We’re finding that more and more health brands we work with are using an “agile-like” planning strategy. Instead of developing year-long marketing strategies, many of our clients develop their marketing strategies in response to immediate opportunities. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to plan your campaigns. What matters is what works for you, your organization’s culture, and the dynamics of your market.
Regardless of your planning preference, we want to share five ways to upgrade your marketing strategies. These five tools can help you to:
- Hone the messages and platforms that resonate best with your audiences
- Create new opportunities to engage your audiences
- Offer controlled “experiments” to try and test new approaches
Five Tools to Upgrade Your Marketing Strategies
1. Leverage Audience Personas
The days of marketing to generic demographics like “women 25–54” are over. Upgrade the way you document the unique audiences you seek to serve with your marketing campaigns. Audience Personas are the framework we use and recommend to get clarity and insights that move the ROI needle for your campaigns.
Here are questions to ask and answer to better leverage audience personas for your strategies:
- What is your audience’s biggest challenge right now?
- What’s your audience’s trigger to learning more about your brand’s services and solutions?
- What are your audience’s barriers for seeking care?
- What does your audience need to hear from your brand?
- How does your audience currently engage in media channels (so your brand can be present in her care journey)?
2. Map Your Patients’ Journeys
If you’ve been following our content and resources, you know we’re also big fans of patient journey mapping: and for good reason. The better you map your audience’s journey steps, the more relevant your brand can be.
Whether you’re planning your marketing strategies a year out or using a real-time planning model, upgrade your marketing strategies by mapping your audience’s journeys.
Follow these six core stages of the patient journey to map out your unique audience’s steps:
- Trigger Event: what begins your audience’s journey
- Awareness: your audience becomes aware she may need a health solution and begins casually to seek information and solutions
- Consideration: your audience is deeper into investigation of a solution and is consciously aware she is making a health care decision
- Decision: your audience commits (ideally!) to your health brand for treatment or solutions
- Experience: your audience has a patient encounter or other experience with your health brand
- Evaluation: your audience formulates her overall impressions of her experience with your health brands—this is where she is likely to tell a friend or leave a review.
3. Identify Audience “Stuck Points”
One of the reasons we advocate mapping your patients’ journeys is because your marketing strategy success is contingent upon helping to move your audiences along their care journeys. In health care, there are many “stuck points”—when audiences may need support in taking the next step of their journey to health and healing. This is why the patient journeys are often long and complex. As marketers and communicators, we believe the highest and best use of our abilities is to help our audiences make the best decisions on how and where to choose health care solutions. This often means helping your audiences when they are “stuck.”
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Common stuck points include:
- Overwhelmed by a health diagnosis or possible diagnosis
- Confused on what health solution or which health brand to trust
- Making time to schedule appointments or to seek care
- Insurance or cost barriers for receiving care
- Wait times to see a provider
- Navigating between primary care and specialty care (such as in the case of cancer care and cardiovascular services)
How can your campaigns and strategies help your audiences when they feel “stuck”?
We all know health care is complex. The larger your organization, the more complex it may feel for your audiences to navigate. Health care marketing is the art and science of audience empathy. We may not be able to physically “heal” your audience. But you can “hear” your audience and help them navigate their journeys.
Here are a few ways to help your audience “get unstuck” and make progress on their care journeys:
Provide multiple options for accessing care, such as:
- Online appointment scheduling
- Sharing providers and sites of care that offer immediate access
- AI or live chat features
You can tailor your content around the wants and needs of your audience at their journey stage. Each journey is unique, but here are a few best practices to upgrade your content and campaign strategies:
The more complex the patient journey, the more your audience is likely to need—and welcome—your resources.
Use calls-to-action to communicate to audiences what content types may be most relevant to them, such as:
- Symptom checker or health screening content
- How to select a provider right for you
- Common treatment solutions
- Advanced treatment solutions
- Questions to ask your provider
Address your audience’s emotional needs. This may be the most significant strategy to upgrade your marketing strategies and to help your audience to get “unstuck.” As a former client of mine once wisely told me: “Health care is the business of life and death.” Not all audiences are experiencing intense emotional states. But it’s likely your audience is experiencing some degree of fear or feeling overwhelmed. How can your campaigns and strategies meet your audiences in the moment and help them to feel hope and confidence, and find a path forward?
4. Create an “Audience X”
We always recommend approaching campaigns with a testing mindset: the marketplace will let us know by their engagement and actions which messages, images and platforms resonate best … and what should be optimized or discarded altogether.
What we’re talking about here is creating a new audience—one that you haven’t marketed or communicated with—in previous campaign efforts.
For example, we worked with a health system client who had traditionally invested their marketing dollars into reaching consumer prospective patient audiences. When we began collaborating on a new service line marketing campaign, we saw an opportunity to engage referring providers, who typically drove new patients for the particular service line we were tasked with marketing.
We added referring providers to our targeting and segmentation—referring physicians became Audience X in the campaign—a new audience.
Another client we work with historically only marketed their services to female audiences, who are typically the health care decision-makers. But in researching the service line, we discovered that men were an underserved audience: they needed our client’s services, too. For that client, we developed a specific male audience and corresponding marketing strategies. Men became Audience X.
For both clients, we launched campaigns that targeted the traditional audiences as well as niche marketing efforts for these “Audience X.” Both clients saw an uptick in new patient encounters by creating new audiences to reach, engage and serve.
Applying the “Audience X” strategy is a powerful way to rethink and reimagine your campaigns and strategies—thereby upgrading your approaches.
Which brings us to the final tool for upgrading your next campaigns and strategies: creating an innovation lab.
5. Create an Innovation Lab
You may not have unlimited resources to test and experiment with every campaign and marketing strategy. You may not even feel like you have the time to test everything you do. But we encourage you to leave the door open to experimentation. Experiments lead to breakthroughs.
So how do you experiment with limited resources? Create an Innovation Lab.
Innovation Labs are virtual playgrounds to try and test new ideas and approaches. These new ideas and approaches often run in the background of your normal planning and campaign efforts.
For example: you might encourage your team or agency that while they are developing ad concepts, to also develop a concept that is wildly different than what you expect from them. You may be surprised and delighted with what they come up with.
Your next Innovation Lab might be to apply one of the upgrades we’ve shared in this article:
- Expanding your audience personas
- Mapping your patient journeys
- Addressing key “stuck points” in your audience’s journeys
- Identifying a new Audience X for campaigns and marketing
You might even encourage your team and agencies to develop ideas to address emerging trends in the industry, such as:
- Reaching Gen Y audiences
- Voice search
- Leveraging AI
- Social media trends (like Instagram Stories which, by the way, is working well for our health clients!)
Whether you develop yearly marketing strategic plans or prefer a more agile-planning model, we recommend leaving the door open for innovation. You don’t need to commit huge time and money to your next Innovation Lab. The key is to be open and try new things. After all, that’s the way great discoveries and breakthroughs occur: through testing and asking, “What if…”
We hope you found this article useful—but more importantly, we hope you try at least one of these marketing strategy upgrades!
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Written by Stephen Moegling
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As Hailey Sault’s Chief Strategy Officer, Stephen bangs the drum of what’s possible in healthcare and cause marketing—guiding growth, educating and rewriting limiting rules. By night he’s the drummer in a band called Spider Kelly, named after a minor character in a Hemingway novel.
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