Healthcare Branding: Strategies to Drive Performance

Healthcare Branding: Strategies to Drive Performance

Healthcare branding used to mean a new logo or fancy TV spot. Today, healthcare branding now means a measurable and clear reason consumers should trust, advocate and use your brand. Is your brand meeting the expectations of today’s healthcare consumers and standing apart from competitors and disrupters? Read on to learn best practices and key insights. 

Here’s my simple snapshot of the last two phases of healthcare branding, and where we are now.

Snapshot One: Late March 2020. A once in a generation pandemic has befallen the world. United States hospitals have canceled screenings and procedures to prepare for the onslaught of COVID-19 cases. Most health systems stopped marketing and branding. 

Except one: Northwell Health. The health system ran a campaign in late March 2020 called “Information is Healthy, Fear is Not.” The spots and ads were hopeful, determined, and promised the community Northwell Health would stand by them. 

It was exactly the message we needed to hear in the early days of COVID-19. Yet something odd happened. National media and business publications piled on the health system, all saying the same thing: It’s too early. Don’t be so cavalier. We don’t know what to expect with COVID-19. (In other words, “Slow down, cowboy.”)

In Snapshot One, the idea of sharing healthcare branding, at least to the masses, felt hollow, insincere. (Though, let the record show this writer thinks Northwell Health nailed it!) 

Snapshot Two: Early July, 2021. The vaccine roll-out was in full effect. It was a remarkable time of hope and optimism: with the vaccines, COVID-19 might recede to the background. Healthcare systems were busy supporting vaccine efforts and getting patients back in the hospital and clinic for care. 

At the time, we wrote that Engagement is the New Branding.” Patient-consumers wanted to hear from their physicians, hospitals, and care providers: a lot. People had questions. People were still in fear. And people, as we learned, were growing sicker as a result of missed screenings and check-ups. 

Branding, as you know, isn’t an ad, logo, or snazzy outdoor board. Branding is the experience patient-consumers have with your organization and the story they tell themselves about that experience. And in Snapshot Two, consumers wanted to have direct experiences with their healthcare providers. That was where the intersection of consumers and healthcare brands had the most “juice.”

Snapshot Three: Today. Where are we in this pandemic journey? Is the pandemic over? Well, technically, yes. COVID-19 has now become an endemic disease, for better or worse. I’ll let you decide how to timestamp this moment. But I think we can all agree: we are in a different place than we were in March 2020 or July 2021. So what’s the role of branding in healthcare today? 

HEALTHCARE IS AS CHALLENGING AS EVER

Is there an “easy” time to be in healthcare?

I’ve been in this industry for 25 years. I’ve not experienced a time when there wasn’t a crisis or series of challenge points keeping marketers, administrators, providers and clinical teams up at night.

Here’s a snapshot of what we’re currently dealing with (not comprehensive):

  • Recruitment and retention of healthcare workers
  • The rising cost of staffing salaries
  • Provider and caregiver burnout
  • Inflation
  • Sicker patient populations
  • Decline in overall consumer trust for all major industries and companies

A quick scan of these data points might cause you to wonder, “How does branding solve any of these challenges?” Brilliant question. And to answer that, my colleague, Joe Gunderson, Chief Creative Officer, and I hosted a Campfire webinar with three brilliant healthcare marketing leaders to share their perspectives on how branding can drive organization performance.

CAMPFIRE WEBINAR PANELISTS

HOW IS THE STATE OF HEALTHCARE IMPACTING THE ROLE OF HEALTHCARE BRANDING

  • Alan: People have more choices in their healthcare solutions. If your brand is generic, consumers won’t think of you. Disrupters like Amazon already have strong brands. It’s a big miss if healthcare organizations don’t invest in branding. Also, a strong brand attracts great talent, which all healthcare organizations are in need of right now. 
  • Vanessa: A big part of the current branding value proposition is attracting and retaining great employees. Healthcare organizations need to do everything to win over great talent, including having a strong brand.
  • Chrisie: I think of the Jackson 5 song: “I’ll Be there.” We want our brand to meet the moment for consumers and their needs. As needs change, our brand evolves to meet those needs. 
  • Our Take: Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world. Don’t let consumers lump your brand with government entities and other institutions they distrust. Maintain strong brand affinity, which begins with building trust.
2022 Trends Report

MOST EFFECTIVE BRAND TOUCHPOINTS ALONG THE PATIENT JOURNEY

  • Vanessa:  It’s the 1:1 experience between patient and provider/caregiver that is the most important and impactful brand touchpoint. 
  • Chrisie: It’s ironic, because the brand should be consistent and travel throughout each patient’s journey, yet we know each patient and experience is always unique. We want a brand that offers a lasting impression, at every step along the patient journey. 
  • Alan: The physical environment is absolutely essential to a great brand experience. It’s often hard in healthcare to replicate a consistent environmental experience, unlike chain restaurants, for example. But to the extent that we can improve the physical environment, we need to. Curb appeal and the patient experience in the facility matters greatly. 
  • Our Take: Seth Godin nailed the conundrum that marketers face: the elements that deliver the brand experience are often out of our direct control, like patient experience. Yet that doesn’t mean that marketing can’t point the way to what the desired brand experience should be for patient-consumers. In fact, a great healthcare brand becomes the gentle, constant reminder of what your organization’s vision, mission, values and benefit proposition is to all audiences. 

