Two things that typically do not go hand-in-hand are healthcare and marketing. With organizations and providers caring for patients, staying on top of the latest outbreak of influenza or measles, or expanding a wing of their facility to serve more people, healthcare marketing often falls by the wayside. However, if your organization is not making healthcare marketing a priority, the longevity of your operation and, therefore, your ability to serve your patients is in jeopardy.
In the past, healthcare providers did not have to put much thought into their community outreach. Healthcare systems controlled much of the patient’s experience. In other words, they would tell patients where to go, what to do, and who to see.
Today, with the accelerated use of technology, patients now have limitless options at their fingertips and are actively playing a large role in managing their health. This has led to a consumer-focused shift in the healthcare industry. Furthermore, healthcare organizations are finding it difficult to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Just as diners who have a bad experience at a new restaurant may leave a scathing review on that establishment’s Yelp page, patients who have complaints about their care or interactions with clinic staff turn to Google and HealthGrades to freely post their gripes.
There are numerous ways to ensure your organization will stand out from the competition, while also protecting your organization from any negative reviews or word-of-mouth that does happen to crop up.
The first step is understanding and prioritizing both your organizational branding and your healthcare marketing.
Regardless of which path in healthcare your organization operates, branding and marketing are essential components. However, as healthcare organizations are often focused so heavily on patient care and health issues (and rightly so), these business foundations often go neglected.
The first step toward building a healthcare marketing strategy that serves both the organization and your patients is to understand the difference between branding and marketing.
Branding is the look, feel, and design of your organization. Branding is not only your name, logo and color palette; it is your reputation – how you are viewed by consumers. Your brand represents a promise you make to your patients, the value you place on your patient relationships, and accounts for every experience and touchpoint they have with your healthcare organization.
Your brand encompasses everything from organizational identity and company material, to delivering the best possible patient experience and quality of care. Your brand exudes personality, meaning, and emotional associations that linger in the minds of the people you most want to reach.
Marketing, on the other hand, is the mechanism by which you reach those audiences. Your marketing consists of the specific actions you take to connect your message, purpose, and services to the patients who can benefit from your care. For many healthcare organizations, this consists of email marketing, having a strong website presence, print materials, and possibly even social media or content marketing.
To simplify the path to successful healthcare marketing, adopt these five pillars of practice into your marketing initiatives and revisit them often to ensure your organization is staying on track.
The first step to mastering healthcare marketing is understanding the weight and significance of your brand. Your brand is a living, breathing thing. It is your reputation. It grows, shrinks, evolves, and needs to be nurtured consistently.
If your brand is weak or your reputation has taken a few too many hits, patients will not return and business will suffer.
To maintain a healthy brand, pay attention to and address issues head on. For example, if your healthcare organization has received several negative reviews, draw attention to the fact that you are actively listening and improving.
Additionally, your brand is made up of all the smaller representations of the organization, including your physical spaces and, most importantly, the people who interact with patients.
If your brand is suffering in the public spotlight, examine your staff member and provider behaviors for how they are embodying the brand. To create a resilient, stable organization over time, your staff must project the values and qualities of the brand internally so patients can experience your brand externally.
While every healthcare organization aims to help improve the quality of health for patients, it is critical to also remember that your organization is, at its core, a business. As such, your organization’s brand and position in the marketplace are influenced by what other organizations live around you.
Research your competitors. Determine what competing organizations are doing well and what gaps they are leaving uncovered.
Next, examine your own strengths and weaknesses as an organization. What does your internal staff see as your greatest strengths? Are those projected to the public? What are seen as your weaknesses? Are you actively working to improve on those and sharing that news with the public?
Furthermore, what are your organization’s strengths and weaknesses according to your patients? Check online reviews or email patient questionnaires and surveys to collect data.
Once you have compiled a list of strengths and weaknesses, refine your list and choose which strengths you will highlight in your marketing and which weaknesses you will emphasize are being worked on for the sake of improving patient experiences.
Your healthcare marketing department can work tirelessly to create a beautiful brand, a strong set of values and qualities that should be associated with your brand, and a plan of action for your organization’s marketing. However, if your staff and providers are not embodying those elements, your branding and marketing will fail.
Successful healthcare marketing requires that your organization looks the part – with consistent branding with logos, colors, fonts, and design – and, more importantly, acts the part by conveying your organization’s values, culture, mission, and purpose through human behavior and interactions.
Your staff and providers reflect your brand in-person with patients and at events. They represent the organization in relatable, personal form. Ensure your entire organization is aware of your branding and marketing initiatives and encourage buy-in by reminding them what that brand looks like in action.
What message are you communicating in the marketplace? Is it what you want your patients to remember you by?
Your message must be communicated to your staff and your audience – the patients you aim to serve. This communication must happen consistently and across multiple channels of interaction, including patient portals, print materials, in-office messaging, and human interaction.
Additionally, protecting your brand and ensuring marketing consistency requires examining your online profiles and managing your online reputation regularly.
For instance, analyzing your website analytics, checking Google and HealthGrades reviews, reading and addressing patient feedback surveys, and reminding your staff of the message your organization wants to convey are all marketing habits that should become part of an ongoing routine.
Lastly, your healthcare marketing must keep you top-of-mind. To remain memorable, stay abreast of the way your patients are engaging with your organization.
Are they interacting with social media and Google search? Do they prefer to interact with your office via email and their digital patient portal or do they prefer in-person or phone interaction?
Are patients taking printed fliers with them or are they tuning those messages out in favor of engaging with Facebook posts?
Identify where your target audience is placing their attention and then craft your marketing initiatives to meet them where they already live. Doing so will ensure you are memorable and top-of-mind when they need help.
Additionally, ensure you are creating marketing initiatives that your healthcare organization can commit to long-term. If sending twice-weekly marketing emails is a challenge and something your staff often struggles to complete on time, it is likely not a repeatable, sustainable option.
Rather, if an administrative staff member is particularly savvy with social media and finds checking comments and messages enjoyable, that may be an area to explore further.
Your healthcare organization is only as good as its reputation. Ultimately, our goal is to help patients and advance healthcare. However, if patients do not know about your organization, what you specialize in, or what makes you stand out from the competition, you will never be able to help those in need of your care.
If you need help creating a sustainable brand and marketing strategy for your healthcare organization, contact us.
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