Key Factors to Influencing Patients During Consideration & Decision [Part 4 of 5]

Key Factors to Influencing Patients During Consideration & Decision [Part 4 of 5]

Let’s be real. New patient acquisition is the Holy Grail of health care marketing. Sure, we have other priorities, too. But acquisition is what we all strive for. I’m not talking about just increasing inquiries, appointments or volumes. I’m talking about market share—bringing people who previously weren’t patients of your organization to your organization for care. That means that they decided to make a change. 

FYI, change is happening more than you think, and perhaps more than you’d like. In fact, the number of people considering changing health systems is growing by approximately 50% every two years.

This is EXACTLY why Patient Journey Mapping, and the new Marketing Operating System for Patient Acquisition, Engagement and Advocacy is so critically important right now. You need to have insight into people’s behavior as they experience their trigger event, and understand their intent as they begin considering their options. (Don’t be fooled by the fallacy of the inherent value of in-network referrals. Your prospective patients are looking at their options. More than 33% of your market has switched providers in the past.) 

Assuming you’ve already completed persona development, let’s get started influencing patients through the Consideration and Decision Phases of their Patient Journey. You’ll notice we’re skipping right by the Awareness Phase, assuming you’ve got a handle on creating awareness. After all, this is where the magic happens.

Influencing Moments of Consideration

In a 2017 national study of 1,200 people across America, we asked two critical sets of questions to understand why someone would consider switching providers.  The first set of questions focused on what they felt they needed from their health care organization. The second set focused on characteristics that, if offered in their community, would truly be unique. The intersection of these two ideals is your sweet spot for influencing patients.

The chart below highlights where patients’ interests cross over with unique offerings in the market. In other words, there are a couple of key characteristics that you should consider focusing on as you communicate with prospective patients in the Consideration Phase.

Hailey Sault research graphic

Key insights:

1. If you can market any kind of cost transparency, or offer cost counseling prior to care, do it. Please! People want it, and it’s highly likely that your competition isn’t doing it. Figuring out how to leverage this is a front-running strategy.

2. Outside of cost issues, leverage positive patient experience! It’s more important than technologies by a long shot. People want compassionate care from their doctors. They want their doctors to spend time with them, talk about their options, and for those relationships to be personal. Unless you’re bottoming out on patient experience, jump all over storytelling it during the Consideration Phase!

Separately, don’t spend money or energy on marketing your awards or national rankings. People don’t care. Everybody’s got ‘em.

Influencing Moments of Decision

Leaving a current health system to get care elsewhere is a hard decision. It’s typically instigated by poor patient experience or significant changes to costs. Those are the built-in barriers, especially for boomers, who have the longest relationships with their care providers.

However, if you’ve built a platform for nurturing someone along their journey, here are several recommendations for influencing during the Decision Phase.

Key Insights:

1. If you’re in-network with other payers in your market, make sure prospective patients know. This may be the least sexy thing I’ve ever written, but the fact is that people are guided by inertia. For your organization, that means that the majority of the people in your market either a) feel like they must get care within their preferred system, or b) can only go where their insurance company tells them. So if you’re on par, make sure the market knows that the door is wide open. Trust me, their insurance companies or employers aren’t going to put in the effort. You should! (The exception to this rule is millennials. They’re more likely to not have a primary care provider, and therefore not stuck within a system. Plus, they question authority and choices more.)

2. Once people know they can switch providers, they’re a lot more likely to choose someone who really knows them, versus treating them “like a number.” These relationship shortfalls are highlighted in the chart below. Here, you’ll see what people describe as their ideal relationship (Committed Partners, Teammates), versus their everyday reality (No Relationship, Casual Acquaintance, Distant). Stories elaborating on meaningful relationships are a powerful tool to woo prospective patients as they enter the Decision Phase. Curate them!

Hailey Sault research page 60 graphic

As you read this, I’d urge you to consider whether the smartest of your competitors has likely already modified their methodologies. Based on most of our experience, that answer is probably, “to a very limited degree.” So if you’re in your own personal arms race in a competitive market—and it’s likely you are—I’d urge you to consider how much of this intelligence you’re applying to the critical phases of your prospective patients’ journeys. 

