Healthcare marketers mistakes: an introduction

Healthcare marketing encompasses all the methods and tactics that can be used to market the services of a healthcare organization or provider. When implemented correctly, it can not only help the provider improve their business goals, for example by eliminating any funnel friction and increasing the likelihood of conversions, but it also makes an important contribution to engaging patients throughout their care journey, ultimately promoting an increase in their quality of life.

Today, through the communication channels employed by the most advanced healthcare marketing, it is possible to give users targeted and secure access to sensitive information and relevant messages that affect their health. Not only that, but healthcare marketing – whether for a company or an institution – can create a true ecosystem where the multitude of services needed by the patient-citizen are delivered through a series of digital applications and tools. 

Among its most far-reaching consequences, the impact of digital transformation in the Healthcare sector is redefining the patient’s status. Within a context characterized by the presence of different digital platforms and by the active involvement of different actors, the individual who is facing a treatment path – if properly involved and trained through personalized content – can maximize the satisfaction of his experience.

In order to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies, however, healthcare marketers must avoid making some recurring mistakes. In this post, we’ve identified the 5 most important healthcare marketers mistakes, the ones that risk compromising the initiatives necessary to achieve an effectively successful patient experience.


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Building a valuable relationship with the user-patient: goals, problems, solutions

Healthcare marketing strategies are different in many ways from those that are developed in other industries. Each industry, and each company within it, refers to a customer base with distinctive characteristics. The healthcare industry, precisely because it must communicate with a consumer who is also a citizen, a user, and above all, a patient (a person, by the way, who is experiencing a moment of uncertainty or suffering) requires a unique marketing approach that aims to achieve two fundamental objectives.

  1. Value the relationship. The funnel cannot be designed where conversions and sales are the only relevant nodes. It must include micro-moments dedicated to increasing the knowledge of the “customer-patient” at every moment of his journey: continuous updates on his medical situation, clear information on the proposals offered by the brand, reports on the main advances in the treatment of the diseases from which the patient suffers. These are branding activities that do not end in the initial stages of the relationship, but develop over time, contributing to focus and enrich the reputation of the care provider.
  2. Deal with the legal constraints, due to the sensitivity of the individual related to health and personal well-being. In Italy, the Budget Law of 2018 has redefined the limits of health advertising: communication can no longer be conceived in a strictly commercial sense, for example by insisting on the economic aspect or speaking through slogans and hyperbole. Instead, health marketing coincides with the transmission of health information through various media and channels. Therefore, the production of messages accompanied by data, examples, and testimonials is encouraged; everything that can objectively describe the professional value of the healthcare organization.

Keeping these two hallmarks of healthcare marketing in mind is essential to avoid making 5 healthcare marketers mistakes that are difficult to recover from.


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1. Focusing too much on the sale and not enough on the patient

It can happen that healthcare brands fail to incorporate the layer of ethical and social meanings necessary to connect with the target audience in their messages. In that case, healthcare marketing can fail, with consequences that affect, in the worst case scenario, the patient’s psychological condition. This is the first healthcare marketers mistake. 

Among other things,  if one is in a fragile condition, the search for a healthcare professional can be a painful and frustrating experience. 

For all these reasons, the focus of healthcare marketing, more than in other sectors, should shift from “sales” to “change”. Here, change is about the patient becoming aware of his or her centrality, of the need to choose the best solutions for themselves. Put another way: healthcare marketing should focus less on persuading the patient and instead invest, through thoughtful action, in enhancing patient awareness.

In fact, healthcare marketing campaigns that focus too much on “conversion” can be confusing or inappropriate. It’s better to develop a plan of initiatives aimed at giving information, creating knowledge, and establishing an authentic relationship and open dialog. Digital technologies, such as Doxee’s interactive experience products, represent a concrete response to this need for transparency, involvement, and participation.

2. Communicate unclearly

The “customers” targeted by healthcare marketing are potential patients from a variety of backgrounds, but they all share a common trait: they want to be treated as people. Not doing it represents another healthcare marketers mistake. In addition, because of the exceptional conditions in which they find themselves, they have very high expectations, which are also supported and justified by ethical, moral, and legal reasons.

In order to ensure that patients perceive themselves as capable of making their voices heard, it is necessary first of all to analyze the way in which those who address them directly speak. In order to simplify without trivializing messages that would otherwise be very complex, you’ll want to avoid using technicalities and specialized jargon, to limit oneself to informing without training, and to ignore feedback.

