Hospital Advertising

Hospital Marketing: Healing is Both Science and Art

Art can speed a patient’s healing process    Palette.

Hospitals spend millions on the latest technology to help heal patients. Great emphasis is placed on best practices to improve outcomes, and rightfully so. Hospitals should provide the best technology possible and strictly allow best practice guidelines to help patients get well as soon as possible.

But recent research shows that the right art on hospital walls can speed up the healing process. Upali Nanda, who has a doctorate in architecture with a specialization in healthcare systems states, “Scientific studies show that art can aid in the recovery of patients, shorten hospital staffs, and help manage pain.” 

Nanda conducted a study at Houston’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital using two types of art. They compared images, which had been proven to calm patients, including green landscapes, water scenes, architecture, and emotionally expressive pictures of people. In the second group, abstract art was used. The results showed that art depicting familiar, calming scenes were effective helping patients, but abstract art was not nearly as effective.

Nanda says, “One theory is that abstract art allows patients to project their own anxieties onto the image, and thus pictures that clearly portray pleasant images are more soothing.”

Based on these findings, hospitals should take great care in using art on the hospital wall and in hospital rooms.  And they should take care determining the type of art displayed. . Rather than modern or abstract art, realistic, familiar and appealing art scenes should be used because they help the healing process.

Healing is a science, but now we know it is also art.


Hospital Marketing: Facebook Wins The Engagement Battle.

facebook logo 2Facebook users spend more time on the site than other social media site.

Since the inception of internet advertising, the key measurement for advertising effectiveness has been the number of unique visitors to a site. The more unique visitors, obviously the more people reached.

But recently advertisers have been considering time spent on the site. Engagement is the concept that is gaining attraction. If a person is on a site for longer periods of time, there is more opportunity for the consumer to see the ads on that site.

Radio has been using this concept for years. They have emphasized, “time spent listening” as a way of selling the level of loyalty the station has among its listeners. The more the consumer is engaged with the site, the more influence the site has on the consumer.

And one of the chief winners of site engagement is Facebook. Facebook is already the fourth largest site in terms of unique visitors with almost 97 million unique monthly visitors trailing only Google, Yahoo, and MSN. But additionally,according to Nielsen Media Research, the average Facebook user spent 5 hours and 46 minutes on the site in August. Yahoo is just over three hours and AOL about two and a half hours. (See chart below).  As an indicative of Facebook’s growth in popularity, the 5 hours per month spent on the site, is up from an hour and 30 minutes a year ago. The more time a consumer spends on the site the longer they have to be exposed to the advertising that appears on the site.

This is a distinct advantage over sites like Google whose goal is to provide the information requested as quickly as possible.

So as you consider web advertising, one factor to consider is the time spent on the website. The more time spent on the site increases the opportunity for the consumer to actually see the ad, and it provides a favorable environment for the ad because the visitor is more committed to the site. Engagement adds value as an advertising option for advertisers.

facebook stats


Healthcare Marketing: It’s All About Trust

Marketing is about building relationships… not selling a productbird on the hand

As marketers, we spend a tremendous amount of time fashioning and developing a brand. We work on clever ads, analyze the placement of media, diligently work every PR angle, plan super events, build a product website, and always look for new innovative ways to present our message to the consumer. And by doing all of this we think we can affect the brand, and we can. But all of this marketing activity is secondary to building positive relationships with the consumer. And positive relationships are based on trust. Do you have a brand that is trusted?

There is much talk currently about social media and how it is indicative of “pull marketing”. Social media requires authenticity and transparency and credibility. But this should be true about all of our marketing efforts, traditional and nontraditional. It’s true about developing and maintaining a strong brand.

Consumers are skeptical these days. They don’t want to be “sold”. They want a relationship with a brand. They want to trust the brand. Believe in it.

So do we earn their trust? Trust is earned by being sincere and truthful, by doing what is right, by truly earning the consumer, and by being consistent. When we deliver on those items, marketing is much easier. Marketing won’t be about shouting and screaming with shameless promotions.

Branding is about trust, being honest, delivering what we say and always keeping the well being of the customers as the top priority. When we do that we connect, we build relationships.

