Healthcare Marketing

How Hospitals Can Build Brand Loyalty

Earning the trust of your patients will help your hospital build brand loyalty.

After more than two years of focusing on COVID-19, health remains top of mind with consumers. Numerous surveys find that US adults are more concerned about health and hygiene than prior to 2020. Of the top five consumer brands they trust most, according to Morning Consult, four are healthcare related—BAND-AID, Lysol, Clorox and CVS Pharmacy.

64% of U.S Adults trust healthcare companies.

Likewise, similar polls show that 64 percent of all adults in this country trust healthcare companies, second only to the trust they place in food and beverage companies. At the bottom of that same poll sit CEOs, with social media and media companies hovering just slightly above them.

This backs findings from the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, which reveals that globally, consumers basically trust no one—particularly government leaders, journalists and CEOs.  The same report, however, shows scientists to be the most trusted societal leaders and healthcare to be among the most trusted industry sectors.

Consumer health concerns present a platform for hospitals and healthcare systems to amplify information that lets audiences know “this is what we’re doing” to prioritize their health and care for them. That starts with strengthening bonds between providers and patients, where trust matters most.

Having Coffee With A Friend

How many times have healthcare marketers been told that, despite best efforts, patients go where doctors lead them? With consumers in the driver’s seat that belief is now less prevalent, particularly with Gen Z and Millennial audiences who harbor a high distrust of traditional methods and approaches.

The traditional model of ambulatory care has gone the way of the horse and buggy doctor making house calls. Or has it?

The digital healthcare transformation offers healthcare brands more ways to gain the trust of their patients and build brand loyalty.

Digital healthcare transformation—telemedicine, wearable diagnostic devices, texting, emailing, or messaging through EHR portals—now makes patient care more direct and personal. Remote doctor visits are becoming more like having coffee with a friend, as opposed to in-person interactions with a doctor.

Patients who trust your healthcare brand are more likely to have brand loyalty. 39% of survey respondents will go out of their way to do business with a brand they trust.

Providers can maintain trust with their patients by acknowledging and marketing themselves as unique, individual brands. In the Morning Consult study, 39 percent of respondents indicate when they trust a brand, they will go out of the way to do business with it. Few things cause a woman more angst than having to change hairdressers or gynecologists. Once they establish a bond, it’s hard to break.

Choosing one doctor over another often depends on four key factors:

  1. Patient experience
  2. Convenience
  3. Reviews
  4. Competitive pricing

Trust between doctors and their patients empowers providers to get back to what most want to do in the first place—keep patients healthy.

Humanizing the Brand

One of the most valuable lessons learned from the pandemic is the need to humanize brands to demonstrate knowledge and solidify consumer trust.

Patients trust providers with their health, time, and money. Credibility and trustworthiness solidify their decisions more than over-the-top promises and exaggerated claims.

Start by getting rid of pre-2020 platitudes. Instead:

  • Share authentic patient stories to inform and educate;
  • Feature doctors, nurses, and other staff to share brand stories;
  • Inform with science and research without hesitation or sugar coating;
  • Listen; ask patients about their visits with quick and easy post surveys; monitor reviews and social media comments.

Carefully Consider What You Say, Do and Share

Consumers tend to lose trust in a brand due to negative experiences and sub-par quality. Picking sides on a social issue that contrasts with the consumer’s views is also a trust breaker.

Even though a doctor’s or nurse’s personal social media pages should be safe forums for sharing personal beliefs, it is a public forum. The public doesn’t distinguish between what Joe says, does or shares while on vacation from what Dr. Joe says, does or shares on the practice platforms during office hours.

For example, providers are now caught in a legal and political quagmire following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. With emotions running high on both sides of the issue, not only can providers lose patients with public or private statements, but their brand can negatively be affected.

Currently, earnestly addressing, prioritizing, and managing a patient’s health builds trust.  And that’s important.

How Brands Lose Trust: Greenwashing, Overstating and Other Marketing Spins

How Brand Lose Trust: Greenwashing, Overstating and Other Marketing Spins

Many of us are guilty of overstating a marketing claim, making it more grandiose than it is. Or we’ve done the opposite—downplayed something to manage public perception. Either can backfire and destroy trust.

