Healthcare Marketers Shifting Priorities

Nearly 36 percent of healthcare marketers have experienced layoffs within their team due to COVID-19, with another 41 percent having had team members reallocated to other priorities. Fewer than 23 percent have seen no changes, according to a survey from tech firm Binary Fountain.

Marketing priorities have also changed. Before COVID-19. nearly half (46 percent) said content marketing initiatives were their primary focus, followed by email marketing (40 percent), paid advertising (34 percent), managing social media channels (33 percent) and crisis communication (33 percent). McLean, Va.-based Binary Fountain surveyed 304 healthcare marketers between April 15-18.

Perhaps predictably, crisis communication has jumped to the forefront, with 48 percent of healthcare marketers calling it a top marketing initiative. Changes in staff levels due to the contagion, as well as modifications to in-person visit protocols, moved updating online directories to the second most important initiative, with 34 percent indicating it is a top focus.

Email marketing, as an effective means of disseminating a variety of safety, appointment and treatment information, was selected as an important initiative by 33 percent of respondents. Content marketing, necessitated by information about the epidemic, was ranked fourth (32 percent) while 28 percent listed managing social media channels.

Between diminished healthcare provider ranks and the need to control patient flow, paid advertising to generate patient acquisition has not been as important as it was pre-COVID-19. Respondents reported a drop of nearly 40 percent in media spending on paid advertising, as well as a 37 percent drop in contractors, such as advertising and design consultants. Spending on team members has fallen by 36 percent, and digital marketing project funding and agency spending have been cut by 28 percent each.

Spending priorities will similarly shift as the COVID-19 crisis is resolved. Just more than half of healthcare marketers anticipate generating telehealth initiatives, while 43 percent will be putting money toward physician directories and online appointments. There won’t be a rush back to paid media and ads. Only 36 percent will be resuming spending on Google, pay-per-click programs on social media, and the like.

Another 36 percent responded that they will invest in brand awareness campaigns, with a similar amount indicating they will invest in email marketing. The respondent population included managers (42 percent), directors (17 percent), C-suite executives (16 percent), and vice presidents and other executives (25 percent).