Day 7: Swans of HITMC Swimming into 2021
It’s Day 7 in our annual 12 Days of Christmas posts and I’m looking at marketing predictions for the New Year. 2020 of course, gave us a black swan event with the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s hope for all us that this black swan swims away and business resumes to some sense of normalcy.
So, what will 2021 bring to the our world of marketing? And will you be swimming with the swans or going against the stream? I reached out to fellow colleagues from the Health IT Marketing and PR Community, better known as HITMC, to get their predictions on what we’ll see and experience next year. If you’re unfamiliar with HITMC, you can learn more here about the annual event, and the community at large. And be sure to follow the community on Twitter at #HITMC. I learn a LOT each year from this event, and 2020’s virtual conference was no exception so put this one on your calendar (whether virtual or in-person).
Prediction 1: In Person Conferences
John Lynn, Founder of Healthcare Scene (@HealthcareScene): My prediction for 2021 is that already established communities that have a useful education component that is valued by those communities will continue to largely be virtual in 2021 and provide a great service to their members and attendees. Where education is important, virtual will actually reach more people than an in person event. 2021 will be a hard year for those looking to grow a conference and we’re unlikely to see any even reasonably large (ie. 50+) in person events until the 2nd half of 2021 and even then many company budgets will make in-person conferences in 2021 a challenge. While in-person conferences will be tough in 2021, there is going to be a real appetite for people to connect and engage person to person. I expect we’ll see a mix of unique virtual events that allow people to network with other people and then some smaller in person and even some ad hoc events where people come together in smaller groups to satisfy our need for connection.
Prediction 2: Physician Marketing
Michael Roberts, Marketing Director for Health Connective (@hlthconnective): I think that provider groups have to be aware of the continued trend towards the diversification of marketing and communication channels. For a few different reasons, people are getting tired of some social media platforms, and new ones are getting more attention all of a sudden. Add to that the fact that DuckDuckGo keeps growing in popularity, Apple may be making a search engine, and Google has some legal issues to face. We may slowly see search start changing, as well. I’m sure it will be a slow process, but provider groups need to regularly reevaluate their communications strategy to see if they’re matching up with their patients.
Jared Johnson, Founder, Ultera Digital (@ulteradigital): I think provider marketers will step up and seize their opportunity to own the digital consumer experience. As they understand the insights available to them from their marketing data, they will get to know their consumers better than ever. This will lead them to come to the table with more data-driven recommendations for everything from new hybrid service lines to digital engagement strategies. Marketers who do this will find themselves demonstrating more value to their organizations and being recognized for their leadership in a time when nothing is predictable anymore.
Prediction 3: Hospital Marketing
Matt Dickson, VP of Product, Strategy, and General Manager, Stericycle Communication Solutions (@StericycleComms): The role of the marketing department within a hospital or health system will be more important than ever in 2021 as the team takes on the role of a beacon for disseminating healthcare information and knowledge to the public, as well as monitoring channels for misinformation. Tailored engagement through communications to patients from their providers is critical in establishing credibility during the pandemic, with patients likely turn to the steadfast voice of their hospital or provider for guidance.
Marketing and communication teams will need to showcase hospitals and health systems as a trusted resource, especially as patients are confused or uncertain about where to find reliable information around the pandemic and the upcoming possibility of being vaccinated against COVID-19. It is increasingly important for health systems to remain the voice of reason by proactively providing current and easily digestible information on vaccine distribution and protocols and reiterating organization social distancing and precautions to keep patients safe.
Health systems must also have a strong social media presence to break through the noise and dispel misinformation that users can obtain through social postings and other media. They can’t control what is being said on, for example, Facebook groups or fringe conspiracy theory sites regarding misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, but they can certainly closely monitor activity on their own social media pages, mentions, and comments to ensure all information and conversations are factual. As a trusted resource, health systems should act to empower patients to make informed decisions based on factual information.
Prediction 4: Digital Marketing
Jennifer Jennings, Vice President of Anderson Interactive (@Ander_Inter): As we roll into 2021, digital marketing will be at the forefront of most healthcare organizations’ communications strategies. COVID-19 not only changed the way healthcare is delivered but also how we communicate and market to the industry. In the absence of in-person marketing touch points like traditional events with booths and printed collateral leave-behinds for sales meetings, digital marketing has expanded, and will only become more prevalent in 2021. Many companies are already looking at how to become more sophisticated in their digital outreach efforts such as social media, email marketing, podcasting, SEO, video and pay-per-click and/or paid social advertising.
Certainly, none of these digital marketing strategies are new trends to the industry, but they will play a significantly larger role over the next year. We’ve seen this all in 2020, and a theme that will continue to be engrained into all marketers is the need to adapt quickly and precisely as the industry and audience changes. 2021 will undoubtedly not be a year of “business as usual,” but it offers us the opportunity to grow and expand outside of traditional boundaries of “what has worked in years past.” I, myself, look forward to that challenge.
Prediction 5: Webinars
Jane Bogue, Chief Growth Officer, Xtelligent Media (@janeinmaine): With the onset of COVID-19, virtual events and webinars exploded, as companies looked to replace their in-person marketing activities and goals. With the continued question around when live events will be back in everyone’s marketing mix, virtual events and webinars will continue to be a viable option in 2021 for our clients. The market continues to be responsive to educational content that drives true value for the attendee. We’re seeing strong audience participation on our stand alone webinar programs and certain topics are driving record breaking attendance.
Prediction 6: Email Marketing
Colin Hung, CMO & Editor, Healthcare IT Today (@hcittoday): Every year we hear about how email is dead and that no one responds to email anymore. While it’s certainly true that the effectiveness of email has declined, it would be a mistake to completely eliminate it from your 2021 marketing plans. Why? Email continues to be one of the easiest ways for people who work at different organizations to remain in contact with one another. With improved sentiment analysis, better website tracking and more information available about buying behaviors, highly targeted and personalized emails that match the way I buy/consume information could be a hidden gem of 2021. Having said that, no more batch and blast emails please.
Prediction 7: Voice marketing
And last, but certainly not least, I’ll make some 2021 predictions for Voice Marketing. Voice marketing is loosely defined as using tactics to reach a target audience through voice-enabled digital devices and recognizes that we are moving away from a tap, type and swipe culture to speech. Voice marketing presupposes that your company, brand and messaging all have an audio identity harmonized to strike a chord with your intended audience. For 2021, I see the 3 primary components of voice marketing gaining a stronger foothold in healthcare including:
- Sonic branding – how your brand sounds (think Netflix, HBO). The sonic logo conveys a meaning, mood, personality of your brand.
- Recorded audio like podcasts and streaming radio interviews and commercials will continue to expand. Based on an annual research report called The Infinite Dial (published each March by Edison) there is no let up in interest for either streaming radio or podcasts.
- VSO – voice search optimization which is how companies optimize their content (a website, a location, etc.) so that it can be found in spoken searches.
One trend to be on the lookout past 2021 are Amazon Flash which are mini-podcasts, usually well under 10 minutes. Flash briefings can be used to reach customers interested in a particular subject. And as the name suggests, the information should be very topical – this is not intended for evergreen content. News media organizations are using flash briefings but overall it’s in its early stages for marketers, and especially in b2b. To hear an example, say “alexa, play New your times flash briefing” and voila.