Healthcare thought leadership is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the marketing world. But what it really means, and the kinds of results it can realistically generate, can vary based on who you talk to. In our world, healthcare thought leadership is foundational to helping our B2B clients target their buyers and influencers, especially C-suite leaders. These executives may be medical directors, technology VPs and even CEOs at health plans, health systems and health technology firms.

Reaching the ultimate decision makers
Targeting these individuals as buyers and influencers is one of the most difficult, daunting tasks faced by any healthcare marketer. In many cases, our customers want to target the entire C-suite team, because they are selling large, complex and costly solutions like health IT systems. The final say-so in that sale may come from the CTO, but the entire leadership team needs to ultimately buy in. That fact adds an extra layer of complexity to this goal, and any effective marketing strategy needs to consider the differences among these individuals as well as their similarities. In terms of commonalities, these are all busy, savvy and preoccupied individuals who are big-picture thinkers. They also happen to be bombarded by promotional marketing on a daily basis.

That’s exactly why healthcare thought leadership is the most useful strategy in a marketer’s arsenal in trying to “market up” to this level. It involves taking that same big-picture mentality and using it to develop marketing efforts that are timely, meaningful and aligned with all current industry trends. These efforts are less promotional than traditional marketing, but just as powerful. However, that doesn’t always mean just developing long-form content like white papers. Many C-suite buyers simply don’t have bandwidth for that type of investment of their time and brain power.

Key components of a healthcare thought leadership plan
Instead, your marketing consultant or agency should develop a comprehensive, multi-pronged healthcare thought leadership plan. At Activate Health, this plan starts with detailing the exact wants and needs of this target audience, based on our decades of experience working with Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare space. We also consider each executive’s influence at different parts of the sales cycle—e.g. the CEO won’t get involved in due diligence for a new health IT solution, but they may hear about it from a colleague, board member or at an industry event and pass this information on to a CTO. Certainly the CTO will ask colleagues, friends and influencers for recommendations and preferred vendors. (That’s also why healthcare thought leadership is so powerful, because it can reach individuals early on in the sales cycle and influence their perceptions throughout the process.)

Best practices and pitfalls
Once we’ve identified the right audiences and the right messaging, it’s the “how” of this plan that sets our approach apart. Healthcare thought leadership isn’t just a strategy used in isolation; it must be integrated with best practices in digital marketing, content marketing and PR (media relations, speaking submissions and even tradeshows). Then, of course, we set measurable, achievable goals that center around more than just brand awareness. Most of our clients want to see the needle move around lead generation, and while thought leadership is a “soft” marketing strategy, it can still play a role in generating and nurturing leads.

However, it’s also important to avoid potential pitfalls in the lead gen arena. For example, when targeting C-suite buyers, it’s critical to be incredibly cautious about asking for detailed information for lead collection purposes. Creating long or cumbersome lead capture forms is a sure way to turn off a healthcare executive that was initially turned on by your healthcare thought leadership efforts.

The right partner for healthcare thought leadership
This is just a brief snapshot of the factors you need to consider when thinking about using healthcare thought leadership to reach busy executives at these organizations, whether you’re targeting a national health plan, an ACO or a hospital system. If you’re ready to develop your own healthcare thought leadership plan, or want to know more about how to target these buyers and influencers, contact us today.