Guest Commentary: Healthcare marketing should focus on the individual
Notwithstanding the ongoing debate about how to finance healthcare in this country, we know that the healthcare sector is experiencing a dramatic transformation, with consumerism at the heart.
Digitally driven consumers have inspired all healthcare organizations—including providers, payers and retailers—to alter the way they market, communicate and, most importantly, deliver care.
Consumers now have instant access to information about their choices, which has heightened expectations about what a seamless, end-to-end healthcare experience looks and feels like. And it has intensified the need for true direct-to-consumer marketing to win these consumers at every point of engagement.
Put in its simplest terms, healthcare marketing today is all about delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time—and then measuring it. Gone are the days when brand awareness alone—through broadcast, billboards, sponsorships—is enough to persuade consumers on the best options for their healthcare needs.
Healthcare marketing is no longer about qualitative awareness, but rather it's about quantitative, targeted tactics and prescriptive modeling. For large, integrated systems such as Ascension, it means doing grass-roots research and consumer behavior and language testing so that we can fully understand the populations we serve and anticipate their needs before they even enter our doors. It also means having a strong, accessible brand that consumers trust and find convenient and connected.
It requires looking beyond audience segmentation and understanding the individual–a segment of one. Doing this properly necessitates understanding search trends, consumer behavior, media consumption, clinical and nonclinical health risk factors, and other data to truly understand the best way to reach individuals.
These changes also push us to think bigger than billboard and newspaper ads. We have to be visible and available to our patients both before and right when they need us.
We must also be committed to more-accessible, more-convenient and more-seamless care delivery. We need to make it easier for consumers to navigate our sites of care, both physically and online, and with mobile devices. This is no longer a nice to-do; it's a must-do.
Case in point: Nearly 80% of healthcare engagements now begin with some type of online search, and the vast majority of those searches begin on a small device. That being the case, healthcare marketing needs to be geared toward winning at the point of engagement. Translation: less qualitative awareness, more quantitative marketing, and making sure the experience is mobile-friendly.
When I speak to different organizations or groups about healthcare marketing, or even internally when I discuss it with leadership at Ascension, I begin by flipping the old marketing model on its head. Healthcare marketing used to be described as an upside-down pyramid, with the base on top representing awareness and the tip at the bottom representing consumer engagement, and lots of other things happening in between.
In today's consumer-centric landscape, we have moved our marketing closer to the point of conversion.
The top of the pyramid now represents access points, mostly online, through mobile-friendly physician scheduling tools and urgent-care appointments. The middle part of the pyramid is now a world-class web design that's mobile-friendly and connected directly to sites of care. And the base is now sophisticated, analytics-driven consumer relationship management.
For this new quantitative, data-driven approach to work, healthcare providers must understand the needs of consumers better. As an organization, we have begun to readjust our marketing and clinical focus to see our hospitals through the consumer lens. Consumers are no longer peripheral to the equation; they are the equation. Consumers have begun taking their encounters in other industries and applying them to healthcare. This is a new approach that we wouldn't have considered a few years ago, but we're evolving in response to the dynamic needs of consumers today.
The future of healthcare marketing
Join thought leaders, hospital CEOs and senior marketing executives from top healthcare organizations across the country at Modern Healthcare's annual Strategic Marketing Conference Nov. 7 in Chicago. Learn more and register at ModernHealthcare.com/StrategicMarketing
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