Q. As a marketer for a healthcare provider, I’m seeing a lot of change in the marketplace, and it feels like that means I should be looking at new ways to promote my organization to consumers. What should I be focusing on now to help me get the most out of my healthcare marketing spend?

A. It’s certainly true that many new players have entered the healthcare marketplace, pushing the bar for success higher. Consider:

  • New players such as Amazon and established members including CVS Health and Walgreens have been entering the market or expanding their scope.

  • The proliferation of care options and information has fueled the “consumerization” of healthcare, with patients exerting more control over their choices, which now also include virtual health.

  • Technologies such as digital health platforms and predictive AI are upsetting historic care models. For example, in mid-2023, the Mayo Clinic signed data-partnering agreements with clinics across the U.S. and globally to access the scrubbed medical records of more than 100 million patients for a predictive AI platform designed to improve care.

Here are a couple tips for how to succeed in this dynamic environment.

1. Provide consumers a unique, compelling healthcare experience

A McKinsey survey of more than 3,000 U.S. healthcare consumers found that satisfied patients were 28% less likely to switch providers. But generating that loyalty is hard. As the Journal of Medicine and Life observed, “Patients have so many options regarding the choice of healthcare services and providers that the only way the healthcare practices can really be distinguished is by establishing a well-differentiated, memorable and unique proposal . . .”

Personalization and connected omnichannel communications are key elements of such a memorable experience. “Harnessing the power of digital signals to trigger personalized direct mail and retargeting campaigns is the bridge that connects the virtual and tangible worlds, creating a seamless and impactful customer journey,” observes Jennifer Hickman, Vice President of Strategy and Growth – Health, at Quad.

Yet privacy regulations prevent marketers from accessing information that would allow them to address consumers based on their unique health issues. A smart testing strategy can help navigate that challenge.

In a recent article about improving the consumer healthcare experience, McKinsey reported that one provider that used aggressive testing with the goal of optimizing patient experiences across its locations saw a 0.15% improvement in its conversion rate, equivalent to $2.4 million in scaled revenue impact, “by personalizing and targeting communications to different healthcare consumer segments.”

The downside to testing is that it can be time-consuming, costly and limited.

“A/B testing evaluates one element at a time. Even multivariate testing of several creative or product-feature elements at once is limited because you can test only so many combinations. Theoretically it’s possible to test an endless number, but you’d have to mail or survey so many individuals to get a statistically significant result that it’s not practical,” explains Jim Miller, Vice President of Direct Marketing Agency Solutions at Quad.

However, a new testing approach using digital technology and virtual panels shortens the time frame and improves response rates to help brands recognize revenue more quickly. Quad pioneered this type of tech-driven testing with our Accelerated Marketing Insights (AMI) platform. Online panelists, screened to align with the target audience and segmented by client-driven geo/demo/psychographics, can be surveyed about an almost unlimited number of creative and messaging variables in no more than 60 days, Miller says.

This virtual platform gives marketers the data they need to lift response rates across all channels. For example, one national insurer questioned whether its three annual rotating control direct mail pieces were performing optimally. The company asked Quad to use the controls’ existing messaging and design elements to create a new package.

Quad conducted an AMI study to uncover the top response-motivating elements of content and design within the client’s parameters, testing more than 1,400 unique combinations over six weeks. The winning package lifted response by 19%.

2. Streamline geotargeted marketing

Payers promote insurance products in hundreds of markets and co-brand promotions with thousands of providers nationally. Making sure campaigns are consistent with the national brand but also locally relevant and CMS-compliant is like solving a Rubik’s Cube, especially during the time crunch that comes every annual and open enrollment period.

One solution is to centralize marketing resources while still empowering local staff to use what’s best for their specific markets. Quad created a Local Marketing Platform that offers such functionality. Pre-loaded with approved, brand-consistent and compliant templates, the platform integrates every aspect of this process.

“We can fully automate content creation, in a specified format linked to the exact geo of the media execution,” explains George Forge, Vice President of Client Technology at Quad, who managed development of the platform. “As soon as the media buy is secured, the content is created dynamically. This helps ensure that all key deadlines are met.”

In sum, while the current environment has created many challenges for health brands, these strategies will help turn those challenges into opportunities.

Want to learn more — and continue the conversation? Contact Jennifer Hickman, VP Strategy and Growth – Health at jhickman@quad.com or 312-933-7938.

Health marketers: Discover better ways to market with data-driven, next-gen solutions