For digital marketers, this may seem like an especially challenging time to target healthcare professionals. Their complex industry and diverse roles are changing rapidly as healthcare businesses of every kind respond and adapt to the COVID-19 crisis.
This is also a time when countless healthcare organizations and providers are shifting rapidly—and maybe permanently—to digital platforms and online communications. From primary care physicians to surgical practices, to labs, and therapists, a diverse and growing spectrum of healthcare professionals and services are going virtual. And digital marketers need to be ready to capture and leverage this transformative shift.
Whether you’re gearing up for your first post-COVID healthcare campaign, or targeting newly virtual healthcare businesses, here are a few tips that can help you build your plan around some of the unique ways these professionals work and think.
Always Mobile-First, and Second, Third, and Fourth
If you went to the doctor before COVID-19, you got a glimpse of just how much time many healthcare professionals spend on their feet – and why they’re mobile power users. Now, those same mobile aficionados are more on-the-go than ever.
How much do healthcare practitioners rely on their devices? Take it from the global consulting group that recently declared “the smartphone is the most popular technology among doctors since the stethoscope.” 84% of physicians already use their mobile devices on the job. Nurses use their smartphones even more than their MD colleagues.
If you’re targeting these audiences digitally, mobile-friendly content and design are even more essential than usual. When your ad or offer catches a healthcare professional’s eye, there’s a good chance that they’ll be on their feet, headed to see their next patient. Make sure it’s easy for them to engage with your content on the way.
Know Your User and Your Buyer
Marketing a new tool for surgeons? An app for nurses? A new assay that will help lab workers detect an infection more quickly?
Products as different as these often face the same marketing paradox: the professionals who use them and professionals with the power to buy them are often different.
Today, less than a third of US healthcare practices are independent businesses that can make their own purchasing decisions. Most healthcare professionals are employees who work at practices and businesses owned by large healthcare systems, academic institutions, medical groups, or private equity groups.
Big organizations like these make top-down buying decisions the same way other big businesses do. Procurement buys new OR tools in bulk for dozens of surgeons employed by a chain of surgical centers. A CIO or CTO will decide which apps and software hundreds of nurses will use. A COO will make the decision about any new additions to technicians’ testing arsenal.
User/buyer splits like these are only becoming more common as more and more healthcare practices consolidate and centralize – a trend that’s likely to accelerate as the impact of COVID-19 puts more and more healthcare budgets under strain. So do your research, expand your personas, and select your keywords accordingly. You may need to address several very different sets of needs, pressures, and priorities to drive both user interest and purchase intent.
Get Specific About Your Target’s Role and Practice
Healthcare professionals may all be part of one industry, but work at vastly different kinds of businesses. Know exactly where and which kind your target(s) practice at—and also how those businesses are adapting to COVID-19. Specialty, size, region, and many other factors can be vital clues for your strategy.
Think your target is primary care practices? Today’s patients are just as likely to get primary care services at retail health clinics, Wal-Mart, and especially through telehealth services. Targeting hospitals? Rural and urban hospitals are likely to have experienced very different shifts in their business during COVID-19. Executives with purchasing power may have very different investment plans depending on the region in which their hospital is located.
All of these factors can shift the way you build your digital marketing plan. Keep them in mind as you choose your targets and tailor your content.
Know Your Targets’ Clinical Specialties and Which Ones Overlap
If you’re focusing on medical specialists, table stakes are understanding the topics, products, and patient issues most relevant to their specialty. The upside opportunity is in understanding where many of those specialties overlap.
For example, did you know that as many as 1 in 5 dentists are trained to administer Botox injections? That cosmetic plastic surgery is a fast-growing crossover discipline for ophthalmologists? That dermatology practices have a big role to play in treating some kinds of arthritis?
Many seemingly different medical specialties actually intersect with each other, creating surprising new angles for your targeting efforts, keyword sets, and content offers. But also be aware that many of these healthcare professionals may have been impacted by COVID-19 in very different ways. If you’re targeting any kind of medical specialist, spend some time researching how that specialty has been affected, and how it may be converging with other disciplines. It can often reveal unexpected long-tail opportunities.
Think Extra Carefully About That Social Strategy
Unlike many industries that have embraced social media, these platforms are still a controversial topic in many sectors of healthcare. For doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who directly interact with patients, it remains a double-edged sword. Especially now that patients and healthcare professionals alike are struggling with social feeds bursting with coronavirus news.
Consequently, you can expect healthcare professionals’ social media behavior to vary wildly. Some embrace channels like Facebook and Instagram as powerful educational or promotional tools. Other see these platforms as potential legal and regulatory hazards to be mitigated, if not avoided altogether.
As a result, many marketers still encounter a split social personality when they try to engage healthcare professionals online. While nearly 90% are on social media for personal reasons, far fewer use it for professional purposes. Healthcare professionals are absolutely “on social” – but not necessarily using it in ways that prime them to engage with marketing signals focused on their professional selves.
So if you’re integrating social into your plan, consider more factors than just whether you can pull the right names and titles on the right platforms. They may be there, but they may not be engaged in the way you think – and their engagement may differ considerable depending on their practice, their role, and how directly they’re involved in the response to COVID-19.
With healthcare professionals and practices shifting headlong to digital platforms and virtual services, now is the time for digital marketers to start refining and evolving their approach to targeting these audiences. Build a winning strategy, and it can put new tools and solutions in the hands of professionals who are more to our world than ever — and that’s something we digital marketers can be truly proud of.