As the need to return patients to care coincides with budgets that are tighter than ever—knowing the ins and outs of effective, measurable, digital marketing is more important than ever. In our latest Campfire Session, we dove into strategies that are making a difference in patient acquisition right now. We shared advice on making real human connections with patients, as well as trends and successes we’re seeing in the digital environment.

Watch our Campfire Session, Reaching Your Digital Marketing Potential. Or read below for key takeaways from our webinar event!

On 07/31/20, Brittney, Ann, Stephen and I welcomed Stephen Spiers to the Campfire. Stephen is AVP of Digital & Integrated Marketing for HCA Healthcare Capital Division, a network of 18 hospitals in Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Virginia. 

The discussion included:

  • Digital strategies that are making a difference right now
  • COVID-era personas and why they matter
  • Why it’s time to rethink your KPIs and optimization strategies
  • Why your health brand should be paying attention to TikTok

We started with a few statistics

  • Many U.S. households now have at least 7 digital devices with a screen.
  • 50% of U.S. consumers report they have spent more time consuming digital content since the pandemic.
  • 70% of seniors report shopping online in the past couple of weeks.

Leveraging data to make informed digital marketing decisions

We asked Stephen Spiers to begin the Campfire by discussing the use of data:

“Like a lot of companies, we (health care) capture a lot of data. It’s having the skill set to not just collect it, but analyze it and use it, and then as we go to the marketplace test and report and learn. I am a big proponent of test and learn.”

Digital opportunities: be flexible and nimble

As our consumers are changing their behaviors and patterns, so too must the work we are doing. Stephen Spiers shared:

“What an interesting time. As a company (HCA Healthcare), we don’t have a huge marketing budget, but we have some real smart marketing people that have been brought in. Digitally we’re looking at every channel, because we realize that we have to be smart, nimble, flexible and use that money wisely.”

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Developing strategies: understanding your most valuable patient

Knowing how to connect with your audience and what they need to hear from you begins with human-centered marketing personas. Ann, our senior strategist, took us through the generational COVID-era personas Hailey Sault has researched and developed. She discussed the importance of developing unique personas for each of our clients’ most valuable patient populations. Ann took us through:

  • How people’s mindsets have changed during COVID.
  • How people’s media consumption has changed (sharing specifics on millennials, Gen-X and baby boomers).
  • How people are trying to understand the virus.
  • How mindset and consumption affect the opportunity to connect.
  • Thinking about your targeting using personas.
  • Developing creative executions that are unique to each persona.

Ann told us:

“As health care is pulling back on paid marketing budgets right now, social media continues to be an amazing opportunity in thought leadership, in valuable information, in connecting with your audiences.”

Digital trends and strategies that are working

People are searching more and more and have the desire for more and more information. Our digital strategist extraordinaire, Britt, got down to the business at hand and described what’s working now:

  • Not pulling back—we found that those clients who had a well-rounded digital ecosystem of paid and organic going into the pandemic were the most successful in continuing to connect with audiences immediately after states locked down in March. Those clients who stayed in the market and didn’t pull back, or pump the brakes too quickly, also saw more success.
  • Sticking with a long-term content strategy—we stuck with scheduled posts and content for our clients, but reevaluated messaging and shifted tone.
  • Optimizing native advertising—we specifically looked at the types of content being put out by our clients, and when necessary also shifted tone and messaging, or put out new creative. We’ve tested, learned and optimized and with one client saw a click through rate of around 0.30% more than double to 0.78% by shifting the message.
  •  Boosting social content—we’ve had success boosting messaging, putting that extra $25 behind specific social posts to get more eyeballs on it.
  • Expanding telehealth boundaries—we’ve had the conversation with several of our clients about shifting their geographic boundaries to serve more patients using telehealth.
  • Video is becoming huge—especially with people shifting to more mobile device use. Any type of motion or video is resonating with all audiences right now. Instead of relying on high quality video production at this time, we’ve gotten creative and used assets that are just as compelling, but within lower budgets. We’ve also been adding motion to traditionally static display ads by animating calls to action or other parts of the ad.
  • Brand safety—we made sure that our clients’ ads were being posted with other content and on sites that continued to match or reflect the values of our clients, and of their patients, during the crisis. We always make sure that the platform and providers we use block IP addresses and web hosts that typically send non-human traffic to landing pages and websites. We want to ensure that the KPIs we’re tracking are 100 percent accurate.

Rethinking KPIs

A few words from Stephen Spiers about KPIs:

“(We should) define whatever ‘Success’ is. It could be click through rate, it could be engagement, it could be a bunch of different things. It could be ‘Hey, we just want to test in this channel and see if anybody engages with it.’ It is great to have these metrics. But it is really about doing the analysis after the campaign.”

Dashboards and Tools

I wrapped up by talking about the fact that there isn’t a set-it and forget-it mentality in the campaigns we do. 

  • There is constant measurement and optimization throughout a campaign.
  • Our dashboards and tools track trends that go deeper than click throughs to which channels are driving traffic and conversions.
  • Using those metrics, we can understand what is motivating people to take the step to make an appointment or become a patient. 
  • We are able to track and report on real leads (new patients as opposed to returning patients) and appointments.

What about TikTok?

In the After Show of this Campfire Session you can watch as Britt tries to “sell” Stephen Spiers on why his organization should try TikTok. Watch and see if you agree with her.


1. Digital consumption during this COVID crisis is skyrocketing across all generations.

2. Data needs to inform strategy.

3. Being flexible and nimble is a must at this time.

4. Develop personas to understand your most valuable patient audiences.

5. People are searching more than ever—don’t pull back. Do optimize, test, learn, work within budget, use video and motion.

6. Don’t set-it and forget-it. Track your campaign and measure what’s working and what’s not working to generate real leads.

We’re in this together

As we think about this time we’re in, now more than ever, we need ideas, insights, and community. We hope our Campfire Sessions are providing the conversations you are craving about the issues and opportunities facing your health care organization and its leaders. 

Make sure to sign up below to receive invitations to future Campfire Sessions and links to past Campfire Session recaps.

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