How to bring your healthcare marketing to the next level
You’ve just finished another uncomfortable meeting with the board. Their underwhelmed tones left you feeling uneasy. They don’t understand how much you’re managing (like a boss), or how thinly spread your frazzled business director is. And maybe they don’t care.
Which you’re doing.
So where are the results? What’s the secret healthcare marketing sauce that’s going to turn your board’s tepid pen-tapping into:
“Before we start, I’d like to take a minute to recognize (you). The ROI we’re seeing from your marketing efforts is truly impressive.”
As a marketer, let me level with you: You’re in a unique position. If the marketing strategies you’re using fizzle more than they pop, it’s probably because they’re borrowed from generic businesses. But why borrow good generic marketing strategies when you could (legally) steal the best medical marketing practices in the industry?
The Mayo Clinic has healthcare marketing down to a science (hint: it’s not about science)
I don’t need to tell you that the Mayo Clinic is doing a lot of things right. Their patient satisfaction has become an emotional narrative in our culture. Acknowledging that they’re essentially your competitor, how many times have you felt palpable relief when a friend or family member says they’re going to the Mayo Clinic for answers?
And that sense of trust doesn’t just come from their enviable rankings (like being the No. 1 hospital in the nation, with plenty of honors for their individual campuses).
All records aside, the Mayo Clinic’s real brilliance is in the way they connect: Human-to-human. If you drop off from reading this post right now, make sure you store away this paragraph. Because this is what sets apart the Mayo Clinic’s marketing from mainstream attempts to gain brand awareness or get new bodies through the door: The Mayo Clinic’s marketing isn’t about bodies — it’s about hearts.
If you think I’m just saying that to make room for a cardiology pun, you’re not wrong. But Mayo has nailed down the real difference between generic marketing and powerful healthcare marketing. That’s because the Mayo Clinic understands that medicine is one of a few industries that sees and addresses us in our most vulnerable moments as Homo sapiens, trembling with fear, pain, and hope.
Here’s how they do it (and how your hospital or practice can, too)
Don’t let the Mayo Clinic’s prowess intimidate you. Their human-to-human strategy can be broken down into a handful of basic, achingly successful elements.
You’ll see the pattern as we inspect the keys to marketing like the Mayo Clinic: They continually market from the heart — building their strategy in a way that serves and connects with their patient base.
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Healthcare marketing secret #1: Don’t start with marketing
The idea is to zero in on the living, breathing people you serve, from their demographic details, to their journey to you. You need to internalize their deepest motivators and fears. From this information you create a persona, an amalgam of the people you serve that represents your patients and their hearts, so you can connect with them on a personal level before they even schedule that first appointment.
Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy says it like this: “I think it all comes down to our core value, which is that the needs of the patient come first. If you spend a day here, and you grab anybody at the Mayo Clinic and ask them, ‘What’s the purpose of your work?’ They would say, ‘To meet the needs of our patients.’”
(Bonus tip: This same target market persona development is a game-changing tool when you’re setting out to recruit new doctors that will fit well in your medical practice.)
Healthcare marketing secret #2: Patients respond to medical-grade humility
Dad is the hero here, not technology
They made a gut-level apology. In person. With prior permission from the Dakota people. After acknowledging in painful detail the devastation William Mayo caused (150 years ago) by desecrating a chief’s body, they apologized, offered the elders traditional blankets, and then announced a scholarship. They built a human-to-human bridge. That’s the hallmark of their marketing.
Healthcare marketing secret #3: Building a human connection requires social media
It seems odd to pair all this talk about heart-level connection with a discussion about social media, because being absorbed by a screen sure doesn’t look like a human-to-human connection. But the fact is social media has changed people and the way we relate. Many, many humans are essentially conditioned to feel good on social media, and they feel more comfortable making initial connections to another person with a screen between them.
You’ve heard of B2C (business to consumer), but in healthcare marketing your goal is to evolve to B2H (business to human) and then H2H. Social media has become a non-negotiable tool for building H2H connections, offering an up-to-date glimpse of the heart behind your brand. The Mayo Clinic excels at using Facebook and Twitter to connect their brand and doctors to the rest of the world in a way that feels remarkably personal, while remaining professional.
Now, before you tell me your doctors still don’t see the value of investing in social media, let’s look at this report from the Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers, U.S. Keep in mind that the most recent survey is from 2012, so we can safely assume that these numbers have jumped in the years since.
In this 2012 survey, researchers found that 41 percent of consumers said social media tools influence their choice of a specific hospital, medical facility, or doctor. That means 41 percent of your potential patient base could be swayed to choose a competitor purely because they have a stronger Facebook or Twitter presence than you do.
Healthcare marketing secret #4: Social media builds your brand trust even when you’re not “advertising”
But maybe your doctors’ schedules are already full. That’s great! But in that same PwC report, 45 percent of consumers said social media would affect their decision to get a second opinion, and 34 percent said it would influence their decision about taking a certain medication. Then there’s the millennial demographic, of whom 90 percent said they trust healthcare information shared by others on social media!
So not only is social media great for advertising, it’s also a powerful way for your doctors to proactively serve patient’ needs and influence healthy behavior by sharing (free) educational content. People are hungry for information. They’re searching their symptoms and asking medical questions online. Leverage that reality and establish your practice as experts in your field.
Our old friends at the Mayo Clinic have, of course, mastered the art of providing free information to the public through social media and their online presence. But they’ve also created spaces on Facebook and their blog for patients to share their own stories (which conveniently also act as beautifully moving medical marketing). And remember Secret #2 about choosing the humble road and setting your patient up as the hero? Bingo.
The Mayo Clinic has embraced social media so effectively that they paid it forward and created the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network to help doctors (yes, including yours) engage patients online better. So when you need ideas for useful content, or when social media brings up HIPAA privacy concerns, you have a free resource to turn to for best practices and guidance.
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Healthcare marketing secret #5: Integrate your marketing efforts
Now we need to combine heart, humility, connection, and patient needs, and integrate them into all of your outreach efforts until you have a seamless healthcare marketing strategy.
The Mayo Clinic’s various campaigns (like the “You Are …” and the “#StrongArmSelfie”) are so successful because they integrate their marketing media so well. Rather than just recording a surgeon talking about colorectal cancer treatment and outcomes for the blog, they also share it on Facebook and Twitter. Then they make follow-up videos, create spaces for public discussion, and create a hashtag movement! There’s nowhere to hide from the Mayo Clinic when they create a new campaign. They maximize their reach by integrating so many marketing efforts.
Take the next step into medical marketing with heart
We’d love to talk with you about the dollars and cents behind abandoning generic B2C marketing and adopting the Mayo Clinic’s human-connection strategy. Because we’re confident even a hard-to-impress board will appreciate the ROI that comes from putting the patient first in healthcare marketing.