The 2015 SHSMD Conference wrapped up in October and what an inspiring week it was. SPM’s team had a blast in Washington D.C. attending many thoughtful, engaging sessions on the latest healthcare marketing trends. (Except for poor Cori who came down with the flu half way through the conference. She’s feeling better now, thankfully!)

With the end of the year nearing, our team sat down to dissect this year’s trends, especially those from the conference. All agreed that one common theme emerged. Can you guess what it was?

The consumer!

Woven through each of our key conference takeaways was the sense that nearly everyone is finally talking about the healthcare consumer. Rather than approaching subjects from a tactical perspective, more conversations start with the consumer. Here’s what we mean by that:

Who they are

“Women ages 35-64 who are the primary decision makers in the family” is no longer going to cut it. Marketers need to understand the healthcare consumer beyond demographics and into how lifestyle behaviors impact healthcare decisions. Using data to segment audiences and uncover what’s important to each group will help create messages and experiences that are captivating, differentiating, and provide overall value to their health and lives.

Once you’ve tapped into data to better define your audience, it doesn’t stop there. Gathering data throughout the campaign gives you the opportunity to optimize your campaign. Consumers will tell you what’s working and what’s not—listen to the data and optimize ad type, size, content, platform, etc. based on the findings.

It all comes back to data and ensuring that you are mining the right data, drawing tangible insights from that data, and using those insights to inform strategy. We often do this using The SPM℠ American Health & Life Study, our proprietary survey of 4,000 adults nationwide that provides an up close and personal look at the healthcare consumer—not just as a consumer, but as an everyday person with hopes, dreams, fears, and desires. Using data from this survey, we are able to craft a well-rounded picture of the person with whom we are communicating.

Where they are

More than “what” defines a consumer is “where” they are. I know what you’re thinking… enough about digital, already! But the fact of the matter is your audience lives online and we, as marketers, have to meet them where they are and connect with them in an interesting and relevant way. That isn’t to say that digital is the only way you’ll reach them because it’s not. While many sessions focused on digital and social media campaigns, it was in the fine print where we saw that the most successful campaigns gracefully balanced a much larger marketing mix that included traditional media.

And while the list of tactics is ever-growing, the focus nowadays is finding the right balance between online and offline. That includes both budgetary allotments and tactical execution. If you want to connect with your audience and influence behavior, you need the right combination of tactics and the right weight spent in each category.

Our 25+ years of experience in healthcare has given us a thorough understanding of how different audience groups and generations interact with media along the patient journey. Digital is certainly a huge part of this journey, which is why we specialize in crafting unique and engaging digital experiences for your desired audience. But, we also understand how different media, including traditional tactics, impact the decision process—our “TraDigital” approach.

How to engage them

Once you’ve truly gotten to know your consumer and established a presence in the spaces in which they live, the relationship must go beyond talking at your consumers to having a conversation with them.

Consumers are looking for a healthcare partner, not a healthcare parent. And that emotional truth drives how we approach consumer engagement. Going beyond delivering data and/or facts providers feel are important, we need to connect with consumers in a regular cadence and provide helpful information that is relevant to their daily lives on their channel of choice. In short, we see ideal engagement as a rich dialogue that benefits consumers’ total health and moves the industry from episodic to continuous care.

Moving forward, marketing will need to engage consumers all along the patient journey to help them understand how to manage their health. Different types of content must be delivered at different stages of the journey based on specific insights into the healthcare consumer at that stage. And as the importance of population health grows, becoming a partner in health is critical.

The trend towards better understanding the role of communications in population health—especially as it relates to access and managing chronic conditions—is real. Fortunately, we already have experience in this. We are helping consumers take better care of themselves every day.


As the “What’s Next” agency, SPM is and will be working diligently to keep up with these existing and emerging healthcare marketing trends. In the end, success will depend on having consumer-centric (not just a business-centric) marketing strategy. If you’re looking for an agency that excels in just that, give us a shout!

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Dan Miers

Chief Strategy Officer at SPM Marketing & Communications
Dan anticipates “what’s next” in our complex industry and keeps SPM on the leading edge of healthcare policy and strategy. A valuable resource to all SPM clients, his strategic insights focus how we understand and apply industry trends to client issues. With 20 years of experience, Dan has two master’s degrees in healthcare administration and finance, worked in business development at an academic medical center, and launched a healthcare technology company. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and an active member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).
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