Have you seen this movie before?

A health care marketer is tasked with growing market share for their organization’s brand. Here comes the plot twist: the service lines that have the biggest opportunity for long-term growth can’t handle any more new patients!

Bah! Talk about a “Darned if you do, darned if you don’t” scenario. At Hailey Sault, we’ve seen this dynamic a thousand times before. 

That’s why we wanted to write this article. We don’t want limited access to key services to be a barrier to your ability to share meaningful stories about your health organization to build the brand and engage future patients. 

That’s why we wanted to share four ways to overcome access and capacity barriers when marketing key service lines and building your organization’s overall brand. 

Access Solution 1. Remind stakeholders that the goal of branding is to win over tomorrow’s patients—not to drive immediate access.

As we like to say at Hailey Sault, what your organization stands for is how you stand out in the marketplace. Branding is a strategy to drive long-term growth. Branding’s core job is to create a meaningful impression with your audiences—not necessarily to convince those audiences to take immediate action. Branding is all about planting seeds for long-term growth. Getting prospective patients to take immediate action is the work of highly targeted service line marketing campaigns, which have vastly different approaches to driving conversions. So help your stakeholders to recognize the differences between branding strategies and service line marketing strategies. 

Access Solution 2. Identify pockets for driving immediate access. 

We often work with health systems and other health care organizations to pinpoint those very specific services that can benefit from new patient acquisition. For example, when marketing cardiovascular care, you may determine that your physicians and care teams have the capacity to see new AFib patients, but have limited access for other types of cardiovascular patients. So marketing AFib solutions can become your go-to-market strategy for cardiovascular care. We see this strategy working well with providers who offer multiple sites of care—not all of which are at capacity. You can tailor your marketing to the specific geography of those sites of care that are able to see more patients. 

Access Solution 3. Focus your efforts on prospective patients in the Consideration phase of their journey. 

As a health care marketer, you know that patients move through a series of six stages in their patient journey. Access only becomes a barrier when a prospective patient is in the Decision stage of the patient journey. 

Need a refresher of the 6 stages of the patient journey? Get instant access to our guide to patient journey mapping!

Our work as marketers is to help our audiences make informed choices about how and where to receive the best care for our needs. That’s why you might choose to focus your efforts on connecting with prospective patients in the Consideration stage of their patient journey. This is the stage where audiences are researching, asking questions, and are in a focused fact-finding mission. Depending on the health condition or need, people may spend months—even years—in the Consideration stage. Cultivate a greater engagement with prospective patients by providing them valuable resources to aid them on their journey to care. That way, when your organization is ready for more new patient encounters, your prospective patients will be more knowledgeable and confident in selecting your organization for care. 

Access Solution 4. Conversely, focus your efforts on the Advocacy stage of the patient journey. 

If your organization has capacity or access challenges, it could mean that either there is a shortage of care providers … or your organization has such a great reputation for the quality of care that there is an incredible demand for your services. If the latter is the case, that might mean you have a high number of grateful patients who are open to sharing their positive experiences about your brand with others. Invest in a strong reputation management program to encourage sharing positive reviews on the leading review sites. Word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing and can help your organization outpace others for top-of-mind awareness, preference, and utilization.

In Summary

Never discount marketing a key service line or using that service line for a branding initiative because of access or capacity challenges. Turn that challenge into an opportunity by:

  • Finding other ways to leverage the service line to grow awareness and preference for your brand
  • Identify specific services or sites of care that can benefit from patient acquisition
  • Invest your marketing spend in key stages of the patient journey—such as Consideration and Advocacy—to drive long-term ROI.