  • Use non-patient-friendly terms (technicalities and specialized jargon): documents full of acronyms and medical terms used too casually, often without explaining them, only confuse and frustrate the potential patient. Ultimately, the key is to ensure that external communication is correct, complete, perhaps pleasant, and above all, understandable.
  • Inform without educating: even in the case of healthcare marketing, relevant, high-quality content can help your organization position itself as a leader (plus: well-written unique content can drive SEO traffic). That’s why not having a blog is undoubtedly a wasted opportunity. A blog is the distinctive voice of a brand, allowing it to engage users and gain authority and credibility (especially if articles answer recurring or unspoken questions). Among the most commonly used content to engage and inform we find, even in healthcare, are videos. The best performing are those that know how to harness the potential of data: Doxee Pvideo®, for example, are personalized, engaging, and interactive. Thanks to their interactive functions and integrated analytics, they help you get to know your patients and support them along their journey, offering a multichannel experience.
  • Ignoring patient reviews: we live in a society where reviews drive virtually every purchase or consumer decision. Responding to patient feedback shows concern for them, strengthens brand reputation within the relevant online community, allows you to exert control over the official narrative (“threatened” by particularly negative reviews), and helps identify patterns and habits that are harmful to the business. A good healthcare marketing strategy not only responds in a timely and professional manner, but also directly encourages patient reviews and testimonials by providing dedicated spaces on its channels for comparison.

3. Underestimating digital channels

In the field of external communication, a very serious mistake that undermines the visibility, newsworthiness, and reliability of a company or a healthcare institution concerns the design of digital channels (website, blog, app), which often tends to underestimate the peculiar psychological dimension of the user-patient experience. People who find themselves having to seek medical, health, or care help tend to be frustrated, anxious, and frightened: dealing with channels that are easy to find, understand, and use can cause immediate relief and form the basis for a lasting relationship of trust. Not using the digital platform is another common marketers mistake. Healthcare marketing will then need to focus on:

  • Building sites that are able to be navigated intuitively. Any digital strategy unquestionably benefits from responsive websites, featuring interesting design and accompanied by interactive elements. Another technological advancement in this area is personalization.
  • Eliminating friction and divergence between different channels, which must be integrated into a cohesive user experience, allowing patients to take full control of their information;
  • Enhancing the mobile experience. The journey of a patient who needs to choose a healthcare provider or monitor the status of their treatment or request information about services and benefits now largely takes place on online channels, and is cadenced by a series of decisions involving multiple digital touchpoints. This is in line with a general trend that has been affecting all production sectors and services for a few years. Even in the healthcare sector, mobile is growing among user preferences and is set to become the virtual place of greatest conversion.

4. Communicate internally in a misaligned way

A successful healthcare marketing project requires the participation of a variety of professionals who must be up-to-date and aligned on content, goals, and communication methodologies. The risk is that internal communication becomes interrupted or produces distorted messages that go beyond the walls of the firm. Internal communication, in fact, is not an end in itself but precedes and defines external communication and has a direct influence on the messages that are then disseminated externally.

For this reason, every department must be aligned on the same guidelines. Otherwise, there is a risk that the message will be somewhat disconnected and that this will also impact external communication and ultimately negatively affect the patient experience. Brand guidelines must therefore be consistent (from visual identity to messaging system to media presence), otherwise the “perceived” organization would end up being unrecognizable and less trustworthy. 

New digital tools can be used extremely effectively to share value systems, business decisions and communication methods, thus minimizing barriers between different business functions: automated platforms to simplify collaboration between different teams, interactive and personalized videos to make internal training more engaging, updated micro sites with content designed specifically for the individual employee.

5. Don’t give marketing the prominence it needs

The fifth point on this list is actually a necessary preamble to what we have written so far. It reiterates a rule that, while it may seem obvious, can never be taken for granted: marketing activities cannot be conceived of as ancillary.

A strategic planning of the various initiatives and an adequate investment with respect to the expected results make it possible to achieve objectives of differentiation and recognizability, keep communication with the client alive, and make it possible to create truly significant patient experiences.

The goal of healthcare marketing, and especially inbound marketing, is to intercept potential patients, create a connection, and build a relationship based on trust and transparency day after day. It is this connection that offers patients the best possible healthcare journey. In the reality in which we live, deeply shaped by digitalization, healthcare marketing cannot disregard the collection and management of data, the knowledge of the desires, the needs and the state of mind of its target. But that’s not enough: patients must be put in a position to monitor and intervene at every stage of the care process, from finding a provider, to organizing treatments, to follow-up with consultation of results.

Poorly designed digital channels, confusing internal communication, or insufficient and misdirected marketing budgets can result in a negative patient experience. Avoiding making the 5 mistakes we’ve mentioned can then help increase patients’ quality of life while simultaneously hitting the business goals of companies and institutions operating in the field.