Marketing Healthcare Like A Retailer

Retail Healthcare – The Future of Healthcare Marketing

At the HLTH 2023 event in Las Vegas, talk about innovation, disruption and AI dominated, signaling a changing landscape. Major corporations unveiled new retail healthcare services to reshape the industry. Competition is no longer just the hospital across town. Now, with innovative healthcare disruptors emerging, legacy healthcare models need to adopt retail marketing strategies to stay ahead.

A New Wave: Non-Healthcare Brands Diving into Retail Healthcare

Historically, brands like Uber were synonymous with transportation, and Instacart with grocery delivery. But the lines are blurring.

Uber & Lyft are among the latest non-healthcare providers to jump into the fray. Rideshare users can now book more than just a ride to the airport or restaurants. By offering non-emergency medical rides for seniors and ensuring deliveries of essentials, they’re tapping into a market ripe for direct-to-consumer healthcare solutions.

Instacart, one of many food delivery services that gained popularity during the pandemic, has expanded its partnership with a number of hospitals and health systems to offer patients access to nutritious food delivery programs.

Instacart Health’s “food as medicine” services include virtual food storefronts with dietary recommendations from providers. One co-branded Medicare Advantage plan includes $50 to $100 quarterly Instacart stipends for eligible seniors.

Retail Healthcare: Beyond Traditional Boundaries

It’s not just direct-to-consumer startups getting in on the retail healthcare trend. Traditional retail stores like Dollar General are launching their own venture into the healthcare industry.

Taking medicine directly to consumers is the strategy behind Dollar General’s DocGo mobile clinics. The mobile clinics are located in parking lots of Dollar General, the nation’s largest retailer with more than 19,000 stores. Targeting largely rural areas, DocGo clinics cater to patients needing urgent or primary care. Private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare are accepted. Self-pay rates start at $69.

Other retail giants also provide convenient patient entry points where patients shop. Costco offers its members $29 virtual primary care visits through a partnership with healthcare marketplace Sesame, billed as a direct connection to providers with no insurance markups or hidden costs. Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, CVS and Walgreen’s all continue to expand healthcare offerings.

A few key takeaways emerge from direct-to-consumer healthcare marketed by non-healthcare companies—convenience, transparency and customer service, all benchmarks of direct-to-consumer retail.

The pandemic shifted patient-centered care to patient-empowered care. Consumers want to order and pay for food with a tap on an app. They want items delivered the next day. They want questions answered immediately and problems solved promptly.

However, consumers don’t want to click exhaustively on a healthcare website for information, waste time on an automated menu tree or be unable to get an appointment for weeks when they’re sick now. And the empowered patient certainly doesn’t wait in a waiting room for hours before seeing their doctor.

Healthcare disruptors market convenient, quick access through one point of entry. How can you compete? Start thinking—and marketing—like a retailer.

Retail Marketing Strategies for Healthcare

Creating a Winning Patient Engagement Strategy: The Patient-empowered approach

Draw inspiration from retail marketing that focuses on the customer. Prioritize patient needs and preferences at the initial point of contact to give them a more personalized experience that fits their needs.

Data-driven Healthcare Marketing

Retailers use data to analyze customer behavior and preferences. Do the same by leveraging analytics to segment patient populations, target specific demographics and customize messaging. Healthcare organizations can leverage free tracking tools such as Google Analytics and Meta Pixel. However, be cautious of what info you collect and where tracking pixels are placed on your brand’s website. Your marketing strategies must still follow relevant HIPAA guidelines.

Direct to Consumer Healthcare: Prioritizing Customer Service

Retailers create positive in-store and online experiences to make customers feel welcome, comfortable and appreciated. Nordstrom’s legendary customer service is: “Rule #1. Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

Make your patients feel just as warm, comfortable and welcome by streamlining processes, reducing wait times and keeping the facility clean and organized. Know their names and demonstrate that you care.

Retail Healthcare’s Convenience & Accessibility

Retailers, whether Amazon Clinic’s virtual health visits or the CVS “super app” that combines benefits, healthcare delivery and retail channels in one platform, understand convenience and accessibility. Promote telemedicine services, extended hours, easy appointment scheduling and anything else you’re doing to make healthcare easier and more convenient for patients.

Healthcare Disruptors: Branding and Positioning

Differentiate yourself by highlighting what you offer that patients don’t get from the competition, whether it’s another hospital, the big-box pharmacy or online options.

Retail-inspired Healthcare Digital Marketing Tactics

Promptly at 7 a.m. each day, retail offerings flood most email boxes. BOGO; 50% off today; holiday fares slashed. Retailers make it easy for you to spend lots of money in minutes. Healthcare marketers can also utilize digital marketing to reach and engage patients effectively with messages tailored to their specific interests based on data.

Enhancing Patient Trust: Online Reviews and Ratings

Retailers actively manage their online reputations by encouraging satisfied customers to submit online reviews and ratings. Would you dine at a restaurant with consistent bad reviews or book a rideshare driver who has less than four stars? Healthcare providers and marketing teams can proactively ask patients to leave reviews. More importantly, respond to feedback whether positive or negative.

Healthcare Loyalty Programs: Rewarding Commitment

Think about the loyalty cards in your wallet or on phone apps. 150 stars for a free coffee. Bonus points for shoe discounts. Invitations to exclusive in-store events. Healthcare loyalty perks might include wellness programs, discounts on products offered by a provider or exclusive concierge services for long-term patients. It’s all about making the patient feel special.

