The job of a marketing department at a hospital or urgent care center is very different than it was 20 years ago. Yes, for sure, some things haven’t changed. Billboards along the highway are still used to tout a hospital’s No. 1 ranking in patient satisfaction, but from my days in marketing at Procter & Gamble, I learned that billboards reinforce a decision that is already made and are not effective as a stand-alone acquisition channel.
Attention is far more fragmented today than it used to be. Getting a new patient isn’t as simple as it once was, but the flip side of that is that a hospital has a lot more options today. There’s trendy social media and the old workhorse of legacy media.
Baseball Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler once declared the secret to being a great hitter is to “Hit `Em Where They Ain’t.” The secret for a marketing success for a hospital is the opposite. You need to hit the ball to where they are by exploring the following five trends, and patient engagement platforms can help.
Influencers are gaining in popularity, and in many ways, this is an example of old being new again. There have always been influencers. The local weatherman would do commercials for the local dry cleaner, and if the friendly hometown meteorologist gets his jackets washed there, then it’s good enough for you.
Influencers are a natural social media extension of television’s influencers, except the influencer isn’t your local weatherman. It could be a neighbor, a community chat-leader, or online food blogger (think about teaming up with one to produce health recipes that fall within your hospital’s wellness mission).
Search Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat for local influencers with wide followings and work something out. Hint: having the most followers isn’t the criteria. You want them to be your potential customers, so you’re far better off finding someone with 5,000 followers that might be interested in your hospital’s birthing center than an influencer with 50,000 followers that may only be marginally interested (i.e., “quality leads”). Your new patient acquisition efforts should reap results with credible, organic influencers.
2. Video Content
Create a “TV studio” in your hospital and put that content everywhere. YouTube is the second largest search engine. People search online for information about colonoscopies or knee surgeries, so you could stream a surgery or panel discussion on those topics.
You could also create a weekly health news broadcast with relevant news information and lifestyle and make a buffet of SEO rich information. With GoPro programs and iPhone cameras, your TV studio can run on a shoestring. PatientBond can help deliver these videos to the right people with messaging tailored to the specific psychographic segments of healthcare consumers that you’re trying to attract.
3. Geo-Targeted Marketing
Some markets are very fragmented demographically, and that used to make it challenging to reach everyone with a unified message. But nowadays you don’t have to, and that trend is accelerating.
The college students in the city’s universities may be enticed to skip the campus clinic and instead check out your award-winning sports-medicine center. Yet the retirement community might be more receptive to knee replacement information. You didn’t have these tools available 20 years ago, but you do now. Use them.
With the help of patient engagement platforms, you can develop ways to further target your messages within a geographic area. PatientBond, for instance, can generate a “heat map” of the distribution among psychographic segments within a community and use psychographic segment-specific keywords and messaging designed to resonate with each patient’s core beliefs and personality.
4. Low-Tech: Smile And Shake
The flip side of all of this social media and technology is that amid the clicks, the likes, streaming, and tweeting is that it has, ironically, made old-fashioned human contact stand-out again.
Setting up booth at a festival, offering free screening in an RV at the local grocery store, a health-zone at the finish line of the 5K — all of these interactions are low-cost, low-tech ways to make eye contact, brighten a day with a smile, and have meaningful real, face-to-face conversations with prospective clients.
The irony is that this is so effective today precisely because social media is so pervasive now. . Use these interactions as an occasion to get people to sign up for your hospital’s e-newsletter or portal, which will then serve as the gateway for developing a patient bond that grows and grows.
Patient engagement platforms can take patient contact information and develop a life-long relationship. PatientBond, for example, not only keeps patients engaged with applications such as appointment reminders, appointment follow-up messages, wellness education and health reminders — it also motivates them to better manage their health and wellness using messages personalized to each psychographic segment.
5. Go Amish
Do you know the Amish are one of the fastest-growing religious/ethnic groups in the United States? The Amish are, despite their public image, receptive to modern medicine. Hospitals that have reached out to the Plain people in a respectful way have found them to be very receptive, cash-paying customers. Hospital systems in Ohio have reported impressive results in introducing breast cancer screenings among Amish women if accompanied with a robust educational campaign.
But it’s not just the Amish. Most markets have pockets of underserved “cultural islands.” Whether it be large Somali communities that have taken root in Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio, and Maine, or Hispanic populations in the rural Midwest, treating these groups with respect and offering relevant, well-meaning, respectful care. Bringing in a translator who speaks their language can tear down barriers.
And don’t think that an online patient platform couldn’t be useful with these groups. Many Amish and Plain groups now have smartphone or email access, library email access or internet connections through community groups and centers. Moreover, PatientBond can translate digital communications into most languages, enhancing receptivity and comprehension. Technology can be used to serve the underserved in exciting ways that benefit both the prospective patient and the healthcare provider.
The new patients are there, using the proper platforms and latest technology. You can find them online, at the local festival, or even among population pockets that would have been once out of reach. This is an exciting time to be in healthcare because the tools to reach people have never been more powerful.