Guide to Direct-to-Patient Marketing in 2022
In the past, healthcare providers, medical technology, and medical device manufacturers have primarily directed marketing efforts toward health professionals – implementing marketing strategies aimed at converting those professionals into product advocates. With the rise in access to technology and educational resources a few clicks away, patients have disrupted this marketing strategy. This disruption requires marketers and agencies to shift their efforts into creating omnichannel strategies built around direct-to-patient marketing.
Decision-making around health matters can often be very personal, so it should be no surprise that patients are taking a more active role. In fact, according to a study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet& American Life Project, around 72% of U.S. users that access the internet have gone online in the past year to specifically search for health-related information. While physicians play a key role as gatekeepers to marketing success, patients have more and more say in their care and treatment preferences. Adopting a direct-to-patient marketing strategy is paramount in having a more direct impact on the sales funnel for organizations that offer treatments, med tech, and med devices.
If you are about to begin considering a direct-to-patient marketing campaign, here are some tips to help steer your strategy for maximum engagement.
Simple Direct to Patient Strategy
When looking to develop a direct-to-patient strategy, a great starting point is answering the 3 basic questions of who, what, and where. Who is included in the target audience? What messaging aligns with the target audience? And finally, where are the target audiences located and where will the strategy be executed? Below we dissect each of these topics to help build out an effective omnichannel direct-to-patient strategy.
Identifying the Who
A strategy that targets everyone targets no one, leading to messaging that falls flat and ineffective campaigns. When identifying the target audiences for direct-to-patient marketing strategies, making assumptions can be a costly mistake. It’s good practice to take the time to do market research to understand the diversity of the patient population and mine audience details. Target audience discovery can be done through:
- Focus groups or one-on-one interviews with existing patient populations. These interview sessions can lead to critical insights through candid conversations that are often missed with more general surveying efforts.
- Send out questionnaires. If you have access to bulk mail or email lists, this is a cost-efficient way to mine data.
- Talk to employees that engage with consumer patients regularly.
- Check website and social media analytics (if digital channels are already engaged).
The goal of gathering as much patient background data as possible is to remove any guesswork from crafting target personas. Aim to generate around 3-5 patient personas to lay a solid foundation for the strategy framework. Personas should contain the below information at a minimum:
- Role in the treatment decision process
Determining the What: Messaging and Content
With a clear vision of who the target audience is, marketers can then establish the most effective messaging and content that resonates. Marketers should begin by mapping out the patient journey to determine what content is applicable in moving the patient population from awareness to action. Persona data is critical in revealing sticking points within the patient journey that marketers can tap into for content.
Patient populations turn to scour the web to understand and learn about their condition and explore possible treatment options. To better organize the type of content, strategists should create content pillars around general themes or topics and identify where the content falls.
It’s important to remember who the direct-to-patient campaign is talking to. Content should be digestible with messaging that is empathetic and easy to read. It should also be informative and conversational, talking and guiding the patient through the patient journey. Using heavy medical jargon and content full of terminology is more effective when speaking with health professionals compared to the patient population.
After having set parameters for content and messaging, a strategy should determine how that content is delivered. Here are a few content delivery vehicles:
- Social media
- Case studies
- Engagement quizzes
Locating the Where: Meeting on Common Ground
During the persona development phase, marketers should identify the key channels that target audiences’ access. After all, what’s the point in developing good content and messaging if it never reaches the intended audience? A direct-to-patient marketing strategy needs to meet target audiences where they are – delivering the right message to the right people.
According to Pew Research Center, 93% of American adults use the internet signifying the importance of developing an omnichannel marketing strategy that extends reach beyond traditional healthcare marketing means, such as OOH and direct mail, and into digital tactics like:
- Google Pay Per Click (PPC)
- Display banners
- Organic social media
- Paid social media
- Landing pages
- Digital media buy
It’s important to keep in mind that based on the channel, content may need to be altered to optimize for the user experience.
Developing, implementing, and seeing an ROI on direct-to-patient strategies is a long-term endeavor. And while this isn’t an inclusive list of all the questions a direct-to-patient marketing strategy should answer, taking the time to answer these 3 questions will help steer a holistic strategy - allowing developers to build well-optimized websites, marketers to run effective ads and display banners, and content creators to create intelligent social media that cultivates a brand/patient relationship with maximum exposure.
Creating an effective, omnichannel direct-to-patient marketing strategy is no small feat and that’s why it’s important to collaborate with agencies like ParkerWhite. At ParkerWhite, we live and breathe health, med tech, medical device, and lifestyle marketing. Our team of branding and marketing professionals provides the expertise and guidance to help build strategies that boost customer experiences and ensure competitive market differentiation. From strategy to execution, we’ve been partnering with clients for over 25 years to understand their business, people, and goals to provide practical solutions that deliver long-term success. Contact us to start your direct-to-patient marketing campaign.
Direct-to-Patient Marketing FAQs
What Are the 4 P’s of Healthcare Marketing?
- Product – Don’t only focus on the physical characteristics of a device. A prospective customer will care more about its unique selling point over a competitor. Highlight this across your website and other online assets.
- Place – The more obvious part of “place” is the distribution channels for your treatment option, med tech, or medical device to reach the end consumer. But let’s dig a bit deeper into this. If your focus is on local markets, use keywords on your web pages and blogs that mention the specific areas. If a patient searches “medical device companies near me,” make sure you’re the first to show up.
- Price – We can assume you’ve already determined the price you’ll be using. Now your job is to justify what customers will pay by relaying the value they’ll receive. Get their mind off cost and on the “after” of using your product via your social media and blogs. Including social proof and testimonials can be extremely impactful on target audiences.
- Promotion – This should answer how awareness is being created and where. Promotion is done both in traditional methods, such as flyers, OOH, and direct mail campaigns, as well as digital means, like SEO, websites, and social media.
How To Market Directly to Patients?
Unique to the healthcare industry, empathy should be at the forefront of your online messaging. The medical world is the only place where all customers are in need of healing. Patient populations should also be able to see themselves within the campaigns, reflected in both messaging and imagery.Seeking out a marketing agency partner that has expertise in direct-to-patient campaigns is a great step to take.