Savvy Healthcare Marketers are Focusing on These Top Digital Trends

healthcare marketing tactics

As a marketer, you have a lot of tactics at your disposal to reach and engage your target audiences. Wish you knew which ones were gaining traction with your peers and competitors? Well, according to Geonetric’s recent Digital Marketing for Healthcare survey, healthcare marketers are picking up email marketing, blogs, Pinterest and content marketing in 2014.

So let’s see why these tactics are topping the digital marketing charts:

  • Consumers want more personalized messaging and email marketing is a great way to send more targeted messages. After languishing in the shadow of social media up-and-comers in recent years, email marketing will be added by an astounding 15% of health systems in 2014.
  • Consumers (and Google!) want fresh content and blogs are a great way to go. Frequent updates, strong SEO and a casual voice makes this format more engaging for health consumers and more sharable to boot!
  • Consumers want sharable content and Pinterest is a great way share stories in a visual way. According to the survey, 48% of hospital respondents currently use Pinterest, with (10%) indicting they plan to have it in the next 6 months.
  • Marketers want measurement and digital channels make it easier to see what’s working – allowing health systems to be more nimble with their marketing.

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Love It or Hate It, 2014 is the Year for Content

Perhaps no item was more contentious in the results from our recent Healthcare Digital Marketing Survey than content. Hospitals love their content or they hate their content or their feelings about their content are… complex. Too much content. Too little content. Their content is too long or too static or frankly spends too much time talking about things that visitors don’t care about.

What survey respondents seem to want is Goldilocks content – not too hard or too soft, too hot or too cold. Content that’s just right.

And they want to find it now, because content is a bigger priority than ever before!

Certainly, this is driven in no small part by changes at Google over the past year. I’m inclined to also believe that healthcare organizations understand that providing useful content is the key to building a valuable relationship with the consumers that they serve.

What’s the Most Valuable Digital Marketing Tool Available to Health Systems Today?


“Our website – but you must advertise it!” according to one respondent from Geonetric’s recent Healthcare Digital Marketing Survey.

And he isn’t alone. 89% of respondents will use their websites for service line promotion in 2014. While the website serves as the destination, the “build it and they will come” school of digital marketing has gone by the wayside. Digital marketers have realized that a broader set of promotional tools are needed to connect the destination website with consumers.

Permission-based marketing has been the name of the game in recent years with much attention both inside healthcare and across other industries paid to the benefits of social media engagement. Nearly all healthcare organizations are using Facebook (99%), YouTube (94%) and Twitter (86%) in 2014. After languishing in the shadow of social media tools, email marketing is seeing big growth in 2014 as well (up 15% to 82% of organizations)!

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Everybody’s Doin’ It

black and white construction crane with scaffolding

Or almost everybody. Overhauling their website, that is.

Yep, virtual cranes are dotting the Internet landscape these days. In our recent research with healthcare organizations about their digital efforts, nearly a quarter completed an online overhaul in 2013 (24%) with more than twice that number either in the process of redesigning or in the planning stages (41% and 19%, respectively).

That’s a lot of construction activity. More importantly, however, is what do health systems hope to accomplish in their redesigns and why are so many of them doing this now?

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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Digital Marketing In Healthcare, But Were Afraid To Ask!

Survey eBook Cover

I’m very excited to announce our new eBook – Digital Marketing in Healthcare, which outlines the findings from Geonetric’s recent survey of 250 healthcare organizations!

If you are involved in the Web, digital marketing, advertising or social media in healthcare or if you manage or support people who are, this report will provide critical intelligence to help your organization to be more competitive online, such as:

  • What do your competitors spend on digital?
  • How are organizations like yours staffing their digital marketing efforts?
  • What capabilities are healthcare organizations adding to the online mix this year?
  • What digital marketing tools do they find most valuable?
  • Is anyone actually using Vine?

You’ll find these insights and much more right here!