Marketing is essentially about building relationships. And relationships are built on trust. When we are successful building relationships, the rewards will be great.



Hospital Advertising: Do You know Where Your Ads are Airing?

remoteIt’s important to manage your television/cable buy to avoid conflict or issues.

More and more television/cable programming can be considered controversial by one group or another. And your television/cable spots may be airing on shows with controversial content without you even buying it.

The Fox News Glenn Beck Show has always had controversial political content. But on July 28, 2009, Beck on another Fox News show Fox and Friends, called President Barack Obama a racist. Since then there has been a firestorm of protests and boycotts. Some citizens and groups have called for a boycott of all advertisers on Beck’s nightly show. Ultra-conservatives have responded by calling for a boycott of even those advertisers who have cancelled their advertising with Beck, because of the dust up. Not the kind of PR you want.

What’s more alarming is that several companies, including Procter and Gamble advertised on Beck’s show without knowing. They claimed their ads appearing on Beck’s show was a mistake. As it turns out, several advertisers’ ads appeared on the show as part of run-of-station (ROS) schedules during a block of time in which Beck’s show aired. True, they did not purchase the show specifically, but appeared in the controversial show as they attempted to cut costs and take advantage of ROS rates instead of paying higher rates for specific programming.

Other advertisers likely showed up on Beck’s show as makegoods from the network for not delivering “agreed upon” ratings. Thus, the network added spots to make up for the shortfall and some ended up on the controversial show.

Although these are national advertisers, the same issue can arise with local advertisers who purchase cable or network television advertising. Local audiences have been known to initiate local complaints and boycotts mirroring national efforts.

So there are lessons to learn.

  • Even though ROS advertising schedules are less expensive, you lose control of the buy. It is probably worth paying a little more to get the exact schedule you desire.
  • At the least, advertisers should provide scheduling guidelines that prohibit ads running in shows with controversial content. Such guidelines are certainly not fool proof because “controversial content” is open for debate. And sometimes a controversy can erupt overnight as in the Beck case when he made the comments about the president.
  • Advertisers should also always request that makegoods be given in the same programming that was originally scheduled. This will make sure the advertiser is still in control of the schedule and will avoid unwanted programming.

More and more television and cable programming can be considered controversial by one group or another. It’s important to manage your television buy to avoid conflict or issues.

The money we spend advertising should deliver positive results, not controversies you don’t need.


Hospital Marketing: Lessons Learned from Zappos

Hospital Sign buttonThe value of a company is not just in revenues and bottom line numbers, but in the status of the brand.

The online retail giant, Amazon, agreed to purchase Zappos for just under a billion dollars. Why would the giant pay so much for a shoe retailer? Pete Blackshaw, Executive VP of Neilson Online Digital Strategic Services, pointed out in an article in Advertising Age that the value of Zappos was driven by customer service and employee advocacy. Amazon, who knows quite a bit about customer service, was willing to pay quite a price for a company that excelled in the details of customer service and who empowered their employees to always put the customer first.

True, hospitals are not often positioning themselves to fetch a huge sales price in the open market. But the value of a hospital is determined by its brand equity. Everyday consumers are making a decision whether a hospital is worth his/her time and resources. And they are making that decision on what kind of service they receive. They are determining if your brand is worth it or not.           

Blackshaw says Zappos is obsessed over a different set of numbers. They are consumed with providing outstanding customer service. They seek feedback at every level. They want to know what the consumer experience is and fix anything that prevents the customer from having a perfect customer service experience.

How many hospitals are tenacious about customer service? How many hospitals explore, examine and experiment with the details of their interactions with the consumer? Too many hospitals, I’m afraid, really don’t want to know the truth in the details. Too many hospitals are satisfied to provide adequate, but not outstanding, service. Yes, it is painstaking – it’s hard work. But it certainly paid off handsomely for Zappos. And it will pay off for those hospitals that get dirty in the details and are committed to providing outstanding patient experiences.

“Zappos, Powered By Service.” What hospital could dare use a branding line like that? 


