“The time has come,” the Walrus said, to talk of many things: “Of shoes and ships, and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings.” The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll
From what I have seen it’s pretty much the status quo when it comes to hospital marketing. Smiling happy patients, fluffy messaging that are all about you, shiny and dramatic shots of hi-tech equipment, new buildings with different other visuals, and copy that leaves one with more questions than answers. Not much really in the way of experience, outcomes, or framing of expectations that a healthcare consumer could use to make a reasonable decision about seeking treatment.
Sadly, provider marketing can be unintentionally arrogant, pejorative, and in many cases oxymoronic. For example, has it ever occurred to anyone that messaging your markets that you care and it’s all about the patient when the data indicates otherwise, is disingenuous?
And having been in the trenches for a very long time trying to bring about change in how providers market, the current methods, and messages of marketing can be traced back to the 80s, on thru the 90s into the 2000s. Lo and behold, we arrive in the 2010s still doing the messaging, with the same interruptive approaches, with little if any meaningful differentiation. Spoiler alert- providers are all looking the same.
Given the evolution of the healthcare consumer leaving the provider in its wake, what can be done by hospital marketing to change the tide, find some measure of market dominance, and along the way grow revenue, market share and brand?
Here are nine marketing strategies for improving provider marketing.
1. Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. The use of mobile healthcare apps is on the rise. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying user's needs, and how they want their healthcare needs meet through technology focused on them, will gain new patients and the next generation of physicians.
2. Engage existing customers and patients.
An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they come in contact with you. That is during the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery phase. Pre and post this; they are a consumer, not a patient. So why then is it the only time you meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient? That doesn't seem like a lot of common sense. Consumer and patient engagement is about all of the time, not just some of the time. Engaging the individual on a continuous basis builds loyalty and return use or repurchases behavior.
3. Engage the physicians and focus on the doctor's experience.
No matter the payment model you will still need the doctors or physician extenders order to get anything done in a healthcare setting. That means engaging physicians in meaningful ways, using the methods, technology, and systems that will make their life easier, improve their productivity, and protect or increase their income. An effective and efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost, quality in your organization then may other factors.
How hard is it for a doctor or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization? Understand their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in separate care segments. Fix what is broken, keep what is working. The more satisfying the experience, the better you will do financially.
4. Focus on the consumer/patient experience.
A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its patients and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - serves to increase their spending and loyalty to the brand. You need to actively manage the customer experience in total by understanding the client's point of view. That is, all touchpoints internally and externally that a healthcare consumer/patient comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.
5. Embrace innovation in healthcare.
Traditional ways of delivering healthcare are going by the wayside. Price, convenience, access are the drivers in local healthcare. Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior, design offering to meet the need not you in a convenient location, and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way, your market position, share, and revenue will erode.
6. Agility is the name of the game.
Be nimble. Be agile. Be quick. Healthcare marketing needs to move from the tried and failed to the exceptional, the innovative, the engaged, and the motivational. You can't reach the healthcare consumer on an emotional level to make the right choices, treatment, and lifestyle decisions as well as purchase decisions in your favor unless you are sufficiently engaged.
7. Get moving on to the social media program.
A hospital or health system needs to be where the healthcare consumer is living. And the healthcare consumer is on social media finding the information they need to make choices. Social media is not a billboard, but an efficient and effective engagement strategy that can enhance the relationship.
8. Understand the multiplicity of markets.
You have five markets: Medicare; Medicaid; Commercial; Exchanges; and Uninsured. Baby Boomers are starting to demand that their health care experience is delivered their way, the way they want when they want. Retail medicine will continue to expand so tailor the health care offerings to the market accordingly. One size does not fit all. Outcomes and price transparency, access, and convenience are the future, and the future is now.
9. Quality Transparency will set one free.
An idea that causes the most fear and trepidation among hospital executives and physicians is patients getting access to relevant quality data that they can understand and use to make meaningful choices. Get ready it's here whether you like it or not, and it's just not a marketing technique. It's the right thing to do. Because if you don't have someone else will. And your quality and price data is out there. All it takes to some creativity to develop a Kayak type website for healthcare and you're at the bottom of the food chain. No circling the wagons. The genie is out of the bottle and never going back.
Change and thrive or stay the same and die your choice.
Healthcare Marketing Matters celebrates a birthday this week. I started writing the blog on February 17, 2007. Ten years is a long time to be writing about provider and vendor healthcare marketing strategy. From humble beginnings when I wondered if anyone would read it at all Healthcare Marketing Matters has grown to over 20,000 page views a month and is read in 52 countries. My deepest thanks and appreciation for your continued readership and support. Thank you for reading
Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries. He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association, and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.
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