Kickstart Your Marketing OS: The Human Centered Persona [Part 3 of 5]

In the first two blogs in this series, I’ve shared that the Modern Marketing Operating System for Patient Acquisition, Engagement and Advocacy performs better than existing marketing models. In case you’re just jumping in now, the headline is: you should begin implementing this model with an increasing sense of urgency—everyday. If you are serious about re-examining your own marketing OS, it starts with Patient Journey Mapping. And that starts with developing effective personas. 

(FYI—This is going to be a bit longer than a typical post. I’d apologize if it weren’t so important. In fact, I believe this process requires a shift in mindset to emphasize the deep, deep data and human insight that is applied to the new marketing OS.)

The Model 

At Hailey Sault, our particular brand of persona development is born from human-centered design, and so we refer to it as the Human Centered Persona. It is a persona rooted in the quantitative data necessary to influence marketing and communications decisions along the patient journey. It is also a persona that shines a light on the human characteristics that allow us to create iterative messaging that intersects with a patient’s path along that same journey. In other words, we define our audiences as people, not as ambiguous segmentations, since that’s truly who we’re trying to influence.

I realize the concept of marketing personas isn’t new. We didn’t invent it, and the idea isn’t proprietary. But what we have done is test varied approaches to personas within contemporary health care marketing models. The culmination of these results is what we find so compelling. In Q4 2018, one client achieved a +1000% improvement on conversions over the previous six month period. While there were plenty of factors that led to this success, it all began with creating six Human Centered Personas that were the foundation of that effort. 

But, unlike older marketing models, our engagement with our audiences happens in real time, and therefore must be truly responsive. Tools like the more widely used Prizm® segmentations profiles—while highly useful in older models—don’t fully capture the beliefs, intent and behavior of people who are moving through a health care journey. Since those people are moving in real time through that journey, we need to be able to predict their interest, intent and behavior along the way, and map the way that we engage them throughout the process with equal sensitivity.

The Science

Effective personas are the foundation upon which real data-driven marketing is built. So it stands to reason that we need really insightful data to drive those efforts. That’s where the science of persona development begins.

Hailey Sault has hosted a masterclass on persona development. In it, we shared the four types of data we use to create the foundation of all our personas: Owned, Primary, Third-Party, and Organizational Expertise. The first, Owned, is exactly what you expect. Just look at your EHR or CRM. Primary data leverages focus group or other qualitative/quantitative insights you have on hand. Third-Party brings in other platforms to examine marketplace trends. And Organizational includes service line experts, internal resources and other partners.

As you well know, all that data is useless unless you can turn it into insight. This part of the process funnels that data into a number (ours is six) of buckets that help build the core elements of the Human Centered Persona. This is a bit more nuanced, so if you prefer to understand these applications, feel free to contact us to schedule your own personal “Health Care Audience Personas MasterClass.” (Hey, it don’t cost nothin’.) 

The Soul

Speaking of nuance, the soul of Human Centered Personas is critically important to nurture people along the patient journey. Again, we’re connecting with real people doing real things with our platforms. Targeting more generic profiles like “Urban Digerati” or “Social Second Screeners” as personas may work fine for static mediums. But we’re interacting in real time with people who need our help. So generic handles aren’t going to cut it.

In order to add the human element into persona development, there’s simply no better way than talking with people. One part of this human-centered process involves internal collaboration with clinical and operational teams to help understand what patients tell them are key moments along their journey. Most of our work is centered around predictive ways to acquire new patients for specific service lines, so we are extremely intentional about “showing up” when the critical series of decisions are made.

This process is best represented in a visual Canvas Map of the patient experience


HS canvas map


Last, but certainly not least, there’s no substitute for talking to real patients. I know this sounds like another focus group type of exercise, but it’s not. Those are just too broad. Consider talking to real patients about their journey. Why did they choose you? What were their apprehensions? Where did they pause along the way? How much were they considering different options? 

In the Modern Marketing Operating System for Patient Acquisition, Engagement and Advocacy, these answers make all the difference. Recently, we worked with a client whose marketing efforts had plateaued. When we talked with their patients, they shared two sentiments that were critical to breaking through. First, these patients grappled with their health disorder for up to seven years. So we explored the trigger events that led them to make the decision to seek treatment. Second, they shared that, in relation to their own personal trigger events, few providers made them feel really understood. More often, providers simply offered rigid solutions. As these patients were making their decision to deal with their health, a critical tipping point was feeling that their caregivers were walking side by side with them. 

The Results

We leveraged these very personal insights to form the Human Centered Personas, which led to the above-mentioned +1000% increase in conversions through marketing channels. They have also led to a record census in the client’s clinics through 2019. Quite simply, we could not have achieved these same results using old methodologies. For the new health care marketing OS, this is why building effective personas is so vital.

Written by Mike Seyfer

As a Hailey Sault partner/CEO, Mike works with brands transforming health care in America. He leads integrated teams within the agency and industry world, while collaborating on original research, speaking at national conferences and making sure there’s time for those coveted family trips to the mountains.

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