Striving for Healthcare Pricing Transparency

Retailers typically provide clear pricing and transparent information about products.  However, healthcare pricing can remain a mystery until the bill comes. Strive for pricing transparency to help patients make informed decisions.

By thinking like a retailer and adopting retail marketing strategies, healthcare organizations can improve patient engagement and satisfaction, which ultimately result in better patient care.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

Reputation Management in Healthcare: The Key to Correcting Misinformation

Reputation management is pivotal for hospitals and healthcare systems. Its effectiveness directly impacts the quality of healthcare services and ensures patient trust. Without a credible reputation, everything else pales in comparison. Quality scores, the latest technology, physician reviews, and patient experiences all matter. Addressing and correcting misinformation, especially in today’s digital age where rumors can spread rapidly, is a critical component of reputation management in healthcare.

A hospital’s reputation is a mirror of its medical proficiency and its unwavering dedication to patient care, safety, ethical standards, and overall community health. In the face of challenges, such as the recent pandemic, the importance of reputation management was further underscored. Unverified statements rapidly transformed into widely accepted facts, illustrating the urgency of debunking myths in healthcare.

Ultimately, a hospital’s reputation serves as a cornerstone for building lasting relationships with patients and the broader healthcare ecosystem, ensuring continued success and community support.

Addressing Sources of Misinformation in Healthcare

Effective reputation management in healthcare mandates a keen focus on the sources of misinformation. Whether managed internally or externally, social media channels require vigilant monitoring to identify and rectify misinformation that might sway your audience.

A recent study by researchers at the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center evaluated 500 popular TikTok posts associated with five hashtags related to gynecological cancer. These posts garnered over 466 million views, yet a staggering 73% of the content was found to be inaccurate.

While social media’s reach can be a boon for healthcare marketing, circulating misinformation, especially about critical subjects like cancer or vaccinations, can detrimentally impact health outcomes. By actively tracking misinformation, marketing teams have the chance to rectify false information, bolstering the hospital’s reputation and highlighting its community value. This proactive approach also empowers healthcare providers to discuss trending misinformation with patients, bridging trust gaps and enhancing the overall patient experience.

Misleading Information’s Impact on the Healthcare Industry

The repercussions of misleading information extend beyond just medical protocols and outcomes. Patients, especially those battling conditions like cancer, juggle myriad challenges. For them, comprehensive discussions with their care team can allay concerns, fostering trust and nudging them to seek professional guidance over internet-based sources.

Platforms like TikTok, popular for light-hearted content, can unfortunately be breeding grounds for misinformation. Thus, reputation management also involves monitoring other social channels, podcasts, audio platforms, and even traditional media to a certain extent.

The Role of Influencers in Reputation Management and Misinformation

In the realm of reputation management, it’s essential to recognize the influence celebrities wield, especially when they venture into providing healthcare advice.

From celebrities promoting the latest wellness products to figures like the Kardashians endorsing new medical treatments or procedures, their vast outreach can often mislead the public. Consumers, captivated by these endorsements, might hastily follow such advice without consulting a medical professional. For healthcare marketers, it’s pivotal to address such celebrity-driven narratives and guide the audience toward informed, professional advice.

Who Do Audiences Trust for Health Information?

In our digitally connected era, online reviews and social media significantly shape public perception. Effective reputation management leverages these platforms to promptly address negative feedback, accentuate hospital strengths, and underscore a commitment to patient well-being.

Interestingly, the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a diminished trust in media, especially social media, with only 44% of respondents placing their trust in social media platforms. In contrast, the healthcare sector enjoys a 70% trust rating, and scientists are trusted by 76%. A 2023 Gallup poll further indicates that despite a generalized skepticism among Gen Z towards major US institutions, their trust in science remains over 70%, and more than 80% express trust in the medical system to varying degrees.

These trust metrics offer healthcare marketers a golden opportunity: position medical professionals to counteract misinformation, thereby enhancing and preserving the institution’s reputation.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

The Power of Authenticity in Branding During Economic Downturns

In the face of global challenges, such as the recent tridemic (COVID, RSV and flu), the role of authenticity in branding has never been more critical. While these healthcare crises are managed through medical interventions, the economic strain on consumers is palpable. This period, however, offers a unique opportunity for brands to connect genuinely and elevate their image authentically.

Branding becomes more critical during troubled economic times. However, remember three main points:

  1. Your brand is everything that people experience about you and that makes them want to utilize your facilities and your services.
  2. Your brand is how others see you, not how you see yourself.
  3. Keep your brand authentic.

Consumers have clamored for authenticity since the start of the pandemic with 88% of consumers saying authenticity is important when deciding on brands they support. They don’t care about platitudes or superlatives. They want to know how you intend to care for them and then to experience the care you promise.

Authenticity in branding, simply defined, refers to the quality of being genuine, real, and true to one’s principles, values, and identity. When it comes to branding—particularly when increased day-to-day costs are on everyone’s minds—authenticity ranks as one of your most valuable and powerful attributes.

