Most healthcare marketing executives struggle with the idea of branding. In a recent survey of marketers by Forrester Research, the desire to differentiate one’s brand, establish a clear difference between competitors and build awareness in new markets were cited as the top reasons for investing in branding or rebranding development. Successful branding starts with the brand promise and the organization’s ability to ignite the cognitive sparks of target patients and influencers.
As healthcare marketers, we understand that patients are interested in solving pressing health and wellness concerns. Most patients are open to receiving information that helps them make an informed decision, as long as it doesn’t cross the line into hard line sales tactics. The key is education. Seriously obese, potential bariatric patients don’t instantly gravitate toward bariatric surgery. They start with a desire to lose weight. With proper education, bariatric surgery becomes an option. A woman seeking cosmetic surgery doesn’t look in the mirror and automatically decide to get a facelift. She looks in the mirror and decides that she would like to look younger. A facelift is one of many options available to her to achieve that goal.
As healthcare marketing consultants we routinely ask ourselves if we are helping our clients engage effectively as they work to build relationships with patients. The goal is to provide patients with the information they seek and to establish and communicate a brand promise that truly differentiates our clients from their competitors. But it’s not enough to be different. Patients don’t choose a doctor or hospital because they appear to be different. They choose a doctor or hospital because they are a better fit for their needs. Consequently, the branding value proposition needs to focus on differentiation with a goal of demonstrating why your organization is not only different… but better.
Patients today have a better understanding of their options, and are not likely to spend money without a great deal of thought and research behind the purchase. Healthcare providers that have a clear, strong brand supported by a powerful web presence filled with informative content that helps define their value proposition will have a definitive advantage. Most patients prefer to research potential provider options online. When they select their top choices, they want to be able to communicate quickly and efficiently, and to make a decision based on the promise of a measurable outcome. If your brand isn’t strong enough to communicate your value proposition, you will never get the chance to demonstrate why and how you are a better fit for their needs.
At one time or another in our lives, we are all patients. As a patient, I will not choose a provider that doesn’t take the time to understand my issues and help me solve them. While I may conduct the initial research online, or even take the advice of a friend or colleague, in the end I want a relationship with a healthcare provider that truly understands and fulfills my needs and can give me the results I seek. This is when change management becomes a critical step for success.
To get a better understanding of a patient’s problems and how to solve them, we need to change the way we market and sell our healthcare products and services. We may also need to retrain our sales and patient service teams.
Selling healthcare services is unique but not totally removed from the process of selling a traditional product. Today, healthcare sales and marketing is all about defining a patient problem, and then combining products, services and expertise to deliver a solution, including post care and ongoing access to consultation and advice.
Remember: before a patient can purchase your healthcare services, they first need to become believers in your brand. As a marketing consultant, we help our clients understand that their patients don’t just buy healthcare services. They buy the fact that our clients listen to their needs, meet their expectations and deliver on their brand promise.
Promises matter. They matter to us in our personal lives. They matter to us in business. And they really matter in healthcare. Your brand promise dictates how you should execute every stage of the patient experience.
Make sure you deliver.