HOW IS DIGITAL IMPACTING HEALTHCARE BRANDING

  • Chrisie: I think of brand as a relationship with our audience: getting to know each other better. We’re using digital tools to help us deliver the right information at the right time, and personalized for our audiences. 
  • Alan: I think of digital as the “brand extender”: helping to extend and build the relationship with our audiences in new ways.
  • Vanessa: Digital tools allow us to ask our consumers how they want to hear from us: what is their preferred way of staying in touch. 
  • Our Take: The pandemic accelerated digital as the number one preferred medium for consumers to engage with brands. If your brand doesn’t “come alive” on digital screens, it won’t resonate with your audiences, who are increasingly digital-first in their content consumption habits. For more insights, check out our article on brand storytelling in the digital age.

HOW DO YOU ENGAGE INTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS TO CHAMPION BRANDING

  • Alan: Constant education with the C-Suite. They don’t think proactively about branding like marketers do, and often are reflexive in their thinking on brand strategy. Schedule check-ins and updates with C-Suite to share “The State of the Brand.”
  • Vanessa: Hardwire the “why” behind branding to address the hot-button issues that the C-Suite is focused on, like recruitment, retention and employee engagement.
  • Chrisie: One of the things I find that is so helpful is bringing all of my vendor partners together for a summit: to share our organization’s vision and goals for the coming year, and how we can all stack hands and collaborate. You’d be surprised at how much collaboration and symmetry forms when you bring your vendor teams together. 
  • Our Take: Those who graduate to the highest levels of organizations almost always are vision-driven: they want to know what’s coming. It’s why they are leaders. Share with your C-Suite a 30,000-foot view of the state of healthcare marketing and branding report. Discuss trends and implications. This way, your stakeholder audience can see the “bigger picture” and are more likely to appreciate your proactive, long-term approach to branding and marketing. 

ONE TIP OR INSIGHT TO CREATE A GREAT BRAND

  • Vanessa:  Make it easy for consumers to learn more, and provide helpful resources: healthcare is full of jargon and it’s our job as communicators to cut out the jargon.
  • Alan: Talk to people. Get a feeling for how your consumers truly think and feel. 
  • Chrisie: Remember, branding starts with us, but it’s not about us: it’s about the consumer.
  • Joe’s Take: Digital media has changed our paradigm on how rigid and fixed brand guidelines should be. Aim for flexible brand standards: brand standards that can “flex” in different digital environments and applications. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Think a strong brand is a nice-to-have but not necessary? Just remember: a brand is a shortcut to a decision. In this highly competitive healthcare environment, with disrupters and start-ups knocking on the door of traditional healthcare’s patient base, you want a brand that helps your consumers make better choices for their care experiences. 

Like being the smartest healthcare marketer in the room? Sign up for Engage, our monthly email digest of articles, resources, and invitations to our next Campfire webinars.

2022 Trends Report

Marketing to Stressed Out Healthcare Consumers

Marketing to Stressed Out Healthcare Consumers

Are you more stressed out today than you were a year ago? Unfortunately, so are your healthcare consumers. For marketers, stressed consumers mean scattered journeys and meeting them where they are. But how? For our June Campfire webinar, we invited Hinge Health and Stericycle marketing leaders to share how they are navigating the new busy, stressed consumer dynamic to drive better marketing performance.

Americans have hit the stress ceiling, impacting marketers’ ability to engage consumers. 

The American Psychological Association reports that Americans have been experiencing the highest stress levels since the organization began fielding its Stress in America survey in 2007. 

Most likely, you’re nodding your head and thinking, “Yep, me too.”

Your healthcare consumers are stressed too. And that has significant implications for marketers and healthcare leaders. 

For our June 2022 Campfire webinar, we invited panelists Sarah Bennight from Stericycle and Maria Kellner from Hinge Health to share how they engage their busy, stressed patient, clinical, and provider audiences. 

Get to the Point

During the webinar, Sarah shared that patients are delaying care because they’re too busy attending to work and life demands. The same goes for B2B consumer audiences. They work long hours to compensate for understaffed departments and increased work demands. That means marketing messages need to cut to the chase. Be brief, direct, and precise with messages, value propositions, and calls to action. Otherwise, your consumers may tune out and move on to the next thing. 

On-Demand Content

Sarah also shared that B2B marketing trends are increasing in on-demand content versus real-time content, such as live webinars. Why is that? It may be due to B2B audiences managing additional work responsibilities as many departments are short-staffed. Sarah terms this strategy “After Hours Content,” meaning audiences consume information and resources outside traditional work hours. Consider upping your on-demand webinars to your portfolio, blog post articles, and podcast content.

Less Flash, More Substance

Maria noted that consumers are turning away from advertising that feels too flashy—a red flag to consumers that they are being “marketed to.” Instead, the marketing campaigns that are getting more engagement are campaigns that feel down to earth and resonate with the stressful realities that many consumers are facing these days.

