Business Rules That Drive Effective Healthcare Drip Campaigns

Every action has a reaction in both physics and effective marketing plans, and modern CRM has allowed healthcare marketers to design business rules tailored to individuals at specific stages in their patient journeys. These steps are defined by if/then statements that anticipate an action and adapt the campaign to create a truly “smart” journey. 

If a patient is newly diagnosed, then they receive the most relevant information for the beginning of their journey. If a patient utilizes certain media channels, then subsequent messages are delivered through preferred channels. And if a patient takes the exact action you would like them to take, another series works to cement the relationship.

The structure of a drip campaign

Drip campaigns can take many forms, with the obvious caveat that the channel must be trackable and integrated with a CRM. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll discuss the elements of one of the most common varieties, the opt-in email drip campaign.



The goal

Any campaign and the stages within it must have clearly defined goals. For a pharmaceutical company, the primary goal may be to acquire more patients on a treatment who may be unaware of other options. Within this goal are a series of stages with goals designed to achieve the result. These stages are variously labeled by many marketing texts, and this patient journey is often referred to as “the sales funnel.” 

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision-making/commitment
  4. Post-commitment, often defined as loyalty or advocacy 

While step three is likely seen as the pivotal stage, and one on which some campaigns place emphasis, a smart journey in an issue as complex as healthcare typically relies on all phases. These, in turn, inform the nature of …

The communications

A newly diagnosed patient isn’t necessarily interested in drug costs or potential side effects, nor why their doctor should opt for a certain pharmaceutical. He or she is likely grappling with the implications of a diagnosis and actively searching for information about the condition. This relevance is a guiding principle of how to think about designing communications at different phases — in this case, awareness.

A healthcare marketer looking to impart information about a drug is well-served by providing the type of information candidates want at this initial phase. This valuable knowledge establishes credibility and a relationship with the patient while making him or her aware of who is providing it.

Subsequent communications will change as the patient moves through the journey. If an individual responds to one or more awareness emails, then the individual is moved on to communications that may consider treatment options. Eventually, communications will make a stronger, direct case for the usage of the product, and ideally transition to post-adoption messages that strengthen the relationship with follow-ups providing beneficial information. 

The guiding principle in all communications? Quality, value, and relevance for the recipient.

The cadence and cap

Almost as important as what information is imparted to patients is how often they want to receive it. The most relevant communications will fall flat if they are perceived as an annoyance. According to an online marketing survey conducted by MarketingSherpa in 2015, only 9% of respondents never wanted to receive promotional emails from companies with which they have a relationship, whereas 85% did not want to receive daily emails. The trick is to find the happy medium and, ideally, tailor the quantity and cadence to preferences. Campaigns might run every three or five days, for six or seven weeks.

There are two good ways to establish this balance: You should ask, though respecting the answer may not always exactly achieve optimum results. The more specific options you provide to those who opt in, the more likely they are to be satisfied with the communications. You should also analyze to objectively determine what works by testing different frequencies. And if you over-deliver and patients choose to opt out, be sure to give them the option to “opt-down” prior to leaving your list forever.

CRM tools and real world examples in specific patient populations 

How do these principles play out in an actual healthcare marketing campaign? What are the tools required to achieve them? I will outline examples in my next column for MediaPost’s Marketing:Health. Bookmark this spot.

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