Conversations rule the day in marketing. The thinking goes that if consumers have positive experiences they will share those thoughts with their inner-circles. Word-of-mouth marketing calls them influentials.
I believe that how patients feel about your health care organization is going to make a dramatic difference in their choice to patronize you or your competitor in the very near future.
In my personal experiences with those in my circle, hospitalizations and clinic visits are often discussed. Especially if they are exceptional (good or bad, but more often bad). Those conversations are no longer limited to inner-circles, however. Which is great news for the organizations making an effort in this arena. And terrible news for those who are choosing to let it go. The web has made these conversations more sharable, more possible, more influential. It is amazing how influential a hotel review on Priceline can be from someone I have never met. But I do know that as hotel guests we share common interests. And a bad experience makes me think twice about making a reservation, a string of three+ bad reviews makes me run. Look at EBay. Are you more likely to think twice about bidding on an item from a seller who has a rating below 90%? I say yes.
Those same ideas have arrived with Health 2.0. Their impact is still limited. But now is the time to make the necessary changes so you allow and encourage patients to share their *exceptional, outstanding, WOW* experiences with the world.
And it starts with providing a (positive!) experience that is worth sharing. An experience worth starting a conversation over.
In an era “when all of us, journalists, business people, and designers are making the transition from being leaders of thought to curators of conversations,” as Bruce Nussbaum describes it, designers, including product designers, evolve from information architects to communication architects. Interaction designers start designing interactions between people (a.k.a conversations) and not just interaction with machines. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, while typically not the most eloquent CEO, nailed the mantra of the Generation C(onversation): “The other guys think the purpose of communication is to get information. We think the purpose of information is to get communication.”
The “aura” of the product is the people who talk about it. Products are the stories of products, and meaning is construed by memories, associations, and provocations. If product and user story match, at least partially, a narrative sandbox, a room of emotional resonance emerges that creates new, proprietary meaning: a third story, if you will. Call it “branding.”
Branding has been around for awhile. But for some reason health care (again) is late to the party. It’s not about making sure that advertisements in print, video, outdoor, online, etc. all match. It is your organization’s everything. It’s the marketing of the experience as soon as the patient is introduced to your organization. It continues with the visit. The cafeteria experience. The gift shop purchase. The bill. And every moment until…well, to be honest, I’m not sure when it ends. Think about the Mayo Clinic. You more than recognize the name. There are certain thoughts that go along with the words Mayo and Clinic. It has stories that people talk about worldwide. They are very good at what they do.
Think about your organization. Does that facility have a story worth sharing? You don’t have to be the Mayo Clinic to do this well. Do your patients enjoy interacting with your organization? Will they share their experience with the world?