2022 Trends Report

Scattered Consumer Journeys

We’ve written about patient and consumer journeys extensively at Hailey Sault. Sarah shared that today’s consumer journey looks more scattered: people are zig-zagging, pausing, or delaying purchasing decisions. Instead of expecting linear consumer journeys, plan your marketing campaigns around longer timeframe purchase decisions. In addition, create content that encourages consumers to restart their journeys when they get derailed by life and work demands. 

Make Healthcare Easier

Sarah noted that consumers are basing healthcare experiences on brands like Amazon, which have mastered the art of making purchases easy. What can marketers do? Maria encouraged marketers to meet their consumer audiences where they are, such as by providing more at-home healthcare delivery solutions. Also, collaborate with IT to simplify online user experiences, study your marketing analytics to identify stuck points on consumers’ purchase paths, and reduce the friction with online purchases and conversion points. 

In-Person Events Are Making a Comeback

Sarah noted a recent HITMC survey that shows in-person conferences are now considered the most effective marketing tactic among B2B buyers and marketers. We wrote about our experience at HMPS22 recently and validate this insight. After two years of working from home, it’s thrilling to be back in the room with people. Zoom is great, but it doesn’t match in-person conversations. 

Test, Learn, Adapt (and Repeat)

Maria noted that her fast-growing startup company embodies the philosophy of moving fast, trying new things, and applying those learnings. This formula has two keys to success: access to good-quality data to make informed decisions and leadership that embraces this philosophy. Sarah’s company, Stericycle, founded in 1989, is considered the leader in its category. You’d think Stericycle would play it safe as such a big company. Yet Sarah shared that the organization’s leadership embraces the belief that “We have to do it better.” That belief drives a philosophy of trying new things, learning and adapting. Sarah’s advice to her team is advice we can all benefit from: “Remember, it’s okay to fail.”

Take Care of Yourself

Your consumers are stressed, and you’re probably feeling your version of stress these days, too. So we ended our discussion by sharing what we’re doing to de-stress. Maria’s advice is not to forget you’re a person outside your job: maintain hobbies and stress-relieving activities. Sarah’s advice is to take time each day to find joy and encourage your team members to take time off—and BE off. 

As healthcare marketers, we might not be the ones directly impacting patient care, but knowing our organizations are making a difference helps keep us aligned with purpose. Maria shared that she often views her company’s patient testimonials to give her a shot in the arm when the stress mounts. 

I advise avoiding looking at your phone for as long as possible each morning. Get centered, get grounded, remind yourself of what’s most important to do and get done, and then check your phone. The day’s fires will still be there for you to put out: but at least you’ll be centered and remember what matters most. 

2022 Trends Report

How Healthcare Marketers Can Help Healthcare Recruitment

How Healthcare Marketers Can Help Healthcare Recruitment

Now that 3 in 10 healthcare workers are considering leaving the profession, and many health systems are reporting a 20% loss in the current workforce, recruitment is an all-hands mission.

Not so fast, say many healthcare marketers. We already have full plates. 

We know you do. As a digital performance marketing agency for health and wellness brands, we understand the challenges and full plates of marketers. But reconsider your “not my problem” response to your HR colleagues. After all, you have the insights and sophistication for how to cultivate engagement and acquisition of consumer audiences. You know the best practices and savvy, cutting-edge digital marketing best practices. You might not want to volunteer to manage an Indeed.com media buy. But you can provide your HR counterparts insights to help them with recruiting great talent and shore up staffing shortages.

Here are four best practices you can recommend to help with health system and hospital staffing recruitment.

1. Employer Value Propositions (EVPs)

Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) are similar to brand value propositions in that they are simple, clear documents that summarize the value of the organization and benefits to employment.

EVPs serve as the playbook for key messages to entice talent and invite them to learn why your organization is a great place to work.   

An EVP does the following:

  • Serves as a magnet for the right employees
  • Informs messaging and media channels
  • Gets the internal team “on the same page” 

There are three core elements of an Employer Value Proposition:

  1. Communicates why the brand is valuable and unique
  2. What an employee can expect of the company
  3. What the company can expect from the employee

Following are three steps to developing Employer Value Propositions:

1. Conduct an employer brand audit to gain key insights:

  • Interview high-performing team members
  • Interview prospective job candidates
  • Interview alumni of your organization
  • Conduct a competitive analysis, which includes messages, strategies, incentives, salary compensation, and the overall reputation of the competing organizations

2. Summarize the key benefits of working for your organization (including compensation, benefits, along with culture and career advancement opportunities)

3. Create your message pillars: the key messages that define your organization and make it attractive and distinct in the marketplace.

EVP Template

Example of a Healthcare Employer Value Proposition template

2. Recruitment Audience Personas

As marketers, you know the power of a well-defined audience persona. Audience personas truly bring your desired audiences to life, and inform messaging, channel planning, and calls-to-action. Recruitment personas are no different in their power to drive engaging recruitment advertising and marketing.

Following are the six elements of recruitment audience personas:

  1. Demographic information on your ideal candidate
  2. Triggers for why your ideal candidate may be seeking employment
  3. Key messages of what your ideal candidate needs to hear from your organization to inspire applying to work for you
  4. Summarize what makes your organization unique and a great place to work
  5. Identify potential barriers to application, such as the online application process
  6. Media channels and tactics to reach your ideal candidate

Speaking of media channels, running job posts on Indeed.com alone won’t cut it in such a tight labor market. To stand out and to reach prospective job seekers, we recommend broadening your media mix to include consumer-driven channels.

