The Six Sins of Healthcare Marketing

The Six Sins of Healthcare Marketing

by Kevin Endres, October 25, 2016

I’ve worked in healthcare marketing/advertising since way before it was the thing to be in. That would be the late ‘80s.

In that time, I’ve worked on just about everything in the healthcare category except pharma and durables. This post focuses on what I see and get asked to do way too often.

Too many healthcare providers/facilities/hospitals are stuck doing the same old thing. It’s the same strategies, tactics and executions over and over.

Healthcare marketing, specifically hospital systems, facilities and practices need to up their game. Look at their competition and do something different. And look at their consumers and figure out what will intrigue them.

Without further pre-mumble from me, here are the repeated sins that healthcare marketers need to stop, along with a few suggestions on what to do instead:

1. Selling access as “We’re close to you.” Yes, I know access to care is important. But unless you’re the only provider in your market, you probably just aren’t “The best care right here.” If you’re just talking to the people within a mile of your facility, then yes, you probably do have the best access. Instead, talk about “network access” or focus on a specific service line or how you care or something specific. Then you’ll truly be the best kind of specific care close to your consumers.

2. Saying, “Quality care.” Please! It’s no different than “As seen on TV!” Research repeatedly shows that your consumer already thinks you provide quality care. That is unless: 1) You did something terrible to that consumer, a family member or a friend; 2) You’re known throughout the region for having generally crappy care. And if you are, saying, “We provide quality care” showing a smiling nurse isn’t going to help much. Show and tell how you provide quality care. Just don’t say it.

3. Showing pictures of evil-looking machines and boring-looking buildings. At best, consumers could care less about equipment and buildings. At worst, they’re scared to death of things that look like they were in “Saw IV.” And that $50 million bucks you spent on the building? Consumers don’t care. Talk about the benefits of these machines and buildings. Faster recovery. Less pain. More personnel dedicated to you.

4. All the awards talk. If you’re on the U.S. News and World Report list as a best hospital—great! Consumers will recognize that. If not, you probably still have a very good hospital providing great care. But consumers don’t care about or recognize your award for best (insert service line here) from an organization they’ve never heard of. Hopefully, consumers are getting savvy enough to find real quality service reports on you from reputable organizations. If not now, then they will in the next few years. Work on what matters. Caring for patients. That’s the best award.

5. The important—or friendly—doctor poses in your messages. This has gotten so cliché that Cigna is now making fun of it in their advertising. (Watch to the end.) Don’t just throw doctors and nurses up on a billboard or in an ad or on your website unless it’s relevant to the message. I truly believe that consumers would rather hear a great story about recovery than looking at a doctor. If you do use physicians and employees, have them look like themselves and sound like themselves. That’s what connects with consumers.

6. All the talking head videos of patients, their families and caregivers. These are so prevalent now, there’s no way a consumer can distinguish your message from your competitor’s. If you are going to have patients tell their stories you must 1) Have a truly compelling story; 2) Do something more than the talking head. Do some backstory. Cutaways. Scenes that highlight what’s being said. Better yet, how about a totally new idea that really brings home the message you want your consumer to remember.

That’s my list. Sorry it’s so long but it’s years of pent-up energy that I had to let out.

More importantly, I hope it stirs some healthcare marketing professionals and their agencies to think more strategically, tell better stories and really connect with their consumer to: 1) Improve brand preference; 2) Helps you hit volumes you want.

I’m Kevin Endres, Owner/Creative Director of The International Offices. Find or complain to or @realendres.

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