As health care marketers, there’s only so much you can do to affect choice drivers like price transparency and how physicians engage with patients. But you do have massive opportunities for nurturing prospective patients along their journeys of care. As I’ve shared in this article, patients are on the move in record numbers. What will you do to capitalize on this opportunity?

Kickstart Your Marketing OS: The Human Centered Persona [Part 3 of 5]

Kickstart Your Marketing OS: The Human Centered Persona [Part 3 of 5]

In the first two blogs in this series, I’ve shared that the Modern Marketing Operating System for Patient Acquisition, Engagement and Advocacy performs better than existing marketing models. In case you’re just jumping in now, the headline is: you should begin implementing this model with an increasing sense of urgency—everyday. If you are serious about re-examining your own marketing OS, it starts with Patient Journey Mapping. And that starts with developing effective personas. 

(FYI—This is going to be a bit longer than a typical post. I’d apologize if it weren’t so important. In fact, I believe this process requires a shift in mindset to emphasize the deep, deep data and human insight that is applied to the new marketing OS.)

The Model 

At Hailey Sault, our particular brand of persona development is born from human-centered design, and so we refer to it as the Human Centered Persona. It is a persona rooted in the quantitative data necessary to influence marketing and communications decisions along the patient journey. It is also a persona that shines a light on the human characteristics that allow us to create iterative messaging that intersects with a patient’s path along that same journey. In other words, we define our audiences as people, not as ambiguous segmentations, since that’s truly who we’re trying to influence.

I realize the concept of marketing personas isn’t new. We didn’t invent it, and the idea isn’t proprietary. But what we have done is test varied approaches to personas within contemporary health care marketing models. The culmination of these results is what we find so compelling. In Q4 2018, one client achieved a +1000% improvement on conversions over the previous six month period. While there were plenty of factors that led to this success, it all began with creating six Human Centered Personas that were the foundation of that effort. 

But, unlike older marketing models, our engagement with our audiences happens in real time, and therefore must be truly responsive. Tools like the more widely used Prizm® segmentations profiles—while highly useful in older models—don’t fully capture the beliefs, intent and behavior of people who are moving through a health care journey. Since those people are moving in real time through that journey, we need to be able to predict their interest, intent and behavior along the way, and map the way that we engage them throughout the process with equal sensitivity.

The Science

Effective personas are the foundation upon which real data-driven marketing is built. So it stands to reason that we need really insightful data to drive those efforts. That’s where the science of persona development begins.

This spring, Brittney Hanson published a blog on the Art & Science of Health Care Marketing Persona Development. There, she elaborated on the core elements of persona development, and the tools used to create them. (If you haven’t already checked it out, it’s a highly focused description of the purpose and mechanics of creating them.) It’s a great insight into using data to create highly effective personas.

More recently, we hosted a Hailey Sault MasterClass on persona development. In it, we shared the four types of data we use to create the foundation of all our personas: Owned, Primary, Third-Party, and Organizational Expertise. The first, Owned, is exactly what you expect. Just look at your EHR or CRM. Primary data leverages focus group or other qualitative/quantitative insights you have on hand. Third-Party brings in other platforms to examine marketplace trends. And Organizational includes service line experts, internal resources and other partners.

As you well know, all that data is useless unless you can turn it into insight. This part of the process funnels that data into a number (ours is six) of buckets that help build the core elements of the Human Centered Persona. This is a bit more nuanced, so if you prefer to understand these applications, feel free to contact us to schedule your own personal “Health Care Audience Personas MasterClass.” (Hey, it don’t cost nothin’.) 

The Soul

Speaking of nuance, the soul of Human Centered Personas is critically important to nurture people along the patient journey. Again, we’re connecting with real people doing real things with our platforms. Targeting more generic profiles like “Urban Digerati” or “Social Second Screeners” as personas may work fine for static mediums. But we’re interacting in real time with people who need our help. So generic handles aren’t going to cut it.