2022 Trends Report

3. Consumer-Driven Media Channels 

Supplement traditional job posting and recruitment site advertising with consumer channels to broaden the reach and engagement opportunities with ideal job candidates. After all, your next great healthcare hire is a human being outside of the hospital. She’s on social media. She’s scanning the web for information and entertainment. Reach her outside of career sites and entice her to learn more about your organization and the opportunities it provides. 

Common consumer-driven media channels to supplement your recruitment advertising include:

  1. Your organization’s owned social media channels (through paid advertising and organic posts)
  2. Digital display and digital video 
  3. Leveraging retargeting efforts to remind and reinforce qualified job candidates that your organization is a great place to work
  4. Search marketing
  5. Email marketing (either as a mass email campaign or sending one-to-one nurturing emails to invite an application and interview)

We also encourage our clients to invite their best team members to advocate and refer former colleagues to aid in recruitment. After all, your star employees will likely have a strong sense of what makes a good employee and can help vet and recruit the very best to work for you. 

4. Lending Support Without Taking on the Headaches

Returning to our earlier discussion, we know that as healthcare marketers, your job—to attract new consumers to your organization—is enough to keep you busy. 

That’s why we’re not advocating you or your team members take over Indeed.com job postings! Instead, support your HR counterparts by sharing your expertise.

For example:

  • Providing strategic feedback in the development of Employer Value Propositions (EVPs)
  • Weighing in on Employee Audience Personas creation
  • Offering counsel in the selection of consumer-driven media channels 
  • Guiding how to differentiate your organization’s brand from competing brands in the marketplace
  • Suggesting realistic budget parameters for what will move the needle and deliver ROI
  • Encouraging your HR counterparts to have a “test and learn” mindset

The latter suggestion may be the most challenging for your colleagues, who might be accustomed to running an ad and expecting dozens of job applications to come in. In today’s tight labor market, competition for talent is an all-out war. What worked yesterday for recruitment isn’t guaranteed to move the needle today. 

That’s why recruitment is an all-hands mission.

When HR knocks on your office door, we hope you’ll open it, and support them. That way, your organization will be in a far better position to achieve its long-term strategic goals. And you’ll rest comfortably knowing that the new consumers you’ve driven to the organization will have team members ready to care for them.

2022 Trends Report

The State of Healthcare B2B Marketing: What Buyers Want

The State of Healthcare B2B Marketing: What Buyers Want

On February 24, 2022, we hosted a campfire dedicated to B2B healthcare marketing: the trends, best practices, what buyers want, changes in buying journeys, and predictions about the future of in-person conferences and presentations. Special thanks to our rockstar panelists for 45 minutes of rapid-fire insights: Sarah Bennight, Lexi Dingman, Chris Hemphill, and Burt Rosen. Make sure to follow them on LinkedIn! 

What are the trends, marketing and selling to and for healthcare brands?

Let’s start by reflecting on trends impacting our buyers’ organizations: patients, customers and end users of their products and services. After all, the people whom we seek to serve (buyers of B2B solutions) want solutions that help them to serve their audiences: referring providers, patients, and other clients and customers.

The pandemic sped up a long-term trend: we now live in an on-demand world. 

Consumers want it NOW. They don’t want to wait for healthcare. They don’t want to wait to be seen, treated, and healed. 

How do your products and services solve for the end user’s expectations? Are you packaging and presenting your solutions in a way that resonates with what your B2B audiences need to deliver to their consumers and end users? 

This on-demand mentality transcends traditional consumers. It’s true of the audiences you are marketing and selling to within healthcare organizations. Your B2B audiences are experiencing major work demands: 

  • Shorter deadlines
  • Higher stress
  • Need to solve problems at a faster pace than ever before 

How do your products and services solve for your B2B buyers’ personal and professional needs? 

At Hailey Sault, we find these top the personal and professional needs of our B2B buying audiences:

  • Data clarity: a clear map of performance mapped back to business growth
  • Agility: flexibility with solutions and speed of delivery
  • Voice of Consumer: deep knowledge of the desires, preferences and behaviors of end user consumers

FILLING THE TOP OF THE SALES FUNNEL

During our webinar, we talked about the recent trend many of us are experiencing in B2B marketing: filling the top of the sales funnel.

Throughout the pandemic, vendor contracting and exploration of new vendor selection was often put on hold or delayed to deal with other pressing matters (such as dealing with COVID-19 responses). That meant many B2B marketing efforts were spent nurturing late-stage opportunities and expanding existing relationships. 

As we approach the pandemic’s two-year mark, the sense from the panelists is that we’re reaching a new inflection point: filling the early-stage prospect funnels again. 

How are you driving new leads and engaging qualified prospects to grow the top of the marketing lead-generation funnel?

