Six healthcare consumer engagement strategies

In the modern healthcare provider marketplace wherein patients are playing an active role in their own healthcare decisions, healthcare companies need to implement stronger consumer engagement strategies. Consumers are demanding more from the healthcare industry than they have before. Similar to other industries and brands who are part of people’s everyday lives, healthcare consumers are increasingly demanding more personalization, transparency and convenience from healthcare providers.

From pre-care to care delivery to post care, healthcare consumers want the same kind of easy and empowering experience and engagement across the customer journey afforded by beauty, fashion, hospitality, retail and travel brands. Granted, these businesses work nothing like healthcare. But for today’s consumer who feels like they’re at the center of a brand’s universe, this doesn’t matter. This is because consumer expectations know no boundaries.

Healthcare Consumer Engagement Strategies

Here are six strategies that can help traditional health system and hospital marketing teams engage with consumers in today’s healthcare environment.

1. See Through A Different Lens

You can’t provide a different perspective on your industry or your consumer if you continue to see through the same lens as you always have. So step one is changing the way you see your world, your situation and your consumer and then helping cross-functional teams to also see through a new lens of possibility. This is the only way to see your health system or hospital brand with fresh eyes. This is also the only way to learn how to tell a refreshed healthcare brand story that is culturally relevant and creates bold new value for a consumer whose expectations cross industry boundary lines.

2. Galvanize Around Your Ambition

All great brands have a single-minded directional focus, whether you refer to it as your North Star, your guiding principle or your purpose. And hopefully, this big idea does three things. First, it should galvanize all internal audiences around why your healthcare organization exists in the world. Second, it should inform all brand and business decisions. Third, it should guide a relevant and distinctive marketing message and channel mix to drive healthcare brand growth.

3. Imitate Shamelessly

Think about your earliest experiences of how you learned to walk, tie your shoes, throw a ball. Fast forward to how you learned to create your first presentation, speak in public, be a leader. In all of these cases, you observed and emulated (imitated) role models. And likely, you’re still reading articles and books, watching documentaries, attending conferences, learning from and emulating those you admire. So as it relates to your health system or hospital branding and marketing practices, be the student. Observe voraciously and acquire new learning and skills by imitating the values, approaches and behaviors of those organizations (and individuals) you admire. Spot the best of what others have to offer and how they offer it, and implement it into your healthcare consumer engagement plan.

4. Create Signature Moments

In a world full of noise, sameness and people’s partial attention, stand-out brands see the opportunity to overcommit to moments of heightened emotional connection. They spark our system 1 brains and trigger automatic and often unconscious ways of thinking. Not just through traditional marketing, but throughout the entire customer journey. And with a fresh set of eyes, health system and hospital marketing and cross-functional teams can also challenge the status quo to imagine and create new value.

5. Stretch, But Protect Your Core

It’s hard to manage as your business stretches and you’re tasked with accommodating new modes of care, new geographies and new partners. How do extract synergies, leverage competencies and brand attributes? How do you allocate limited resources to address new outpatient options (both physical and digital) while protecting existing hospital and key service line volume?  How do you build for the future with fresh, yet consistent messaging that maintains consideration at the moment of purchase? A strong healthcare branding and marketing agency partner should be able to help you to create distinctive brand properties to build memory structure and be more top of mind.

6. Embrace Brand-Led Design Thinking

This idea can help you to protect your core while you stretch to new healthcare settings. The more healthcare marketing teams learn to view design through the lens of your brand, the fresher and more consistent your brand will stand out in the changing healthcare provider market. Importantly, this requires looking at branding as being more than just marketing and communication alone.  Rather, it’s the very spirit and voice of your health system or hospital offerings. Consider Richard Branson and Virgin and Steve Jobs and Apple as two stellar examples.

Think about all of the brand elements you have in your healthcare marketing strategy arsenal. Together, all of these elements 1) contribute to building distinctiveness; 2) help bring your brand to mind and; 3) encourage purchase. These elements are critical to manage because symbolism is the language of emotion and a key set of triggers for decisions by our fast, intuitive system 1 brain.

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Future health system, hospital and physician practice success is predicated on a combination of intelligence and imaginative stretch. On being able to see opportunities through a new lens of possibility and building the beliefs and skills necessary to meet tomorrow’s challenges. As specialists shaping and guiding the trajectory of brands across the healthcare and wellness continuum, we just might be a strong resource to help you to better compete into the future. Reach out if you’d like to have a conversation.

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Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.