In order to add the human element into persona development, there’s simply no better way than talking with people. One part of this human-centered process involves internal collaboration with clinical and operational teams to help understand what patients tell them are key moments along their journey. Most of our work is centered around predictive ways to acquire new patients for specific service lines, so we are extremely intentional about “showing up” when the critical series of decisions are made.

This process is best represented in a visual Canvas Map of the patient experience


HS canvas map


Last, but certainly not least, there’s no substitute for talking to real patients. I know this sounds like another focus group type of exercise, but it’s not. Those are just too broad. Consider talking to real patients about their journey. Why did they choose you? What were their apprehensions? Where did they pause along the way? How much were they considering different options? 

In the Modern Marketing Operating System for Patient Acquisition, Engagement and Advocacy, these answers make all the difference. Recently, we worked with a client whose marketing efforts had plateaued. When we talked with their patients, they shared two sentiments that were critical to breaking through. First, these patients grappled with their health disorder for up to seven years. So we explored the trigger events that led them to make the decision to seek treatment. Second, they shared that, in relation to their own personal trigger events, few providers made them feel really understood. More often, providers simply offered rigid solutions. As these patients were making their decision to deal with their health, a critical tipping point was feeling that their caregivers were walking side by side with them. 

The Results

We leveraged these very personal insights to form the Human Centered Personas, which led to the above-mentioned +1000% increase in conversions through marketing channels. They have also led to a record census in the client’s clinics through 2019. Quite simply, we could not have achieved these same results using old methodologies. For the new health care marketing OS, this is why building effective personas is so vital.

3 Things Healthcare Marketers Should Already Be Doing [Part 2 of 5]

3 Things Healthcare Marketers Should Already Be Doing [Part 2 of 5]

Last week, I introduced the phrase, the “Modern Marketing Operating System.” Yes, I know this sounds like jargon, but it’s not. In fact, there are fewer things I’ve had more clarity about in my career than the power and effectiveness in Patient Journey Mapping and its role in creating the new marketing operating system. In this blog, I’ll highlight what I believe the differences are between the “old way” and the “new way,” then identify three core tenets of the new way that make it so much more effective.

The Old Way

I’d like to ask you to step back in time—anywhere from last week to five years ago. Imagine you’re in the early stages of developing what you hoped to be an incredibly successful marketing campaign. You’re meeting with your agency in your conference room or their super cool hipster space. (I digress). That discussion probably focused on “creating an integrated campaign targeting Women 25-44 who are thinking about [fill in the blank] to affect a [fill in the blank] percent increase in volume over the next quarter.” 

Then it was off to the races with strategy, creative and media. Then you went through, like, 4-6 rounds of revisions. You got organizational buy in. You made the logo bigger. Then you put it in-market and let it do its magic. Finally, about 3-6 months later, you asked for revenue, volume or other similar figures to gauge success. At this point, depending on whether the campaign was successful or not, you either hailed the genius of your team or threw the agency under the bus. 

Here’s the point: when you look back on how campaigns were developed, this model left a. lot. to. chance!  We were all essentially flying blind, betting that the creative and media placement created enough resonance to generate the impact we hoped. Then we took credit when it worked and shrugged it off when it didn’t.

The New Way: a Modern Marketing Operating System for Patient Acquisition, Engagement and Advocacy

Today’s OS leaves little to chance. Ambiguous targeting is replaced by deep personas that clearly convey human experience. Downstream goals are replaced with measured, intermittent metrics. Broad, fixed creative is replaced by focused, deliberate, and fluid messaging. 

All of this starts with Patient Journey Mapping. If you’re not already implementing PJM within a new marketing model, here are three things you should be doing immediately.

1. Define your audiences intimately. 

First, we have to understand that the people we want to influence aren’t walking around thinking about a healthcare choice. Just like you and me, they’re tending to their own lives and getting through their day. In fact, according to our research, only 1 in 5 have actively considered a healthcare choice, and 1 in 3 has ever made a change in providers or health systems. 

