How do you turn patient leads into actual patients? One word: TRUST. Before potential patients can trust you, they must first come to know you and like you. Trust cannot be purchased. It must be earned. How do you earn trust from potential patients? Branding and relationship development work best.
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
“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.”
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.
Relationship Marketing: Delivering Quality Content
In addition to branding, relationship development is critical to success in today’s healthcare marketplace. Today, more than ever, people are looking for reliable healthcare information. To build lasting relationships with potential patients, it is critical to give patients the information they need to decide if your healthcare organization is a good fit for their needs.
Quality online and editorial content about your organization, physicians, procedures and the quality of care is a step toward earning patient trust. With the right content, patients begin to see you as a knowledgeable, helpful resource in their search for the right healthcare solution.
During the past few years, sales methods have changed dramatically. Traditional methods and hard-line sales techniques are slowly being pushed to the side. Today, successful sales tactics must reflect the needs of the buyer. As the buyers’ needs have changed…so must the sales methods.
Modern-day sales methods are based on relationship building, with a goal of communicating value and demonstrating a sincere desire to earn a patient’s confidence and trust. This process is referred to as lead nurturing.
“To build an effective content marketing campaign, you need to know who your patients are, what they like to read, and at what stage in the buying process they are ready to read it.”
Part of lead nurturing is about providing your patients with the information they need, when they need it. Content marketing is a key. Successful healthcare content marketing starts with understanding your patients. To build an effective content marketing campaign, you need to know who your patients are, what they like to read, and at what stage in the buying process they are ready to read it.
Content marketing and positive editorial exposure through public relations builds trust and credibility. The right content allows you to share best practices, insights and advice. The best content informs prospective patients, facilitates the healthcare buying process and lays the foundation for an ongoing conversation based in trust.
What are the stages of the patient decision-making process? To create the best content to match your prospective patient’s needs, it’s best to outline the key stages on their path from prospect to patient.
While the journey varies, most patients are likely to go through the following stages:
- Awareness. The patient recognizes a problem or a need and seeks a way to define what’s wrong and how to fix it. Good content anticipates the issues they are trying to solve and provides the answers they are trying to find.
- Research. The patient researches and examines how others have solved the same issue. This is when patient testimonials and video documentation are very helpful.
- Consideration. The patient sorts through options, reading content from various sources to determine differences between possible providers, and begins to rank potential solutions.
- Decision. The patient creates a short list of providers to research and evaluate further. This final research eventually leads to a decision.
“Content marketing and positive editorial exposure through public relations builds trust and credibility.”
The relevance and availability of this information is critical at each stage of the decision-making process. At the awareness stage, patients need to discover what may be wrong and the best solution to fix it. At the consideration stage, patients begin to evaluate different healthcare and provider solutions. The key to success is to find out what kind of information prospective patients want and need at each stage.
After you discover what your patients need, you can begin to create and market the kind of content that meets these needs. Create a strong foundation of trust by publishing valuable information for patients at every stage of their journey and you will transform a greater number of leads into patients.
About the Author
Patrick Goodness is the CEO of The Goodness Company: Global Healthcare and Medical Tourism Marketing. Goodness is a recognized leader in healthcare marketing and consults with private and public healthcare organizations around the world on healthcare branding, medical marketing, healthcare destination branding, medical tourism marketing and more.
His namesake company, The Goodness Company, is a fullservice healthcare and medical tourism marketing and public relations agency with offices in the United States and Latin America. Since 1994, The Goodness Company has become recognized across the United States and around the globe as a leader in healthcare and medical tourism marketing solutions.
The Goodness Company has executed work in more than 45 countries on five continents, with projects in global marketing, advertising, public relations, video marketing, internet marketing and more. Goodness is recognized for its strategic healthcare marketing planning services that position clients to succeed in a competitive global environment. Healthcare organizations and corporations around the world trust The Goodness Company with critical healthcare marketing, public relations and branding projects.
Multicultural and multinational experience, paired with a hands-on approach to healthcare and medical tourism marketing and public relations, has positioned The Goodness Company as a leader in domestic and international healthcare marketing. Visit The Goodness Company at www.GoodnessHealthcareMarketing.com