Staying Ahead of the Curve: What Can We Adapt From Human Healthcare Marketing Best Practices?
By Linda Kaplan, MHA
Prior to joining BluePrints Veterinary Marketing Group in 2011, I had over 20 years of experience in marketing for a variety of human healthcare organizations. Marketing hospitals and private practices in severely competitive and ever changing environments was a huge and rewarding challenge.
Over the past few years I have seen veterinary specialty and referral practices struggle in very similar ways to what their human counterparts tackled years before them. Many times, by applying successful strategies and tactics learned from human healthcare marketing, we have been able to expedite growth and help our clients stay ahead of the competition. But with the digital revolution upon us, against a backdrop of veterinary industry consolidation, I felt it was time to take an updated look at what the major players in human healthcare were doing to navigate similar waters.
Last month, BluePrints’ President Robin Brogdon and I attended the Modern Healthcare Strategic Marketing Conference in Chicago. Modern Healthcare is the leading human healthcare resource for business news, research, and data. Their annual Strategic Marketing Conference: Ahead of the Curve brought together leading marketing and communications professionals, top hospital executives and other thought leaders to share knowledge and best practices around top-priority issues, such as building reputation and trust, safe-guarding your organization’s brand, and developing an effective digital strategy.
We enjoyed a full day of presentations from outstanding healthcare professionals (from Cleveland Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Mission Health (NC), and Revive Health, among others) who shared their struggles and solutions for surviving and thriving in today’s market. As healthcare providers, we are all in the same boat – whether our patients have two legs, or four legs. Much like medicine-based organizations like Zoobiquity and One Health – that share clinical data/similarities between human and veterinary medicine, it makes sense that we share marketing and business ideas as well.
Here are a few key insights:
- Consumer loyalty is the key to survival in today’s healthcare environment. And the way to earn that loyalty is to provide a powerful, personalized, positive experience for each and every patient/client, every day. No amount of clever or moving external marketing efforts can replace that. That is the most effective marketing tool we have as a service business.
- Earn consumer trust and build loyalty BEFORE they are clients. The more you can provide your prospective client with helpful content, tools, or engagement outside of a purchasing need, the more likely they will turn to you when they do have a need. In other words – be the expert, be the “go to” resource, be the educator on health and wellness… don’t always “want” something from them. As healthcare providers, we can’t create demand, but we can build relationships – and become a trusted brand – in the meantime.
- When doctor > patient (pet owner) communication is strong, research shows there is a 199% increase in compliance. How well are your doctors communicating with your pet owners? Are they actively engaged in the healing and wellness process?
- Engage your audiences: provide them with a health-risk questionnaire, ask for their suggestions, provide a live chat, etc. Have a dialogue – don’t just provide monologues.
- Request feedback from your patients (well, pet owners and rDVMs for us!), and then listen! Continually. You can’t fix what you don’t know about. Take their comments seriously. Let them know that you have addressed/ fixed/resolved a situation when appropriate.
Personalize your marketing initiatives
- Put and keep yourself in the mindset of your audience (ME) when developing initiatives. [What do your pet owners want/need? What do your rDVMs want/need? How do you provide for their needs?] A method used to crosscheck marketing efforts by one major medical center, is to make sure their messages are resonating with each audience. Does our (ad, mailer, post, blog, reception area, intake process, etc.)…
- Empathize with me?
- Nurture me?
- Meet me where I am?
- Make it easy for me?
- Make sure your marketing initiatives are: Helpful. (Hyper) Relevant. Nothing else will matter if those aren’t in place first. Use those words as a litmus test.
- Personalize your marketing efforts as much as possible. In our world, that means using the pet’s name, not sending information on feline diabetes to a dog owner, engaging with your audiences as often as possible to learn about what THEY need or want from you.
Content and digital marketing are the foundational tools of reaching your audiences
- There is a huge paradigm shift occurring. Mass (traditional) advertising has taken a back seat to digital and content marketing in terms of attracting and retaining customers. It should not be eliminated; rather, it is now playing a supporting role rather than the lead role.
- Digital and content marketing should not be thought of as separate “silos” of your marketing efforts. They must be integrated into the foundation.
- Consider your website the “sun” of your marketing solar system. It is the hub, the center, the core. Your marketing efforts should all connect to its energy. Make sure you’ve developed a modern, responsive, optimized website before you branch out with other marketing efforts.
- Don’t underestimate the power of social media when you have substantive content. “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” However, social media should be a part of your marketing, not the core.
- “Apps” for your practice or a particular service are fine – but they must have value and a strategic purpose. They may be cool (from your perspective) but how will it truly benefit the end user?
Choose your team wisely
- Make sure your team is made up of passionate people in the proper job. They are your best ambassadors. If they are not committed and dedicated to your vision and purpose, replace them. Hire slowly, fire quickly.
To summarize, caring isn’t enough anymore. Practicing good medicine also isn’t enough. Self-promotion will back fire. Delivering an exceptional experience and providing valuable, substantive content to your audiences on a regular basis through digital mediums will help you rise to the top. Two legs? Four legs? It doesn’t matter. If you’re not out in front of your audiences with meaningful information when they need it – they’ll walk away. While Robin and I didn’t walk away with anything that was earth-shattering, it did validate for us that our approach to how we guide our clients to achieve their business goals is spot on.
What do you need to do to prosper in 2016? BluePrints Veterinary Marketing Group help you reach your goals. Schedule a consultation today.