What Healthcare Marketers Can Learn From DTC Brands

What Healthcare Marketers Can Learn From DTC Brands

Healthcare is being disrupted by a new category of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands.

These brands have built innovative business models to confront the primary challenges and opportunities in today’s healthcare landscape, including rising healthcare costs, changing relationships with primary care, and access to telehealth.

But many of these brands are also innovating in their marketing, building strong brands, and trying new marketing tactics most healthcare marketers haven’t explored yet.

In this article, I’ll share what I believe to be some of the best healthcare marketing strategies inspired by this growing category of brands.

Lead With Product and Service

DTC healthcare brands have taken inspiration from other DTC e-commerce brands that have paved the way to make people feel comfortable purchasing goods and services online. Like e-commerce brands, you should lead with the products and services you offer and the needs they address.

Create a Bold, Memorable Brand

Differentiation is the key to success, especially when you’re competing in a sea of sameness. Consider bold designs or bright colors and illustrations. Why is this important? Because these design decisions make it more likely that a potential customer will remember your brand (and, therefore, more likely to buy).

Rethink Your Primary Call to Action (CTA) 

Care/of sells vitamins, but rather than getting visitors to add items to the cart like a traditional retailer, the primary CTA on the site is to take a quiz.

Why does this work? It helps the brand understand the customer better, and the process of taking the quiz educates the customer on how they should be thinking of the brand. The knowledge Care/of builds for each quiz submission helps them maximize the lifetime revenue for each customer. They understand exactly what other products to upsell them on in the future.

It can be helpful to think about how much education your product or service requires, or the cost. The more education needed, the less likely someone will be to purchase outright. Quizzes, cost calculators and virtual events are examples of CTAs that provide education and move your customer closer to purchase.

Repackage Your Service as a Subscription

Sometimes, repackaging your existing offerings can pay off.

Take Everlywell, for example, which sells at-home testing kits. Typically, a kit can cost anywhere between $49-$199 each as standalone purchases. Yet they’ve created a $24.99/month subscription where members can select a test each month. 

This results in a much higher lifetime customer value than individual standalone purchases. What could you do to rethink your underlying model or repackage your offering with a different cost structure?

Offer a Gifting Option

Just as you might gift an e-commerce product, some DTC healthcare brands are finding ways to grow referrals to the brand through a gifting mechanism.

For example, One Medical offers same-day guaranteed primary care. The service requires both an annual membership fee, as well as filing with insurance. As a way to build referrals from existing patients who’ve had a great experience, they allow the ability to gift an annual membership. This is a great way to drive incremental growth and is unexpected from a medical practice.

Create an Ambassador Program

Word-of-mouth (WOM) is one of the most sought-after ways to build a business. Influencer marketing is an evolution of WOM marketing that taps into those most influential to your customer. Some DTC healthcare brands are finding ingenious ways to not just build influencer marketing campaigns but to create ambassador programs that create long-term relationships with influencers and influential customers.

For example, one children’s health company recognized that WOM from other parents is influential on its customer base. So it created an ambassador program for influencers that provides a revenue share. This allows the brand to amplify its WOM efforts, providing growth at a much lower cost-per-acquisition than traditional paid marketing campaigns.

The key to success with an ambassador program is picking your influencers carefully—they must be a good match for the brand—as well as developing a revenue share that’s motivating for the influencer, but also makes sense for your profit margins.

Build a Community

A strong community provides a way to engage potential prospects with your brand, as well as educate them by answering common questions. If you build an active community, it creates a competitive advantage that can’t be copied, and it becomes a real manifestation of your ideal target.

For example, DTC brand Modern Fertility built a private Slack community for women. Anyone can apply to join, not just customers. The community is a place for women to ask for advice about fertility, share relevant articles, and talk about research or any other relevant topic. 

Implications for Healthcare Marketers

The bar for marketing is set very high by new DTC healthcare brands. Traditional healthcare businesses and medical practices are not currently positioned well to compete against them. Since many of them are exclusively online, they have invested much more into marketing and technology than most healthcare marketers.

Yet the examples they provide show us there is room with current healthcare marketing for innovation, and that customers and patients will respond to new ways of engaging with brands. It’s this opportunity that should excite us and lead us to experiment and push what’s possible.

Previously published on Forbes.com.

John Keehler

John Keehler

Director of Strategy & Insights and Partner

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