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What Makes Healthcare Digital Marketing Leaders Stand Out?

Leaders approach digital marketing differently. Take a look at what makes them more successful and how they plan to invest in 2021.

When the 2020 Healthcare Digital Marketing Survey results were unveiled, we segmented the data to look exclusively at how those organizations who self-identified as leaders across 21 digital marketing functions see the world. What makes them different? Let’s take a deep dive into what makes a leader a leader.

Three leadership trends emerge

Yes, digital leaders spend more and yes, they have bigger teams, but that has always been the case for this group. The bigger insights come from how they use those resources and where are they looking to invest in the future. When analyzing leading organizations in that light, three key trends emerged that illustrate how leaders approach digital differently.

Trend #1 Content is king.

When looking at performance across dozens of different functional areas, content development is an area leaders strongly outperform everyone else. They also excel in content marketing and SEO, both complementary disciplines. Leaders also have more staff dedicated to content creation than any other digital discipline. Leaders also have the most staff dedicated to content development, with almost one full-time-equivalent more than laggards.

Trend #2: Experience and engagement are more important than financial measures of success.

When looking at goals, patient acquisition has traditionally been somewhere in the top five. This year, it jumped to the number one spot for all respondents. This could be due to the timing of survey data collection – many organizations were focusing on recovering volumes from the pandemic shut down.

It’s always been in the top of the pack for leaders, but never in the top two spots. Instead, leaders top goals tend to be consumer focused, specifically consumer awareness, consumer engagement, and consumer experience. Contrast this with average performers, who are under significant pressure to justify every investment through financial metrics – ROI, revenue and profitability. This could be because leaders have made the case and earned the trust in their organization. Now that they don’t have to defend their budget spend with financial metrics, they are free to focus on consumers.



Trends #3: Leaders are ahead on the marketing technology stack.

Perhaps it’s because they have already invested in foundational pieces of their marketing technology (martech) stack, but leaders are significantly outperforming the other segments in areas like CRM, analytics, email marketing, and marketing automation. Although leaders didn’t rate themselves high in these areas, they far outranked the other segments, proving that it’s better to get started even if your start is small.

Where are leaders investing?

When looking at future staffing and where leaders plan to invest, digital advertising and digital strategy stand out. Where average and laggard organizations tend to be investing in martech elements – email, marketing automation, and CRM – leaders have already invested here from a people standpoint as they were an investment focus or in previous surveys. Likely, those positions are full and the teams are becoming more mature.



When looking at non-staff investment, digital advertising is the largest area for growth with a planned increase in spending. Leaders are investing in digital adverting internally, as well as in partnerships, outsourcing, and tools.

Most organizations are tightening belts on budgets across the board, likely to due to the pandemic and shutdowns. This is clear from the unprecedented number of healthcare organizations who are expecting cuts in their marketing and digital budgets for the coming year. However, when we look at leaders, we see very few are decreasing digital marketing budgets, and 45% are actually increasing, perhaps from the belief that these investments will help fill schedules and assist in the organization’s recovery.

A year like no other

Even during a pandemic, leaders have leveraged their impressive digital foundations to find continued success. Investing in content enabled many leaders to quickly spin up COVID-19 content hubs with writers and processes already in place. Projected digital advertising investments make it likely leaders will focus on attracting consumers throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021 to rebuild volumes. In a year like no other, leaders still find ways to use digital to meet their goals. Be sure to download a copy of the full 2020 Healthcare Digital Marketing Survey Report and see where your organization stands and use the data to help plan for 2021.

Ben Dillon

Chief Executive Officer

What Makes Healthcare Digital Marketing Leaders Stand Out?