|Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay|
While there have been great strides in hospitals and health systems adopting digital marketing, most marketing remains mired in traditional outbound marketing methods. That is, pushing low-value content out in display ads, direct mailers, and broadcast media, hoping that someone will pay attention and act. Calls to actions are generic, and there is a lemming-like approach by hospitals in the same market to do the same thing simultaneously. Today's practice is still a look at us with little value messaging of what is offered. Sometimes it is even those soft; we care kinds of messaging.
Commonly referred to as interruption marketing, outbound is all about sending generic messages out to the broadest possible number of audiences with no customization of content or news, hoping that someone will respond.
The pandemic defines today's hospital as it affects the brand promise, engagement, and experience. These are the difference makers between driving revenue and growth or failure with a future of merger, outright acquisition, or closure and liquidation. The patient is increasingly taking control and making choices. Is outbound marketing the best way to drive brand awareness, choice, and selection?
Switching to inbound marketing.
Let's start the discussion with a definition.
Inbound marketing is a series of marketing actions designed to give patients a reason to engage with the hospital and utilize medical services. It's about bringing the patient to you. Inbound marketing requires meaningful content used to engage, build value, and relationship. It's a pull strategy as opposed to a push strategy that hospitals and health systems utilize.
Remember, this is not an either-or proposition; one needs both strategies well integrated to achieve maximum benefit.
Inbound marketing is all about why someone should contact and choose you, not what you do.
Understand that inbound marketing focuses on "reason to communicate with you" and not a "do you need a doctor?" or cancer services or insert clinical, technology, or building name here for outbound marketing. That means having engaging content that engages the ad intrigues the patient, meets a current need, and prompts a decision to take action with a strong call to action.
What are the inbound channels?
The major component of inbound are emails, SEO, blogging, social media, content marketing, and review/referral sites. One is pushing relevant messaging based on the user personas and behavior characteristics that address their "pain points" and interests so that the hospital stays top-of-mind in their decision-making process.
The hospital needs to understand the patient's persona and their buying process.
The patient now has a buying process. And in that buying process, facilities and technology are a factor, but not the most important one. Patients during the pandemic are searching for information beyond the hospital services. With that, the case, doesn't it make sense to be proactive and connect on a very personal level? Inbound marketing allows you to do that. But, it's not sending mass emails with generic information.
Inbound marketing recognizes that the patient is now different. Yes, one continues to use demographic information but pigeonholing people into these "group clarifications" doesn't get to the issue of their pain points and what solutions they are looking for in meeting their healthcare needs. A persona is needed for each individual attracted to the hospital to develop appropriate engaging messages and deter the optimal channel mix to reach.
Multiple channels are needed as the patient is omnichannel and lives in a digital world.
Inbound marketing is patient-centric, not hospital-centric.
Suppose one considers the focal point of what they need, not what the hospital needs to generate revenue, then marketing shifts. The marketing department needs to understand the journey of the patient buying process. Once that is understood, then comes the relevant and meaningful information, available at any point in the process, sent to the patient. The hospital's marketing mission and strategies nurture the patient relationship with inbound marketing that converts and expands the relationship.
Inbound marketing positively impacts fee-for-service, risk-based, or value-based contracts.
Because you shift to inbound marketing, the hospital is engaging and establishing a strong relationship with the healthcare consumer or patient. In population health management, engagement, and meaningful patient relationships are everything.
Inbound marketing is attributable to increased revenue, growth, and ROI.
Here is what happens for the hospital in shifting some of its effort from purely outbound to a strategically integrated combination of inbound and outbound marketing. The hospital does generate revenue; market share grows, the cost of marketing decreases, and marketing ROI increases.
Today, shifting to inbound marketing will pay huge dividends tomorrow, no matter what the payment system.