Digital Dominates Deloitte's Healthcare Marketers Trend Report

digital dominates

A report from MM&M and Deloitte explains the dynamic, digital-first state of healthcare marketing — and some surprising changes that could impact your 2019 strategy.

Deloitte and MM&M recently released their 2019 Healthcare Marketers Trend Report, which reveals the robust state of current healthcare marketing. This report surveyed 233 anonymous medical marketers, almost 80% from companies with revenues above $500 million. These marketers, primarily directors or executives, divulged budgets for this year and last year, providing crucial industry insights.

The most notable stats? Unsurprisingly, digital marketing spend is up. At the same time, marketing budgets in general are rising, as companies bet on a strong ROI. Interestingly, content marketing initiatives may be in decline — which could actually present an opportunity for savvy companies.

Digital is King

It’s no surprise that everyone is on board with digital. Around 86% of the companies surveyed used digital marketing of some kind — ads, websites, mobile or tablet apps, or social media — to market to consumers, while 93% used digital to market to HCPs. When it comes to consumers, websites and apps ranked ahead of social media in terms of digital strategy, although social media was the leading strategy for marketing to HCPs.

With the rise of digital, there are some interesting overlaps within organizations. Marketing technology has moved away from the IT department in over three-quarters of cases. And marketers are taking on big data analytics, although over 76% rank big data as “extremely challenging” or “challenging.”

Predictive analytics, machine learning, and AI are sure to grow as well. These technical and data-heavy strategies will require more specialized skill sets — and even higher budgets — within the marketing domain. With this competition driving innovation, it’s more important than ever for healthcare marketers to have a robust digital and social strategy in place.

Marketing Budgets Are Way Up

The report also shows that overall marketing budgets are up this year — meaning the competition is getting more fierce as companies and practices vie to get their products and services in front of doctors and patients. Of the 200 companies surveyed, the average marketing budget rose from $8.3 million to $10.5 million, around a 26% increase, compared to a 2017-2018 increase of just 7%. Nearly all companies — 92% across industries like biotech, diagnostics, pharma, and more — chose to increase their budget by some extent.

It remains to be seen if the ROI will justify those numbers across the board, or if proposed federal policy changes could impact some major financial assumptions. But for now, this means your organization’s services or products could easily get overlooked if you aren’t investing the right resources in digital. You may have to reslice the pie and allot more budget to smart marketing this year, if possible.

Don’t Count Content Out

When asked about his take on the Marketers Trend Report, Deloitte Digital’s Larry Mickelberg noted that content marketing has declined slightly, with just 37.8% of companies using it for consumer marketing this year. However, he speculated that this dip is likely because brands aren’t using content marketing the right way. In fact, Mickelberg insists that “content strategy is key to so many fundamental marketing concepts.”

If the industry is faltering on content marketing, that may actually present an opportunity for your organization. Why not take the lead? As Mickelberg notes, a strong content strategy allows an organization to be creative, and to differentiate itself from the competition across all channels. It means knowing where customers are in their healthcare journey and getting them the right content at the right time.

Good content is also crucial for surviving the Google “Medical Update,” which prioritizes certain types of high-quality content in its algorithm. Businesses steering away from content marketing at this point are likely missing out on a powerful marketing engine. On the other hand, investing in content in 2019 is likely to give your organization the chance to act as an industry leader.

Looking Ahead for 2019

We’re about a quarter of the way through the year, and 2019 marketing plans are well underway. The rise in marketing budgets makes this an exciting boom year for many healthcare industries. With the increasing focus on digital, this year is sure to be full of innovation and opportunity. Although content marketing may be taking a slight hit (possibly in favor of exploring AI capabilities), experts like Mickelberg don’t think that trend will last — and the organizations that take the lead on high-quality content will be best poised to pull ahead.

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