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What’s New in Healthcare Marketing Budget and Channel Trends

Written by Michael Del Gigante

How did firms utilize their marketing budgets in 2018? Reacting to a changing marketplace, many firms devoted more resources to marketing efforts and continued to prefer a combination of digital and traditional approaches. However, every area of the healthcare industry is unique, preferring certain approaches over others and investing in these tactics accordingly.

To determine what marketing budget and channel trends reigned supreme in 2018, MM&M and Deloitte conducted its annual healthcare marketing report. The results, released in January 2019, offered insight from 233 healthcare marketing professionals representing pharma, diagnostic, biotech and devices. Researchers asked marketing professionals about their 2018 budgets and spend, as well as their thoughts and concerns about this year.

Following are some key insights from the report:

Healthcare Marketing Budget Trends to Watch

Most healthcare firms made significant investment in their marketing budgets in 2018 – 92% of those surveyed report expanding their budget last year. Pharma companies were the most likely to increase marketing spend, with 94% of these firms reporting a larger budget in 2018.

However, not all firms boosted their marketing budgets in 2018. Only four percent of respondents reported cutting back on marketing spending last year, down from 16% in 2017.

The Latest Healthcare Marketing Channel Trends

While many firms are adopting digital platforms as they engage their target market, traditional channels also play an important role. Eighty-six percent of firms marketing directly to consumers report using a variety of common digital marketing tactics, including social media, digital ads and website content.

Despite the popularity of digital approaches, firms still rely on traditional methods to reach customers. Outdoor ads, print media, TV ads and radio are all tactics used by 77% of surveyed healthcare marketers.

The takeaway? Healthcare marketers greatly prefer a mix of both digital and traditional approaches to reach customers, and do not necessarily prefer one approach versus another.

Surveyors also found that some marketing channels appeal to certain types of firms more than others. For example, device manufacturers often spend almost three times as much on promotional materials for conferences and meetings than biotech firms would. However, a biotech firm would spend much more on point-of-care marketing than a device manufacturer would.

The Future of Healthcare Marketing Technology and Data

Digital approaches are increasingly popular among healthcare marketers, but they are not without challenges. Nearly a quarter—22%—of firms report that the budget for martech is handled by the IT department rather than being managed by marketing.

Yet this concern seems trivial when compared to the biggest issue facing healthcare marketers today—working with big data. In fact, when marketers were asked to name their biggest challenge, big data topped the list. Accessing and collecting data remains a struggle due to limitations on its use.

The survey revealed that 43% of healthcare marketing experts find data utilization to be “extremely challenging,” and 33% stated that it was simply “challenging.” Healthcare marketers struggle to gather insights, and security issues further complicate data utilization. When considering high-profile security incidents—like Cambridge Analytica and Facebook—many marketers are cautious when it comes to sharing the information necessary to develop campaigns.

A Glimpse into the Future

What does the future of healthcare marketing hold? Most companies will still invest in marketing, but they will remain watchful of market shifts and trends.

The report from MM&M and Deloitte revealed that in the years ahead, marketers will prepare for a sluggish phase that often follows a period of high growth and spend. Firms also will allocate their increased 2019 budgets among multiple programs and channels while being mindful that these resources may not be around in 2020.

Why are marketers cautious about the future? Politics is a key reason—uncertainty surrounds the 2020 election and its impact on marketing compliance and tax deductions. Any changes in those areas will have an impact on firms’ operations and spend.

Change is certain in healthcare marketing, and companies must adjust their budgets accordingly. Firms that remain informed about the latest techniques and trends will make an impact as the 2019 progresses, and will also see success in the future.

About Michael Del Gigante, CEO of MDG Advertising

In 1999, CEO Michael Del Gigante founded MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. With his unique insight and decades of industry experience, he turned what was once a traditional ad agency into an integrated branding firm based on an innovative 360-degree marketing philosophy that provides a full spectrum of traditional and digital advertising services.