Many years ago an airline, which will remain nameless, professed in its tagline that, “(airline name) gets you there.” Considering the alternative, the passengers sure hope so. And a national chicken franchise once had as its slogan, “We do chicken right.” Why wouldn’t they do it that way? Suffice it to say, it was a moot point and a silly message.
A healthcare marketing message needs a heartbeat.
Today, advertisers continue to state things that are so intrinsic to their product and/or service that the message becomes a boring and obvious.
Healthcare advertisers are among that crowd. It could be said that a generic healthcare marketing formula calls for a healthy dose of medical staff pictures, especially the doctors, and an oft-repeated message that beckons patients to come for treatment because, “We care, we really care, and we really mean that we care.”
What’s the marketing point? That “our” doctors care more than the other hospitals’ doctors? As though the Hippocratic Oath was only known and adhered to by one hospital and the rest really don’t care as much.
What should really make any healthcare marketing administrator sick is to find out that their marketing communications budget is being wasted on a weak, generic marketing message. Patients and their loved ones expect to be cared for by trained caregivers, expect to get better and expect to get the best treatment.
Here’s what to care about.
Inherently, each institution, like any good healthcare entity, offers differentiation based on the services it specializes in or focuses on. Even community hospitals have certain niches that can set them apart. The challenge is to establish, and then gain consensus, on what sets the institution apart. All businesses compete on a marketing playing field against the competition of either price or differentiation. And since price is not something that healthcare institutions can control to a large degree, it is important to identify the differentiating factor, the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that will provide that competitive advantage.
Discovering that competitive advantage takes an investment of time, effort and money. It starts with competitive analysis, market studies and perception and awareness research. These tools help pinpoint who the competition really is and what the target audience really thinks of you. Often, research will identify such a large gap between market perception and market reality that a whole new branding initiative is warranted.
Once that phase of the healthcare marketing task is complete, the work begins to create and deliver a message that is tangible and beneficial. And delivers that message in a compelling way.
A few examples.
- For instance, it may be as simple as letting the market know that they can see the same doctors here as they can at other hospitals that are “perceived” as being better. It is a simple, true message that can dramatically improve the hospital’s image and, most importantly, gain patients.
- Or, often a fundamental issue like communicating the full continuum of care available and that patients need not go someplace else, can create an “ah-hah moment” for patients.
- And lastly, focus on demonstrating superior customer service by spotlighting areas with a higher degree of patient satisfaction than the competition.
In each example above, the point is to say something that resonates with the market and audience; to demonstrate, not simply state, that we care.
People and patients want tangible evidence of how an institution cares for them – not lip service supported by warm and fuzzy pictures. And the healthcare institutions that really care about developing a strong healthcare marketing communications program are the ones who know themselves, know and understand their market, and communicate their services in clear, concise and meaningful messages.