The term “marketing” usually has a (very) negative connotation for those of us in healthcare. It conjures up images of high-pressure sales. Of websites with flashing fluorescent arrows and “limited” supplies, so order now! But, those images are actually of “healthcare advertising,” not marketing. And recently, some folks that I respect tell me that there are positive ways to think of marketing for healthcare. They tell me that in order to truly connect with your patients, you must “do the work”: you must do the research to understand your patients’ needs. And then … serve those needs. Provide what they are looking for. And while you’re serving them, provide a humane experience. A great experience. An exceptional patient experience. And that, they tell me, is great marketing. Why? Because it’s a win-win relationship. It is anti-advertising, anti-marketing at its best. Healthcare marketing is special. Let’s redefine marketing for healthcare. And in the process, reclaim the hallowed doctor-patient relationship. (The old) healthcare marketing is dead; long live the new healthcare marketing.
The NEW Healthcare Marketing – It’s a three-step process:
- Research your patients’ healthcare needs
- Serve their healthcare needs
- Provide information that answers their questions
This last step is actually the “marketing” part. Answer their most commonly asked questions – their FAQ’s – on your website blog. When you communicate that you have the answers to their questions…that is healthcare marketing. That step is a huge win-win: while providing answers to questions, you are establishing your expertise in your field of practice; you are becoming a go-to resource for information, as an authority; and you are becoming the go-to resource for their medical care. That is, it establishes you as the place that can serve their healthcare needs (step 2). Focus on Solution / Access / Value / Education. That process has the power to SAVE your practice (get it?).
Fact: In order for a medical practice – for any healthcare service – to thrive today, it’s no longer sufficient to hang out your shingle. Rude fact: It’s no longer enough to be a great doctor! Sorry. It’s true. Deal. You need an attitude adjustment. If you enjoy being merely a technician, following a recipe (“clinical pathway” in hospital corporate-speak), then by all means continue as you are: hang out your shingle and be the health tech. But if you want a truly great practice, if you want to be the go-to resource for your patient community, if you want to return to that romanticized doctor-patient relationship of yore, you must be more than a good technician, a “good doctor.”
You must serve them.
In Service Of …
And what does it take to serve them?
For starters, correct these two common mistakes (although there are many more):
- First, throw out every classical “marketing” technique. Now. Forever. Replace those with a focus on your patient community. Your “marketing” is not about you. It’s not about your “product.” It’s about them. It’s about their needs, their wants, their fears. It’s about serving They want optimal health. They need care. Take a look at everything the Cleveland Clinic is doing to better connect with and serve their community. There are ways to engage your patient community in this digital age that provide much greater ROI than traditional marketing techniques.Your BRAND is all about their experience: your brand is synonymous with the patient experience. Do everything you can to make that experience a remarkable one. Think Seth Godin’s “purple cow.”
- My next advice is to stop bragging about your big-ticket services. Focus on the best, most efficient ways to get your community healthy, and to keep them healthy. As doctors and hospitals take on the financial risk and burden of keeping our communities healthy (value-based care), those big-ticket services of today (cardiac cath labs; whole-joint replacements; etc.) will no longer be revenue-generators; they will become the liabilities of tomorrow. And these services do not distinguish you from any other “healthcare provider.”
Trust me: EVERY hospital has some new high-tech gadget; a surgical robot; or a high-tech invasive cardiology unit.
Don’t brag about yours, it doesn’t set you apart.
You know what will set you apart? Compassionate, humane care!
Again: a remarkable patient experience.
Consider an Integrative Medicine Center. Again, take a look at Cleveland Clinic’s new Center for Functional Medicine, or Duke’s Center for Integrative Medicine, for best practices.
Most – not all – of the Centers of Integrative Medicine that have developed in the U.S. actually lose money on a strict center-based audit.
So why do these high-level institutions continue to support them?
Because they improve community health. And because they engage the community; they build relationships with the community. And when members of that community need services outside of those centers, they will seek care where they already have a trusting relationship.
That means these institutions have found a huge benefit to their bottom line that is not apparent from a strict audit.
They have discovered profound benefits from keeping their communities healthy. From connecting. From serving.
Healthcare Marketing: It’s About the Experience
Focus on their experience.
- Provide an exceptional patient experience. At Every. Single. Touch-point.
- Don’t answer the phone with a multi-level automated voice menu.
- Don’t greet patients at your clinic check-in counter with “are you here to check in?” (Duh!)
- Greet them with a smile; and “… hello, how can I help you?”
- And there are other ways to show you care.
The golden rule applies in healthcare more than any other industry:
As I have become a patient in recent years, I implore you to treat your patients as you would want to be treated!
That should be your brand. Provide an exceptional patient experience, and the “marketing” will take care of itself!
Anti-marketing is the new healthcare marketing. Simply provide the most humane, compassionate care that you possibly can. Start connecting. Start serving.
Let that be your brand promise.
Contact me if you would like to explore how your health system, hospital, or medical practice can better connect with your community. I’m a bit shy, but I’ll be glad to help.
And come listen to the Russ & Randy Podcast – this episode on Marketing vs Advertising in Healthcare.