Here are five ways that authenticity in branding can elevate brands in an economic downturn or anytime:

  • Builds trust. When a brand consistently delivers on its promise and presents itself openly and honestly, consumers are more likely to trust it. Accolades and tone-deaf messages fail to inspire safety, trust, and credibility. Instead, messages that provide patients with free community resources, reiterate the value of prevention, and offer cost-conscious programs benefiting their health go a long way to instill trust by prioritizing their health and wellbeing.
  • Differentiates from competitors. In a crowded marketplace, especially with competition on all sides, authenticity can set a brand apart from competitors. Authentic brands’ unique stories, missions, and core values help them stand out.
  • Attracts a loyal customer base. Authenticity fosters a connection between brand and customer. These connections occur at every touchpoint—from your social media content to interactions with your customers. When consumers feel genuine connections, they become loyal advocates who promote your brand to others. To elevate the consumer experience, ensure that your brand reflects your core values and that employees are aligned with those same core values. If you promise exceptional service, do your best to treat customers like they’re your only customer.
  • Elevates brand image. An authentic brand is usually perceived as more credible and reputable. However, achieving that status doesn’t happen overnight. FleishmanHillard’s study showed that brands needed to act to meet consumer expectations. About 95% of the industries studied did not meet expectations of providing their customers with better value. Credibility and authenticity typically go hand in hand to elevate your brand image.
  • Increases perceived value. Authentic branding elevates your brand and can elevate the perceived value. When consumers trust and believe in the brand, they are often willing to pay more for services or procedures even during economic downturns.

While many brands talk about authenticity, it’s crucial to truly embody it. Authenticity in branding helps achieve brand trust and credibility. Authenticity helps elevate your brand by connecting with audiences on a deeper level, creating stronger bonds, and driving business even during challenging economic times.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

Short-term Marketing Plans Are the New Normal

One of the biggest lessons of 2020 was learning to pivot. Change is now the normal in healthcare. This makes creating long-term marketing plans challenging. Instead, it’s more efficient to implement short-term plans and revisit strategy, goals and objectives mid-year to determine what’s working and what’s not.

With the calendar year more than halfway over, two marketing tactics on everyone’s minds are artificial intelligence (AI) and Threads. If you haven’t already, give both a try. With 100 million users joining Meta’s Threads app in less than five days, it’s the fastest-growing social media platform in history. While no one is predicting Twitter to disappear anytime soon, the competition might bring order to its chaos.

No technology since the launch of the internet has generated as much excitement as generative AI. In two months, ChatGPT also had 100 million users. Instead of fearing it, become familiar with its capabilities. Use it to kickstart a revised marketing plan. As the adage goes, “You won’t be replaced by AI; you’ll be replaced by someone using AI.”

While fine-tuning plans, consider four primary audiences and their expectations:

  • External audiences—patients/consumers
    • Internal audiences—employees/physicians
    • Media
    • Marketing team

What Consumers Want

According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, consumers overwhelmingly distrust government, media and institutional leaders. However, trust in healthcare remains stable at 70%.

Healthcare marketers can strengthen that trust, primarily by listening to patients. Understand what they want and expect at different stages of their care journey. Conduct surveys, hold focus groups and monitor online conversations. Ask for consumer input and then deliver on the feedback.

Convenience and customer service expectations also remain high with consumers. Industry statistics show that customers who experience excellent customer service are three times more likely to recommend that brand to others. However, 66% of consumers say a bad interaction with customer support can ruin their day, and 73% of them are likely to switch to a competitor.

The pandemic prompted people to seek social interactions where they feel safe and comfortable—like Norm walking into Cheers “where everyone knows your name.” Review where you can increase personalized experiences. Customize content, emails and campaigns to individuals. Audit touch points to ensure that you’re responding quickly to requests and implement convenient one-click processes wherever possible.

What Employees Want

Few workforces have been hit harder than healthcare over the past three years. Weathering shortages, burnout, the great resignation and quiet quitting, hospital leaders increasingly look to marketing departments to help reengage employees. In a recent survey of 500 human resource leaders, 52% want marketing involved in employee experience programs to help drive market perception.

Communication departments can help create clear, targeted messages that resonate with internal groups. Analyze messages carefully to deliver what audiences want to hear. Just as asking for patient input, ask for feedback from internal audiences. Listening to employees has dual benefits—they can also tell you what customers want and how to get there.

Use internal marketing campaigns to promote employee benefits such as on-site wellness rooms, mental health resources, recognition programs, additional PTO or other initiatives that prioritize their well-being.

What the Media Wants

The importance of trusted public health communication has never been more critical. The newest pandemic is disinformation, which could become a bigger challenge with misuse of AI. For communications teams, building partnerships with the media is beneficial for both sides and particularly for the public.

Journalists want to hear from communications professionals. According to the 2023 Cision State of the Media report, they believe the most trusted sources of information are major newswires and press releases.

Maintaining credibility as a trusted news source is among their top priorities, as is ensuring accurate content and addressing issues in the community.

Here are some tips for maintaining productive relationships with media contacts:

  • Position physicians, hospital leadership and other spokespersons as credible experts.
    • Leverage market data—original research, trends, polls, surveys—to make yourself indispensable to them.
    • Monitor social media for trending topics that you can localize; they’re using social listening as well.
    • Email pitches and releases; don’t pitch on their social channels.
    • Know reporters’ beats and audience; irrelevant pitches get you blocked as does aggressive outreach and follow-up—once is enough.

What the Marketing Team Wants

As with other target audiences, monitor the needs and expectations of your own marketing department. There are lots of shiny objects bouncing around. Pick one or two major priorities and concentrate on improving marketing efforts in that area.

