Healthcare Marketing

Healthcare marketing is behind the rest of the marketing world. The brands tend to be relatively weak and the industry as a whole is risk-averse, highly complex, hierarchical, and poorly incentivized for innovation. Yet the work is important, and the societal benefit profound. So let’s bring the level of marketing up, especially for all those organizations that are truly bringing value to the world.

The Challenges of Healthcare Branding Strategies

In our work with healthcare organizations, there are a few emergent challenges that are worth noting. This post relates only to healthcare service brands like hospitals and nursing services and is not meant to apply to healthcare product brands or pharma or medical device companies, which operate differently.

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Telehealth Adoption and COVID-19

A look at telehealth adoption through the lens of Dr. Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Theory: What’s coming and what'll it take to keep the beneficial changes in behavior that are occurring due to the pandemic?

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How Public Health Messaging Can Encourage Vaccinations

As in healthcare marketing, encouraging a specific health-related behavior requires a deep understanding of how people behave and change, and how they respond to public health messaging. In light of the current reality regarding vaccinations, we pose the question: how can we effectively encourage changes in public health behavior?

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Healthcare marketing

Healthcare and healthcare services in the United States are highly regulated, complex, and poorly understood. This is a terrible starting point for marketing as each of these preconditions hamper marketing effectiveness. This does not doom healthcare marketing to a state of perpetual mediocrity. Formal constraints are a boon to genuine creativity. Regulation is nothing if not a formal constraint.

Finding the story that bypasses complexity

It’s not regulation, but rather complexity that is the real and present danger to effective healthcare marketing. Complexity lurks within the insider’ understanding of the organization and its services, distracting target patients and members away from a message that will actually resonate with them. Marketing is least effective when it is asked to teach or when it uses language that is unfamiliar.

The needs of the beneficiary expressed in the voice of the beneficiary is the golden rule, but that is so easily retracted by the demands of insiders with authority. In marketing, there is only one authority when it comes to the needs to be addressed or the language that will effectively communicate, and that is the customer. At its core, this is all marketing is: customer understanding applied.

Use your marketing resources first to understand the customer/patient/beneficiary, then tell a story that has meaning and relevance to them. Deliver that story in a context that makes sense and is likely to be timed with the moment of recognized need. It’s easy to describe, quite hard to effectively execute.

A good option at the right time

Healthcare, like old age, is not something that people want to think about until they are thrown into a situation that demands action. In this moment of need, a decision is sometimes made for them, but other times it is an active choice. At this moment, there is a great advantage to brands that are familiar. Familiarity begets positivity, and positivity drives preference and choice, when choices are possible. So healthcare brands benefit from awareness but suffer from disinterest in the absence of immediate need. This is the great paradox of healthcare marketing. As a consumer, I will filter out all healthcare messaging as irrelevant to me because of my natural optimism bias and because I do not want to think about the possibility of one day needing those services, but in my moment of need, I will want to opt for something familiar.

Healthcare marketing operates in two divergent situations

Firstly, it must address the disinterested and insert itself into their consciousness. This is an extremely difficult proposition, as it requires that the audience push past the instinctive and automatic exclusion of all irrelevant messages from conscious awareness. It is difficult but not impossible to bypass this filter that makes irrelevant all marketing that does not directly address what I believe I need at this very moment.

Secondly, healthcare marketing must perform in terms of availability in the time of need, which is often an extremely thin sliver of opportunity. Neither of these conditions is terribly efficient in marketing terms. The first is fighting human nature and the second is a kind of needle-in-a-haystack situation, but to the extent we understand the task, we can be as efficient as possible with the marketing resources available.

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