Marketing digital health

How to market digital health services

Marketing digital health involves several steps, including defining your audiences, selecting the right channels, and using them to create human connections. This strategically led approach is effective in communicating with patients, clinicians, and other key stakeholders.

Digital health is transforming patient treatment and outcomes. A new range of tools, technologies, and treatments have incredible potential – and people need to know about them. The team at leading healthcare agency 42group have created this guide on marketing digital health.

The health sector is adopting commercial marketing techniques and adopting commercial tactics to promote new products, services, and treatments. Here’s how you can use these tactics to market your digital health product, service, or solution.

Marketing digital health: The basics

Digital health is booming, with the global market forecast to grow an incredible 14% in 2024. The NHS, to its credit, has published a plan to adopt innovations – and is making good progress. (If you have the time, read the plan for digital health and social care here.)

When we talk about digital health, we’re talking about a range of innovations, including:

  • mobile health (mHealth), including healthcare apps
  • health information technology (IT)
  • wearable devices
  • telehealth and telemedicine

Digital health is powering a shift towards personalised medicine, where we can benefit from early diagnosis and targeted treatments that are shaped around our bodies and healthcare problems.

As well as patient-facing innovations, digital health is also at work behind the scenes. We can see incredible innovations in diagnostic texting, for example, where it is being used to spot cancer. The NHS is also edging ever closer to a comprehensive EPR that can give clinicians access to the information they need when needed.

While there is incredible potential for digital technologies to support all patients and optimise workflows for clinicians, there are challenges. Influential think-tank The King’s Fund states, “The NHS has a poor track record when it comes to adopting digital technologies at scale.” Other systems have a better history of adopting innovations – but the roadmap can be long and highly challenging, which is why marketing digital health is critical.

Marketing digital health is a strategic process that utilises commercial marketing techniques to connect with your audience. This can include patients, clinicians, and other key stakeholders. As well as traditional channels (like PR and paid-for advertising), when marketing digital health innovations, agencies like 42group use content marketing, social media, SEO, and PPC to support projects, promote innovations, and educate patients and clinicians.

The most successful digital healthcare marketing campaigns are driven by a solid strategy. We’re going to cover how to write a digital marketing strategy for healthcare in a future post, but we can break down the process into these steps:

  • Identifying your audience
  • Selecting the right channels (including content marketing, SEO, and PPC)
  • Developing a marketing plan
  • Identifying and measuring KPIs
  • Review and refine campaigns

We will walk you through each step, explaining why they matter. In the future, we’ll create individual pages that go into greater detail on each section.

Identifying your audience

Digital health marketing succeeds or fails on how well you know your audience. In the past, marketers would struggle to identify the patients and people they need to communicate with – but today, it’s very different. We have access to a massive range of tools, data points, and systems that enable us to build accurate personas.

The more specific you can be about your audience, the more effectively you can target them – and the more effective your campaign will be.

Let’s imagine we’re promoting a new telehealth service to patients with diabetes for a health trust. We can build our picture of the group we want to communicate with by chatting with project stakeholders. We can define:

  • Location parameters
  • Patient condition (inclusion and exclusion criteria)
  • Age
  • Other demographic criteria

We’re providing some of the characteristics; now we need to understand who these people are, where they spend time online, and what information they’re searching for.

For example, we can use Keyword Planner (as part of Google Ads) to explore the kind of questions they’re asking. We can do what’s called “social listening”, where we monitor social platforms like Facebook to see the conversations that are taking place and the influencers in the space. We can use Google Forms to run a quick survey with clinicians to learn what they think patients need to know. We can search LinkedIn to identify professional networks and key figures we want to engage.

These are just a few ways we (and you!) can build a rounded picture of the type of person (or persons) you want to engage. You can create patient (or clinician) personas to bring these people to life.

These paper-based exercises are essential –but your knowledge about your audience will change and improve as you begin to run campaigns. As a result, you should constantly be refining and improving your audience knowledge, as this will optimise your campaigns.

Selecting the right channels

When discussing channels, we mean the mechanisms you use to engage your audience. The digital health marketing mix covers traditional channels that every marketer will be familiar with, including:

  • PR and media engagement
  • Traditional advertising (print, media, radio, etc.)
  • Internal communications

We can also add tools and techniques from the content marketing and online advertising sectors to build a comprehensive plan to engage your core audience, including:

  • Website blogs and articles
  • Social media
  • SEO
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Emails, newsletter, and automated comms

Too many marketers jump into channel selection (“Let’s do a series of TikTok videos!!!”), rather than considering the most appropriate channel mix for their core audience.

Experienced healthcare marketing agencies like 42group work with our clients to develop a phased and comprehensive channel strategy that engages, informs, and inspires your audience. Instead of commissioning work for each channel, the power of marketing comes when they are combined (integrated) and work towards a single goal.

In our diabetes example, we’d work in phases. The first phase is about providing information and engaging our patient cohort. We’d use cost-effective and highly targeted PPC and social media advertising to drill down to the population while at the same time using content to raise awareness and build excitement among your stakeholders.

As we onboard patients, they’d move into an engagement cycle where they’d be provided with regular information on the project, their role, and the potential outcome. Stakeholders would be kept up to date with progress through regular content updates until programme completion.

This is a snapshot of the sort of work we do, but everything is driven by the audience, their preference, priorities, and channels.