Not surprisingly, research shows that 80% of marketing professionals want to improve and streamline internal operations. Does your current budget include project management platforms and automation to do this? If not, spend time with the team to review recommendations for tools that benefit everyone. Otherwise, segmented platforms that make one person’s job easier can negatively impact others’ workload.

Producing marketing content faster, larger staffs, bigger budgets and managing expectations typically top the wish list of every healthcare marketing department. In the meantime, while heading into the last part of the calendar year, revisit strategy, goals and objectives to make sure marketing efforts connect with the healthcare system’s mission, vision and goals. There’s always next year to ask for more budget.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

Tweak Paid Social Strategy to Improve Performance

With the multitude of social channels and options, continually fine-tuning your paid content strategy increases the chances of reaching target audiences. Effectively adjusting the strategy requires constant analysis of audience segments—what they’re reading, viewing and sharing—and tracking performance.

Everyone complains about not seeing posts from their friends, while having to scroll through one sponsored post after another. SurveyMonkey reports that 74% of respondents to a recent survey say they’re tired of social media ads.

However, paid content and social ads aren’t going away. The best way to make it work for your hospital is to post, boost or sponsor relevant content that followers want, answers their questions and prompts them to learn more. They don’t want feel-good brand messaging. They want to know symptoms of the latest Covid variant, how to reduce their stress, warning signs of stroke—messages important to their health.

When tweaking your paid social content strategy, keep these five points in mind:

1. Social media is where audiences spend their time.

Facebook and Instagram users log in more than six times each day. While users say they don’t like sponsored content and ads, they still engage with it. As many as 51% of Facebook users admit to having clicked on an ad with nearly half having bought something after seeing the ad.

2. Use social media statistics to inform your ads strategy.

Despite slower growth for some platforms, social media is still growing. Some five billion people across the world use social media, and the US emerges as the world’s largest social media advertising market. Ad spending is projected at nearly $270 billion in 2023, with social video advertising expected to reach nearly $80 billion in 2024.

However, keep in mind that user trust in all social media platforms declined in 2022 with Instagram experiencing the biggest digital trust drop. The verdict is still out on Twitter.

3. Know where audiences spend their time.

Before adjusting paid social strategy, identify your target audiences and where they spend their time. Here are some recent stats from the major channels.


Fourth most popular social media platform; #1 downloaded app; 61% of advertising audience age 18-24—ideal for reaching Gen Zs and Millennials; advertising audience skews slightly more male at 52.4%.


Nearly 3 billion monthly active users; ads reach more than 62% of all Americans ages 13+; almost 49% of users between age 25-44; Facebook Stories ad audience reach more than double the Reels audience.


Despite the turmoil,still had nearly 64 billion monthly visits as of October 2022; more than 74% of ad audience identifies as male—viable channel to reach male audiences about prostate cancer screenings or other male-specific health messages.


900 million members worldwide; top platform for career-oriented professionals; ideal channel for recruiting staff, with potential ad reach accounting for nearly 17% of total internet users.


Top video-sharing site with potential reach of 2.5 billion users; 36% of users age 18–34 years old, 29% over 45; ad audience skews 54.3% male; almost 60% of viewers say YouTube ads are more relevant to their interests than those on television or streaming services.


Potential ad reach of almost 110 million users in the US; active users view channel an average of 1.5 hours daily; 37% of ad audience female age 18–34 and 33% male in same age category. Two out of three shoppers on the platform say they are inspired to buy something even when they’re not actively shopping.

4. Keep content conversational.

Whether organic or sponsored, you gain the most leverage with audiences by delivering well-crafted content. Make sure the words, graphics or video resonate with users on the specific platforms. The message you craft for Facebook, with an older audience, differs from one to post on Instagram. All content across all platforms should be conversational. You leverage brand recognition with a broader audience by engaging with them through authentic content.

5. Improve performance by improving your ads.

For paid social to resonate with target audiences, take the user experience into account. Carefully critique the ads or sponsored content for frequency of placement, relevancy and diversity. More than half of social media users say that diversity in ads matter. Reflect your audiences in what you’re selling.

Remember the trust factor and deliver honest, accurate claims. Don’t overstate or inflate. Keep messages consistent with users’ experiences with your facility. 

By effectively adjusting social ad strategy and carefully tracking performance, you can reach a broader audience and target messages to what they want and expect from your healthcare brand.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

Just Do It—Become A Brand Leader

A hospital’s brand is the promise it makes. The degree that it fulfills that promise determines Its brand reputation. The value proposition is measured by what customers think that brand is really worth. How successfully you merge those three can solidify your status as a brand leader.

The movie “Air” reveals how all the pieces came together to create one of the most ubiquitous brands in history. Nike and its Air Jordan sub-brand continue to fly.

Scott Bedbury, former head of advertising at Nike—after the Michael Jordan deal—and later at Starbucks, wrote “A New Brand World: 8 Principles for Achieving Leadership in the 21st Century” in 2002. While technology has transformed branding over the past two decades, basic tenants of Bedbury’s advice remain pertinent.

“Almost every brand in existence today can be reduced to the status of a commodity if it fails to effectively evolve both its products and its marketing communications. You can’t do just one or the other,” advises Bedbury.

In third place among athletic shoe companies before the Michael Jordan deal in 1984, Nike had the Swoosh logo and was known for running shoes. Then came Jordan and, four years later, the “Just Do It” tagline to complete a trifecta that defined the brand.

