People seeking healthcare providers have more information at their disposal than at any time in history, so it’s more important than ever for healthcare marketers to be creative to ensure their message stands out.
In the generally conservative world of healthcare marketing, that’s not always easy. However, when you find that right campaign, the results can be eye-opening. Here are three great examples.
Marketing Is More Personal Now, So Be Personable
Dare to be fun, engaging and interactive. United Healthcare did just this with their award-winning 2014 campaign called “We Dare You.”
The campaign included monthly health tips shared in the form of dares. One month they challenged people to share a photo of fresh produce. Another included a challenge to incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity into your day. Participants tagged their entries #wedareyou and won prizes for top entries. More than 3,000 photos were shared per month.
Give a Voice to Your Biggest Advocates
Medical device manufacturer Medtronic achieved this by sharing the stories of how their equipment has helped a wide range of people live fuller lives. Each of their patient stories, in written and video form, is about a person who had a problem solved by a Medtronic device. To encourage sharing, they offered rewards to patients, such as a $20,000 charitable grant that winners can use to serve their communities. This successful technique is an example of promoting benefits instead of just features.
Connect with Consumers in their Language
The 2015 campaign called “Melanoma Likes Me” by Melanoma Patients Australia targeted 15-30 year olds, the age group at the highest risk of contracting melanoma. Rather than an all-encompassing, multi-channel marketing approach, they went right to where young people live: Instagram and Twitter. And they had some fun doing it.
MPA created an online persona for Melanoma that responded to, liked and followed over two million young Australians’ social media activities. After visiting the Melanoma Instagram or Twitter accounts, consumers were directed to a Melanoma prevention website intended to raise awareness and urge people to think about their choices.
As the campaign concluded, the algorithm that cost $430 to create had earned over $5 million in media value. Melanoma Likes Me was recognized for a Silver Lion at the Cannes Media Lions Festival of Creativity.
Modern consumers have no problem searching the internet for healthcare information. Facts and figures alone are not always enough to win them over. As these three examples showed, you need an emotional tie.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting observations about the latest changes, trends and tactics in healthcare marketing. Here are five takeaways from marketing strategists I admire:
- While physician recommendations are the most important factor in provider selection, additional information offers an influential stamp of approval.
Research shows that advertisements build brand awareness of hospitals and that there is a relationship between this image building and market share. Ads are especially effective in adding credibility once a PCP has recommended a particular hospital or provider. (Jeff Steblea, Market Street Research)
My comment: Invest in a complement of B2C and B2B brand marketing activities and find ways to introduce more metrics-based success measures to validate the investments in each (see #2 below).
- Use measurement to market your marketing.
Tag everything to know what is working and ensure that marketing gets proper credit for it. Create baselines, analyze metrics, look at what isn’t working and fix it. Look at financial investment vs. increase/decrease in traffic. Keep dashboards simple, especially when getting started. Here are some great tools: Wistia for video analytics, Marchex for phone call tracking and Sprout Social for social media. (Dan Dunlop, Jennings & Brooke Tyson Hynes, Tufts Medical Center)
My comment: A good place to start thinking about how to better measure ROI is the fabulous SHSMD publication entitled “Life Beyond Promotion: Core Metrics for Measuring Marketing’s Financial Performance”.
- Simplify market facing brand architecture.
Today’s healthcare consumer gets confused by the network of providers they have to navigate. They deal with hospitals, systems, physician groups, labs, imaging centers, even holding companies. And they get communication and bills from all. (Chris Bevolo, ReviveHealth)
My comment: Streamline brand architecture and naming conventions to cultivate consistency, clarity and brand recognition, and, ultimately, brand recall and value.
- Be strategic in managing change and the “endings” involved.
Our ability to manage organizational change is particularly applicable in healthcare these days because of acquisitions, mergers, affiliations, re-brands, etc. If we don’t understand our role in change, it becomes a lost opportunity. When employees affected by these changes are left in the dark, they will misunderstand. Change is inevitable and we must lead this change as effective communicators. The “people element” is often left out of the process. Ultimately, understanding is more important than agreement. Acknowledge people’s losses and understand that grieving is natural and necessary. Give people all the information they need and clarify what is and is not ending. Be open, talk and let people lament. In the end however, remove excuses to hold on to the past. (John Looney, Lahey Health & Julia Sorensen, Cooley Dickinson Hospital)
My comment: Include a plan for internal communication when undergoing any change of consequence to the organization. Bring both top and middle-level opinion leaders to the table early in the process for input and buy-in.
- The revamp of a major healthcare website should be guided by a 3-year roadmap.
Year one starts with a digital strategy built on research, digital governance, staffing plans, digital change management, tools and infrastructure. Next is site design, CMS, mobile, content development, SEO, training and analytics. Year three is the year of optimization, including patient portal, eWorkplace, content management, service lines and social media. (John Bidwell, Baystate Health & Elizabeth Scott, MedTouch)
My comment: Be inclusive in the web planning process by bringing a variety of individuals into the project early on. Pay particular attention to the relationship between marketing and IT. Be realistic about your timeline given how deliberate this process can be in the hospital setting.
