Marketing Ideas

Hospital Advertising: Increase Effectiveness of Ads with SMS Call To Action

Mobil Phones - Many Hands and Phones

Consumers are much more likely to respond to an ad using text messaging than visiting a website.

Hospital marketers have learned to add a web-based call to action to their ads. It has become fairly typical. But is there a better way to get results?

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium advertised its new Fantase aquatic show with television ads on the 4 major networks. The ads featured a contest in which the viewers could register to win a hotel stay and VIP seats for the show’s premiere. The ads directed viewers to a website to register.  The one exception was one ad, which gave viewers the option to enter the contest by sending a text message.

The amazing results according to Mobile were that the call to action using SMS generated 325% more entries than the web based call to action. 52% of entries were via text message even though that option was only given on 25% of the television ads. 

The experiment indicated consumers are much more likely to respond by texting than by visiting a website. The reasons texting is more effective is because:

  • Texting is easier
  • Texting is more immediate-real time
  • A text number is easier to remember than a web address.
  • Texting takes less time
  • Mobile phones are almost always with the consumer.

For ads that have a call to action, hospital marketers should consider if texting could be used. If so, the Shedd Aquarium experience would indicate the response could significantly improve. 90% of all mobile phones in the U.S. are SMS capable and texting started outpacing voice calls as early as 2007. The frequent use of texting demands that marketers explore how to use it to increase the number of responses and get more immediate response.

It’s an opportunity that cannot be ignored. Why expect a consumer to go to a website to respond to an ad when it can be as easy as punching 5 numbers on the cell phone which is sitting nearby?


Hospital Marketing: Patients’ Search for Health Info Can Drive Traffic to Your Hospital’s Website

makro/nahaufnahme laptop/notebook

Healthcare is a key area of internet study with 6 in 10 Americans going online for health information.  Many patients are well-educated on their problem BEFORE they visit the doctor. 

On a recent visit to my doctor’s office I shared with my primary care doc that I thought I had plantar fasciitis because I had studied my symptoms on the web. He quickly commented to the accompanying medical student that so many patients know their diagnoses before they come in-especially in a well-educated, high-tech market such that we live. 

Research from Pew Internet & American Life Project confirms that patients are going online and refers to them as e-patients.  The results from the study say that:

  • 59% of e-patients have consulted blog comments, hospital reviews, doctor reviews and podcasts about health and health care.
  • 20% of e-patients have posted comments, reviews, photos, audio, video or tags related to health care.
  • The internet comes in 3rd place behind (1) asking a health professional and (2) talking to friends and family members when asked where they turn for health care advise.
  • 60% say they or someone they know has been helped by following medical advise found on the internet.  That’s an increase from 31% in 2006.
  • 3% of e-patients say they or someone they know have been harmed by following medical advice found on the web-a number that has remained constant since 2006. 

While the medical professional is still the number one choice for patients to turn, patients do come to their doctor visits with more knowledge and are better prepared to discuss treatment options. 

What does this mean for those of us in hospital and healthcare marketing? Consumers are searching and using online health info. Provide it to them on your hospital website through third party sources such as A.D.A.M, links to the CDC, American Cancer Society, etc. Use social media and internet ads on other websites to drive traffic to your own site. Offer something of value with a compelling headline and entice the reader to click thru. (i.e. “What does your body type tell you about your future health?”) Then you have the opportunity to sell other aspects of your hospital while they are on your website. 


Hospital Marketing: Fighting Outmigration with High-Profile Patients

Often people think the bigger city automatically means better healthcare when actually your local hospital provides excellent care. group

Featuring high profile community leaders in the hospital’s marketing can help address the outmigration of your market.  We’re all sometimes guilty of thinking “bigger is better” but it’s not always the case.  How to fight this battle?  Consider using community leaders in your advertising.  An Alabama hospital did this very successfully with both their cardiac and cancer programs-even though they were only 45 miles from the highly-touted UAB hospital.

Some considerations when implementing  testimonials:

1.    Show the patient in their work role, be it mayor, judge, civic leader, minister, athletic star or beloved high school teacher. 

2.    Let the ad copy tell their success story and how life is back to normal now.

3.    Have the patients describe in their own words the attention and care they received at your hospital.

4.    Rotate several patients in a campaign and let the impact build with each new patient story.

5.    Use references to the doctors and nurses who provided their care.

Former patients who’ve had good outcomes and attentive care are often eager to share their story.  And their story may just be the best story for your hospital to tell.


Marketing Your Hospital: Diagnostic Scheduling Made Easy Can Improve the Bottom Line

flouro open signReduced workforces mean heavier workloads for many so making diagnostics available to patients during non-work hours is a win-win situation for the patient and the hospital.

Businesses have cut many expenses during the economic downturn, and many have had to resort to cutting staff.  With these cuts brings an ever- increasing workload to those remaining employed, not to mention a sense of uneasiness and insecurity regarding employment. Many patients are reluctant to ask for time off to attend to healthcare matters including diagnostic testing that their doctors have prescribed.