The company sealed the value proposition with an intangible, emotional bond with customers that transcended the product. Air Jordans appealed to all ages, athletic and non-athletic types, genders and races, because everyone wanted to fly “Like Mike.”

Air Jordan remains one of the most sold athletic shoes and the top collectible among sneaker heads. Nike is the largest shoe brand in the US, and the top five shoes for NBA players are all Nikes. Lessons about brand promise, reputation and value proposition can still be taken from the Nike playbook. Consider the patient journey the same as that for retail consumers. It’s everything that the patient/consumer experiences when they interact with your brand, products and services.

Making the Promise.

Know what you’re promising patients and whether you can deliver it. Before making the promise, evaluate the intrinsics. Becoming a brand leader requires more than brick and mortar facilities or technology. The brand promise should center on core values.

“Every brand has at its core a substance that gives it strength. You have to understand it before you can grow it,” reflects Bedbury on the essence of Nike’s core brand values.

Creating a list of core values is one thing. Delivering on those values is another. Everyone from the C-suite on down must exemplify the values to build the brand.

Keeping the Promise.

From initial touchpoint—scheduling an appointment or providing information—to final discharge or follow-up appointments, ensure a positive patient experience that lives up the brand promise. Your reputation depends on understanding patient expectations.

In this digital-first world, identifying wants and expectations is no longer a guessing game. Optimize the patient experience by:

  • Conducting surveys and focus groups; 
  • Requesting reviews and encouraging social media engagement;
  •  Tracking website analytics, email opens and clicks, and other data-driven insights;
  • Asking new patients how they heard about you;
  • Listening to feedback.

When patients and other stakeholders evaluate your brand, reputation hinges on whether you overdeliver on the promise rather than overstating the promise.

Measuring Value Proposition.

Aligning brand promise, reputation and value proposition depend on several factors:

  • How do you communicate the brand?
  • What traits do patients most associate with the brand?
  • Do those traits reflect your core values?
  • Is the brand promise believable?
  • Does your reputation, internally and externally, reflect your brand?

The original Air Jordans cost $65 a pair in 1984. At the time, Converse’s Chuck Taylors dominated basketball courts at $19.99. Centering passion and innovation around its core brand ethos, the value proposition of the new shoe that didn’t even meet NBA standards was a slam dunk for Nike.

While costs, expertise, successful outcomes and advanced technologies figure into value proposition for patients, other interactions also influence their experience. To strengthen bonds along the patient journey:

  • Personalize the experience through customized content, emails and messaging;
  •  Maximize convenience. The top complaint about healthcare experiences is long wait time. Consumers overall want convenience—scheduling appointments, wait times during office visits, procedures and diagnostics. Offer numerous options to interact with your brand—phone, email, text, chat bots and other tools.
  • Communicate openly and transparently. The lack of communication and dismissiveness from staff or providers also rank among the top five healthcare complaints. Being transparent about costs, services, wait times and other concerns helps build trust between patient and brand.

Bedbury also views constantly strengthening the brand as key to its success. He measures brand strength based on relevance and resonance rather than awareness. Making and fulfilling a believable promise keeps the brand relevant, resonates with audiences and strengthens brand leadership.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

Data Drives Healthcare Marketing Efforts

Healthcare Marketing—It’s All About the Data

When developing marketing strategies, healthcare organizations typically use data-driven approaches that leverage quantitative and qualitative research and reports to gain insights into the market, along with patients’ needs, preferences and experiences.

Along with internal snapshots gained from patient surveys, reviews or focus groups, also consider external data from healthcare industry reports, competitor analyses and consumer trends. This information helps you predict changes in the landscape. If one thing remains constant in healthcare marketing, it’s change.

Gaining a deeper understanding of what’s going on beyond the immediate healthcare industry is beneficial to developing targeted campaigns that resonate with patients, other stakeholders, internal audiences and the community.

What journalists think.

Among the stakeholder groups vital to marketing success are the media—what they think, how they’re responding to their changing industry and healthcare coverage.

A State of Journalism 2023 survey of more than 2,200 journalists—mostly US based—reveals what drives journalists’ decisions. Among major findings that can impact your earned media strategy are:

  • Most respondents primarily work online with about half also working in print; print-only journalists make up 6% of those surveyed, and TV- and radio-only drop lower;
    • The number of journalists likely to respond to a pitch is up slightly from 2022 but still only 29%; they don’t respond to pitches because of irrelevant topics, lack of personalization and timing;
    • Most journalists receive up to five pitches a day and some more than 250 a week depending on the market;
    • Shareable stories influence coverage with 66% saying they actively track the number of times their stories are shared on social media; what makes stories shareable—trending topics, pitches with images or infographics, exclusivity (76%), and localized topics relevant to target audiences;
    • Journalists responding to a pitch depends on how you pitch—92% want to be pitched one-on-one by email; 21% prefer to be pitched on Monday, and 55% don’t have a day-of-the-week preference; 61% want to be pitched before noon; 88% prefer pitches of 300 words or less; 45% says one follow up 3–7 days later is ideal;
    • While half of the journalists admit they’ve considered leaving Twitter, 90% use the platform to follow news, 78% to promote their own work and 69% to find sources;
    • Only 25% of responding journalists cover healthcare; 10% wellness and fitness;
    • Millennials (57%) are the media’s top target audience, followed by Gen X (52%), Boomers (43%) and Gen Z (41%).