But when people do experience a trigger event and become prospective patients, their feelings, behaviors and intent can be more deeply defined. And more importantly: personalized. Instead of a broad, bland demographic description, the process starts with creating a powerful human persona. (Next week, we’ll dive into this more deeply.)

Sample Persona Image

If you do nothing else with this information, please start here. Take the time to define your audiences in real, human language.  You won’t regret it. 

2. Use marketing channels more efficiently.

Speaking of a trigger event, the ability to nurture someone who’s experienced one is a lot more effective than in the past. Previous marketing efforts—even those that we labeled integrated—rarely provided the clarity necessary to ensure that goals would be met. It was more of a “set it and forget it” model where media was placed at the beginning of the campaign and left to run its course. (#fingerscrossed)

I’m not suggesting that traditional media is dead, despite the many rumors of its demise. But the way you use it has to change. TV, print and outdoor don’t generate inquiries, volume or market share. They generate awareness. Period.

Prospective patients are nurtured in the Consideration and Decision phases. There, channels like search, display, native and organic content, connected TV, and marketing automation are employed around a set of analytics tools. These are the channels that deliver conversions and, ultimately, new patients. 

Start recognizing and embracing different channels with how they align along the patient journey. Once you do, you’ll discover newfound efficiencies and effectiveness.

3. Measure critical markers along the patient journey.

In the past, our efforts were too focused on the end goal. We hoped that people would be impacted by the campaign in some way and make an appointment. Maybe they went to the website first? Either way, it was hard to really attribute any gains directly to marketing.

Today, success is determined by meeting identifiable markers along the patient journey. We know when our initial efforts generate a response. We can track if that response was the right one. If not, we retarget with different content until we move someone along the path or, conversely, out of the path. 

PJM Graphic

If you use Patient Journey Mapping effectively, you’ll know which of your messages, and which of your platforms is making an impact. Ultimately, as with any effective “sales funnel,” you’ll have clarity about growth and your team’s impact on it.

The new marketing operating system for patient acquisition, engagement and advocacy is changing the competitive landscape in markets across the country. If you’re not already doing these three things, please consider them now. The more you wait, the further off you put real results.

We wrote a comprehensive workbook on how to approach and leverage patient journey mapping for your organization. Click this link to download the workbook now—and help your patients take the next step with your brand.

Defining The Modern Marketing Operating System [Part 1 of 5]

Defining The Modern Marketing Operating System [Part 1 of 5]

The old way of healthcare marketing is dead. It’s not relevant. It’s not effective. It’s just not working.

If you’ve seen our latest thinking around Patient Journey Mapping, hopefully it struck a chord. For many of you who joined us in our PJM Master Class, “Conversion Point,” you undoubtedly walked away with a better understanding of new methodologies that are leading to specific successes in healthcare marketing.

PJM Workbook Cover

What’s this notion of “new methodologies?” This sounds like the kind of BS you might expect from an agency. After all, we’re great at reinventing ways to say the same thing. We’ve been doing it for you for decades (and we love it).

But this is different.

What I mean by “new methodologies” is, literally, the evolution of the new marketing operating system for patient acquisition, engagement and advocacy. I’m talking about applying journey mapping to create a definable, repeatable process that brings data, transparency, measurement, accountability, human behavior and creativity to bear to achieve a specific goal.

If I were a journalist, I would have already missed the lead in this article. So here’s the hook: If you’re not working within a marketing ecosystem that shines a light on the patient journey, then you’re hanging your career on qualitatively-measured marketing. That is, an approach that limits you to a list of possible solutions—rather than an approach that helps you determine the best possible solution to a particular need consumers have.

There’s no simpler way to say it. If that’s your bag and it’s been working for you, don’t let me dissuade you. I’ve been wrong plenty of times. It’s likely that your C-Suite is OK with it. And the organization loves the creative in the market. So that’s good. Plus, nobody really holds your department too accountable for volume, revenue or other performance goals.

If the concept of the new marketing operating system isn’t for you, you’ll probably be fine with the current way forward.

