Podcast #30

Top Challenges Healthcare Marketers Faced in 2021

Marketing for healthcare organizations and medical practices presents a set of challenges unlike any other industry. A thorough understanding of how to overcome these hurdles is required for success in healthcare marketing. Here's how the iOS14 update affected healthcare marketers and Facebook Ads; the hiccups high-growth healthcare organizations face while factoring in local-level needs; and why you should use healthcare marketing best practices to scale your business to new heights in 2022.

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone

Lauren Leone: “One headache I’ve seen with our rapidly growing provider groups on the operational side is the balance of acquiring new patients and then having actual providers to provide the care. You have to grow both of those at an equal rate and make sure that your patient acquisition efforts are commensurate to what capacity you have. Nobody wants to lose a patient because you can’t see them for a month. That’s a massive challenge..”

Rich Briddock

Rich Briddock: “At this point, in order to survive and still be effective on social, you really need to build out quality first-party audiences.”

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 MembrilloHey, everybody, I promised you, segment number two is going to be coming. We’re going to be talking today about the top struggles we’ve seen our clients have, in general, all healthcare orgs that have come to us, client, not client. We’re going to talk about what they’ve done to overcome.

We’ve got Rich Briddock, Lauren Leone. You’ve heard them here before, our SVP. Rich is our SVP of performance marketing, Lauren, SVP of healthcare marketing. They don’t even change their titles. They give them promotions all the time. They don’t even change them because we’re doing it too often. They’re that good. They’re that good. I want to give them a new title every six months. They’re that smart. You’re going to love them. Welcome to Ignite.

Lauren LeoneThanks, Alex.

Rich BriddockThank you, Alex.

Alex: A lot changed this year. What are some of the top challenges you’ve seen our healthcare clients go through? Facebook did something weird this year. Anything popping over there?

Rich: Obviously, we had the iOS 14 update, which I think hit everybody pretty hard. We lost some tracking. We lost some audience sizes. Relying on Facebook’s native third-party audiences is now more difficult than ever, and we’ve had to pivot and adapt from that. I think at this point, in order to survive and still be effective on social, you really need to build out quality first-party audiences. Essentially, create your own quality first-party audience.

The way that we’ve been doing that in the healthcare space is by creating essentially a funnel structure across social, where we are reaching out to top of the funnel audiences, and we are nurturing them and engaging them with video content, seeing that they’re interested in our content, then they become a little on the lead, then we push them into the middle of the funnel, we hit them with another set of messaging. If they engage with that, then they go into the bottom of the funnel, and we’re essentially building our own transactional audiences that way.

It sounds really complicated, and it is pretty complicated, but if you can deploy it, it’s a cheap way of driving those really qualified first-party audiences. I think it’s been a challenge to a number of healthcare clients having to pivot into these more strategic digital approaches like this because it requires incremental legwork. You need a lot more creative, you need good creative. You need someone to manage that structure for you.

I think a lot of the challenges that we’ve seen that iOS 14 has created is it’s made Facebook less of a ready-to-play open-to-everyone type platform where you can drive a lot of great results just by putting an ad up and letting the algorithm do its work. You really now have to put your marketer’s hat on but also your digital expert hat and know how to set it up and know how to get your bang for your buck from Facebook.

Alex: Facebook got harder?

Rich: It got harder.

Alex: Would you still recommend it as a marketing tactic for small to mid-size groups?

Rich: I think if you’re selling something that has a longer consideration cycle where there’s a good marketing story that you have to tell about that product or service and you’ve got absolute differentiation from the other people in the space and it’s a consumer-driven decision. If all those things are true, then I think social is absolutely viable.

If it’s a very bottom of the funnel play and you’re just trying to get hand-holders at the very bottom of the funnel, you should really focus primarily on search. Then if you have to, you can deploy social remarketing because the nice thing about Facebook is they don’t have the Google advertising restrictions on healthcare. You can do your remarketing through social, but I would not probably have this full-funnel social prospecting approach because it will be more difficult, especially if you don’t have the creative capacity to generate content that will explain to your end consumer why they should buy from you.

Alex: Like the tracking though, did it change that you should still be rolling out marketing at the path through the funnel and comprehensively, it doesn’t sound like tracking. Why did that change how you should look at Facebook advertising? Just made it harder, so now not worth doing, unless you’re going to look at the whole thing. Is that basically it?

Rich: It basically restricted data to the algorithm. It made the algorithm less effective in finding your audience.

Alex: Now, you have to be that much more creative and smart, right?

Rich: Right. Which means if you want the same performance that you got out of Facebook, you have to compensate for the algorithm not being as effective and not having as many signals to operate from. Essentially, we’re going backwards in a way. We went to this algorithmic apex, and now we’re dialing it back because there’s less data, there are fewer signals, there’s less information available. As marketers, we have to step in and close that gap.

Alex: I think, one, it’s going to make marketing better in the long run because we’re going to have to get more creative. We’re going to have to think about the patient more. We’re going to have to serve up better ads to get to the same bar. Lauren, when clients come to us, we just heard this the other day, “Hey, is Facebook advertising for my large provider, is it still good for driving leads?” What was your answer?

Lauren: If you have considered the channels where the hand-raisers already exist and you are really efficient and mature and you are organic in your paid search and some of those channels, then it is the way to go to increase your reach and grow your brand, but if you are still new to the patient acquisition game, then it is not the place to start.