Greenwashing, news high jacking, overstating, understating, and spinning all pose risks to our brands. Relationship building with audiences is paramount. Anything less proves counterproductive to maintaining trust and loyalty.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer shows consumers to be a fickle bunch with patience levels being on par with Coach Nick Saban, who famously declared, “I have none.”

The 2021 Edelman Trust Baromete shows business is more trusted than government in 18 of 27 surveyed countries. Business trust index score increased by 2 points (54 to 56) from 2020 to 2021.

After a two-year-long pandemic and epidemic of misinformation, respondents surveyed in 28 different countries declared an “information bankruptcy.” They don’t trust societal institutions, government leaders, or the media. Surprisingly, business emerged as the only trusted sector with a 56% trust index.

Improving healthcare systems dominated as the most important foundational problem worldwide. That presents hospitals and healthcare systems with a platform to amplify information that lets audiences know “this is what we’re doing” to prioritize their health and care for them and their families. Anything less, and we risk losing their trust.

Curb the Spin to Maintain Trust

Image reads: "Enviornmentally friendly policies = back up with solid, consistent practices."

Have you ever noticed how many people seem to be an environmentalist for the day every April 22nd (Earth Day)? Though their interest in environmental activism may be fickle at times, don’t underestimate your audiences. Patients, employees, and other stakeholders now expect sustainability and they know greenwashing when they see it. Spinning a message about environmentally friendly policies should be backed up with solid, consistent practices. Otherwise, the green sheen can quickly turn beet red.

In a Harris Poll for Google Cloud, executives across the globe identify Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives as their top organizational priority. Yet, soft drink giants to leading fashion retailers continue to market eco-friendly products only to have those claims blown apart.

The Healthcare industry remained at odds with environmentally friendly expectations for many years. However, over the past decade, hospitals have worked to reduce environmental footprints.

We should promote ways we’re keeping patients and the earth safer, whether it’s upgrading energy efficiency, safer biohazard handling practices, or using green-certified cleaning products. Be careful not to overstate efforts, and don’t forget to talk about it regularly—not just on Earth Day.

Market with a Cause to Elevate the Brand

Know your audience. Consumers want to support brands that align with their values. Avoid overstating your values and be honest with your audience.

Start with marketing rule #1—know your audience. Knowing your audience is more than just focusing on demographics. Empathy and shared values can solidify brand loyalty, elevate perception, and differentiate a brand from the competition.

In the past, companies shied away from public comments on social issues. Today, consumers want to support brands that align with their values. Employees also want to work where they feel included. The 2022 Communications Benchmark Report identifies Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a top priority for organizations.

Before supporting any social initiative, develop a strategic plan. Failing to do so leaves your brand open to complaints about appearing insincere and criticisms of putting profit over authentic purpose. Walmart when rolling out “Juneteenth Ice Cream” to acknowledge the holiday marking the emancipation of slaves received backlash. Critics called out Walmart for promoting Juneteenth-themed ice cream over the Black-owned brands already stocked on their shelves. What may have been a genuine attempt at support was overshadowed by the lack of strategic planning.

Corporate social responsibility, particularly for healthcare organizations, earns public trust when we use marketing platforms to direct attention to causes, we support rather than platitudes for the good we’re doing in the community. Proactive efforts to address health inequities and manage the community’s health can earn goodwill and trust.

Be Transparent, Internally and Externally

The past two years have taken their toll on healthcare workers physically, mentally, and emotionally. Then comes the Great Resignation to compound problems.

Through all this, what happens internally reflects the perception of the brand externally. How we care for our employees impacts how we care for our patients. Patients want to know their caregivers have mental health resources, are being given sufficient time off, and are supported in work-life balance.

There was a time when marketing teams argued against posting mission and vision statements and core values front and center on websites or other external-facing channels. Reset post-2020. Sharing these high-level statements gives our audiences a snapshot of what we stand for and consider important.

Patients want to trust your brand. 68% of consumers and 62% of employees believe they have the power to force corporations to change.