We’re assuming that you know what PR and traditional marketing are and that you already have a strong internal communications strategy, so we’re going to explore some of the digital health marketing channels you may want to use.

Content marketing for digital health

Content marketing is about engaging, informing, and inspiring people by providing them with content of value. When marketing digital health products, services, and solutions, content marketing can play a crucial in educating your audience. Instead of directly promoting or selling a product or service, you provide information that stimulates interest and drives engagement.

Content marketing is a crucial way to build your brand and increase visibility in a world that lives primarily online. Of course, content marketing – when done correctly and strategically – will drive engagement, create new prospects, and help you to boost your presence online.

Content marketing covers a broad range of activities, including:

  • blogs and articles
  • infographics
  • whitepapers
  • case studies
  • reports
  • animations
  • videos

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but an idea of the broad range of content marketing outlets you could use.

Of course, you could use every channel, but the most effective content marketing strategies match the preferences of the audience you want to engage. Let’s take our diabetes example.

In most digital campaigns, your website is the engine room for content marketing. We’d build a dedicated landing page or microsite within your site to host all information. This would be packed full of information, answering all questions your cohort may have. This site would host a regular flow of new content, including articles, FAQs, Q&As, and progress updates. As well as written content, we’d work with partners to create engaging content like infographics, animations, and films to simplify complex concepts for everyone.

You can read more about content marketing examples for healthcare organisations.

This is a basic introduction to content marketing for digital healthcare, but fear not! You can learn more about the power of content marketing for digital health in our detailed guide.

Social media for digital health

Social media is a significant part of any digital marketing campaign for healthcare companies. It’s a cost-effective channel for directly engaging your audience – whether that’s patients, professionals, or the public.

A regular flow of engaging social media content is an integral part of any digital health marketing strategy. The channels you use and the approach you take must be dictated by your audience and limited by the economic reality of your budget.

You can (and should) regularly post content to all relevant social channels. In our diabetes example, we’re focusing on Facebook, that big daddy (or outdated monster, depending on your view) of social channels. Why? Because Facebook is overwhelmingly the platform that they use.

Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn enable the precision targeting of your audience. Want your advert to be seen by people aged 60+ in Gloucester? We can do that in a few minutes. Do you want your whitepaper to engage UK-based healthcare CIOs? Snap.

Social media advertising is now an integral part of digital marketing campaigns for health. As well as identifying the channels and specifying the audience, it’s essential that you work with a healthcare specialist agency to develop compelling campaign creatives – including a wide range of titles, body copy text, images, infographics, animations, and videos.

SEO for digital health

Ho, did you find this web page? It’s almost 100% certain that you came here through a search engine. Google processes about 3.5 billion searches every day. If your healthcare website isn’t ranking on Google, it’s irrelevant.

When we work with digital health providers, we always explore the benefits of SEO. In the past, SEO may have had a bad name as the dark art of digital marketing, but it’s basically a strategic approach to improve your website ranking online. That’s it.

How? It’s a combination of optimising your website (improving the user experience), building backlinks to send the right signals to Google (OK and Bing), updating your current content and creating new content targeted to your audience, and ensuring all tags, titles, and technical aspects are all 100%.

You can work with a generalist SEO agency, but for sustainable gains, here is why you should work with a healthcare SEO agency.

Digital health PPC

Pay-per-click advertising has revolutionised the way we promote healthcare products, services, and solutions online. While SEO can help you rise organically through the ranks, a targeted PPC campaign can get you there in seconds – for a price.

In basic terms, PPC advertising works this way. You identify your key search terms (let’s say, diabetes treatments), create a range of advertising copy, set your budget per click, set it live and off you go. Whenever anyone searches for ‘diabetes treatments’, they’ll see your ad. That’s’ the theory, at least, but you’ll need to ensure your budget is high enough to capture the top spot. For the most competitive search terms, the cost-per-click can be very high.

This is a very basic explanation of what PPC is, but even from this, its potential is clear. It’s easy to set up a PPC campaign and just as easy to run up a massive bill without having any impact. Healthcare PPC specialists like the Google Partner team at 42group can create compelling campaigns that are built around your audience, hyper-targeted, and cost-efficient.

Emails, newsletter, and automated comms

When marketing digital health products, services, and solutions, there’s a tendency to forget traditional and direct marketing channels, but that’s a mistake. Emails, newsletters, and other automated comms (a structured onboarding process, for example) can play a huge role in a successful campaign.

Today, there is a massive range of tools that enable us to create branded newsletters and emails cheaply and quickly. These direct channels are great for community building, information sharing, and ongoing engagement. They’re also a vital channel for distributing and sharing the content that you’ve created.

How would we use this for our diabetes campaign? We’d ensure that all patients and stakeholders (clinicians, family members, etc.) are all signed up for a regular branded email newsletter that’s packed full of information and content. Alongside a regular newsletter, we’d provide individually tailored comms through emails with information that’s personalised to each patient (or person).

When marketing your digital health product or service, don’t forget to use tried and tested marketing methods.

Digital health marketing: The answer is 42group

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short introduction to digital health marketing. It’s a brief run-through of how to create a successful integrated campaign. If you’d like more information on building a content-driven campaign, get in touch.

We’re ready and waiting to discuss your healthcare marketing project!

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