Healthcare Marketing Takeaways from Google’s “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth”

Retail powerhouse Proctor and Gamble figured out a bit of marketing magic. They uncovered the moment that mattered the most to their consumers: when they stood in front of the store shelf and decided what to buy. Proctor and Gamble termed this the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) and they spent a lot of time, energy (and money!) focused on in-store displays.

Google decided to study this process. They wanted to see where influence took place and at what point shoppers moved from undecided to decided. Google uncovered that there is a step before the FMOT – and they named it the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT).

ZMOT describes the time when consumers go online and research the product, read reviews and watch product videos – actions that, according to Google, more than 88% of U.S. consumers perform.

It’s easy to picture consumers in their ZMOT – researching which big screen to buy for the big game or which resort to stay at on vacation. Today ZMOT is a powerful force in decision making. Heck, you’d likely feel uncomfortable making a big decision without doing some online research first.

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Clients Still Satisfied? Check.

Client Satisfaction Graph
We did it again! The results of this quarter’s client satisfaction survey (and yes, we do it every three months) shows that our clients continue to value Geonetric as their Web partner. Last quarter, we hit an all-time high overall score of 5.32 on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). This quarter, we maintained that impressive score.

We have a pretty lofty goal for response rate. We need 70% participation, every survey. And you know what? We’ve consistently exceed that goal for more than two years. This time around, 73% of our clients participated in the survey and 92% of those respondents gave us a 5.0 or higher overall score!

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Geonetric’s Top Five Webinars, Blog Posts, and Tweets of 2013

Happy 2014 From Geonetric

Before looking ahead sometimes it’s important to learn from the past. Taking a look at the popular topics from webinars, blog posts and tweets from the past year provides a snap shot at past trends. Content marketing, social media and search engine optimization continue to be hot topics for healthcare marketers. Geonetric will be here throughout 2014 to keep you informed through our GeoVoices blog, free monthly webinarseHealth Spotlight eNewsletter, eHealth articleswhite papers, eBooks and on Twitter.

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5 Social Media Trends that Will Change How Healthcare Marketers Approach Strategy in 2014

5 Social Media Trends for Healthcare Marketers

Ninety-three percent of marketers will be maintaining or increasing how much they are spending on social media advertising in 2014, according to a new report from eMarketer. But where should healthcare marketers be focusing their attentions to get the most bang for their buck, not to mention their valuable time?

Social media strategy in 2014 will shift focus away from increasing the number of likes/followers your brand has to engaging your target audience through organic interactions. Marketers will need to adapt quickly across many social media channels in order to incorporate micro-video, image-centric content and native advertising into the mix. And finally, if you haven’t built out your brand’s Google+ profile yet you are already behind.

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What Can Food Network Teach Healthcare Marketers About Branding?


Over the course of 15 years, Food Network has gone from a niche boutique channel to a mainstream entertainment network. As healthcare marketers, we are facing a similar transition. Where once our organizations were focused on the niche business of treating the sick and injured, we’re now playing a larger role in the lives of our patients – we work with our communities to create healthier environments, we work proactively with our patients to keep them well, and we help them manage their conditions and support their recovery after they’ve gone home.

In an interview with Food Network’s Alton Brown, two network heavyweights, Bob Tuschman, senior vice president programming and general manager and Susie Fogelson, vice president of marketing, had a candid conversation about the internal workings of this evolution.

What can the experience of this entertainment network teach us about the path that we see ahead?

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How Does Your Website Stack Up?

surveyblogIs your hospital website ahead of your peers or are you falling behind? Are you understaffed and underbudgeted? Are your competitors push into digital marketing leaving you in the dust?

The one question I hear most often from healthcare Web professionals is “How are we doing compared to everyone else”?
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How Do We Get Beyond Our Malkovich Biases?


The most common place where technological solutions go wrong is that they’re built for the person building them and not for the person who will be using them.

Where teams fail is not that they don’t intend for the solution to work for the target audience but rather an inability to recognize they are not a member of that target audience. This is not as obvious as you might think. If you’re building a website for cancer patients, the challenge is not that you believe yourself to be a cancer patient. Rather, the gap is in realizing an actual cancer patient is going to use the tool differently than you will.