Making diagnostic testing available during days and times other than the traditional work week allows for patients to take better care of their health. In addition, it can increase hospital revenue. Truly a win for both the patient and the hospital.

Some hospitals are doing this through:

  • Accessible and identifiable diagnostic center with easy parking.
  • Slightly extended hours on weekdays – opening at 7 am and closing at 7 pm.
  • Hours of operation including weekends.
  • Ease of scheduling with one phone call and one location to book everything from bloodwork to x-rays to a MRI.
  • Last minute scheduling options so that patients can get in on short notice

These are tough times for operations and costs for many businesses, including  hospitals, but making diagnostic services which are often product lines that suffer in a tough economy, more accessible  are critical moves to keep a healthy community and a healthy bottom line for your hospital.  


Marketing Your Hospital: Flavor Your Ad with the Doctors’ Personality

Doctor isolated on white background

In small to medium size markets, doctors are often high-profile in the community and there’s a genuine interest in knowing their backgrounds and experiences. Your hospital’s ads can tell their stories. 

Sometimes doctors return to their hometowns to set up their practices with a welcoming community but more often than not, they are recruited to towns and cities where patients have more than a little curiosity about their potential doctors.

Having grown up in a small town in Alabama, most people either know you or know about your family. Small towns have a sometimes intrusive, but often endearing, interest in their high-profile citizens and doctors definitely fit that category.

I’ve used this strategy of highlighting a doctor’s background many times in the past. It works. Doctors that only practice or primarily practice at your hospital are good candidates and patients will remember them when their services are needed.

Examples of copy points to consider:

  • Where they went to medical school and did their residencies-particularly for well-respected and well-known programs
  • Any fellowships they completed in addition to their residency.
  • Any awards or honors they have received.
  • Let your copy introduce them as local, if that’s the case
  • Include previous experience, be it military service, mission work or providing care at the local free clinic.
  • Milestones such as having completed over 1000 carotid artery stent procedures or 500 successful total hip replacements.
  • Use doctors’ photos in interesting and creative ways.

Your hospital advertising provides a great opportunity to let the community know about their local doctors and in turn develops loyalty to the hospitals where they are on staff.


Marketing Your Hospital – Marketing The Milestones

Celebrating a milestone such as a 100 year anniversary can be a prime opportunity to tell your hospital’s story and build patient loyalty. 

Birthday Cupcake

If hospital walls could talk there would be incredible tales of hope, heartbreak and uplifting care.  And when your hospital reaches a milestone, be it 25, 50 or 100 years in existence, it’s a strong testament of success.

Many hospitals have interesting pasts that invoke a sense of community pride.  Gadsden Regional Medical Center in Gadsden, Alabama is one such example.

In 1906  Dr. Rawls started the city’s first hospital in a home.  By the 1950’s, the hospital was owned by the county’s Baptist Association and through their leadership and with major help from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, a new hospital was built on land donated by Goodyear, a major employer in the area. The construction was funded in large part by payroll deductions of the Goodyear plant workers.

The rich and storied past provided a great opportunity to retell that history and highlight the hospital’s many accomplishments.

Things to consider for your hospitals special milestone:

  1. Community-wide events such as picnics, parties for people born at the hospital, galas for the physicians and major donors, dedications of new wings or the donation of a commemorative sculpture to honor the past.
  2. Erect a timetable display reveling major milestones of the hospital’s history in the lobby, cafeteria or other public areas.
  3. Develop a media campaign to tell the history in a compelling way.
  4. Design, print and mail a detailed history piece to the hospital’s market area or patient data base.
  5. Have clever, medical-related specialty items to give away at public events. Pill boxes, thermometers, first aid kits, water bottles, baby medicine dispensers are all good examples.
  6. Plan radio and tv show appearances to promote all the upcoming events.
  7. Use facebook and twitter to promote events in each phase of the celebration.
  8. Produce a short video on the history and celebration to post on youtube, use at speaking engagements and feature on the hospital’s website.

Seize the opportunity and make the most of these markers in time and continue to build patient loyalty.  It’s a wonderful way to sell your hospital to newcomers to the area as well as reinforce the brand to your community.


Marketing Your Hospital: Posting Prices and Quality Data on Your Website

Stethoscope with Money

Posting prices and outcomes on hospital website is a gutsy move yet one that has been beneficial for one hospital system –  to both the patient and the hospital.

Geisinger Healthcare System in Pennsylvania posts their prices and outcomes on their website so patients can compare outcomes on different procedures as well as  costs to other hospitals in the state and nationwide.

