Health care marketing is hooey

Health care marketing is not marketing, it’s advertising—and few get the advertising part right.  Hospitals, health systems, clinics, etc. push push push their services through an assortment of mediums: billboards, newspapers, local magazines, television, radio, direct mail (even the new social media tools are most commonly used for telling)…

The thing about most health care services is that the patient doesn’t know they need it until they need it.  The status quo has been to inundate the patient with advertising to increase brand awareness—so that when the patient does realize they need a service, they think first of the entity that placed the most advertisements.  There is a better way.

Stop telling.  Start asking.

Instead of focusing on brand awareness, focus on brand embracement.  Build relationships.  Have conversations.

When a patient realizes health care need they are more likely to revert to past, positive relationships than to seek out new, unfamiliar associations.

Marketing: make the entire (read: entire!) patient experience with health care the best that it can be.  Focus upon the entire interaction continuum (from realizing need to forgetting it) and satisfy patients throughout.  Build a culture that provides unsurpassed customer service: endlessly dedicate resources to hiring the right people, improving appointment making, easing parking problems, encouraging communication, empowering service recovery, providing outstanding care, simplifying billing, etc. (all of the etc., too!).  Relationships will begin to materialize.

Doing so will create awesome stories (stories matter, stories are marketing) that are worth spreading.  Patients tell stories endlessly, whether they realize it or not.  They talk to others who chat with others who tell even more others.  Allow patients to tell their story of an experience that went beyond every expectation.  Health care is full of stories worth telling; allow it to happen by getting the distractions out of the way through marketing, real marketing.

3 thoughts on “Health care marketing is hooey

  1. Drew,

    This is a great post. Social media is transforming how we communicate with companies in nearly every other industry. And the healthcare industry is so far behind. Imagine a hospital on Facebook or Twitter and engaging with people before they become patients. But I wonder – do hospitals prefer to talk because they’re afraid to listen?


  2. Ravi,

    You’ve likely hit the nail on the head. Control of a message is a very difficult thing to relinquish (for anyone) especially for those inside of health care where the perception of control remains mostly untouched by those using social media. Giving control of the message to staff and people outside of the organization without much ability to respond to anything negative is a very, very scary thought…the reason it’s scary is because people are afraid of what is going to come out. Paul Levy at Beth Israel Deaconess has proved its possible, but Paul came from outside of health care and brought that perspective with him. Up to this point, when health care organizations have been talked about in the media it has usually been in a negative light. The thing that health care needs to realize is that social media isn’t traditional media and positive conversations can and will happen.


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