Here are a few suggestions from the Hailey Sault playbook:

  • Focus on “Value Per Minute” with your content. Chris Hemphill is involved in the AI technology for his company and produces many of the firm’s education-based webinars, videos, and podcasts. He shared that his firm’s long-form videos often receive more engagement than shorter, “byte-sized” clips. How can you increase the overall value of your content to your B2B buying audiences?
  • Expand your digital footprint. Go beyond traditional B2B marketing channels like LinkedIn and email marketing and invest in programmatic advertising buys that reach your audiences as they consume content generally—not just when they have their “work hats” on.
  • Make it personal. Personalized marketing can be as sophisticated or as simple as you have the resources to allow. Regardless of what’s available to you, aim for personalizing your marketing outreach: content and resources that are honed to the exact needs of your audiences; experiences on your digital platforms that resonate; and creating enough insight with your data so that you can make intentional, informed decisions about the next opportunity to create engaging impact with your B2B audiences. 
2022 Trends Report

What are organizations, decision-makers and other B2B stakeholders asking for these days?

Of course, B2B buyers are asking for what they’ve always asked for: better service, better results, and better cost structures. In our On-Demand World, buyers want speed, precision, reliability, and performance. To the extent that your organization can deliver on those expectations, your ability to market and sell is greatly improved. 

But we asked the panelists to take a step back and reflect on what they’re hearing from their B2B clients, and the conversations they’re having in presentations with stakeholders.

Sarah Bennight was the first to bring up that healthcare companies are looking for vendor partners who are aligned on mission, purpose, values and social change. Since the pandemic, America has seen a great awakening of social causes and the desire to impact positive change. 

How is your organization communicating its leadership in driving positive social change? 

In Hailey Sault’s 2022 Healthcare Marketing Trends Report, we write about the trend of “Return to Purpose”: organizations realigning around shared values and casting vision for better days ahead, and how organizations are coalescing around these important messages and actions. 

Communicate in your marketing and sales materials how your organization is a great corporate partner to your clients. Align with a common mission and shared purpose, and how your organization is going beyond the bottom line to impact positive change. 

B2B buying audiences are also asking for more insights on how to better serve their clients, customers and end users of their products and services. 

Remembering that your B2B audiences are busy and stressed out, they’ll find value if your marketing can help them better understand their desired audiences. After all, a “value bomb” in your marketing content, that your prospect reads then shares in a business meeting to the compliments of her boss and team, is a large step forward in solidifying a business relationship. 

Burt Rosen also cautioned against having a too-assertive sales mindset. He recounted stories of coaching sales teams to enter presentations with the mantra, “How can I help you today?” versus “How can I sell you today?” In fact, Burt shared that in his experience leading B2B marketing efforts for multiple companies, the least important section of a presentation deck is the “About Us” section. Instead, begin presentations with how your organization can solve your prospects’ challenges. 

How have B2B buyer journeys changed since the pandemic?

Lexi Dingman supports a leading children’s hospital sales outreach program with marketing strategies and data insights. Her sales team misses the face-to-face interaction with referring providers. These “heart to heart” moments are essential to strong relationships, which is key to great sales engagement. In lieu of having these face-to-face moments, Lexi is driving more insights to the sales and outreach team, sharing how providers are engaging with content and resources, and creating new tools to bring value to provider sources.  

The other panelists involved in C-suite marketing and sales agreed that not having to fly and travel to present to every prospect has been a good thing. B2B buyers aren’t expecting (or encouraging) in-person meetings. But the flip side is that it’s much harder to build deeper relationships via Microsoft Teams or Zoom. 

Because of that, marketers and salespeople must avoid the risk of “transactional status”: being perceived as just another vendor in a sea of many. B2B marketers can support sales in finding new ways to bring value to key relationships: through consumer and marketplace insights, and providing data that indicate the unaddressed needs of B2B buyers. 

In our B2B practice with clients, we’ve observed that B2B buyers are waiting longer and longer to initiate first contact with vendors for product/service information and demos. There are two ripple effects of this trend: 

1. B2B buyers are making more of the buying decision without benefit of vendor engagement. This limits vendor organizations’ ability to influence the buying decision.

2. B2B buyer timelines for contracting and deployment of new solutions are tighter and less flexible. These shrunken timelines are a product of the “On-Demand World” we live in, and are also due to the challenges organizations are experiencing in aligning stakeholders, many of whom are still working remotely. The lag time in building internal consensus means a reduction on the vendor’s end for deployment once the contract is signed.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR B2B MARKETERS?

As one of the panelists shared, we’re in a period of unprecedented creativity. We have access to data, tools and deployment strategies the likes of which we’ve never seen before. We’re also seeing an incredible trend: salespeople are leaning into their marketing counterparts like never before. This is likely due to salespeople not having their “traditional” access to face-to-face meetings and presentation demos with buyers, along with the next generation of salespeople who are digital natives and see the benefit of digital marketing to enhance and encourage high quality sales conversations.

As we find our footing in what feels like (as of late February 2022) a turning point of the pandemic, we think it’s an exciting and engaging time to be B2B healthcare marketers. End users and consumers of our B2B clients are tuned into their health like never before, and are demanding healthcare brands step up and deliver. Our B2B buyers have growing challenges, which encourages reviewing the vendor landscape with a fresh lens to see who can service those challenges. These trends are ripe opportunities for B2B marketers. 

How will you leverage this time?

2022 Trends Report

Facing Health System Capacity Challenges? Leverage Rapid-Response Marketing.

Facing Health System Capacity Challenges? Leverage Rapid-Response Marketing.

