Reflecting a trend taking hold in many vertical sectors, digital channels will overtake traditional ones in conveying hospitals’ marketing messages, according to a survey of more than 100 hospitals and healthcare systems conducted by Farmington, Connecticut-based Acsys Interactive, an interactive marketing and development company.
The survey shows that such vehicles as print, direct mail, and radio currently dominate the hospital sector, with 66.3% of institutions polled presently employing them for marketing purposes and only 9.9% using digital options like search engine marketing (SEM), display advertising, and social media. However, results point to a turnaround by 2013 wherein 36.6% of hospitals will shift to online marketing and 49.5% evenly dividing their marketing budgets between financial online and offline initiatives. These findings were the same regardless of hospital size.
Additionally, more than half of all respondents said they expect to significantly increase resources in Web video and social media, and 40% consider “personal evangelism” regarding the use of social media “the most effective way” to get their organizations onboard. Respondents also plan to invest more in search engine optimization (SEO), paid search Websites, Web content, mobile marketing endeavors, and patient and physician portals.
"One thing that stood out to us was how much traction video seems to have as an emerging tactic, thanks to the tangible benefits and ROI that it delivers for organizations," says Mike Stutman, Acsys Interactive’s senior vice president of strategy and innovation.
Survey results demonstrate that the long-awaited, but fast-moving shift from traditional to digital marketing is the result of a confluence of three major trends, Stutman adds. One such trend is the rapid proliferation of digital channels, such as social, video and mobile, in hospital marketing. Increased demand for marketers to step outside their traditional roles and improve the customer experience on other platforms, including those that have long-languished (e.g. intranet and patient portals), is also pushing the envelope. So, too, is a desire among hospitals for increased marketing productivity, including the use of integrated marketing and more meaningful, business results-focused measurement.
One of the problems hospitals face, according to the survey, is that most have only one staff member whose sole function is to establish and maintain a digital presence for their institution. Stutman says Acsys is therefore encouraging hospitals to “start today” by implementing plans that dictate how they will prepare for the transition – “one that includes knowledge, a team and resources, the backing of senior leadership, and a roadmap.”