Healthcare Marketing on Life Support
If we’re honest — always the best policy — healthcare marketing is not for the faint of heart these days.
Pandemic hangover, staffing issues, competition, misinformation, shrinking marketing budgets, brand recognition and loyalty, multiple target audiences for multiple service lines — it’s enough to get healthcare marketers checking their pulses and seeking professional help.
So, what can you do to preserve your health and sanity — and create and execute a winning healthcare marketing strategy?
Start with some good medicine from our team of healthcare marketing experts. No appointment is necessary — at least not yet.
Top 3 Best Practices From Healthcare Marketing Experts
1. Triage Brand as Strategy
An authentic brand is the foundation of all successful marketing efforts. Your brand reveals your relationship with your audiences, what you offer that’s unique to your organization (not always the easiest thing to identify) and most importantly, what all of that means to prospective patients.
If you’re a healthcare marketing aficionado, you’re probably aware of numerous studies that show a healthy brand strategy is vital to healthcare organizations. Just one such study showed that good branding is proven to:
- Increase the number of patients
- Improve the perceived quality of service
- Increase satisfaction and loyalty
Not coincidently, all these benefits lead to increased revenue. The trouble is, many healthcare organizations, especially smaller or independent ones, breeze by this vital strategic component in their overall strategic plan — assuming they have a comprehensive strategic plan in the first place.
Meanwhile, marketing costs are often raised as an argument against creating a comprehensive marketing strategy including brand development.
In reality, your branding and marketing strategy and execution should be viewed as a revenue generator and driver of the growth of your organization.
2. Scope Multiple Target Audiences
Let’s face it: Healthcare marketing used to be much simpler. Beyond HIPAA constraints, many factors complicate the process today, including ever-increasing competition, numerous information platforms and channels, ever-evolving specialties and service lines, health misinformation and more.
A broad brush, everything-for-everybody approach is out. Even on more traditional platforms like billboards, you can dial into specific audiences for better results. In conjunction with a strong brand relationship, a nimble, targeted approach will get more patients in the door sooner and keep them coming back for other services they may need.
What’s interesting and challenging is that healthcare marketing often requires targeting more than one audience for the same service line. The audience for hip replacements differs greatly from sports medicine, though both are orthopedic services. Marketing for maternity care must take into account a woman’s partner, mother, aunt or friend. Adult children of older patients are heavily involved in healthcare decisions like whether to have a particular surgery. Parents make most or all of their minor children’s healthcare choices. And women in general are disproportionately influential in healthcare decisions for all audiences.
Targeted marketing is both an art and a science. Getting through to a specific audience requires research, the creation of a persona or personas, messaging and creativity that evokes a positive response and connecting with that audience where they’re most likely to see or hear you.
Keep in mind that such targeting is not just pushing out ads to a specific audience. You’re telling a story they will come to inhabit. You’re showing them, and then proving to them, that you are the best choice to meet their needs. It’s part of building a relationship and engagement — and trust — with current and future patients.
And remember that a patient who trusts you and believes in you will share their approval with anyone who will listen.
3. Post-Op: Measure Results
Healthcare is a science-driven field, so you’d think that analyzing marketing results data would be a priority. But for many healthcare organizations, it’s just not part of their, well, procedural protocols.
Digital and even social media marketing efforts are relatively easy to measure. Ad clicks and conversions can be tracked, as can responses to calls to action on web pages or emails. Likes, follows and subscribers reflect responses to your social media presence.
These measurements don’t always equate to more patients in beds, at least not immediately, but they’re crucial to identifying what’s hitting home and what isn’t and helping to make adjustments or changes to ads or campaigns.
Some healthcare marketing efforts are harder to measure but may still increase your number of patients or patient retention. Brand awareness campaigns, for example, might produce smaller measurable results in terms of clicks or conversions, but over time help build confidence and trust as your brand becomes better known.
Of course, the old-fashioned method of counting new patient appointments or requests for information by phone is still a valid way to measure campaign results, especially for some smaller or rural healthcare providers that may still be using older technology.
Measuring the results of your healthcare marketing efforts is important on so many levels, not the least of which is to validate the cost side of marketing by highlighting its revenue-producing ability.
And that’s the fastest way to get your healthcare marketing off life support and breathing on its own.
For more insight and advice on these topics, listen to our podcast “The Impact of Healthcare Marketing.” This episode features healthcare marketing experts, AMPERAGE CEO Bryan Earnest and Vice President of Strategy Erin Bishop, discussing helpful healthcare marketing insights and tips.