Healthcare is a unique industry for advertisers. Beyond the usual marketing challenges, healthcare organizations need to adhere to HIPAA regulations and balance localized and nationalized strategies.

However, when you peel back these added layers, the core of healthcare marketing is similar to other industries: for success, you need a full-funnel strategy, accurate and comprehensive measurement, and optimal targeting. This blog will address how to achieve each of those components within the unique constructs of healthcare marketing.

Reaching the Right Audiences

Targeting is critical for effective healthcare marketing. Depending on the type of care that you offer, your audience may be incredibly niche. Across the entire funnel, there are a few important considerations for media investment:

  • Reaching qualified audiences, which can include patients, physicians, and caregivers.
  • Patient willingness to travel based on the type of care they need.
  • Market-by-market conditions, including competition, inflation and demand.

Because of third-party cookie deprecation and HIPAA compliance, finding the right individuals can be challenging. Using a solution like Merkle’s Merkury can help address those challenges. It uses a data clean room to create a privacy-safe analytics environment that enables person-based marketing while remaining compliant to both HIPAA and PII regulations. The person-based piece is critical because of the audience nuances outlined above.

Activating Across the Funnel

Healthcare facilities and brands often have bottom-of-funnel goals, like patient acquisition targets – but to achieve those targets requires a robust top-of-funnel and mid-funnel strategy.

Awareness and reputation are particularly important in healthcare, with your audience entrusting you with their well-being and oftentimes a significant financial investment. TV can be an impactful channel for building that awareness, but it’s important to leverage closed-loop reporting and audience targeting to minimize wasted ad spend. Digital programmatic media can help reach constituents further down the funnel, particularly in the consideration phase, while healthcare search engines like WebMD can help individuals seeking information about a specific condition. Rounding out efforts with a strong paid search strategy is key to capturing the demand and ultimately driving patient volume.

Across your marketing efforts, working closely with other teams throughout the organization is important. HIPAA regulations impact which pages can and can’t be tagged for remarketing purposes, so a close relationship across marketing, creative, web, and legal teams can help ensure that everything you’re activating is done in a compliant way.

Measuring Success

The patient decisioning journey can be long, consisting of many touchpoints across online and offline channels. A data science team and platform that can tie those touchpoints together is the ideal option for connecting upper-funnel efforts with lower-funnel actions. Multiple attribution models are available to measure performance and elevate media in the marketplace. TV and digital attribution models give a granular look into key areas, including daypart, network, and platform performance. A deeper understanding of these components will drive further optimizations to reach more qualified audiences - all without the need for identity resolution.

Another option is a multi-touch attribution model, which leverages identity to understand the marketing placements that drive conversion. However, this solution may have limitations given tagging restrictions and therefore, a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) must be in place.

Brand lift studies can also be valuable tools for measuring success given the importance of effective brand awareness campaigns. In order to drive meaningful media mix optimization, those brand lift studies should be localized since awareness can vary dramatically from one market to the next. That level of understanding allows you to reallocate budgets from more established areas to those with less recognition. Remember, however, that brand lift studies require a certain amount of scale to deliver statistically significant results – so if you want to be able to truly measure effectiveness, that needs to be a consideration when you’re establishing budgets for localized awareness campaigns.

Additional Considerations for Localized Strategies

When you’re investing on a market-by-market basis, understanding the key audience needs that I outlined earlier (travel willingness, demand, etc.) is necessary to define the size of the patient prospect pool. You also need to understand the supply-side conditions – if you’re pursuing a localized strategy, chances are high that your competitors are, too. By combining the two you can understand the overall patient need for an area and take a data-driven approach to optimize budgets in areas where there is demand to capture.

If your organization in a nonprofit, you can augment your paid investments with public service announcements (PSAs). For those advertisers that are not a certified 501c3, aligning with a non-profit organization is an option to build out a co-branded PSA that demonstrates the goodwill of both parties. While they won’t directly market your services, they are a great tool for raising awareness and building trust by sharing your message and mission with the community. This can be particularly effective when expanding into new markets to bolster awareness across print magazines, billboards, TV, digital out of home, and more. 


Marketing in healthcare may be more nuanced than other industries, but a data-driven, full-funnel approach can still drive success. With the right audiences, holistic measurement, and localized strategies, your organization can make the most of your budget while reaching potential patients throughout all stages of their decisioning journey.