The digital advertising landscape has evolved significantly over the past decade. In the past, having a strong, multichannel approach to digital campaign planning and execution might have been enough — especially in industries like healthcare and pharmaceuticals that were slower to adopt digital marketing and advertising best practices.Now, however, marketing teams across the industry are intent on taking full advantage of the digital channels available to them. To stand out from the crowd, brands need to not only ensure they’re reaching the right audience but also connecting with that audience.Turning an ad exposure into a connection with a patient or healthcare provider that’s likely to further engage with the brands requires precision and personalization. Brands need to hone in on the wealth of consumer and channel data to deliver ads tailored to their target audience.That means taking into account factors like an audience segment’s specific information needs and education level, their priorities and pain points, or even something as simple as the time of day that they’re likely to encounter the ads served on a particular channel.In light of that, understanding the nuances of each digital advertising channel is more crucial than ever if brands want to plan, execute, and optimize successful campaigns. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the unique audience attributes — such as usage patterns and search intent — that healthcare marketers can use to shape their channel strategy.
How Audience Attributes Should Inform Your Channel Strategy
To tailor ad campaigns effectively, healthcare and pharma marketers need to have a deep understanding of the nuances of different digital advertising channels. Each channel can be used to target audience segments based on specific attributes.Most often, we think of common demographic data — factors like age, gender, race, or income level — but there are so many more ways to define audience segments. The more specifically marketers define audience segments, the more precisely they can tailor their channel strategy to match the needs of that specific cohort of patients.That’s incredibly important for healthcare marketing, an industry in which the target “consumer” is really a patient with a complex set of medical history, insurance payer details, and diagnoses. And unlike in other sectors, the conversion brands are looking for is often the patient going to visit their doctor — an action that can take much longer to come about.That means matching channels to the desired action post-ad exposure is even more vital. Different campaigns will have different purposes — while some might be focused on building brand awareness or demand generation, others could focus on those conversion actions (e.g., filling out a lead-gen form, visiting a doctor, fulfilling a prescription, etc.).Usage patterns and search intent that audience segments exhibit across these different channels should influence the messaging and creative elements of the campaigns. For example, search engine marketing (SEM) ads can be optimized with keywords and compelling ad copy that directly addresses a user’s specific health questions. Social media advertising can leverage captivating visuals, storytelling, and interactive elements to create engaging and shareable content.At the end of the day, tailoring the message, creative assets, and copy to suit the platform and the audience's preferences, and the reason they are visiting the social platform, search engine results, or is key to capturing their attention and maximizing engagement.
Leveraging the Right Digital Advertising Channel
Let’s dive into three of the most common paid channels and discuss how to determine when to use each in your healthcare ad campaign: SEM, paid social, and banner ads.Search Engine Marketing (SEM) ads:
SEM ads often offer the opportunity to reliably capture patients actively looking for specific healthcare solutions. Search overall — whether paid or organic traffic — provides a significant look into the health questions on consumers’ minds. (After all, Google has previously reported that health-related searches account for as much as 7% of its traffic.)On the other hand, social media platforms provide an opportunity for brand awareness and engagement, giving healthcare and pharma companies opportunities to educate and connect with their target audience at earlier stages of the buyer’s journey.Paid social:
Search engines aren’t the only place consumers go to look for health recommendations, answers, or resources — they also turn to social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn. But unlike with SEM, these users can’t always be grouped based on directly relevant indicators like search intent.Instead, marketers can use data-driven insights to precisely target potential patients or healthcare professionals based on their age, location, interests, and on-platform behavior.Display advertising:
Unlike SEM and paid social, display advertising can reach users across a much wider range of web properties. Rather than being confined to a brand’s owned channel or a specific social platform, brands can use multiple publisher networks and demand-side platforms (DSPs) to deliver display ads across a range of partner web properties.Depending on the partners or programmatic tools used, brands can adjust how their ads appear based on content topics, website audience demographics, and even past user behavior. Supplemented alongside other, more narrowly used tools like SEM and paid social, display advertising can be a versatile tool that allows brands to scale campaign reach and effectiveness — whether the goal is increasing brand awareness, conversion, or even customer retention.
Using the Right Metrics to Optimize for ROI by Channel
At the end of the day, optimizing your campaign strategy and channel mix should do one of two things:
Give you more insight into your audience and how to best advertise to them
Increase the return on investment (ROI) of your campaign and overall brand performance.
To achieve either of these goals, healthcare marketers need to have specific metrics in mind when tracking campaign performance over time. And even if the ads are part of the same campaign, the most important metrics to pay attention to may differ based on the specific channel, campaign goal, and audience segment.At OpenHuddle, we understand the importance of thoroughly understanding the context surrounding your campaign — including your brand’s unique business goals and the attributes of the audiences you serve.Applying that context to campaign execution and measurement is key to reaching the right audience — through the right channel — and making the most of every impression. Contact us to learn more about how we help brands devise and implement channel strategies designed for success at scale.
OpenHuddle (2022). Tailoring Healthcare Campaigns for HCPs and Patients
Wolters Kluwer (2019). Audience segmentation: Four things every healthcare marketer needs to know
Alyssa Kopelman, Healthline Media (2021). Why ‘Search Intent’ Should Fuel Your Digital Strategy
Christina Farr, CNBC (2019). Your Google searches can be used to predict when you’re about to go to the emergency room, researchers find
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