Hospital Marketing: Website Must Do More Than Provide Info

Consumers are expecting more from websites.  They want sites that are transactional.Hospital Sign button

Hospital websites have been a staple of hospital marketing efforts for many years now.  It’s not only expected, it’s a necessity. There is probably no hospital in America without a website.

As you peruse various hospital websites, most are fairly good and some are very good. All the necessary information is provided: location, services, careers, information for patients, schedule of educational classes and the like. And of course, the mandatory stuff that most visitors don’t read like mission statement, values and history are there. And some sites provide extremely helpful and quite comprehensive health information.

Is this enough? In an age where consumers expect websites to have interaction and commerce, most hospital websites come up short. Basic informational sites, regardless of how robust the information, are no longer adequate. Consumers expect to interact and transact business on websites. And hospitals need to take the next step in that direction. The more advanced hospital sites allow visitors to:

  • Order flowers from the gift shop to be delivered to patient rooms.
  • Select get-well cards online that can be customized and personalized, printed within the hospital and delivered.
  • Sign up for classes and seminars.
  • View their bill and make payments online.
  • Complete and submit electronically pre-admission registration forms.

As consumers depend more and more on the web to conduct business and to get things accomplished, hospitals have to adjust. Just providing information is not enough anymore. More will be expected. And the faster these services are available, the sooner hospitals can use their website to more effectively create points of contact with the consumer, establish a stronger relationship, build loyalty and enhance the brand. 


Healthcare Marketing: Take a Lesson from Starbucks on Social Media

Starbucks has become the most popular brand on Facebook because they are engaging with their customers.

Coffee heart

Starbucks recently surpassed Coca-Cola as the most popular brand on Facebook with over 3.6 million fans. The Altimeter Group also named it the “Most Engaged Brand”.  Why has Starbucks been so successful with their social media efforts? Alexander Wheeler, Digital Strategy Director for Starbucks credits really listening to the conversation and engaging in the discussion in a way that makes sense.  

Hospitals are beginning to use social media.  In many cases it’s experimental, just trying it.  And in too many cases it’s a half-hearted effort.  Certainly, a hospital won’t rival Starbucks but it would be worthwhile to learn how to make use of social media effectively.  It’s more than just entry now and then.  It’s more than just slapping up a page and sending occasional tweets.  It’s about listening to the consumer and engaging them where they are, with information that’s important to them. 

Alexander continues, “It isn’t a PR indicative; its alleviating and creating great consumer value and great consumer relationships.”  It’s about using the medium to build relationships.  Its listening and responding to needs and interest.  It’s not just about being where people are, but it’s about being relevant and creating valuable experiences.

Starbucks has the advantage of using social media to promote events like Red Day and Free Pastry Day.  It’s pretty hard for hospitals to do that.  But Starbucks has received over 75,000 ideas from their social community.  They are engaging their fans and followers.  They are building relationships.

Hospital marketers can get more than just a cup of Joe from Starbucks.


Healthcare Marketing: Let’s Go To The Movies!

film rollsMovie attendance increased 21% in the first two months of 2009 and year-to-date box office revenues are up 6.6%.  While other media is experiencing no growth and even declines, cinema advertising is a bright spot. 

More and more people are going to the movies.  Despite an economic recession, box office receipts have increased.  Instead of traveling or spending money on expensive items, people are enjoying the movies as a lower cost pleasure.  In addition, movies provide an escape from the hazards many people face at work or at home.

As more people head to the theaters, cinema advertising becomes a viable media option for healthcare marketers.  And it’s generally a younger audience than other mediums deliver – an audience that is sometimes difficult to reach.  It is true; this audience is not the biggest users of healthcare.  But it’s an audience marketers want to reach to start establishing an identity or a brand.

Because of the younger demographics, cinema advertising can especially be effective for recruitment efforts.  The promotion of healthcare career opportunities can be an excellent tactic by HR departments.

In the early years of cinema advertising the cost was high and the ramp up time was slow.  Technology has improved lead-time and a new aggressive sales effort has led to lower costs. 

Cinema advertising shouldn’t be the lead medium but it can effectively supplement traditional medium and reach an audience that is not so easy to reach.  Hollywood can be a big hit for healthcare marketing.