What CEOs think.

A Communications Benchmark Executive Summary 2023 shows despite some progress since post-2020, gaps still exist between the C-Suite and communications teams.

The poll of some 1,000 communications leaders suggests that C-suite executives now task communications teams with more than branding, creative, content strategy and public relations. Marketing teams often oversee diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. This new area of responsibility also has a new descriptor—”mixternal” communications.

Major findings from the poll include:

  • CEOs increasingly focus more on measurement and expect comms teams to create and deliver uncomplicated, accurate and persuasive messaging;
  • Trust gaps between executive perceptions and employee and consumer perceptions are significant—87% of execs think consumers “highly trust their companies” compared to 30% of consumers who do, and 84% think their employees “highly trust their companies” while only 69% of employees say they do;
  • Many C-suites now want marketing and communications initiatives to include recruitment, retention and employee wellness; they understand the need to recruit and retain talented communicators and marketing professionals with the skill set to recruit and retain employees to other departments;
  • Communications teams again find themselves bridging the gap between C-suite and employee perceptions—54% of leadership and only 39% of employees say diversity is a priority for the organization; 56% of employees think executives care about their well-being, while 91% of the C-suite say employees would say well-being is priority.

What marketing communications teams think.

In 2020, the word “pivot” drove healthcare marketing strategies. COVID-19 may no longer be officially designated as a pandemic, but “pivoting” continues.

A recent survey reveals some of the top challenges expected by marketers in 2023:

  • Generating traffic and leads—Changes to privacy and cookie tracking have sent marketing teams, particularly in healthcare, scrambling for alternate ways to generate leads. The plethora of content channels and changing trends as well as fickle consumer preferences add more hurdles to producing measurable metrics.
  • Hiring top talent—The Great Resignation and remote work prompt concerns for hiring, retaining and training marketing teams. Being skilled writers or creative designers are no longer the most desired skills for marketers. According to a LinkedIn report, they also need technology, business management, research and analytical skills. As it turns out, comms professionals do need to know math!
  • Marketing plan pivots—Actually planning to pivot is considered the top challenge to 17% of survey respondents. One lesson that 2020 taught is to plan for the unexpected. Otherwise, performance metrics, budgets and market preference are at risk. When developing campaign strategy, always keep another option on the table.
  • Securing budgets—The ask from marketing departments for more budgets, more staff and more pay now expands to requests for technology upgrades, professional development and ongoing training. Healthcare marketing budgets have not made a comeback since 2019 when healthcare marketing spending peaked at $12.3 million. Overall, budgets are expected to decline by 8% in 2023.

While challenges have increased exponentially over the past three years, tracking data and trends and staying prepared for the next “big thing” or crisis can help you develop smart, agile healthcare marketing strategy.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

The Future Is Here—Using AI to Market Your Hospital

ChatGPT — How Do I Market My Hospital?

How do I use AI for hospital marketing?

The future is here—robots, infinite knowledge at our fingertips, self-driving cars. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the newest shiny object—available for free and on numerous open-source platforms. Whether ChatGPT, Bard, Bing or other models, they understand natural language and generate human-like responses in seconds.

We’ve blogged about AI several times, but we decided to give it a try with writing this blog. We made a specific request for information to share with readers. Below is the prompt that we input on the ChatGPT platform. ChatGPT responded with a 586-word healthcare marketing blog in less than 60 seconds.

All-in-all, ChatGPT delivered an accurate healthcare marketing primer. Rather than fearing AI, we see it as another tool to help us work smarter and jumpstart ideas when staring at a blank screen.

Our prompt:

In a 600-word blog, explain the best ways to market health care services and programs of hospitals in the United States. The hospital is in any city and can be any size.  The hospital wants to tell patients and people who might become patients why they should choose it when they need health care.

ChatGPT’s response:

In today’s highly competitive healthcare industry, marketing plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining patients. Hospitals must have a well-planned marketing strategy to differentiate themselves from their competitors and convey their unique value proposition to potential patients. In this blog post, we will discuss the best ways to market healthcare services and programs of hospitals in the United States.

  • Develop a strong brand identity. A hospital’s brand identify is what sets it apart from its competitors. It should be unique, memorable, and communicate the hospital’s mission, values, and services. Developing a strong brand identity involves creating a logo, tagline, and other visual elements that communicate the hospital’s message.
  • Leverage digital marketing: With the majority of people searching for healthcare services online, it’s essential to have a strong online presence. This includes having a mobile-friendly website, social media profiles, and online directories. Hospitals can also use search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to drive traffic to their website and increase visibility.
  • Provide exceptional patient experiences: A hospital’s reputation is built on the quality of care it provides. Patients are more likely to choose a hospital that has a reputation for providing exceptional patient experiences. Hospitals can achieve this by ensuring that patients are treated with respect, compassion, and empathy, and their needs are met promptly.
  • Offer unique services and programs: Hospitals can differentiate themselves from their competitors by offering unique services and programs. For example, a hospital could offer specialized services like cancer treatment or orthopedic surgery, or programs like wellness and nutrition classes.
  • Partner with local organizations: Hospitals can partner with local organizations to increase their visibility in the community. For example, a hospital could partner with a local gym to offer wellness classes or sponsor a community event. This helps to build trust and establish the hospital as a valuable member of the community.
  • Build relationships with referring physicians: Referring physicians play a crucial role in directing patients to hospitals. Hospitals can build relationships with referring physicians by providing quality care, keeping them informed about their patients’ progress, and offering continuing education opportunities.
  • Use patient testimonials: Patient testimonials are a powerful marketing tool as they provide social poof of the quality of care provided by the hospital. Hospitals can use patient testimonials in their marketing materials, on their website, and on social media.
  • Offer convenient access to care: Patients are more likely to choose a hospital that offers convenient access to care. Hospitals can achieve this by offering online appointment scheduling, telemedicine services, and extended hours of operation.
  • Host community events: Hosting community events is an excellent way for hospitals to engage with the community and promote their services. For example, a hospital could host a health fair or a blood drive.
  • Measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts: Finally, it’s essential to measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts. Hospitals can use tools like website analytics, social media metrics, and patient satisfaction surveys to track their marketing efforts’ impact and make informed decisions about future marketing strategies.