But in case you’re a little interested, here’s the scoop. This OS works on so many levels, that you simply can’t afford to ignore it. Compared to old methods, it outperforms. It puts you and your marketing at the center of collaboration with physicians, administrators, managers and patients. It allows you to predict outcomes and optimize when the mid-level objectives aren’t being met.

Most importantly—and this is really important—when it works well, it smashes previous expectations. Like, by +100%.

Over the next couple weeks, I’m going to share why Patient Journey Mapping and the new Operating System work so well. But instead of just showing you a kick-ass watch, I’ll share how it’s made. And I’ll be transparent about what I hope you’ll get out of this. I hope you’ll realize that you should be employing this—ASAFP! And I hope that you’ll realize that you may need some help to get it up and running. (That’s where Hailey Sault comes in.) In the meantime, feel free to check out the PJM guide for more definition.

Next week, we’ll revisit core elements of PJM, and why it should matter to you. Actually, our perspective on why it should matter to you is rooted in what you and your colleagues from across the country shared with us. Ultimately, PJM and the new OS will provide insight and answers for better marketing performance.

And that, in turn, should help you sleep better at night.

The Health Care Marketing Mid-Year Checkup

The Health Care Marketing Mid-Year Checkup

It’s June. And you know what that means: it’s time for the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup.

What? You never heard of the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup?

Well, just let me place this stethoscope to your chest. Breathe in. Now breathe out and I’ll tell you more.

Most of our health care marketing clients are on a fiscal budget year calendar—for example, they begin their new fiscal budget year October 1 and end their budget year on September 30. But as humans, we’re conditioned to work in seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. And if you’re reading this in California and don’t have traditional seasons, then you can appreciate the sense of starting over January 1st.

And that leads me to the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup and the reason we find it so essential to success.

Because we’re fanatical about delivering results—and a little impatient when it comes to making progress for our clients—we design our campaigns to elicit real-time feedback on performance. Yet we’re also big advocates of pausing during the work year to reflect on our overall progress. That’s the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup in a nutshell: a time to assess how the daily and weekly efforts are working together with big ideas and strategic aims—to deliver those measurable results that align with your goals and values. So let’s get started.

Assess your strategies

Now that you’ve spent half the calendar year executing your marketing strategies, ask yourself: how are you doing?

  • Are you on track or off track?
  • What successes have you counted?
  • What failed?
  • What needs improvement?
  • Go back to your annual plan: Have you stayed on track with your plan or veered off track?
  • Did other priorities get in the way of the priorities you set for the year?

The value: a chance to finish strong

We love the Mid-Year Marketing Checkup because it gives health care marketers time to finish what they started. And if your annual plan looks nothing at all like what you’ve spent the last six months working on, then you have time to double down on your key areas of focus.

This isn’t to say that pivots are bad things. Things change. Priorities change. Maybe the strategy you wrote six months ago isn’t relevant today.

During your Mid-Year Marketing Checkup, you can document what must happen, by when, for the remainder of your calendar year.

Because as Ben Franklin once said, “A failure to plan is a plan for failure.”

If you haven’t been doing what you know you should be doing to move your organization forward, this is your time to realign your focus and execute.


Here are 4 tips to help you finish the year strong:

1. Focus on fewer things to commit more resources to—for better results.

2. Identify the progress metrics you want to track and hit, so you know you’re on course or need to adjust your strategies.

3. Get buy-in from leadership and other stakeholders. With half the year gone, you don’t need “left-field” requests to slow your progress.

4. Ask for help. If you have a specialized need, find the specialists who can help you execute. (Especially because you don’t have time to waste!)

The Mid-Year Marketing Checkup is a great way to realign yourself with your marketing goals and strategies. Schedule your checkup today—so you can end the year strong!

B2B Health Sales: Cracking Cold Markets

B2B Health Sales: Cracking Cold Markets

One of the biggest challenges we see with our health care clients engaged in B2B sales opportunities is breaking into new markets or categories: for example, entering a new territory or launching products and services in new business categories.