Alex: Okay. Got it. Still can be effective, but it’s more of a upper-funnel awareness type, make sure your SEO and search is off the chain, if you will, before you’re venturing out into Facebook advertising. Too many small providers trying to launch into Facebook ads, like would you launch right into direct mail and billboards before showing up when that patient actually– no, you wouldn’t. That’s basically what Facebook is.

Let’s talk about some different things. Lauren, a lot of provider groups are scaling big time now. Private equity is throwing tons of money at it because they want the consolidation and money’s cheap. What are some of the headaches you’ve seen with our rapidly growing provider groups that are having on the operational side? What are some of the hiccups? How do we avoid it?

Lauren: I think there’s two major things there. The obvious one is the balance of acquiring new patients and then having actual providers to provide the care. You have to grow both of those at an equal rate and make sure that your patient acquisition efforts are commensurate to what capacity you have. Nobody wants to lose a patient because you can’t see them for a month. That’s a massive challenge.

The whole healthcare space is struggling with recruitment right now, but once recruitment is sorted out, I think what’s interesting in the rapidly growing groups is you’ve got a bunch of smaller groups that previously operated as individual entities that are now part of a larger brand. You have this battle between, “Am I a local business providing care in my community, or am I a national organization and I have the power of technology and fantastic medical research?”

You have to really find the balance between those two things, and how you market yourself can change drastically based on where you fall in that scale, everything from, “What type of messaging am I using and what are my value propositions,” to, “Am I delivering media locally, or am I delivering media nationally?” Those are two very different strategies. You need to pick where you’re going to fall on that scale today, and where do you want to go to years from now.

Alex: You touched on something really important there. It seems like marketing talent, everybody’s running short on that. Is it just agencies? Are you seeing it client-side as well?

Lauren: A lot of our clients had to, unfortunately, furlough or lay off part of the marketing team to allow the operations to continue and not have to cut from that side of the business. I’m getting a lot of inquiries from marketing directors that are one or two or three-man shows or woman shows. They previously had copywriters and communications directors and maybe even advertising specialists that now they don’t have those resources, but they’re still held to the same expectation to drive the new patients. They need people like us to plug all those holes. Sometimes it’s an interesting start to an engagement when we’re just figuring out what exactly those holes are, where do you need us, where can we help, what do you already have covered.

Alex: You’re saying agencies can help clients scale up. Is there any other way to quickly scale up? You got to go to an agency or no?

Lauren: It’s probably the quickest if you’re looking to avoid bringing on a new employee is training them on the way you do things. You have to have the knowledge and oversight to be able to coach or give them direction. If they’re not coming in having done exactly what you need them to do before, an agency is going to have– an agency that has experience in healthcare is going to understand your landscape. They’re going to understand HIPAA compliance and challenges with remarketing, and they’re going to be able to hit the ground running a little bit faster.

Alex: What would you say the number one hold-the-plug internally? You’ve got to have this internally as you rebuild. What’s that one thing you’ve seen our clients that are thriving, what’s the one thing they have in-house that everybody should have?

Lauren: Something in the communications arena, someone that holds the brand, understands how to communicate that brand out to the patients, out to the referring physicians, how to give direction to the agency on who you are, where you fit into the marketplace, how you stack up against competitors, and what you want to be to the patients. Someone has to own that. I can’t create that for you. The press has to dictate that.

Alex: Love it. Nothing we can do about comms. Branding also needs to be close to the heart, close to the heart. Tough with agencies. I know there are branding agencies out there, but you must know it wholeheartedly in-house. Rich, any other major issues you see happen this year?

Rich: I think the other thing too in terms of scalability, and although you can deploy this by an agency, is creative. With the rise of dynamic creative as almost going from a beta to just a table stakes standard now, and creative testing becoming more and more of a crucial factor in driving performance, you’ve got to have the ability to produce a substantial amount of creative, especially if you’re running paid social, but if you’re running in-display TrueView, you want to run connected TV or TT, all of these things that can now be on digital plan, I think to Lauren’s points of view, who understands the brand and how to communicate the brand, but also somebody who can then take that understanding and materially transform it into creative assets that can be tested by a media team at an agency or an internal media team is really important.

Alex: Creative, creative, creative is almost like an added cost to doing great marketing these days, like no way around it. It used to be simple, drive PPC, text ad, PPC pay, now not so simple.

Rich: Now you need full description lines and 15 headlines just from PPC ad because, again, you’re trying to give the algorithm that opportunity to figure out what your consumer wants. Again, I think that’s something else that you really need to be thinking about is digital marketing is changing, so try and figure out exactly your right consumers, because it’s so much more competitive now than it used to be, there are so many more players in the space, we’ve had this massive shift the digital.

All these other folks who weren’t spending and now spending on digital, making the landscape more competitive. You’ve got to stay ahead, you’ve got to use these best practices, and creative development is definitely one of those areas where you need to be on the forefront and really following best practices. Otherwise, you’re going to get left behind.

Alex: I’m digging it, man. Going into this year, I thought creative was going to be the biggest driver of performance marketing. I didn’t even know about iOS thing at the time. It’s kind of proven me right. 1 out of 10, I’ll get right, but it’s absolutely accurate. The whole experience needs to be beautiful, seamless, easy for the patient. At the end of the day, you got to stand out, you got to stand out, creative’s got to be good. Your direct mail, company, and TV, it’s no longer being executed by someone else, you got to do it, and it’s got to be for digital. Rich and Lauren, thank you for joining me on Ignite and discussing the top healthcare issues we’ve seen with our clients this year.

Lauren: Thanks, Alex.

Rich: Thank you.

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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