that essentially you can retarget to those users as long as it’s not from your website and still stay HIPAA compliant. If a user consumes 20 seconds of a 30-second-video-

Alex: On Facebook.

Rich: -on Facebook, spend 20 seconds with your video, unless they just accidentally left it there when they were scrolling, chances are they’re interested in what you’re selling, what you’re offering. There’s no issue with HIPAA compliance of then retargeting those users that watch a certain percentage of your video with an ad in the middle of the funnel where now you’re differentiating yourself. It’s like, I showed you this thing about your bowel disease, and

you watched it for 20 seconds. You were like, man, I also need a flush. Then in the middle of the funnel, we then retarget to you with like, why this is the best place to get your colonoscopy.

Alex: Yes, it is that, and maybe it’s because I made up this whole gluten thing 10 years ago.

Rich: Yes, that’s right.

Alex: I drink beers still. That one’s tricky. How do we track the effectiveness of all this? We don’t have pixels. How do we know if layering on all these upper funnel tactics has actually helped CPL, cost for booking, all that fun stuff? How do you know?

Rich: It’s a great question, right? Especially– You’re welcome. There’s a first time for everything. Especially considering a lot of these channels are disparate. You’ll probably hear marketers complain that Facebook is a walled garden, which means there’s no connectivity between Facebook and other platforms. What happens in Facebook, you don’t know what’s necessarily influencing it. You just know what’s happening on Facebook. The Facebook pixel isn’t capturing activity that’s happening through search or the Google Ads pixel. Even when we had these pixels, it wasn’t capturing activity happening on other channels.

The way that you can do it, though, is as long as you’re using a decent analytics solution, and again, here we’re talking about HIPAA compliant analytics solutions, so not GA4. We need to be leveraging a solution like Mixpanel or Heap for your analytics. You can do what are called cohort analyses. Essentially, you could create a cohort of someone who is exposed to a top-of-the-funnel video and watch a certain percentage of a top-of-the-funnel video because you’ve bucketed them into an audience on Facebook.

Then when you drive them to your website, you use UTM parameters to say, they were in this audience. These guys were video engagers. When they get to the website, Mixpanel knows that person was a video engager and came from a video engager audience. Then in Mixpanel, you can say, let me make a cohort of this audience and then see how well that audience does certain things that you want them to do on the website, in comparison to your total user base or audiences that weren’t exposed. That’s the way that you can effectively measure if your top-of-the-funnel engagement is having an impact. Now, the one thing I’ll say about–

Alex: You could also look for more brand searches.

Rich: More brand searches, brand list studies.

Alex: [unintelligible 00:12:18] if you’re running a click-through rate.

Rich: Yes. You could look at brand list studies if you’re running enough media.

Alex: How much is enough? 10 stacks a month on Google?

Rich: Yes. You probably need to be running $10,000 to $15,000 a month on social channels and StackAdapt or DSP of your choice for brand list studies.

Alex: Do they pay us for these mentions we keep doing?

Rich: No, I don’t think so.

Alex: Mixpanel, you owe me $82. That’s what lunch costs these days.

Rich: There’s a number of ways to measure it. I just think the cohort thing is really powerful because it’s more direct measurement. It’s less around sort of directional. It’s like, I know that these people were exposed to a top-of-the-funnel ad, and then I know what they did afterwards, right? Yes, you’re right. There are more generalized and directional ways to measure the list as well.

Alex: All right. Got it. What else do our readers, listeners, depends on how they digest this, what else do they need to know?

Rich: I think probably what you need to know about full-funnel media is A, it’s definitely where everything is going, right? Again, apart from the example that you provided of someone with very limited budget that can just run at the bottom of the funnel, this is where marketing and digital marketing in particular is going.

Alex: Why is it going there?

Rich: Because it’s getting more competitive just to find it out at the bottom of the funnel, right?

Alex: Yes, and less people are probably going to search every day too.

Rich: Yes, and the search landscape is changing, right? With the introduction of Bard and stuff, and what impact is AI going to have on search behavior, recommendations. Then you’ve got things like LSAs on the search results page now. A lot of stuff is changing with search, meaning that there are more competitors in space and more options on the results page. Also, something that we didn’t talk about is, it’s so cheap to engage with people at the bottom of the funnel. Sorry, top of the funnel. Yes, thank you.

You’re talking about 2 cents or 3 cents for a video completion on Facebook. If you think about even what you would pay to drive traffic to a blog post at the top of the funnel from search, right, that’s probably a couple bucks for a click. 2 cents or 3 cents versus a couple bucks, it’s a no-brainer. If the first exposure I have to your brand, and even to the category in general, is a bottom-of-the-funnel search where clients have had to pay $15 for that click, and then I’m like, oh, this brand doesn’t look right for me, or it doesn’t have the answers that I need, that’s a waste of $15.

Whereas you could have spent 2 cents to engage with them at the top of the funnel, make sure that they were educated, understood what you did, understood why your brand was the right brand for them, and then, to your point earlier about measuring the lift, then they’re seeking out your brand in particular, you’re paying maybe $1.50 or $2 for that click. They’re coming to you and they’re already primed to buy. From an efficiency point of view–

Alex: Yes, it’s incredibly cheap right now.

Rich: It’s incredibly cheap and also, your conversion rate should be so much higher that if you get the mix right, the amount that you spend at the top of the funnel should be more than recouped in your savings.

Alex: Yes, we’ve seen the CPLs come down across the board even with– Something that we kind of oversimplified is your creative has to be off the chain.

Rich: It has to be good. Look, it doesn’t have to be Hollywood-level production, but it has to be good in the sense of you’re explaining to the user what the user needs to know. Just, and yes, this is a real-world example. Just having a YouTube video of what the inside of your office looks like with no overlays and no sound is not going to explain to the user why they need this treatment.

Alex: Yes, don’t let your founding provider dictate creative direction.

Rich: Right. You need to tell the user why they should be interested in your solution, why they should want to buy it from you, and why they should act now. Versus, here’s, we have a pretty office. How nice the office, if that’s part of the buying decision, certainly focus on it, but it shouldn’t be the sole thing that you show them.

Alex: Yes, very helpful guys. I hope you found this tactical rich. We embarked upon this journey, I think, about 18 months ago when we really invested in the creative and the dev side and starting to run all this upper funnel stuff. We thought that it would help, but the numbers have proved it out. The smallest clients know you don’t need to be doing it. We mostly mess with the bigger provider groups and it makes a ton of sense.

Once you start seeing diminishing returns on search, 50% of your budget to share or whatever, you’re starting to hit that, it’s time to begin investing in upper funnel. You need to get good at it anyways, because all of our PE backers are now preferring de novo’s over acquisitions because interest rates are too high and that’s the main way to go for de novo’s. You got to build some brand preference, and it’s still way cheaper than TV, radio, and billboard, at least for the next five years. That’ll change. That’s going to get inverted at some point. Everyone’s going to be like, “Man, why didn’t we advertise more on Facebook when we could have?”

Anyways, all right, not to pad Mark Zuckerberg’s wallet, but thank you for joining us on Ignite, Rich.

Rich: Thank you for having me, Alex.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

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