This phenomenon has a name – The Malkovich Bias: The tendency to believe that everyone uses technology the same way that you do.

The name was first shared by Andres Glusman of in his blog and has, apparently, worked its way quickly into the psyche of the user experience (UX) community (you can listen to Glusman talking about the concept and UX testing in this video). The concept refers to the movie Being John Malkovich. At some point in the film, just about every character gets the opportunity to be Malkovich, but even given the same tool, they use Malkovich in entirely different ways.

We see the same thing in technology. For example, I use Twitter for content curation and to engage with others at tradeshows and conferences. I’ve been on long enough to know that others use it to crowd source their breakfast menu or as a form of very public group chat. I couldn’t imagine using it that way. Likewise, following 2,000+ people, I couldn’t imagine using the original SMS-based interface, but there are many users without SmartPhones or regular Internet access for whom Twitter is a text message-based solution today. They use these tools very differently from the way I do. Point is, if I’m planning to reach them with Twitter, the way that I use the tool doesn’t really matter.

So how do we get beyond our Malkovich biases?

  • Realize that the bias is there: First and foremost, we need to actively question our assumptions when working on a project. If you work in healthcare and spend a lot of time online there are many things that you could throw at a user which won’t make any sense to them at all.
  • NIHITO: For those of you not familiar with Lean improvement strategies, NIHITO stands for Nothing Interesting Happens In The Office. In other words, get out and spend some time with your customers/end users. And not just once, but regularly.
  • The only thing that matters is what actual users actually do: You look at a piece of technology and know exactly how it works and how you use it. You can even run tests in a usability lab to get an outside perspective. Sometimes even the best designed products can be misunderstood.
  • Iterate on innovation: We all try to check things off our to-do list and call them done. Real innovation requires risk taking, experimentation, measurement and adjustment.

Where have you found your Malkovich biases? How do you overcome them? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Geonetric Forums: Better Together


I like to believe I bring insightful perspective when consulting with healthcare organizations and in my speaking, writing, social media and blogging activities. What I bring to the table is insight that spans all organizations. I see how different healthcare professionals approach similar problems, when they succeed and fail, and, with a little luck, can provide some thoughts as to why certain outcomes happen.

What I can’t bring to the table is the first-person perspective. I’m not the person in the hospital working to move that initiative forward. I’m not the one navigating the internal politics, receiving the angry phone calls from physicians, or selling the health system’s brand. It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve worked in a hospital and I’ve used up my war stories.

Fortunately, I work with a truly incredible group of healthcare organizations. The wisdom and depth of experience I find when talking with healthcare professionals is as valuable as the perspective I bring to the conversation. Likely more so.

That’s why I regularly co-present topics with our clients and engage with them when I write. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to so many conferences and tradeshows throughout the year.

I’ve recently been taking my conversations a step further. I’ve been putting a group of healthcare professionals in a room together, introducing a topic and then getting out of the way. These sessions are one part focus group, one part mentoring, and one part group therapy session. And they’re truly wonderful!

We held the first such session back in April at the Geonetric eHealth Symposium, our annual client event. We gathered the audience in peer groups with the thinking that the issues faced by smaller community hospitals and specialty centers often look different from those of large, complex health systems with many moving parts and a regional reach. To my surprise, this was not only a fascinating session for me to facilitate and watch, but also the most highly rated session of the symposium!

This week I get to do this again with a virtual twist. We’re holding our first Geonetric Forum. During these quarterly conference calls, our clients will again be divided into peer groups and will meet to share critical trends in healthcare and digital communications.

We all get tied up in our day-to-day challenges. Participation in this community of expertise is a wonderful way to take a step back and think strategically about the challenges we face. I’m very excited to be a part of the experience and to see what I’ll learn.

And who knows, maybe there will be a blog post in there somewhere.

Stop Gambling with Your Marketing Dollars

Campaigns.inddMarketing channels and audience behaviors are evolving rapidly. Traditional marketing campaigns take months to implement and even longer to see tangible value. And they’re much too rigid to work in today’s fast-paced marketing environment.

