Digital Marketing: What's the Best Strategy for Healthcare IT?
~ Kristin Snow

The call for digital marketing has never been stronger, but what does it mean for specific sectors, industries and customer profiles? Is your organization B2C or B2B? What industry do you serve? Who is your target customer? And how do those factors determine your digital marketing strategy? As an example, let’s examine digital marketing strategy for B2B healthcare IT, which is my company Clarity Marketing’s sweet spot.

Digital marketing, or the marketing of products and services using digital channels, is a valuable tool in every organization’s marketing toolkit. Its immediate benefit is the ability to quantify and analyze customer interaction, with the end goal of collecting contacts and filling up the sales funnel along various stages of the sales cycle. 

The primary digital channels that allow for measurement are: email, website, ads/offers, mobile messaging, social media, webinars, video and digital content. A digital marketer will roll up the channel measurement results and ultimately look at conversion funnel rates: the percent of leads collected that convert to customers, and your costs per conversion – which ensures your profit margin is intact. 

How Important is Digital Marketing to Healthcare B2B Companies?

When I look at the above, I think “this is all great stuff for consumer marketing,” but does it translate to B2B, and more specifically, to healthcare IT? Of course, some of it does, but how and when do you use the components? Email marketing, an SEO-based and content-driven website, webinars, video and online articles can be strong components of integrated healthcare IT marketing campaigns, which may also include non-digital components such as trade show participation, print advertising and company-hosted meetings. The use of each depends upon your campaign goals and your audience.

Healthcare IT customers are sophisticated buyers, inundated by an ever-increasingly noisy market. Startups are competing for their business with larger, more established companies in the areas of supply chain and inventory control, revenue and spend management, systems security, analytics, telemedicine operability, clinical systems optimization and more. The customer and decision-maker in most of these areas is at the C-level or D-level. So which digital components of your campaign may be effective for this market and audience?

A Few General Rules for Healthcare IT Digital Marketing

RULE 1: AVOID USING EMAIL AS A FIRST POINT OF CONTACT. Your executive customer receives a multitude of email communications from your competitors, whose messages are often indecipherable from each other. The result is that your emails will go unread. Therefore, when you use email marketing, consider not making it your first point of contact. Instead, use email further down the funnel, when your potential customer recognizes your company name and offering. Even then, technology click-through rates fall below average, at 3.9%, as do open rates.

RULE 2: DON'T SPEND A FORTUNE ON YOUR WEBSITE. Your website is a necessary reference point for clear information about your offering and your company. Your customers will typically visit it either through search or after another point of contact (most likely). Spend dollars on your brand messaging instead; make sure your purpose is well-defined, you address your customers' pain points and you differentiate yourself from your competitors. Most visitors will glean the initial information they need to make a decision about you during their first visit. You can bring them back by offering features such as collaborative links, a subscription-based blog, educational information, and downloadable content like case studies, white papers and cost savings models – features that may advance qualified leads through the sales cycle, and enable signed customers to advance their results as your business partner.

RULE 3: INVEST IN BRIEF WEBINARS AND SHORT VIDEO. Webinars allow for the collection of detailed contact information during sign-up; foster interaction between you and your target audience; and provide a venue for the audience to learn about your product offerings. That being said, you may not be interacting with your decision-maker, but instead a manager or specialist within that decision-maker's department – one who may end up being your champion. Therefore, during lead mining, make sure you are gathering contact information at multiple levels.

ROI on video depends upon size and context. Avoid long videos on your website that go to into deep detail on your product (no screenshots, please!); instead, stick to short “explainer” videos that you can leverage in other contexts, such as in emails and sales presentations as well as at trade shows. And, consider using key employees in your videos to introduce your team to your audience, allowing viewers to emotionally connect to your staff, and for your staff to be considered thought leaders. Finally, if you are using animation, ensure it fits the tenor your brand: if you have a sophisticated brand, which is often the case in healthcare IT, make sure your animation reflects the serious challenges faced by your healthcare customers.


RULE 4: INVEST IN CONTENT DEVELOPMENT. Updated, integrated content serves as ongoing engagement material for leads and those further down in the sales cycle. It can also keep your current customers apprised of new offerings, and solidify their confidence in you as a trusted partner. Integrated content means complementary and simultaneous entries on your website, digital magazines and social media.

Keep in mind, however, that B2B customers don’t often use social sites for business, with the exception of LinkedIn and Quora, which can be used for promoting corporate awareness and displaying thought leadership through both original and curated content. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is also helpful in lead mining. However, beware of using LinkedIn or Quora to sell. Followers of thought leaders feel that a trust has been broken when they connect to you for leadership but are then pitched to buy your product.

RULE 5: LIMIT DIGITAL ADVERTISING. B2B sales cycles, particularly in healthcare, tend to be long, and are relationship-driven. Your customers won’t buy anything online, nor will they spend much time online. Therefore, online ads can be placed on related business sites for corporate awareness or to move a potential customer to a lead status, but the odds of your target customer following an ad forward to a next step are low, and ads will certainly not generate immediate sales. Finally, completely avoid mobile messaging as a way to generate sales or leads.

RULE 6: MEASURE EVERYTHING. Need I say this? Put the talent and systems in place to measure outcomes, and make adjustments along the way. In my experience, I often find that digital marketing plays a less important role in the B2B healthcare IT sales cycle than leadership anticipated, and that adjustments and investments in other sales tools need to be made. Therefore, it's vital to analyze digital outcomes to ensure you're not overspending on their use. Even more vital, particularly for startups, is not to overinvest in this area, but instead, to create a full spectrum of sales tools that prepare an emerging company to meet the sales staff's needs.

Summary: What Investments Should Healthcare IT Companies Make in Digital Marketing?

STRATEGY: Leverage a website, email marketing, webinars, online articles and short videos as your primary digital channels, but use them at the right points of the sales cycle and target the right people in the organization.

TOOLS: Invest in an inbound marketing management tool to measure outcomes, which includes a CRM or works in concert with your existing CRM, and which provides robust reporting capabilities.

RESOURCES: Identify a digital marketing specialist in website SEO and digital marketing strategy, measurement and analysis. Leverage the skills of a content manager that can integrate email, website, video and social content as well as write industry-specific articles for online consumption. Also identify a videographer, who you can leverage on an as-needed basis. Finally, at the leadership level, utilize a healthcare IT marketing expert, who is familiar with the complexity of the industry and sales cycle, and who understands that many components of a marketing campaign in this area of business are not digitally-based, but instead relationship-based.

Next up: Best Practice Marketing Strategies for B2B healthcare IT. This article will include recommendations for lead mining, first point of contact, sales toolkit components and campaign strategies.