Watch our complete 2022 Healthcare Marketing Trends Campfire Webinar

Supply chain and labor shortages. Higher acuity patients. The unpredictability of what’s next for COVID-19 and hospitalization rates. 

Geez. And we thought healthcare marketing was challenging before now!

So what do we do?

A. Sit on our hands and wait for clarity.

B. Pin strategic directions to a dartboard and see what the darts say to do.

C. Create rapid-response marketing strategies. 

We suggest C. 

Here’s why. Marketers need a more agile approach to marketing. An approach that still drives the mission of your organization while accounting for the need for flexibility. After all, the unpredictable nature of our current healthcare landscape requires marketers to approach planning and campaign deployment with an agile mindset: one that can account for the crises and “pivots” of the day while also still honoring the organization’s strategic goals.

We call this approach to planning rapid-response marketing, and we also refer to it with our health system clients as “Capacity Marketing,” as quite often, the capacity to deliver care is a key constraint for health systems. By planning around capacity challenges and opportunities, healthcare marketers can deliver value back into the organizations while helping to guide patients into the appropriate site of care.

Let’s look deeper at the concept of rapid-response marketing and key use cases.

2022 Trends Report

RAPID-RESPONSE MARKETING: FOUR KEY PRINCIPLES

1. Guide Patients to the Appropriate Site of Care

Our job is to connect patients with providers and health solutions. Yet many health systems are reporting staffing shortages in excess of 20%. Reduced staff often means reduced capacity to serve patients, or at the very least, provide a level of customer experience that health systems strive for. 

That’s why the first principle of rapid-response marketing is to guide your patients to the appropriate site of care, such as:

  • Emergency Departments with shorter waits for care
  • Urgent care centers with more capacity
  • Physicians with same-day or next-day appointments
  • Telehealth visits over in-person appointments

In addition, we’re working with our health system clients now to deploy enhanced telehealth appointments using retail technology. These enhanced telehealth solutions share vital health stats to the provider, forgoing the need for in-person visits to diagnose health needs like ear infections. 

2. Real-Time Feedback for Service Line Utilization

Rapid-response marketing encourages marketers, providers, and clinical professionals to remain in constant communication to identify which services can handle more patient volume, and which service lines are hovering at or exceeding capacity. 

Rapid-response marketing seeks to answer the question: day to day, what are the services that can benefit from new patient acquisition, and what are the service lines that are at or over capacity to handle new patients? 

At Hailey Sault, we aid our clients to manage capacity planning through our real-time dashboard systems: collecting both clinical and marketing performance data to aid our clients in insightful service line planning decision-making.

But don’t let data gaps stop you from leveraging rapid-response marketing. Good old-fashioned communication with key stakeholders will help you: 

  • Get a real-time pulse on which service lines can handle new clients
  • Know where to encourage patients to seek care
  • Determine which services you should pause marketing efforts until capacity is back online

3. Leverage Brand Engagement During Peak Capacity

During the first phase of the pandemic, when hospitals were closed to patients other than emergencies and COVID-19 responses, one of our wise clients chose to keep a brand presence in the marketplace. Her strategy was to simply keep her health system’s brand name out there in digital marketing as a top-of-mind reminder, along with positive messages of remaining safe.

She bet that as hospitals reopened, her health system would rebound its patient volume. 

It worked.

If your organization is experiencing capacity challenges, whether it be through staffing shortages, supply chain issues, spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations, or serving a backlog of patients who put off care during the pandemic, we recommend deploying brand-driven messages in your marketing channels. These brand messages aren’t designed to drive immediate volume, but rather, long-term brand loyalty and utilization of your organization’s services: when your health system is ready to care for an influx of new patients.

4. Develop Campaigns at Stages of Market Readiness

To address the often daily changes in service line marketing needs, at Hailey Sault we began deploying the creation of multiple service line campaigns at one time for our clients, and pulsing out the completion of these campaigns—based on market need and capacity opportunities.

As a contrast to this model, in the “old days,” agencies and in-house teams would focus on one service line campaign effort at one time, concepting and creating finished assets for deployment. But this model didn’t account for the real-time and agile planning and deployment needs of health systems. Just because you have a service line marketing campaign ready to launch doesn’t mean the service line is ready to handle new patients. 

To solve for this, we began creating multiple service line campaigns at one time, phasing in and staggering the completion as the marketplace and health system have the need and opportunity to engage patient audiences. 

With this rapid-response marketing principle, the time to finalize and deploy new campaigns is cut in half or more, as campaigns are already near completion. Reducing the runway to deployment by having multiple service line campaigns at near-completion stage allows health system marketers to have more agility and flexibility to address the needs of the day. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

At the time of this writing, late February 2022, it’s still too soon to predict what the future holds for COVID-19. But one thing we know is certain: the future is hard to predict. 

Should we sit on our hands?

Throw darts on the dartboard to determine our next moves?

Or create strategies that are agile and responsive to the needs of the day?

You know how we feel. What about you?

2022 Trends Report

3 Healthcare Marketing Predictions for 2022 That Should Be In Your Next Strategy Brief

3 Healthcare Marketing Predictions for 2022 That Should Be In Your Next Strategy Brief

I recently hosted a live discussion with four of my favorite minds and voices in the healthcare marketing community: Chris Boyer, Colin Hung, Rob Klein, and Curtis Munlin. I posed a simple question to the panel: What are your 2022 predictions for healthcare marketers?