The hospital website links to a U.S Government site that allows comparisons of hospitals on several fronts including:

1.    Hospital Process of Care

2.    Hospital Outcome of Care

3.    Survey of patient’s hospital experience

4.    Medicare payment to hospital

5.    Number of Medicare patients treated

While most hospitals post some of these numbers, few actually post the “Outcomes of Care” and likely with reason. The comparisons are a great tool for the consumer when deciding on a healthcare provider. In addition, it’s an excellent way to promote and improve the hospital’s performance. This transparency is admirable and Geisinger obviously values performance results.



Healthcare Advertising: Digital Outdoor Advertising Is Not Your Father’s Outdoor

newborn baby, only a couple of hours old

Digital outdoor boards provides instant messaging.

Digital has revitalized outdoor advertising. It has greater impact than traditional static outdoor and it allows multiple messages to rotate on the same unit. In addition, it provides immediacy – perhaps the most powerful benefit.

E! Entertainment recently purchased from Clear Channel Outdoor, 125 digital billboards in 20 markets to plug its weeknight ”E! News”, displaying breaking news alerts as it happens. Instead of a static message, E! is digitally posting breaking news on outdoor referring the viewer to the network’s nightly news show for more details. The message can be changed almost instantly as news breaks. The Los Angeles Times was perhaps the first to try such an effort as early as 2008.

So instead of one or two or three static messages, hospitals can use digital boards to deliver instant messages. True, a hospital doesn’t have continuous news to post on a digital board, but the capability certainly deserves some creativity.

Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama uses digital outdoor to post the picture of each new baby born in the hospital.

The board shows the picture of the newborn and its first name. Of course, parental approval is required and last names are not provided. But the result is not only proud parents and grandparents but also the branding impact the hospital gives its OB services.

It’s refreshing, as you drive down the road, to see the photo of a beautiful newborn baby. Not only does that give you that “feel good” moment, it also subtly communicates that Jackson Hospital is in the baby birthing business while positively branding their service.

This is just one way to use the immediacy of digital outdoor. There must be many others. Even public service announcements, like updates on the swine flu epidemic, could be effectively communicated using digital outdoor. Pardon the pun, but the sky really is the limit for digital outdoor boards.

Digital outdoor is not your Father’s outdoor, but as Jackson Hospital can attest, it sure can make a father proud.


Marketing Your Hospital: When Patients Shop Healthcare Based on Price

Most insured patients don’t worry about the cost of a procedure but when the uninsured choose a non-emergency test, they respond to advertised prices.

high prescription costs (side view)

As the healthcare debate looms, we keep hearing there are 46 million uninsured people in the United States. And these people really want the diagnostics and preventative care for their families and themselves just like those who are insured.  When there is family history or risk factors for heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis or diabetes for example or presenting symptoms, these patients want to take action but costs are a major roadblock.

Advertising special offers or pricing certain diagnostics can be a great way to increase your diagnostics numbers and your hospital’s bottom line.

Consider package pricing the following:

  • Offer and advertise a set rate for mammograms or run a special rate during the month of October for a breast cancer awareness campaign.
  • Do the same for colonoscopies.
  • Advertise cardiac scoring tests that are affordably priced and can be done with one visit. Or do a businessman’s testing complete with the CT Scan for a higher price point.
  • Establish a special rate with your OB-GYN’s to offer set pricing on bone density testing and pap smears.
  • Advertise pricing for a full lipid profile on bloodwork to include cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as diabetes testing. These are common problems among the working poor.
  • Other common problems are back pain for laborers, chest pain  and cough in smokers and sinus problems.  Price and advertise x-rays and make non-workday hours available.

Preventive care leads to healthier lifestyles. And when the uninsured want to improve their health, make them feel welcome in your diagnostics environment with pricing they understand and can afford.  It’s much better for the patient and the hospital when decisions and diagnosis are made BEFORE an emergency.



Healthcare Marketing: Think You Have SEO Figured Out?

If Microsoft search engine Bing becomes as popular as predicted…it will require new optimization tactics.

Search - Magnifying Glass on Words

If Microsoft search engine, Bing, becomes as popular as predicted…it will require new optimization tactics.

So you’ve worked hard to be ranked on the first page of Google Search.  Congratulations! But then along comes Bing. Bing is Microsoft’s new search engine and in less than a year when Microsoft takes over Yahoo’s search infrastructure, it could account for over 30% of the U.S. search market.

And Bing ranks pages differently than Google. There is less emphasis on inbox traffic and more on content and key words. The same strategy will not optimize both.

So the landscape and the challenges could drastically change. Microsoft is still tweaking Bing, but it will definitely be different then Google. That may mean a company may need two websites, one to optimize for Google search and one for Bing.  That of course will require more financial and personnel commitment.

So just when we were about to have it figured out and enjoy the fruits of successfully being organically found on the first page of Google search, there is a new player who has great potential to capture significant market share.

It’s still a bit early to develop strategies for Bing, but if they do manage to get 30% or more market share it cannot be ignored. Investment in Goggle search will lose 30% of its value and two parallel strategies for search engine optimization will be required. It’s not something marketers want to hear but it’s something to watch and be prepared for.