Such transparency also shows good faith efforts at inviting consumers and employees to take a seat at the table. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 68 percent of consumers and 62 percent of employees believe they “have the power to force corporations to change.”

Transparency, authenticity, and empathy earn trust. It’s our job not to spin it away.

If you need to evaluate your marketing strategy, we welcome a conversation. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363.

How to Choose a Healthcare Marketing Agency

even points to consider when selecting a healthcare marketing agency

Seven Points to Consider When Selecting a Healthcare Marketing Agency

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to escape downsizing, healthcare marketing departments often need to contract with outside agencies for tasks that your team cannot handle on its own. Consider these seven points before starting the search for .

1. Healthcare Marketing Experience.

An outside agency can add creativity and expertise to the in-house team. It also lends a third-party perspective that sometimes leverages more weight with the C-suite. However, ensure that the agency has healthcare marketing experience and proven results to back up dazzling visuals and lofty recommendations.

Healthcare industry experience is necessary due to standards and regulations that physicians and hospitals are required to follow.  The account team must be familiar with HIPAA compliance, CMS, and FDA regulations to craft marketing messages.

2. Creative Capabilities.

Creative talent should be evident from the onset, starting with the marketing agency’s website and digital presence. It can also reveal their intangible personality.  The best way to discover what they can do is by getting to know them. Conduct initial research and select two or three agencies that interest you. Talk with them; invite them to visit; figure out if there’s chemistry.

Instead of the requisite “request for proposal,” issue a “request for partnership.” While many agencies won’t do spec creative, assign a project, even at a nominal fee, to a couple at the top of your list. This can provide a preview of their creativity. You want to see innovation and vision. Look for “wow” moments.

3. Mutually Beneficial Partnership.

A successful relationship between client and agency is a 50-50 partnership. Producing the desired marketing results requires collaboration, transparency, mutual respect and realistic expectations on each side’s part.

One healthcare marketing director recently shared his thoughts about forging a client-agency partnership, explaining that the client needs to have a level of trust and confidence in the agency. For their part, the agency must have the skills and expertise to prove their worth to the client.

4. Financial Discussion.

The quickest way for relationships to break down is over money. During the review process, ask about billing, fees, retainers, up charges and rate sheets. Open and transparent discussions at the beginning can prevent misunderstandings later.

Before work starts on your account, define the process for authorizations, approvals and change orders so both sides share the same expectations. Failure to have these discussions can lead to loss of trust later.

5. Measurable Goals.

When reviewing a healthcare marketing agency’s portfolio, ask about results and case studies that include quantified measures of success. Just as with talks about money, work openly with the agency to establish performance criteria at the onset.

Beware of results that seem too good to be true—those probably can’t be proven. In the age of digital marketing, analytics are readily accessible to both client and agency to help direct the marketing spend and move the needle.

6. Relationships and Responsiveness.

Like all interpersonal relationships, people usually work best with people they like. We measure our own client relationships not just by the longevity of the account but those that produced lasting friendships.  Chemistry is the number factor in a successful agency-client relatioinship.

Ask about the team, along with bios, likely to be assigned to your account. You want experienced marketing professionals with proven credentials and core values that align with your own.

Talk to some of their current clients to discover how they interact with the agency and their responsiveness.

Establishing a successful relationship with your account services team depends, in part, on flexibility, responsiveness and willingness to listen. With the right chemistry, they can become an extension of your marketing team.

Evaluation of healthcare marketing agencies includes their research capabilities, knowledge of trends in the healthcare industry and familiarity of the local market.

Research and data should drive the development of any campaign. Review qualitative and quantitative research processes. With the myriad changes in the marketplace knowledge of trends within the marketing industry and familiarity with current media options and effectiveness is essential.

Even if an agency hasn’t worked with other local clients, their ability to learn the market and assimilate into the community can help increase your brand awareness.

Checking off these points makes the process of selecting a healthcare marketing agency easier.

TotalCom is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us to explore if we might be a good fit for your organization.

Should You Go All-in on Brand Marketing?