I distilled our far-ranging conversation into three categories of predictions:

Prediction 1: Expect a big shake-up among healthcare brands as new competitors enter the marketplace and consumers migrate to other providers and sources of care.

Prediction 2: After a brief hiatus in branding investment, healthcare organizations will seek to restore trust or gain trust from new consumers through focused and consistent branding strategies. 

Prediction 3: Marketers will enact and refine campaign strategies (aka “Capacity Marketing”) around bottlenecks in healthcare service delivery such as, supply chain shortages, labor shortages and high ER volumes. 

I’ll hit the highlights now and share ideas you can use in developing your next healthcare marketing strategy.

PREDICTION ONE: The Great Healthcare Brand Switch

During the discussion, Colin Hung, advisor, CMO and editor of HITMC predicted that healthcare consumers will migrate to new providers and different sources of care in 2022, which he calls the “Great Migration.”

We think the “Great Migration” is likely to become “The Great Healthcare Brand Shake-up.”

Patients are switching providers. In fact, Hailey Sault market research suggests that at any given time, 30% or more of patients are thinking about switching providers. COVID-19 and the increase of new competition in the healthcare space will accelerate consumers seeking new providers and healthcare solutions.

Where are patients switching their current providers or healthcare sources? To other providers, of course—and non-traditional providers. Emerging care healthcare brands like Parsley Health and Maven are attracting venture capital money and new patients who don’t feel traditional healthcare models are serving their needs and being respectful of their time.

Patients, like all consumers during the pandemic, are going to think twice before spending money with the same healthcare source again. 

We see organizations being split in half on this prediction.

Organization One doesn’t perceive patient migration to other sources of care as a big deal. It’s, as the kids say, a Nothing Burger.

Organization Two says, “People are willing to give different sources of healthcare a shot? And their bar is already horribly low? Let’s go win new healthcare consumers!” 

If you are within organization number two, here are strategy ideas to leverage patient migration.

STRATEGIES TO LEVERAGE THE GREAT BRAND SHAKE-UP

Improve key elements of your consumers’ brand experience.

I’m not encouraging you to rebuild the entire patient experience from the ground up. Think instead of conducting small, focused experiments. Earlier this summer, I hosted a webinar with digital leaders from Johns Hopkins and Sharp Healthcare who agreed: find stakeholders within your organization who champion change, and improve patient experience with those leaders and services first. Then, get other colleagues on board the “change train.”

During our predictions discussion, Rob Klein, a leading healthcare brand consumer researcher, shared a key insight on consumer preference: “Time is the new currency.” 

Do you like to wait? Neither do your consumers. Pick a service line or service in your organization, and work to improve wait times, or reduce the time it takes for the patient to get what she wants. 

Consumers are evaluating healthcare with brands outside the traditional healthcare lens, like Amazon. Aim to keep your loyal patients loyal, and let those great experiences lead to greater share of word-of-mouth and online reviews.

In fact, a recent Forbes article suggests that the era of healthcare consumerism is finally here (after many, many years of waiting and seeing if this trend would ever materialize). The Forbes columnist wrote:

  • More than half (51%) of consumers surveyed reported using the internet to find and select a new primary care provider. 
  • Respondents were more than twice as likely to use digital sources than a doctor’s referral to choose a primary care doctor.
  • Each year, the trend toward consumerism—patients relying more on their own online research and comparison shopping than on referrals from others—has increased, according to Andrei Zimiles, senior vice president of consumerism solutions at Press Ganey.
  • “Providers no longer are the gatekeepers of access to care,” Zimiles said. “The internet is democratizing the power of the patient and really putting them in the driver seat of their health.”

Given how many consumers are shopping for better healthcare solutions, we recommend the following for both traditional healthcare providers (like hospitals) and emerging care providers alike:

Tell your brand story to as many new prospective patients as possible in 2022. 

Consumers are looking to make a healthcare brand switch. Your brand has the potential for a much greater well of consumers in the Consideration and Intent phase of their buyer journey like no other time in recent history. Be out there with your brand story!

See what's working

PREDICTION TWO: The Time for Meaningful Brands 

So many people lost loved ones and livelihoods during this pandemic. Some of us (like myself) have skated through the pandemic reasonably unscathed, thanks to a laptop and a spare bedroom that serves as a home office. But all of us have our pandemic bruises. The impact of COVID means that we are rethinking our priorities and values, and are making different choices about where we spend our dollars—including healthcare dollars. 

That’s a large reason for the Great Brand Switch Up. But at the heart of this shift is a desire that healthcare brands should seek to fill in 2022: being a brand that is meaningful to consumers’ lives. 

Consumers have largely been put through the wringer, and have a different set of holistic wants and needs than before the pandemic. Consumers want healthcare brands that work hard to keep their promises to their patients to care well for them, and to address larger, societal needs.

We predict that the brands that outperform in 2022 will be the brands that index high as being perceived as meaningful: important, significant, relevant and present in their consumers’ lives. 

