By Jeb Emami 

At the Hospital Marketing National Conference in Atlanta in June, ReviveHealth EVP Chris Bevolo spoke about how the health care industry has traditionally been behind the curve in its understanding and application of marketing and branding, but that it continues to evolve. In sharing some key findings from his new book, Joe Public III: The End of Hospital Marketing, Chris also discussed the need for health care marketers to think bigger than just health care. Coming from of an agency that prides itself on bringing outside perspectives to the work we do in the health care space, I couldn’t agree more. Here are a few things health care marketers can learn from other industries to help engage existing patients and attract new ones.

Understand the Entire Customer Journey.
Travel and destination brands do a great job of engaging at every phase of the customer journey. From the discovery or “dream phase,” all the way through to the booking and the trip itself, most travel brands focus on understanding the customer mindset and finding the right messages for each step of the journey. Social media plays an important role here, allowing people to share their travel experiences with a much wider audience than ever before.

Of course, the customer mindset is vastly different when dealing with hospitals and health care providers. There is no “dream phase” because no one wants to think about needing a hospital until they absolutely need one. As a result, customers aren’t motivated to engage with hospital messaging. In working with Children’s National Health System, we thought about the primary target audience, parents, as existing on a spectrum of low to high motivation when it comes to the topic of children’s hospitals. Regardless of where they fell along the spectrum, the digital experience was designed to match their motivation level. Children’s National knew they needed to engage parents before, God forbid, their child gets sick and they become highly motivated. So they focused on building awareness and affinity among parents so that when they are eventually needed, the decision to choose Children’s National over other local children’s hospitals would be easy.

Use Brand as a Tool for Internal Adoption.
Too many organizations think of their brand as outward facing, meant to differentiate and attract customers. But the truth is, the most important audience for any brand is internal because it doesn’t matter what you promise in advertising if the experience you deliver doesn’t live up to the promise. This is especially true in health care, where the patient experience is affected by so many different factors, from the doctors and nurses, to the office personnel, to the folks in the cafeteria.

Health care marketers must make sure they involve all internal stakeholders in any branding effort, and do a proper internal launch to ensure that everyone in the organization understands the brand, believes in it, and lives it out everyday, in order to deliver a seamless experience.

One of our clients is Long & Foster, the nation’s largest independent real estate brokerage. Since their 11,000 agents are the true keepers of the brand, the ones who live it out everyday as they interact with customers, we built the brand and website experience around them and their “Love of Home.” Agent satisfaction, and new leads, reached an all-time high shortly after the launch.

Meet the Expectations of Millennials.
Millennials represent more than 83 million Americans and their expectations when it comes to health care marketing messaging are very different than other generations. They often value convenience more than institutional expertise and want messaging that speaks to them directly, with a certain level of authenticity. Millennials are also much more accustomed to using social media and other digital platforms to research health care options and make decisions about their health. In fact, according to one study, 37% of Millennials are more likely to turn to Google to get routine medical advice than to call a doctor.

While these changes may seem particularly daunting for health care marketers, it’s important to realize every industry is facing the same challenges. Retail, which is used to a faster pace of change, is a good industry to watch for innovations. Our client Giant Food is focused on offering their customers a faster and more transparent shopping experience, with digital investments in mobile apps and coupons, and social media marketing playing big roles in the brand’s overall growth strategy.

The health care landscape in this country is changing every single day. With consumers now having access to seemingly endless information right at their fingertips, it’s forcing hospitals and health care providers to rethink their marketing efforts and look to other industries for insight into successful communications strategies. As Chris said in his book, health care marketing is dead. Now it has to be as smart and forward thinking as any other industry’s marketing. Here’s to raising the bar.

Jeb Emami is Marketing Strategist at RP3, a Capitol Communicator sponsor.




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