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| 11/04/2020

Marketing Automation: What It Is and Why You Need It

Written by Ed Bennett

For marketers of all stripes, including healthcare marketers, the proliferation of communication tools and options for connecting with patients and others represents both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities lie in a virtually limitless number of channels to connect with target audiences through both traditional and digital means. So do the challenges! 

With so many options out there, healthcare marketers who are already stretched for time, are challenged to just stay on top of the basics, let alone find time to strategize about how to make these interactions more meaningful.

Marketing automation can help. As Hileman Group points out in a MarTech.Health blog post: “Used in an array of industries, marketing automation is all about using software to automate marketing activities, from email marketing and social media posting to launching and tracking multi-stream nurture campaigns.”

Marketing automation does exactly what the term suggests—it automates your marketing activities to help you save time and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. 

Patients, themselves, are indicating that they value the ways automation can help to keep them informed. According to Accenture, for instance, patient expectations related to digital capabilities is on the rise. A growing percentage indicate a preference for providers that offer digital capabilities of various types:

  • Request prescription refills: 77%
  • Receiver reminders via email or text: 70%
  • Communicate with providers through secure email: 69%
  • Book/change/cancel appointments: 68%
  • Use remote or telemonitoring devices to monitor health indicators: 53%
  • Communicate with providers via videoconferencing: 49%

Clearly using marketing automation to improve patient communications can provide a competitive edge.

Gain a Competitive Edge

As Angi Krueger, vice president of marketing and business development at Core Health, points out: “Marketing technology can give you a competitive advantage and provide significant ROI.” How? Through a combination of both automating communication interactions and leveraging data to identify the interactions likely to generate the most traction. It is, says Krueger, all about building connections with the empowered healthcare consumer.

Marketing automation can also enhance the patient experience, something that healthcare marketers are particularly interested in.

Terry Tuznik, VP of clinical systems at SymphonyRM, offers a very compelling example of how marketing automation was successfully used to provide a patient newly diagnosed with diabetes with the communication, education and information he needed from clinical, marketing and payer perspectives. “For the healthcare system, marketing provides low-cost, high return communication expertise to engage and influence patients in healthier lifestyles and treatments,” she writes.  

Use Cases in Healthcare

In healthcare, says Robb Hecht, adjunct professor of marketing at Baruch College in New York, smart CRM (customer relationship management) is a common use case for marketing automation. For instance, he says, patients can “sign up to receive unbranded communications from an organization about a disease state.” Typically, he says, the organization will ask the user to segment themselves into separate category types: no symptoms, symptoms, afflicted, for example.

“Marketing automation then takes that opt-in first party HIPPA compliant data and begins a content communications relationship with that patient so that they are in effect receiving content that is relevant to them on a more personalized level,” says Hecht. Tools like Salesforce, he says, leverage automation to deliver segmented content to patients. The next step is the use of artificial intelligence, or AI. AI and machine learning, says Hecht, “will not only help facilitate personalized patient experiences, but AI will help diagnose and project the future anticipatory needs of the patient likely through sensors, monitors and video.”

Marketing automation allows healthcare marketers to readily automate a wide range of interactions from welcoming new patients, to sending appointment reminders, to sending updates on new treatment options related to patient DRGs, and much more. 

While the technology to facilitate these interactions widely exists today, in many cases the talent to use the technology doesn’t.

Addressing the Marketing Automation Skills Gap

The growth in the emergency of marketing technology has outpaced the education system’s ability to ensure that healthcare professionals are training in the availability and use of these technologies. New options are emerging continually meaning that, for many healthcare organizations, there is a distinct talent gap.

Marketing automation is being adopted by both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C organizations, according to the Content Marketing Institute. But that adoption still has plenty of room for growth. Their 2020 reports on B2B and B2C content marketing indicate that:

  • 44% of B2B organizations are using marketing automation to assist with their content marketing efforts 
  • 30% of B2C organizations are using marketing automation

Chances are, though, that adoption will continue to increase. However, one of the biggest barriers to adoption, according to CleverTouch research is lack of internal talent to understand and use these systems effectively. 

CleverTouch received insights from 200 marketers and CMOs in the US, UK, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. While respondents indicated that their most common uses of marketing automation were for lead generation, lead nurturing and account-based marketing, “48 percent of the survey participants noted that their organizations had to recruit specialized external talent to learn the most they can about the software.” In addition, 49 percent said their organizations relied on external vendors for this support.

User-friendly tools like Salesforce has made marketing automation tools accessible, but the learning curve can still be steep, especially for those not born into the digital age. And, while these tools offer analytics capabilities and reports, those without a background in analytics may not be taking full advantage of the reporting capabilities.

The good news for healthcare organizations is that there are many third-party vendors and consultants in this space that can help them set up, use and understand how marketing automation can aid and enhance their marketing communication activities

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