When you were a kid, chances are you thought about growing up to be a doctor at some point. As a doctor, you get to help your patients (your favorite stuffed animals) feel better, you get to use cool tools, and you rattle off your name with “doctor” added before it and feel exceptionally awesome. Then you grow up, and you realize it’s hard work to become a doctor — lots of school and hours of keeping up with certifications, patient records, regulations and more.
Of course there was a time when people went to the doctor because they were the most convenient one, or the one their family always used. NOW with insurance in the mix, and so much freedom of choice for the patients, doctors don’t just sit around and wait for revenue to come in the door. The same is true of hospitals. In the early days of healthcare marketing, it was enough to focus on awareness — we’re here, we have smart doctors and the technology and care you need. Now, everyone knows that. It’s the “cost of entry.” Today, you have to share more with your prospective customers. You have to tell healthcare consumers what’s in it for THEM. They want to know WHY they should choose you.
This is a massive image issue the healthcare industry faces as a whole. So how is the healthcare industry handling the facelift? Rob Marbury, our chief creative officer and long time healthcare marketing expert, discusses how physicians and hospitals should approach their marketing plan; and shares a few examples along the way.
We Get It – You’re Smart
At their core, patients are consumers. They are looking to buy a product, and you as a healthcare professional have one they might be interested in. So rather than sell them on how many degrees your team of doctors hold and all the latest and greatest technology at their fingertips, create an emotional attachment to them that leaves you and your practice the only choice.
At the recent Hospital National Marketing Conference in Atlanta, the idea that healthcare advertising should be infused with emotional connection was a popular talking point … and one that Marbury has been a firm believer in for years! The thought of highlighting something other than degrees and tech is a scary and non-lucrative-sounding notion to doctors and hospital marketing staff, which is why so many doctors believe that billboards of them with their arms crossed confidently over their chests will be a slam dunk for getting patients in their practices. Which leads us to our next point…
Those future patients get that you’re smart. You’re a doctor, so it’s expected that you are highly intelligent and trained. What people will gravitate toward is the story of the patient who owes her life to your practice. That story implies your expertise but also creates an empathetic connection. Testimonials are a powerful advertising tool that healthcare marketers can use to create this emotional bridge. HIPPA regulations do not prohibit your patients sharing their stories, as long as you get their consent and they’re willing to share. If you’re doing a solid job of caring for your patients, they will be more than willing to be your advocates and share their stories
Hearing and seeing from someone other than the healthcare institution itself will create a stronger connection with potential patients. Hearing the story of someone just like them, going through something similar to them, and coming out on the other side because of your care is a highly effective slam dunk for your advertising. When Marbury created the “Kids Tell It Better” campaign for Swedish American Hospital, they used children talking about healthcare in simple terms to connect with their target audience: women. What parent or grandparent can resist a child saying something cute about an adult subject? And with children talking about healthcare, it helps get rid of some of the “over my head” stigma with medicine and doctors.
Where Do You Start?
At the Hospital National Marketing Conference, these four steps of healthcare marketing were presented: awareness, consideration, conversion, and advocacy. If you’re a hospital or large practice, chances are people know you exist. So AWARENESS is a simple marketing goal. A more complex challenge is getting them to CONSIDER you because of things like unique services, patient education and communication, or excellent follow-up procedures your staff has implemented for patients after they’ve been cared for. In order to stay top-of-mind, you must then CONVERT them to a customer. Give them an opportunity to provide their name and contact information in exchange for something that will benefit them immediately — and just stay in front of them with a gentle email or digital campaign. Educational seminars or information about health issues is a good place to start. You can help them all along their journey, throughout the community by letting them know how to lead healthier lives. Once potential patients understand, and are drawn into the heart behind your organization, they will not just consider you a candidate for caring for them, they will allow you to treat them and their family, and eventually become advocates for you. You simply have to deliver on the promise of your brand.
Put simply, don’t tell your target market that you care about them; SHOW them that you care. BE CARING. The best way to do this is with emotional, honest marketing that humanizes healthcare and appeals to your potential patients where they currently are. If you’re ready to get real with your marketing plan to drive healthcare consumers to chose you, contact the Marbury team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.