In conclusion, marketing healthcare services and programs of hospitals in the United States requires a well-planned strategy that involves developing a strong brand identity, leveraging digital marketing, providing exceptional patient experiences, offering unique services and programs, building relationships with referring physicians, using patient testimonials, offering convenient access to care, hosting community events, and measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts. By implementing these strategies, hospitals can differentiate themselves from their competitors, increase their visibility in the community, and attract and retain patients.

Our Takeaway on AI for Marketing Your Hospital

Not bad for a robot! Your marketing team can leverage ChatGPT & other AI models when developing blog & social media content, saving valuable time. These tools are especially useful for small teams that may need some additional “help” with copywriting. However, AI isn’t perfect and there are some things you need to know before you use ChatGPT in your healthcare marketing strategy:

  1. Expect to edit ChatGPT’s response for a more human-sounding tone of voice that matches your brand. ChatGPT is a great starting point, but you should expect to do at least some minor editing to get your content publish-ready. Unsurprisingly, AI can sound a bit robotic at times so you’ll likely need to tweak the tone of voice and pacing. Even with a detailed prompt, ChatGPT won’t be able to understand your brand and how you usually communicate with patients, so you’ll need to also edit your copy to match your brand.
  2. Always fact-check the AI model’s output before publishing. ChatGPT and other AI models primarily use the internet for information gathering. That means they’re also collecting inaccurate and misinformation. Don’t assume your AI model got everything right without reviewing the information for accuracy.
  3. Google knows when you use AI-generated content, and it’s not a fan. In a somewhat recent search algorithm update, Google announced content written solely through AI will not perform as well on its search engine results pages. While AI can be helpful when writing content for your website, using it too much may end up hurting more than helping your marketing efforts.

Artificial Intelligence Predicts the Future for Healthcare Marketing

“Hey Google, I Don’t Feel Well”

Person holding phone that shows the Google voice search prompt saying "Hi, how can I help?" Next to the phone is a large speech bubble with the quote "Hey Google, I don't feel well."

A true story following a Thanksgiving Day mishap—”Hey Google, I burned my hand.” Forgoing care at the nearest urgent care, I opted for the next best thing—Google Nest.

The virtual assistant advised immersing my hand in cool water (not ice water), applying petroleum jelly three to four times daily and not putting butter, vanilla or ointments on the burn as those could cause infection. I found basically the same tips on WebMD.

According to Google Insights, more than 700 million people turn to Google devices every month as their personal assistants. Add in Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and other virtual assistant software, and there’s infinite information being disseminated by artificial intelligence (AI).

Based on changing consumer patterns, much of the quick information they seek is likely to be healthcare-related. To ensure the reliability of that information, AI needs to be part of healthcare marketing strategies.

Consumer demand drives AI and other digital healthcare tools, which have increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic. According to the Huron 2022 Healthcare Consumer Market Report:

  • 78% of consumers participated in telehealth visits last year.
  • 53% of survey participants are likely to switch providers for superior virtual care offerings.
  • 34% of consumers consider themselves digitally inclined—a significant shift in the youngest (ages 18 to 44) and fastest growing consumer segment.

AI Virtual Assistance

AI is being used in healthcare for everything from virtual assistants setting reminders for wellness checks and mammograms to screening for breast cancer.

Machine learning algorithms, which drives the talk behind AI, can also help target ideal patients much the same as social media apps push content based on user patterns.

Considering the millions of people turning to virtual assistants, it’s imperative to constantly update hours, addresses, services, maps and other digital information. Check Google listings bi-monthly; ask Siri and Alexa health-related questions to ensure the reliability and relevancy.

Chatbots are virtual assistants. With the help of matching learning and natural language processing, chatbots help to personalize online experiences. They address simple questions, handle scheduling requests from patients or guides users to relevant information. Optimize the user experience with chatbots on the health system’s website, patient portal or service line app by routinely testing the virtual assistant.

The first step in the search process is directing patients to the correct information and ultimately to a website. Getting them there quickly requires SEO to be more intuitive for AI, since 70% of requests are in natural language rather than web search keywords.

AI In Clinical Settings

Any type AI being used in clinical settings deserves the marketing spotlight. It’s the newest shiny object, much like 3D mammograms and robotic surgery before it. However, unlike those innovations, AI is a two-way partner in the healthcare journey. We ask questions; it answers back.

