By Ashley Walsh
When you’ve gotten into a car accident, fallen down or suffered some other type of serious injury, the last thing you’re likely thinking about is which emergency room you want to visit based on the last commercial, billboard or email newsletter you saw. The sales funnel really doesn’t apply during an emergency.
However, healthcare marketing is much more than marketing emergency departments and intensive care units. Hospitals, urgent care clinics and wellness centers are responsible for promoting a wide range of services that map back to the sales funnel.
While healthcare marketing is similar to more traditional types of marketing, let’s take a look at some of the unique aspects of marketing in this industry:
Community events and programming
New data from Moody’s Investors Service shows a significant decline in hospital operating cash flow. Moody’s reports a drop from 9.5 percent in 2016 to 8.1 percent in 2017—an unprecedented decrease that was last seen during the 2008 financial crisis. Numbers like this don’t bode well for long-term financial stability, which is why many hospital executives are searching for additional sources of revenue.
Some hospitals are now bringing in revenue from wellness programs and special events in an effort to offset losses in other departments. Wellness programs not only help prevent injury and illness, but according to the Medical Fitness Association, they are also achieving contribution margins as high as 30 percent. Special events can be significant sources of revenue as well. In 2017 alone, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raised more than $38 million through the network’s annual Dance Marathon.
As with any business, reputation is vital to attracting not only patients but also top-tier talent. Consumer review sites, such as Yelp, gained popularity in the mid-2000s and now attract millions of users every day. Healthgrades, a leading healthcare review website, has been around for more than 20 years helping patients find high-quality providers and hospitals.
In light of the Affordable Care Act giving patients more control over their provider of choice, healthcare marketers’ responsibilities for marketing their brand have grown significantly. One quick way healthcare marketers can put patient feedback to good use is leveraging reputation management software to identify their network’s shortcomings. This makes it easy to rectify complaints as soon as possible, while also increasing exposure to positive comments from patients. If negative reviews are a concern, harness the power of patient satisfaction surveys to identify issues early, before they make it onto public-facing sites like Healthgrades.
We know consumers crave the latest technology. This might be even more true when it comes to healthcare. Consumers may be OK with owning an iPhone that is a few generations old with a cracked screen, but they aren’t going to be thrilled if their latest brain scan was performed on an MRI scanner in a similar state.
In response, healthcare marketers have set their sights on marketing technological advances as a way of creating market differentiation.
It’s likely we’ll continue to see more robot-assisted surgeries and AI-augmented programs in the coming years. For example, a study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine saw an increase in robot-assisted kidney surgeries from 1.5 percent performed in 2003 to 27 percent in 2015.
As the demand for the latest technological advances rises, healthcare marketers are working closely with department heads to identify new differentiators and key messages on a monthly and yearly basis.
While healthcare marketing is similar to traditional forms of marketing, it brings its own unique perspective to the table. By leveraging programs and events, focusing on reputation management and shedding light on the latest technologies, healthcare marketing successfully builds awareness around numerous services.
Ashley Walsh is the VP of Marketing at Formstack, an Indianapolis-based form building and data capture software solution. Prior to Formstack, Ashley spent 8 years at Angie’s list holding positions in marketing, product