The healthcare industry is ultra-competitive, highly visible, strictly regulated and constantly changing, creating unique challenges, pressures and potential stress for healthcare marketers.
An awareness and understanding of these factors will help put us in a better position to deal with the stress they may bring. So what issues raise the stress level for healthcare marketers these days?
- The consolidation and expansion of healthcare institutions.
The marked shift toward consolidation and expansion in healthcare has created an environment of tremendous change involving merging organizations, brands, people, cultures and marketing functions. Healthcare organizations are re-examining their brand communications and re-developing messaging that accurately represents these new combined entities.
- Multiple stakeholders.
CMOs have to answer to a C-suite, board of directors, physicians, administrators and other community leaders, few of whom possess marketing experience. They must effectively inform and coalesce this group, developing marketing solutions that work best for the overall good and somehow make everyone feel good about it all.
- Changing payment models and regulation.
As hospitals move away from fee-for-service, marketers are tasked with understanding new payment models, knowing how they affect a variety of target audiences and deploying the most effective way of messaging this complex subject matter.
- Healthcare is behind in its digital marketing efforts.
The urgent need to integrate the digital age into healthcare environments introduces the need to be proactive across a variety of digital channels, including web platforms, site optimization, mobile deployment, CRM, patient portals, social media conversations, email campaigns, etc. This is a difficult situation made even more challenging given the issues that are unique to the healthcare industry.
- Competing service lines.
Balancing marketing resources to be allocated to a variety of service lines has always been complex and is no less today. Acquisitions and alliances have introduced a need for fresh campaigns over multiple channels that most often have to be approved by multiple institutions. And with a more competitive environment than ever, everyone understandably wants more for their departments.
- Sensitivity of subject matter.
While HIPPA has been around since 1996, the Affordable Care Act, digital platforms and online data security concerns have all shifted the nature of patient-provider interactions to even more scrutinized levels, presenting a host of new challenges for healthcare marketers.
- Patient Demand for Knowledge
Patients are taking charge of their healthcare in ways we could not have imagined even a few years ago. There was a time when the majority of information was physician-based. Healthcare consumers now get information from multiple sources. Therefore, patients are able to drive their own healthcare decisions and interact with the medical community in an entirely new way.
What keeps you up at night? Take the first step toward a more settled landscape by identifying the factors at play. Only when you understand these issues and their underpinnings can you begin to develop solutions for dealing with them in a positive way.
The healthcare industry is conservative by nature and so is the way it is marketed. But the healthcare business is rapidly changing and conventional healthcare marketing needs to changeas well.
According to the Forrester Digital Marketing Forecasts, the average American business will allocate 30 percent of its marketing budget to online/digital channels in 2016. However, according to Validic’s “Global Progress on Digital Health” Survey, 59 percent of healthcare respondents report they are either behind schedule with their digital health strategy or have no digital health strategy at all currently in place. With this in mind, it may be time for healthcare organizations to audit their marketing mix, review budget allocations and reevaluate their commitment to digital marketing.
For example, healthcare has traditionally invested in print advertising at higher rates than other industries. Research by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs indicates that 47 percent of healthcare marketers incorporate advertising in print magazines as part of their marketing strategy and 43 percent use printed newsletters. That’s 34 to 54 percent higher than marketers in other industries such as travel, banking, education and insurance. The research also reveals that healthcare marketers use blogs 22 percent less than all marketers and spend 26 percent less of their total marketing budget on content marketing activities.
This needs to change. Why? Because health-related searches are among the top three online activities in the world, with 72% of internet users saying they looked online for health information within the past year.
Clearly online marketing remains a growth opportunity for many in the healthcare industry. So why do we lag so far behind in the adoption of online marketing tactics?
Here are five factors to consider:
- A heavily regulated environment leads healthcare organizations to be cautious by nature and slow to change.
- There is a general reluctance to embrace marketing in the healthcare industry. It’s a business where the ultimate goal is patient health and marketing is by no means the star. To be on the forefront of new marketing strategies and tactics can be difficult for organizations that are far from being marketing-driven.
- Healthcare organizations have a large variety of stakeholders, all of whom have preferences for how the organization is marketed. This creates an environment that makes it challenging to adopt new approaches.
- The older demographic for many service lines, e.g. heart and vascular, consumes traditional media at a higher rate than other target audiences.
- Measurability is a digital marketing driver and, as a rule, healthcare organizations don’t do this well. It is ironic that a culture that so highly prioritizes measurement and evidence when applied to health-related outcomes has been so slow to make the measurement of marketing success a similar priority.
Perhaps if we better understand the reasons why healthcare lags in the implementation of digital marketing, we can more effectively craft strategies to correct this shortcoming, like investing in a robust and responsive web platform. A successful digital market campaign needs to commit to content marketing and coordinating those efforts with proper Search Engine Optimization, and it needs to make full use of marketing automation to communicate effectively with selected segments of your target audience.
Hopefully, leadership will take note and act soon because the longer the wait, the more acute the need becomes. Healthcare providers that don’t adapt to change will not be able to keep up with their competitors.
The same goes for healthcare marketers.