Dr. Ayanna Howard, one of the world’s leading experts on robotics and the intersection of AI and humanity, predicts in 10 to 20 years, all industries will be influenced by AI

AI can ease the workload for physicians. The end goal for both—doctor and AI—is recognizing patterns. Nearly 500 healthcare AI startup companies raised a record $12 billion in funding last year.  AI assisted  tasks include streamlining patient intake with text-based AI chatbots; “virtual medical residents” that prescreen patients; and AI triage-guidance tools.

Mayo Clinic researchers are using AI to predict how patterns of changes in pregnant patients can identify whether vaginal or cesarean births are less risky. The University of South Alabama Health offers enhanced colonoscopy aided by AI to detect polyps with visual markers in real time.

AI Assisted PR

AI isn’t just for clinicians and researchers. It can make marketing and public relations much easier.

A new study by PRophet and The Harris Poll reveal that 92% of public relations (PR) professionals believe AI is worth exploring. Of participants surveyed, 55% said AI would be useful when crafting PR materials and predicting media interest.

Imagine the time saved when pitching if we know who is actually interested. According to a study from PR company Propel, journalists responded only to an average 3.25% of pitches they received in Q2 2022.

The PRrophet platform can algorithmically figure out which journalists are most likely to take an interest in a pitch and what they sentiment is likely to be.

Whether growing brand awareness, amplifying messages or forecasting clinical complications and treatments, AI is now the future of healthcare in the present.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

Listen Up: Podcasts Offer Consumers Helpful Health Information

Among the changes prompted by the pandemic and the way consumers choose to receive healthcare information has been the growth of podcasts. In lockdown, they began tuning in to podcasts while trying to maneuver through conflicting information.

As many as 32% of Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. That’s 150 million people listening to experts—often self-professed—crime sleuths, business leaders and celebrities talking about everything from decades-old murder cases and financial advice to politics and advances in medicine.

Since 2020, the interest in everything healthcare has created a growing market for health and wellness podcasts offering helpful information to consumers. As many as 17% of podcasts are devoted to health, wellness and fitness topics. Listed among the best podcasts of 2022, “Sleep With Me” entices listeners to do just that—hop in bed, close their eyes and listen to a story that gets progressively boring until they fall asleep.

Podcasts give physicians and healthcare leaders forums to share their experiences and expertise with patients and peers alike. Healthcare organizations can use podcasts to inform consumers and clear up misinformation.

Inside Pediatrics from Children’s of Alabama is a free monthly podcast that explores topics relating to childhood health and wellness as well as research and treatment at the academic medical center. It can be downloaded from the hospital website or from a number of other platforms.

The popular TEDTalks also offers TED Health with doctors and researchers discussing breakthroughs in their fields as well as daily habits to leading healthier lives.

How to Start a Podcast for Your Hospital

The pandemic pressured healthcare organizations to find new innovations and digital tools to meet consumer demand. Gen Zs, in particular, turned to podcasts while isolated. More than one-third of American 18-to-24 year olds listen to podcasts at least weekly, with mental health being the top podcast genre among the age group.

When considering starting your own podcast, determine the purpose. It can help build brand awareness, deliver on the patient experience or even generate revenue with clear calls to action. The top goal for 24% of all podcasts is awareness/education.

Podcast episodes typically run 20 to 40 minutes long. Carefully evaluate the hosts and guests to determine if they can hold an audience’s attention for that length of time.

Other things you need to start your own podcast include:

  • Storage and distribution. You can code your own podcast or upload audio files to a service such as Soundcloud, Buzzsprout, Podbean or SimpleCast. These publishing platforms provide storage and distribution for a fee. Some offer audio editing capabilities.
  • Cadence. Decide whether to publish daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. Listeners want consistency, so stick with the decision. The most common cadence is weekly for podcasts.
  • Software. Use quality audio recording software. For Mac users, GarageBand is free and easy to use, as is QuickTime. If recording and editing on a PC, download Audacity, which is also free. You can also record and edit in Zoom.
  • Microphone. Even though you can record from a laptop mic, phone or ear buds with built-in mics, invest in a quality microphone. A good one costs less than $100.
  • Interview setups. Interviews recorded in a studio produce the best audio quality. But it’s easy to interview guests remotely through Zoom, Skype, Zencastr or even by phone.  When interviewing online, the hosts and guests should be in quiet rooms. Wear headphones and speak directly into the microphone. Remind guests to mute notifications on their computers and phones.

How to Promote a Podcast

Once the podcast is “on the air,” you want to build listeners. First, decide on the target audience—patients, peers or general consumers. As you do for websites and blogs, remember SEO and create topics and titles that draw the targeted audiences’ attention.

Amplify the podcast on all channels—blogs, websites and social media. Consider creating a dedicated Facebook group so listeners can discuss episodes and receive updates. Facebook and Instagram are the leading channels for cross promoting.

When recording audio, record video at the same time and upload it to YouTube and shorts from the podcast to Reels.

Pitching to podcasters

Even if you’re not ready to launch your own podcast, include popular and relevant podcasters in your earned and paid media strategy.

Of podcasters who feature guests, 61% prioritize organic over paid guests. When pitching healthcare experts or leadership from your organization, remember:

Personalize the pitch; do your homework first.

  • Avoid confusing subject lines and large attachments.
  • Keep pitches to 200 words or less.
  • Most podcasters prefer receiving pitches early in the week.
  • Don’t call.

With 150 million people listening, you can build your brand and deliver relevant and accurate information through podcasts to consumers interested in staying healthy.