Commentary

Why Healthcare Marketers Must Pivot To A Big Brand Mentality

There’s a new normal in healthcare marketing, and healthcare providers need to take heed.

The signs are everywhere, as the list of established, trusted, and ubiquitous brands rocking the healthcare marketplace grows daily. In the past few months alone, CVS announced its acquisition of healthcare innovator Signify Health while Amazon bought the primary care organization, One Medical.  At the same time, Walmart acquired multi-specialty telehealth provider MeMD.

And those are just the moves coming from the major players.  Incubators like Matter, and startups such as Viome, Revieve, and FemTec Health are all poised to reinvent how they engage with—and care for—patients by introducing new options for consumers.  

What does it mean? Simple. A tsunami of industry disruptors is about to change the way consumers address their healthcare needs forever. And that means it’s time for traditional healthcare providers to start marketing as if they were consumer brands struggling to achieve relevance, market share, customer acquisition, and loyalty.

It’s true that several providers have put the topic of “consumerism” on the front burner over the past years and have invested in treating their patients like the empowered customers they are.  However, few have put the right level of investment or energy behind differentiating their brand, making it relevant, and protecting it from competitive threats. The time is now for healthcare marketers to start focusing on best practices that will take their existing brands from good to great.  Here’s some tips on how they can get started. 

  • Listen With IntentionCustomer needs and expectations continue to change rapidly amidst the post-pandemic landscape, so it’s critical not to act on assumptions. Providers must have tools in place to get to know their audience on a much deeper level, not just by gathering data on their healthcare needs.  They need to learn who they are as people. Some marketers are wisely using sophisticated social media monitoring techniques as well as creating panels of consumers to tap for learnings, validation of strategies, and testing concepts. Building trust comes from truly understanding what customers really feel, need, and want and being able to translate those insights into meaningful connections, interactions, and experiences. 
  • Enhance Patient Experience. Customer experience is the foundation of any strong brand, and it’s no different in healthcare. Clinical excellence and personalized care are basic expectations, but customers also want the things they have come to expect from their interactions with non-healthcare brands.  These include a frictionless experience for access and scheduling, price transparency, a feedback loop and clear, consistent communication. While many healthcare marketers have invested in modern CRMs to enable these experiences, few have created consistent messages to reinforce brand value throughout every aspect of the customer journey. 
  • Reconsider Your Brand Positioning.  Given the changing demands of consumers as well as major shifts in the landscape of healthcare options and entry points, it’s time to take a fresh look at your brand’s positioning. Be sure your brand is clearly defined, truly differentiated from the competitors, and connects to an authentic truth that is meaningful to your audiences. Once you create alignment on a newly defined market position, it can serve as the guidepost for all your marketing and brand building efforts. 
  • Leverage Trust. Established healthcare providers with long histories of building meaningful, trusted relationships in their communities have a huge advantage over startups and should leverage it to their benefit. Use this strength as a pillar of your brand and marketing campaigns. Continue to invest in building trust in your brand by consistently delivering on your brand promise throughout every interaction, continue to be the source of accurate healthcare information in the community, lead with transparency, solicit feedback and respond with open, clear communication. 
  • Use Creativity To Connect Emotionally. Healthcare is a category with far more opportunities for marketing creativity than other consumer-facing industries, yet so many healthcare marketers miss the opportunity to connect emotionally with their audience.  A provider organization is a goldmine of stories built around authentic, human connection, real patient experiences, extraordinary innovations and outcomes, community impact, and legitimate claims of transforming lives. Yet much of the branding work is limited to category cliches of top doctors, quality care, clinical data claims and meaningless accolades. Take the opportunity to tell your brand story in a way that connects people to you with their hearts, not just their minds. 

Building a strong brand is more vital than ever to healthcare organizations. A well-established brand can increase your reputation, build trust, and enhance loyalty among patients, employees, community leaders and other key stakeholders. Beyond these longer-term impacts, a smart brand also can bolster immediate goals that are top-of-mind for most healthcare marketers such as increasing conversions, appointments, and market share.

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