Healthcare Marketing Technology Survey

Identifying Challenges and Solutions for Digital Transformation

The marketing technology (MarTech) stack has become a crucial tool for coordinating, automating and targeting messages to healthcare consumers. In fact, nearly 60% of healthcare organizations say investing in MarTech infrastructure is an organizational priority, yet many struggle to assemble and fully use a comprehensive stack. On top of this, the COVID-19 pandemic created an especially unique situation this year.


To understand the impacts, MERGE, in partnership with Greystone.Net, a digital consulting company for hospitals and health systems, conducted a MarTech Insights Survey from June-August 2020. We surveyed over 90 healthcare organizations, ranging from large, 1,000+ bed health systems to smaller systems with less than 200 beds, academic medical centers as well as non-academic organizations. For this study, we defined a MarTech stack as a series of software programs and platforms that drive marketing, communications, marketing automation, marketing operations and more.


Our goal was to learn more about the challenges healthcare marketers face as they build and use a technology stack, the role of the pandemic in identifying MarTech strengths and weaknesses, and solutions to top MarTech obstacles.


The survey results didn't disappoint.


Key survey findings


As you might expect, our survey confirms that healthcare marketing and digital teams are leveraging the MarTech stack more than ever since the onset of COVID-19. Nearly 75% of survey respondents said they've kept marketing staff levels the same as before the pandemic—but with "significantly more work" to do. Here are some other meaningful insights we discovered:


  • More than 85% of respondents agreed that the pandemic helped to position marketing, web and digital services as core functions vital to achieving digital transformation in healthcare. 
  • Less than 10% of respondents were confident that they have a formal, organized MarTech stack. But 63% of them said they have one that is loosely integrated and organized. Nearly 28% said they do not have a MarTech stack.
  • The top three systems cited as a part of the MarTech stack were content management systems (CMS) (86%), social media management (86%) and email marketing (84%). Others cited included search engine optimization (SEO) tools, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and analytics.
  • During the height of the initial COVID-19 wave, respondents most heavily relied on their social media management (77%), email marketing (63%) and CMS (62%) systems. However, 66% said they struggled with the lack of a single or streamlined channel—as well as lack of the right tools and staff—to deploy communications quickly.


Transformation opportunities


A review of the survey's open-text comments reveals many respondents felt that lack of staff, technology and training/skills have prevented them from getting the most out of their existing MarTech tools. But opportunities exist for marketing services to help achieve digital transformation.


The first step is to recognize that true customer relationship management is not just a technology, but a strategy. Healthcare marketers must define what they're trying to achieve for their organizations by using a MarTech stack. For those tasked with justifying such investments, it’s important to convey how MarTech initiatives will help drive business priorities, such as patient retention. Many healthcare executives are ready and willing to invest in MarTech. They just need a better understanding of how it will work, and how the vision matches their business goals and patients' expectations.


What about after a strategy is set? Marketing leaders feeling a bit paralyzed can look at the data they already have, find some quick wins, and use the lessons learned as a blueprint for growth. But don't overlook the "people" element. It's also essential to empower the marketing team through supportive training, hiring more staff or partnering with outside agencies who can deliver strategic and tactical assistance. 


No matter where organizations start, tackling bite-sized tasks one at a time can get things moving and show momentum. Although it can be difficult to integrate various components of MarTech, try not to get overwhelmed and succumb to analysis paralysis. Marketing teams don't need to boil the ocean. Instead, identify near-term proof points—and keep building from there.