STRATEGIES TO LEVERAGE MEANINGFUL BRAND STATUS

Coming Together Again 

If your brand serves a region and the region is divided politically, tell stories that neighbors can agree on, which are likely central to your mission, vision, and core values. This story platform can also help your workers recommit under a shared goal and purpose. 

Help Patients Get Healthy

If your patient population is less healthy than before COVID (like most consumers), then help them by making it easier to take steps to better health: like scheduling an appointment with a primary care provider or booking a health screening. 

Keep Your Brand Top-of-Heart

As a brand researcher for top healthcare brands, Rob’s advice to marketers in 2022 is to keep your brand the star of the show. Many people are still operating out of fear and worry, which reduces their ability to take in nuance. So your advertising should keep your brand name front and center. Keep the brand story simple—and meaningful. 

Avoid the “Sick Care” Pigeonhole Positioning

The definition of what constitutes a healthcare brand is blurring beyond recognition. CVS, Walmart, Amazon, Microsoft and other brand giants are investing billions in redefining healthcare and how consumers choose and pay for healthcare solutions. If traditional healthcare sources like hospitals aren’t proactive, they’ll be repositioned by the brand giants as  “sick care” brands: not delivering proactive care, and only to be used when you’re really, really sick (aka, “the last resort”). 

In 2022, we are advising our traditional hospital and health system clients to regain control over their brand stories before brands like CVS and Microsoft pigeonhole hospitals as reactive and antiquated models of healthcare. 

Think about the holistic impact your brand seeks to make in consumers’ lives. What’s the vision for your brand moving forward? What’s the change you seek to make in a patient’s life? Make sure to hone your brand positioning and story—before Walmart and Amazon redefine your brand value in consumers’ eyes. 

Go Analog to Reach the Non-Zoomers

Curtis Munlin, VP of Hospital Partnerships at Doximity, shared during the discussion how vital it is for healthcare organizations to not neglect those consumer audiences who don’t have easy access to the internet and fast computers. Yes, having a digital-first communications platform is on trend and appeals to the majority of consumers who would prefer engaging with healthcare brands digitally. 

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t consumers who slip through the cracks. Those are the consumers who very well may need your services most. How can your brand reach and engage those consumers in non-digital ways? We saw the success rates that many healthcare brands had by personally calling patients and inviting them back for care after hospitals reopened for care in the early months of the pandemic. That’s an excellent example of using an “analog” strategy to reach certain patient populations. 

Many health systems also engaged in community-based healthcare strategies to ensure they had PPE and groceries. While we endorse using digital media and strategies to reach consumer audiences, make sure your brand has an analog communications strategy to ensure that your entire patient population is engaged on their road to health. 

Let’s look next at the final prediction to help you with your 2022 healthcare marketing strategic planning. 

PREDICTION THREE: Supply Chain, Busy ERs and Labor Shortages Are Driving Up the Need for Capacity Marketing

During our Campfire discussion, Chris Boyer, VP of Digital Strategy and Market Intelligence for Beth Israel Lahey Health, talked about the burden that supply chain shortages, labor shortages, and higher acuity, non-COVID patients are having on his health system and on health systems across the country.

These three issues are gnarly, to be sure, and won’t be solved with simple fixes. So what’s the healthcare marketer to do? 

Our strategic recommendation for 2022 is to refine your Capacity Marketing strategies.

Capacity marketing is the proactive planning strategy that accounts for bottlenecks in your healthcare system, and informs the messaging, services and calls-to-action for patient consumers to avoid creating further bottlenecks; and, as a consequence, a less than ideal patient experience. 

STRATEGIES FOR LEVERAGING CAPACITY MARKETING  

Triage Messaging

Chris shared how he and his team are developing communications strategies to encourage patients to make better informed decisions about where and how to receive medical treatment—for example, encouraging patients to visit urgent care clinics and their primary care doctor over going to the ER unless it’s a true emergency. 

Remember Rob’s quote that “Time is the new currency.” Helping your consumers know where to go to be seen quickly is a meaningful and valuable resource for your audiences.  

Pulse Media Buys Based on Capacity and Areas of Greatest Need

As you develop your media buying strategies, address performance in real time, and engage operations to address capacity challenges in real time. That way, you can turn the volume down (or off) on key service line marketing strategies if demand is too high on the health system. Ongoing huddles with operations and clinical team leaders will help to ensure that your marketing is pacing with what your healthcare brand can deliver.

This coordinated strategy between marketing, clinical leaders and operations might not have been possible pre-COVID. Healthcare, like many industries, had departments working in silos. But COVID forced innovation, and many health systems and providers today report much higher rates of cross-departmental collaboration. 

Leverage these new organizational skill sets to pulse your campaigns to address those areas of greatest need, and turn the volume down (or temporarily off) marketing for services that have capacity challenges. 

Conversely, we recommend our healthcare clients monitor areas within their service delivery that can handle additional patient volume: for example, shuttling new patients to providers who have open appointments, or services that are not negatively impacted by labor shortages. This strategy allows healthcare brands to maintain a consistent marketing presence and drive new patient acquisition without placing a heavy burden on already stressed providers and services. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s been a challenging 20+ months. Take some time to acknowledge your contributions, along with your team members. Fill yourself back up so you can return refreshed and ready to reengage in the new year ahead. Remember: all pandemics end. Be ready to enjoy and leverage better days ahead. 


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