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In an earlier post, nationally recognized healthcare marketer Reed Smith teased the need for healthcare marketers to drive engagement through precise targeting. Smith is a 20-year veteran of healthcare marketing and digital innovation who serves as Jarrard Inc.’s vice president of digital strategy. We asked him to get deeper into what precision-based execution means and some specific tactics for giving it a go.

Jarrard Inc.: Explain what you mean by precision-based execution

Reed Smith: It’s about avoiding broad digital marketing campaigns. Of course, sometimes you do need to go broad with, say a general brand awareness campaign. But for the most part, when you’re thinking about service line marketing, service line growth or patient acquisition, you need to be going after very specific people. And some of the typical approaches – like running radio ads – may not make sense.

JI: Has the need for or anything about this rifle approach changed over the past few months?

RS: The last eight months have created some interesting nuances. Think about the flu shot. We’re focusing on everyone getting a flu shot going into the winter, so that’s tens, hundreds of millions of people who need it. But providers can still be very specific about the messaging they’re using. It’s not, “Hey, everyone needs to get the flu shot.” It’s differentiating between and speaking directly to moms with kids at homes or empty-nesters or teens.

All of that is going to weigh into where you get the shot, the message that you hear convincing you to get it, the medium used to deliver that message – is it a video or a photo an ad on the local public radio station?

JI: We also know the messenger is critical. How do you combine the right precision-based message with the right messenger?

RS: With digital tools, we have a true opportunity to bring that message to the right people via the right messenger in fairly straightforward ways.

People want to hear from physicians, nurses, therapists, APPs and other caregivers. Once provider organizations have identified those people, digital channels lend themselves to expertise and thought leadership. Think about all the live content we see on Instagram or Facebook or YouTube. People are already accustomed to these types of environments because they’re already doing webinars and taking to other leaders through Zoom.

JI: But are people going to see that content?

RS: Historically, we’ve seen mediocre organic performance on social channels. Healthcare marketing has had to push pay-for-performance if we wanted anyone to see our content. But a side effect of COVID-19 is that we’ve gotten a lot more traffic to our sites because people are looking for medical information they can trust, and providers have been sharing it. We’re seeing a wave of organic traffic. Now we need to leverage that opportunity.

JI: Whether a provider feels behind or keeping pace with digital, how do they grab the opportunity you just mentioned? For example, do they just start doing Facebook live or take a more measured approach?

RS: Historically I’ve been a heavy proponent of “proceed until apprehended.” But it’s important to put some nuance on that. When it comes to digital marketing there’s value in trying things out, beta testing new approaches to figure out how useful they’ll be. You mentioned Facebook live. It’s hard to understand the ins and outs and how useful it’ll be without just using it.

But ultimately, you need to think through a strategy and a plan before you get too far down the road. Healthcare marketers need to answer the question about what a new tactic means for the organization – both strategically and tactically. The other issue to keep in mind is the politics. “If I do something with one physician, does that affect another physician?” Overall, though, if you have an understand of what’s going on across the organization and have built enough credibility to get permission to test and tinker, it’s great to get into the lab and figure out what works.

JI: What else have providers learned over the past few months?

RS: What I’ve found interesting is the expectations around virtual care and other alternative delivery methods. We’ve talked a lot about telehealth and how people have experienced it and loved it. But think, too, about drive-through testing for COVID-19. That’s all in place so drive-through flu shots wouldn’t be a stretch, right? So, organizations have an opportunity because the baseline has been reset.

If you want figure out how your organization stacks up when it comes to digital maturity, check out our 28-question, 15-minute Digital Maturity Survey. You’ll get a complimentary scorecard and benchmark against industry averages.

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