Simple Principles for Marketing Your Health Initiatives
Consumerism is a growing trend in health care. It’s a reality that is here to stay for the foreseeable future, as consumers shop for health plans on the exchanges, information is readily accessible on the Internet, Direct-To-Consumer advertising for medical products is woven into the culture, and online ratings/reviews help patients select their physicians.
Thus, health care businesses are wise to adopt the practices of more consumer-centric industries as they evolve into this new environment. And, as evolution takes time, many health care businesses may not be able to immediately pursue comprehensive, resource-intensive strategies. A “crawl, walk, run” approach may be more feasible for a health care organization that is beginning its journey towards consumerism… and that’s ok, because you have to start somewhere.
The following represent simple principles and ideas to keep in mind as you build a consumer-centric business.
First, the adage that you must know your audience doesn’t change just because you are a medical provider. You can improve awareness by segmenting consumer markets to engage targeted health initiatives.
Key in on a Particular Audience.
Not all health care consumers will be motivated to make health-related decisions by the same factors. A one-size-fits-all approach to health care marketing, therefore, will have limited impact on your patients.
A targeted marketing campaign can deploy the tailored messages and health care strategies you need to reach (and resonate with) distinct, like-minded health care consumer segments within your audience.
These segments can be defined by demographics or socioeconomics, but this is limiting as it assumes all people who share physical or situational similarities think and act the same way. Segments can be defined by behaviors, captured through data such as medical claims or retail shopper purchases, but this only tells WHAT a consumer does, not WHY she’s doing it. Psychographic segmentation allows you to classify consumers according to common interests, values and motivations.
Once a particular segment is singled out for a campaign, your messaging must take into account 5 distinct consumer characteristics:
- Who is the patient (or health care decision maker) – demographics, socioeconomics, health condition(s), etc.?
- What are this segment’s needs?
- Why do they behave as they do? (i.e., motivations) – psychographics
- Where do these consumers find their health and wellness information?
- When is the best time to publish or send messaging and how often?
- How do I best reach these consumers with the most effective media?
Make Use of the National Media Campaigns
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsors a wide variety of health observances every month, driving awareness of specific health conditions among the population. Health care businesses can take advantage of these national observances to promote their own health initiatives. May offers opportunities to engage health consumers about:
- Stroke prevention
- Teen Pregnancy Prevention
- Smoking Cessation
In addition to these month long observances, there are also opportunities to coordinate with educational events such as National Women’s Check-up Day on May 12 or National Women’s Health Week May 11-17, both of which could easily be tailored to appeal to various female consumer segments within your audience.
Drive Them In
Health care organizations can use health observances as a springboard to engage patients outside the office.
- Schedule email or phone reminders for making or keeping appointments — especially for female patients during National Women’s Health month.
- Create a blog and post content that discusses health and wellness topics that provide patients with the information they need to make health care decisions — just make sure to leave out consumer-nonfriendly jargon. Not only will this provide a valuable service to your patients seeking credible information on these topics, fresh content posted regularly drives Search Engine Optimization.
- Design downloadable checklists for things like stroke prevention to post on social media pages and the business website.
- Use social media to create visual resources that promote health initiatives. Henry Ford Hospital used Twitter to show a live procedure from an operating room.
- Consider posting videos on YouTube. During Arthritis Awareness Month this May, you may find that posting guides for low-impact exercises may improve your patient engagement.
Traditional marketing tactics work for health care businesses, especially when focused for audience segmentation, but be strategic when planning your campaigns — include vehicles the are preferred specifically by your targeted consumer segment.
For example, you may want to consider adding an optional email (or even social media) field on your new patient registration forms so that you have multiple channels to use when promoting a targeted campaign — at least for those segments likely to respond well to those efforts.
Also, make sure all marketing literature such as brochures and business cards have a current website address and social media information, as well.
Offer High Tech Tools
Creating an app for patients is a high tech approach to patient engagement, but it could pay off for larger organization. A hospital with digitally-savvy patients, for example, may find that a web or mobile app that allows patients to easily schedule and check appointment times will have fewer cancellations or no-shows.
In the end, a successful marketing strategy involves segmenting consumers to pinpoint communications with motivating messages and optimal media vehicles, effectively promoting the health care organization and its health initiatives.