Healthcare systems across the country seem to be jumping back on the branding wagon. They are hiring marketing vice presidents from consumer brand companies and engaging multinational advertising agencies. The idea is to create a pull strategy that causes consumers to demand your healthcare system. That, in turn, gives you leverage when negotiating insurance reimbursement rates.

But will new logos and television ads alone create that demand?

Probably not.

Designer team sketching a logo in digital design studio on computer, creative graphic drawing skills for marketing and branding (own design elements on the computer screen)
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Review rating bubble speeches on computer vector illustration, flat style laptop reviews stars with good, bad rate, concept of customer testimonials messages, notifications, feedback experience

Responding to Three-Star Reviews of Your Hospital or Doctors

You have alerts set up and scour review sites for those dreaded one- and two-star ratings. You jump on the ones that start with, “If I could have given ZERO stars, I would have.” And rightfully so. How you respond to negative reviews affects not only your relationship with the reviewer but your reputation with anyone who reads it forever after. But it’s just as important to respond to neutral reviews for a few reasons:

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Managing Your Hospital’s Reputation

Why Reputation Management Is Key for Hospital Marketing

At the doctor's office, a female doctor is performing a checkup on a young girl.

Reputation is everything in business. It’s even more important for hospital marketing because a hospital’s reputation is its most important asset.

Without a strong reputation, your hospital’s patient intake will suffer. After all, people don’t want to entrust their health to a hospital that has a poor reputation. (more…)

Make Your Community Hospital Standout with Hospital Marketing

How to Make Your Community Hospital Stand Out with Hospital Marketing

Medical staff and patients with hands togetherRunning a community hospital in an area dominated by larger hospitals with more brand recognition and bigger budgets can be very difficult. It’s hard to stand out unless you have a convincing brand value proposition, a competitive advantage to exploit, and a smart hospital marketing strategy to gain market awareness. (more…)

3 Marketing Secrets Top Hospital Marketing Programs Know

Hospital marketing programs across the country often do things differently. After all, what works for one system will not necessarily work for another. With that being said, there are systems that have the most robust and effective hospital marketing programs in the nation, and they all seem to incorporate the same fundamentals and tricks of the trade. (more…)

How Creative Are Your New Healthcare Campaigns Really?

You’ve heard the adage, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” It’s true! If you’re looking to create a new brand for your hospital, promote a new service line or procedure or gain market share, it may be time to think outside of the box. Consider these creative ways to send a new message.

 

Utility

How can your advertisements serve another purpose than getting your message to the masses? It can be easy to overlook an ad that is mostly fine print and technical jargon. Monash University created wristbands for an event that were used to identify who’s ID had been checked to allow them to purchase drinks, but they had a secondary use. The user could place a drop of their drink on a designated spot on the wristband to detect if common drugs had been used to spike their drink.

Consider the true message you want to send. Monash University wanted to make sure that those who were drinking were of age, but went even further to ensure that they were being safe while drinking. Think about how your message can reach further than the page, especially in print ads.

 

Use Your Staff

How often do you run a campaign that looks successful on your computer but didn’t seem to make as big of an impact as you wanted? Maybe the hospital’s staff isn’t being utilized to the fullest extent.

We know that doctors, nurses and administrative staff have a lot on their plates, but something as simple as wearing a button about a current campaign can have a significant effect. Many times, people see advertisements for a new service but can’t remember the name once they arrive at the doctor’s office. Or even worse, the staff members aren’t aware of the campaign and unable to answer any questions the patient may have. When prepared, your staff can have a remarkable impact on a campaign.

 

Provide Inspiration

It’s true – people have access to a wealth of knowledge online with just one search. When it comes to big topics like cancer, how can your organization stand out in the middle of all of these long, technical terms and a potentially bleak outlook?

After they’ve found the information on their issue or diagnosis, they need tend to look for something else – hope. Providing these patients with a community of people that have been in their shoes is comforting when a diagnosis, treatment and every day can be shocking. If you give them access to testimonials and inspiration, it can be much more compelling than information that can look the same from site to site.

 

If you are ready to send a new message or strengthen your current message within the healthcare industry, contact TotalCom Marketing!