Geonetric approaches marketing differently. We launch Responsive Campaigns ― campaigns that not only help healthcare marketers prove their value, but also solve many of the flaws inherent in traditional campaigns.

With Responsive Campaigns, you begin with the results. The first step is to establish the goal and determine how to measure success. You create value right away ― you don’t waste time planning and brainstorming. You execute an arsenal of tactics in short iterations ― each week, you plan and create new work, immediately test it by taking it “live,” evaluate the results, and make rapid adjustments. You conduct many small experiments and adjust your decisions as new data is available. And your focus always remains on the results and ROI.

To learn more about Geonetric’s Responsive Campaigns, check out our free white paper – Stop Gambling with Your Marketing Dollars: A Guide to Geonetric’s Responsive Campaigns.

Why Would You Try to “Cheat Death”?

At first I thought it was a joke. But no. As part of the re-branding effort of Gaston Memorial Hospital to CaroMont Regional Medical Center, they also launched an edgy new tag line:


The re-branding was done by local ad agency Immortology which did nothing to convince me that the announcement in early April wasn’t just a big April fool’s joke. In fact the announcement included employees unveiling “Cheat Death” t-shirts and signing a pledge to help local residents lead healthier lives.

The backlash from the campaign was severe and the campaign was taken down within a few days — ultimately leading to the dismissal of the CEO two weeks later.

Honestly, I feel bad for the CaroMont team here. They were trying to be bold and a little controversial to get attention. Something that, quite frankly, we see too little of in healthcare marketing. Furthermore, the slogan overshadowed what appears to be a serious program intended to promote wellness and stave off disease. Again, a step that many healthcare organizations know that we need to be committing ourselves to and one that more than a few organizations give little more than lip service.

But it all went bad over two words: “Cheat Death.”

What can we learn from this?

For starters, healthcare is a unique space from a marketing perspective. More and more provider organizations are moving to agencies with big brand credentials over those dedicated to healthcare. But those agencies often don’t understand how their messages will play with a healthcare audience. We have an agency involved here that, according to their website, “…specializes in creating hard to ignore and impossible to forget solutions…” The campaign certainly lived up to their brand promise!

Now, if you’re putting a message out that you intend to be controversial, don’t be surprised that it’s controversial. I think CaroMont could have really embraced the controversy and stood by their decision if only for a week or two. This would have allowed them to use the publicity to push a message about improving wellness and working to reduce the incidence of disease. By caving almost immediately, the team looked incompetent.

Also use the Internet for some quick, inexpensive and very effective marketing research. For example you should Google your proposed taglines. In this case, the slogan wasn’t particularly original. Some of you may recall a similar outcry when the identical slogan was adopted by juice maker Pom in 2010. Certainly a quick Internet search would have turned this up.


Pom was pushing the limits and didn’t immediately back down. It made the short-lived campaign memorable. Maybe a drink maker who is regularly chided for making overzealous health claims about its product can get away with that in a way that a hospital can’t.

But there’s no reason not to think that the tagline would stir up controversy.

Perhaps the campaign was more fundamentally flawed than I’m giving it credit for. We’ve been talking more and more about the inherent risk in investing months and months – along with many thousands of dollars – into big splash branding campaigns.

The new tagline was really for their new wellness campaign. As a campaign message, they could easily have tested the message in the market using online promotion while maintaining flexibility to tweak things on the fly.

In fact, following an approach like Geonetric’s Responsive Campaignssm is the best way to avoid this sort of disaster using a very dynamic, results-driven approach that utilizes actual user behavior and feedback in optimizing the effectiveness of the communications throughout a campaign cycle.

I hope that the take-away from this isn’t that we should avoid being bold and memorable. That we shouldn’t take risks in our advertising. Healthcare marketing needs a real shot in the arm. While this effort may have missed the mark, that doesn’t mean that we should step back to only do what’s comfortable and safe.