There are several common reasons why breaking into new markets and categories is challenging, like:

  • No (or limited) brand recognition
  • Lack of (or limited) street credibility—the coveted “like and trust” factor
  • Lack of (or limited) real-world experience to know which trade shows and associations to participate in
  • “Cold” leads and prospects that take time to “warm up” for sales opportunities

We also know the challenge of cracking new categories and markets when physician referrals are important to growing the business. Having worked with physicians for over 40 years, we know building strong referral relationships with physicians is key to many health care business strategies.

We developed our Powering the Pipeline platform to give our clients the marketing strategy, technology, and the infrastructure to effectively “warm up” B2B sales and referral opportunities.

In this post, I’ll share several best practices that we leverage to help our clients to:

  • Enter new markets and categories successfully
  • Grow share of the market  
  • Build strong referral patterns with providers  

Virtual “Street Teams”

To promote an upcoming concert or the launch of a new album, the music industry employs people to canvas cities with posters promoting the event—aka, “Street Teams.”

We do something similar for clients who seek to enter new markets or categories. At Hailey Sault, we disperse digital marketing campaigns that canvas the sites and media platforms where our clients’ audiences spend the most time, both personally and professionally. This virtual street team strategy enables our clients to have a profound presence during key periods of entering new markets, product and service releases and other times when our clients want to be top-of-mind with prospects. We also supplement our clients’ organic search strategies with paid search efforts, helping to rank higher for keyword terms that prospective clients are using to find solutions.

Thanks to digital media’s ability to micro-target audiences and Hailey Sault’s proprietary strategies, we magnify our clients’ footprint and sphere of reach, helping them overshadow often bigger, more established competitor brands.

Sales Insights Tracking

Though much has changed in business since the rise of digital marketing during the past decade, one thing hasn’t changed: business is still done person to person. Our Powering the Pipeline platform helps our clients to connect with key prospects so that sales teams can do what they do best: engage prospects in meaningful conversations that lead to meaningful business relationships.

That’s why our marketing platform is designed to give sales teams real-time information on how key prospects are engaging with our clients’ content and digital marketing efforts. When we integrate with our clients’ CRM platforms, we are able to provide our clients with lead scores that indicate overall engagement and interest with the products and offers. This real-time information is helpful to sales teams who want to know when a prospect is highly engaged with marketing efforts. These insights also allow us to identify what new sales and marketing tools to create that provide the sales teams with more tools to use in nurturing sales opportunities.

Messaging for the 5.4

According to the game-changing book on modern B2B sales, The Challenger Customer, there are 5.4 stakeholders involved in every B2B buying decision. That’s why sales teams today need materials and resources to appeal to the 4.4 OTHER stakeholders beyond the original point of contact. Having developed sales and communications resources for physician referral marketing and communications for two decades, we see evidence that physicians also have key stakeholders involved in deciding referral patterns along with purchasing business products and services.

As part of our Powering the Pipeline platform, we develop sales and marketing materials that appeal to all decision makers involved in the buying decision. Though sales teams would always prefer to be in the boardroom when stakeholders meet, they can’t always be there. So the sales and marketing tools must be advocates for the organization and its offerings. And to get to a yes, the tools must appeal to the unique perspectives, biases and wants of all stakeholders.

Final Thoughts

Our approach to marketing B2B health brands is no different than our approach to marketing B2C health brands like leading hospitals and health systems—with one exception.

In the B2C sale, we help our clients tell their story in unique and engaging ways by identifying the key audience personas, drivers of brand distinction and hand-selected media channels that our audiences spend time and engage with. The audience engages with our campaigns and engages the brand directly. In the case of our work with hospitals, this often means scheduling an appointment with a physician.

But the B2B marketing strategies we create help to guide our clients’ prospective clients to a different call-to-action: an invitation to a sales opportunity. We see our work with our Powering the Pipeline platform as a strategy for warming up prospects to become aware and engaged with our clients’ products and services. We then share the data and insights with sales teams so they can do what they do so well: ask for a conversation and close the sale.