Healthcare Marketing: Time Spent on Internet Leveling Off But Hospitals’ Advertising Opportunities Have Increased

Time spent on the Internet is leveling off because users are more savvy  and more familiar with it.

The time spent on the Internet was less than 6 hours per week in 2004.  That time has been increasing until this year.  Now the average time spent per week on the Internet is 12 hours but it is leveling off and not increasing according to Forrester’s Annual Survey.makro/nahaufnahme laptop/notebook

Are consumers losing interest? Hardly.  The time spent online is leveling off because they understand the web better and know where they want to go.  Consumers in their early days of usage explored, searched, played and experimented with the web.  As they learn and gain online experience they become more efficient.  Less time is spent just surfing and most of the time online is well defined because the user knows where they want to go or search engines help narrow the search to be more targeted. 

So a hospital’s online strategy is even more important.  The competition on the web increases everyday, but the average amount of time spent online is not increasing.  And with the emergence of Facebook and Twitter, is now consuming a significant amount of a person’s online time. 

The good thing however is because consumers are more focused and their choice of sites visited is much more narrow; the efficiency of web marketing is greatly increasing.  By knowing demographics, social graphics, and psychographics of the target audience, it’s easier to find where those people are on the web.   Web marketing becomes less about mass numbers of people on the web, but more about knowing the target audience well enough to know where specifically to find them on the web. 

Internet users are becoming more efficient with their time spent on the web, which enables marketers to be more efficient as well. 



Hospital Marketing: Facebook Ads Offer New Targetability


Specifically targeted groups – even if they are smaller in number – are very valuable when using Social Media for your hospital.

Unlike traditional media, Social Media is a conversation, a dialogue. You are more likely to build that relationship with conversation and dialogue when the group is more narrowly focused.

 Facebook Ads offer many opportunities to define your audience for your hospital with several new ones just released mid July.

  • Location: Target by country, state, city based on the users IP address (not their network or hometown). Pretty straight forward but maybe you are doing a mobile screening event outside of your customary market region or you excel at a certain procedure that is worth driving a distance for. Use this feature to place your ads outside your area.
  • Age and Sex: Offers a little more targetability than some media outlets. Your goal is to increase number of mammograms? Target women 35 plus and avoid teenage boys getting the ad.
  • Birthday: This is a new target feature. The obvious is to create an ad that appears to the user on their birthday wishing them a happy birthday from your hospital. Take it one step further and make the connection to enjoying more birthdays (or their family having them around for more birthdays) by them taking advantage of a certain service line/screening.
  • Keywords: These are based on a user’s profile and offer insight into the consumer. Target sports enthusiasts or those who enjoy gardening with ads for your hospital’s spine care.  Target those who enjoy grilling with recipes for healthy sides from your hospital’s cardiac care center.  This feature auto populates. Spend some time looking for users with activities that are a match for your hospital’s service lines.
  • Education: Allows you to target based on education level. Most beneficial if you are trying to reach graduates of a certain school (perhaps a nursing school for recruitment).
  • Workplaces: If you are looking to promote your hospital/service lines to employees at certain workplaces this can be a valuable filter. Perhaps there is a message you want to get to the workers at XYZ factory?
  • Relationship: Facebook users can choose Married, Single, Engaged, or In a Relationship in their profile allowing Facebook Ads to appear based on a user’s marital status. This feature could be beneficial in promoting your hospital’s Sleep Disorder Lab by targeting married women with ads that ask if their husband’s snoring is keeping them awake.
  • Language: Target specific segments of the population based on their language. If you use this, make sure the ad is in their language.
  • Connections: This is a newer filter allowing you to target or even exclude users based on events, pages, and applications that they have joined.  Maybe your hospital has a Facebook Page and you are using ads to increase the number of fans. Use this feature to keep the ads from appearing to those that are already fans.

A very general ad with little or no targeting may result in more click thrus – but can also result in wasted dollars. After all, a Facebook user out of your hospital’s marketing region, female and 18 is probably NOT the target audience for your hospital’s prostate screening event. In this era of having to be most frugal with budgets, why send her the ad and waste the money? Target instead.