Helping consumers make good healthcare choices is the driver behind the best healthcare marketing strategies. Medical professionals have long avoided types of consumer marketing that some other professions have adopted - the marketing that healthcare delivers has to result in positive health seeking behavior without reducing it to a commodity that is “now on sale.” Consumer confidence and trust in both the professionalism and value offered have to be central to every effort to increase service delivery metrics. Winning healthcare marketing strategies include both.
2017 RBMA Quest Award for Digital Marketing
In 2016, Story Collaborative (Story) joined Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg (MIF) and sponsoring radiology group, Radiologic Associates of Fredericksburg (RAF) in their effort to engage and educate regional consumers about the value of a highly successful heart screening - the coronary calcium score. To make it easier for consumers to understand we simply called this screening a “heart scan”.
Since the underlying science for heart scans was a departure from some of the traditional notions about heart disease, namely that people who have no symptoms can have dangerously advancing levels of coronary artery disease (CAD), an educational strategy was required. A combination of video delivered via social media, educational articles configured for search engine optimization, along with a way to download a giving card to give a “heart scan,” produced a flow of patients that has filled the considerable service capacity of MIF since the campaign began.
The Radiology Business Management Association recognized this campaign as the 2017 Quest Award Winner for Digital Marketing among some of the largest radiology providers in the nation. Most important to Story Collaborative and MIF was not the award, but the fact that many people who have significant risk for CAD, but no symptoms, have been able to identify their need for healthcare much earlier than what other screenings approaches would have uncovered.
Roll back the curtain on a successful healthcare marketing strategy
Looking behind the scenes at how this campaign was developed can be helpful for creating marketing for healthcare providers. Story Collaborative implemented a “full growth stack” approach to this campaign, that brought together all the pieces from search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social media, online video, online lead conversion and customer service. Built around inbound marketing strategies and using Hubspot technology, here’s how the campaign “stacked up.”
- Appeal to consumers in the awareness phase. By using SEO online articles, including an online magazine published by Story on behalf of MIF, we captured patient interest and developed viral sharing of information about find CAD before their are symptoms.
Inbound marketing attracts consumers who are already searching for services by presenting valuable information in the top search listings. This is not information that is heavy on sales, but instead offers real value that meets the information and interest needs of those who are already predisposed to become patients.
Inbound marketing aligns closely with health education, because it attracts health seekers with valuable information online. This alignment makes it a powerful healthcare marketing strategy. Information is not just medical but also narrative - stories about the impact of healthcare make a big difference in helping patients make choices for new healthcare behaviors.
- Provide a way for consumers and their loved ones to connect directly with MIF - online. We implemented an inbound strategy that allowed people to encourage their family members to receive a heart scan.
Inbound marketing provides ways for people to move from being “visitors” to become “leads” online. This provides a highly qualified pool of people for whom additional follow up education is valued, recognizing that any consumer decision follows a process, or “customer journey.” Inbound approaches stay with that consumer all the way through their decision process.
There is much more to be said here, but many healthcare providers make a big marketing mistake because they only engage with consumers who are in the appointment setting process. Education and trust building have to begin much earlier in the consumer decision journey.
- Nurture the relationships with those who have indicated interest. We implemented follow up communication that sustained the education process.
Delivering healthcare information in bite-sized pieces along with attractive visuals allows consumers to keep options top of mind, to share with others and to continue learning about ways to improve their health.
- Follow-through in the final mile - We connected physician liaisons and care coordinators to potential patients who had questions about how heart scans work and what someone might expect during a screening.
The “last or final mile” is a term that comes from logistics and and refers to how a product is finally delivered to the customer in their own environment. It also applies to how we serve people as they take those final steps to secure healthcare. Using the full growth stack approach, marketing information was converted to a customer service connection that allowed staff to answer questions and help remove barriers. To ensure patient confidentiality, the systems that make reservations and transmit identifiable patient data were completely separate from the marketing communications, and used HIPAA secure communication methods.
Consumer education is at the heart of good healthcare marketing
By combining comprehensive technology and digital strategy, healthcare education becomes a natural extension of effective marketing. Each element in an integrated strategy leverages the other elements so that marketing is more cost effective, successful in achieving growth and supportive of great customer experiences.