5 Key Concepts for Healthcare Marketing Right Now


Some of the best and brightest minds in healthcare marketing gathered in Providence, RI, for the annual NESHCo spring conference. It’s a dynamic time for healthcare marketing. With so much change occurring so rapidly, it’s helpful to think about the general themes that are emerging in the discourse of the industry. All of these were discussed throughout the conference, in several presentations, and I know I’ve been having many of these conversations on a daily basis, both with our internal team here and with our clients. Here are my five key takeaways:


Brand is still critical. During a state of rapid change, you can’t forget to pay attention to those core concepts. Brand was, is, and will continue to be the healthcare marketer’s most important consideration. This is especially true as hospitals and health systems continue to transition from volume-based to value-based performance. The important question for an organization to ask itself is: “Who are we as a brand?” From a research perspective, I can tell you that this is a question we ask—and answer—for clients all the time. It’s an important answer to have before moving forward with any specific marketing and communications strategies.


Listen to consumers and use data-driven insights. We heard it time and time again—listen to the consumer, listen to the patient, develop metrics to measure the success of your strategy or your campaign, and use data to help drive your decisions. The voice of the consumer is key, and we all need to be listening. Whether it’s a brand awareness and image study, focus groups with community members, panels, “big data,” or patient experience measures, research and data are key tools for decision-making.


Listen to your employees and communicate internally. You can’t move forward with branding without listening to your employees. They can provide critical insight when they are included in the process from the beginning—after all, who knows your culture better than your employees? Including employees and other stakeholders in your research provides unique insight into an organization, and results in a more credible and organic brand. In addition, it is important for an organization to provide their employees with a strong, well-communicated vision—where is the organization going, and how does what they do every day contribute to that goal? After all, your employees are your brand ambassadors, working on the front lines to deliver on your brand promise.


Provide consumers with meaningful content. “Digital is the new front door.” I’ve been hearing that one a lot lately, and it is becoming increasingly true for hospitals and health systems. People are looking for information online, and your online presence is more and more likely to be their first point of contact with your organization. Make sure you are providing useful content that is understandable and easily accessible. And make sure you’re using storytelling to connect with people emotionally! All of this is important as hospitals and systems transition from acute care providers to partners in community wellness. Content in marketing is about listening to consumers and responding to their needs, building relationships with them, and ultimately building brand loyalty.


Use personas and journey maps. Always keep in mind: to whom are you speaking? Developing personas and journey maps for those you serve are exceptional ways to ensure that you’re keeping the patient at the top of your mind. Here’s a quick summary of each:


  • A persona is a semi-fictional representation of the consumer based on market research and real data. A persona is generally based on information like demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. So, for example, you could create a persona named Larry. Larry is a 48-year-old man who is happily married, very athletic, and works hard. He has just been diagnosed with prostate cancer and he is looking for information. The idea is to keep this person in mind when creating content. The more detailed the persona, the better.

  • A journey map tells the story of a patient’s experience—from initial contact with your organization, through engagement and, ultimately, a long-term relationship. It can be focused on one part of the story or the broader experience. A journey map can help you identify areas to enhance their experience, write better copy, and design a better experience—both online and in person. So, for example, knowing that Larry is coming to your website to learn more about prostate cancer, how would you design his experience and make sure you’re meeting his needs?


By better understanding and anticipating who your patients are and what they’re looking for, you can develop more effective content strategy and better navigation paths.


— posted by Jeff