6 Key Healthcare Audience Characteristics You Should Know

HIMSS Analytics

As a marketer, you know how to dig into audience demographics to understand your target. You know that you're not just thinking about segmenting based on age, title and location. It goes deeper. You need to understand your target buyers' relationships to your product — which problems it helps them solve, which competitors they already know. But to understand these things — especially about a complicated target market such as the healthcare technology space — it's important to gather some more information.

In the case of healthcare technology, that information gets highly specific. Here's what you need to focus on in order to better identify your target market and reach them with the right messages.


Key Healthcare Audience Characteristics To Consider Before You Start Your Next Campaign

Whenever you speak to your target audience, you can't approach cold. You must understand where they're coming from and where they're going. To that end, you must understand how they think.

1. Sophistication Level

Today, there isn't a singular role or title that defines the hospital tech buyer, explains Bryan Fiekers, senior director, Research Services at HIMSS Analytics.

"Over the course of the last ten years, the CIO has risen in responsibility, and they are, generally speaking, the number one buyer for healthcare. But healthcare is changing," Fiekers says. The buyers — and not just the CIO, but people with other titles and roles, as well — are becoming more sophisticated.

"There's been a lot of investment in tech relating to Electronic Medical Records (EMR)," says Fiekers, "and a lot more integration challenges (for example). The buyer's needs are becoming more complex."

Think of your potential buyer with the following analogy in mind: When someone purchases their first car, they likely walk into the dealership bright eyed and bushy tailed, interested in how the car looks and feels. They've ridden in a ton of cars and understand how to drive and what they feel like they're looking for, but they might not yet fully understand buying strategies and tactics in this particular market. Down the line, when the first and second and third cars have come and gone, and they — like the auto industry and its products — have evolved, they'll be familiar with the process and ready to negotiate better deals with a greater understanding of value.

The same is true of healthcare technology buyers. Understanding their sophistication levels prior to crafting your messaging will keep your message in line with their thought processes, making it more likely they'll move forward in their buyers' journeys. Segmenting by sophistication level can inform the complexity of your content.

2. Technological Gaps

All that said, there are areas in health IT where your buyers won't be as sophisticated. There is always an emerging technology poised to add value, or an emerging area of healthcare strategy hospitals haven't delved into yet, such as population health, or analytics, explains Fiekers. When objectives change, so does the technology used to achieve them — and one influences the other. In order to be poised to fill a gap or solve a problem, you need to know what technological gaps (as well as strategic gaps either resulting or influencing) your audience experiences. Are they searching for integration tools? Are they struggling with integration, in general?

Knowing how your product can solve a problem certainly depends on knowing the problem. And segmenting your audience by technological pain can help your message stay focused, and keep both your marketing and sales teams on track with speaking to the right contacts.

3. Financial Model

Even technological gaps and sophistication levels aren't enough to form a truly valuable segment for healthcare technology. You must understand a hospital or clinic's financial model in order to ask them to invest in your solution or service.

You might have the perfect product for a fee-for-service institution. But the market shift toward value-based care and differing reimbursement strategies means you'll have to take a different approach than you did with organizations using a traditional model. The institutions using a value-based model will be looking at technology investments through a different lens, possibly driving investment from the CFO instead of the CIO, for example.

4. Organization Size

The size of an organization can dictate where you place your marketing and sales dollars and minutes. Should you be trying to reach a decision maker with your first message, as you might want to attempt with a small clinic? Or should you begin higher in the sales funnel, speaking to contacts who can influence decision makers?

Even if your product is the right fit for a range of company sizes, who you're speaking to will likely shift. In a critical access hospital, for instance, a CEO might be much more involved in the tech buying process than would a CEO of a larger system that includes multiple hospitals or networks.

5. Organizational Structure

"The C-suite is expanding," says Fiekers. "Whether you look at it from a clinical or tech standpoint, it’s important to understand that unilateral decisions are becoming more and more rare." That means that, depending on the structure of an institution, you may not be trying to reach a single decision maker, but instead "a steering committee, where clinical roles are having strong influence along with IT-based roles."

That also means you should understand how technology is used across an organization. If providers are heavily involved in technology use, they may also be heavily involved in the technology selection process.

6. Security Compliance Requirements

Finally, consider compliance requirements as an audience characteristic. It's not typical to identify people by their regulatory mandates, but in the case of healthcare technology, it's a segmenting best practice we highly recommend. Privacy and security is so important in healthcare, and the CISO is playing such a large role in organizational success, that the role will become an ever-more important driver for technology purchases. Tailoring your messaging to a security mandate just makes sense.