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2020 in review: Successful marketing strategies

Due to the pandemic, 2020 has been a rough year for many. Fortunately, the year is drawing to a close, and the vaccines bring promise for a brighter 2021. As I write my last blog of the year, I want to end on a positive note by highlighting successful communications and marketing strategies for 2020, including ideas from five healthcare marketing leaders.

Communicators and marketers always need to adapt quickly, but this year put adaptation to its greatest test.

As the pandemic hit, communicators and marketers had to make many changes in the way we worked. And we had to adjust marketing strategies quickly to have a minimal negative impact on lead generation, employee engagement, and customer retention.

For example, at Crystal Clear Communications we quickly pivoted to creating Message Maps virtually instead of in person.

One reason Message Maps are successful is co-creation. We get the right stakeholders in a room and make the map together, often during a 4- or 6-hour session. These sessions maximize interactivity as people walk around the room and place sticky notes with key messages.

While I miss these in-person sessions, I’m happy that we moved to a virtual model quickly. So we could help many clients create clear, compelling messaging.

What other marketing strategies worked in 2020? I asked successful healthcare communicators and marketers what helped them succeed this year. Here are their answers.

Get creative with your marketing strategies

Kristi Annes, Vice President, Marketing Strategy at Intelligent Medical Objects (IMO), got creative and implemented a tactic that engaged clients and employees:

“This year, the World Health Organization is celebrating the important role of nurses in healthcare. To mark the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, IMO is shining the spotlight on our own nursing staff members; and we have quite a few! We launched a blog series and social campaign that included photos, quotes, and interviews with our staff.

“They shared advice and addressed common misconceptions about their roles. And talked about transitioning into the world of health information technology (HIT). Our social engagement spiked with each Year of the Nurse post. While the campaign drove marketing success, it also shined a light on our employees. This  resulted in them feeling valued and appreciated.”

Female nurse in mask
Tailoring content to a specific audience, such as nurses, was a successful 2020 marketing strategy.

Offer clients information they need

Kathy Baker, Product Marketing Manager at Syntellis Performance Solutions, says adapting to the pandemic quickly helped her marketing team succeed:

“Since we serve the healthcare market, we had to quickly pivot our message. And demand generation activities as hospitals were critically impacted by COVID-19. We offered education, information, and data on how hospitals and health systems were impacted by the pandemic. And what they could do to stay afloat and serve patients during the crisis.

“Subsequently, we also hosted client roundtables to discuss how they were using our solutions to manage to change dynamics across the volume, revenue, and expense. Based on those conversations, we built new dashboards and tools and quickly provided these tools to our clients.”

Increase marketing focus and access

Samantha Downing, Vice President, Marketing at EXL Health, said that focusing on where they could move the needle and ensuring easy access to information helped the EXL Health team succeed:

“We realized quickly that the best way to make an impact in this unique year was to focus on what we could move the dial on. That meant more deal-based and account-based marketing efforts. We lightened up on mass outbound and inbound marketing. We put our efforts into opportunities already in the pipeline.

“Additionally, we had to respect the priorities and time of our clients and prospects in healthcare. VPs who normally were at their desk, were now down working in the ER. They no longer had the flexibility to attend a webinar on a specific date and time.

“So we made our content available at all times. We created landing pages with access to multiple documents and updated them as needed. Our webinars were instant. We recorded them in advance and released them as on-demand modules. Audiences no longer had to wait.”

Recognize wins

It is easy to get wrapped up in a crisis like the pandemic and forget to celebrate wins.

Nicole Lewis, Director, Internal Communications & Marketing at Change Healthcare, ensured employees stayed connected and engaged during COVID:

“After the transition to work from home, our teams were eager to stay connected in new ways. To address this need, we created a Microsoft Teams channel to celebrate wins and recognize peers for great work every day. Therefore it provided us with a way to highlight the triumphant things, big and small, happening in 2020, all while maintaining a sense of team, virtually.”

Taking the Pulse of a Volatile Consumer Marketplace

John Roderick, President of J. Roderick Public Relations explained that the widespread fear and confusion that accompanied the first few months of the pandemic created opportunities for clients that were nimble enough to pivot and re-orient their comms strategies to address the elephant in the room head-on.

“Like every business, our client, J.D. Power, was thrown for a loop in March of 2020. The data and analytics company is known for having its finger on the pulse of customer experience and consumer sentiment. In everything from new vehicle purchases to digital banking to telehealth and Medicare Advantage plans. But, starting March 13, most customer experiences as we’ve known them suddenly disappeared. Data collected over the previous three months was suddenly moot and the very future of the consumer economy was in question.

“We literally had to throw out our entire communications plan overnight. Fortunately, our client was fully committed and nimble enough to switch gears quickly. We worked with them to develop a series of pulse studies. They tracked immediate consumer sentiment. And updated every week from March through the end of the year. That lets us track up-to-the-minute shifts in sentiment as the crisis ebbed and flowed unevenly across the country. And importantly, it gave us timely headlines to keep the company front-and-center in the eyes of its clients and consumers. As a result, when the dust settled, we saw a 45% increase in earned media coverage over the course of 2020.”

The events of 2020 forced us all to adapt quickly to keep our businesses on track. Successful communicators and marketers deployed marketing strategies that engaged audiences, generated leads, and maintained client relationships.

I wish you all great success as we enter 2021.

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Successful Marketing Strategies