Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. There are people you talk to every day, people you seek for advice, and people you seek for empathy and understanding. There are also people you only reach out to in times of need, forgetting about them in the interim.
While this applies to real-life relationships, the same dynamic also exists in the business of healthcare. Institutions often find themselves in relationships of sporadic need without consistent interaction. It’s a relationship that’s always there but rarely nurtured. And no one likes a fair-weather friend. Just like friendships, healthcare consumer relationships have two sides and must be actively nurtured to grow and thrive.
How do I begin to nurture the consumer relationship?
Simple. By existing in their everyday lives and knowing who they are outside of the hospital, outside of any illness. Spend time with patients face-to-face. Make an impression and deliver on that expectation. Create touch points to put your institution in their path. Become a familiar and recognizable presence.
Seek to reach the consumers where they are with the tools they need to make good choices surrounding their health–because you understand where they’re from and what they need. Humanize your brand and create transparent marketing efforts within the community.
As any relationship counselor will tell you, communication is key for a successful relationship. The same is true in the dance between business and consumer, and even more so when your business lies in healthcare. It’s not enough anymore to just provide care when needed; you need to establish yourself in the patient’s world on a consistent basis and let them communicate with you.
How do I engage and stay relevant?
Gone are the days of patients blindly accepting their healthcare provider’s word as truth. Today more than ever before, trust comes at a premium and must be earned. With the emergence of readily available medical information online, and an inherent skepticism around the motivations and credibility of the information sources in front of them, patients are more likely to have questions and feel leery. As a thought leader, this complicates the task of fostering proactive health.
Creating a strong and effective brand and message only goes so far without knowing how you’re going to reach your audience, or who that audience even is. Do your research. Humanize quantitative consumer health data with qualitative research. Then, build and socialize personas internally to envision and challenge effective communication techniques. Knowing how consumers live their lives and how they make decisions will not only dictate how you deliver your message, but also help you discover what voice will effectively communicate with them.
- What are my intentions?
- How are these intentions communicated?
- Most importantly, how are they received and what are the results because of my voice?
6 Ways to Infuse Human Connections into Your Marketing Strategy
- Employ qualitative external research to understand your audience. Dive into the community, interact with community members and learn about their needs. Only then can your marketing strategy be truly customized and effective.
- Tap into your greatest internal resource—your physicians and healthcare personnel. Use authentic photos in your advertising. Capture real life spaces and faces for commercial videos. Use healthcare workers as a resource of expert information when writing educational and informative articles on health issues, diagnoses, and hospital services. Touting their expertise and presence in both soft and hard-sell marketing efforts will add personality to your institution, giving participants an idea of who they’ll meet when they use your services.
- Focus on creating an intentional experience. From first interaction outside the hospital to check out and post-care, the patient experience should be consistent and intentional. What they hear and experience in one interaction should give them the same experience as a different interaction. Improve or establish this connection to the community by planning events and wellness initiatives separate from the direct need for your services. This can help boost your image in the consumer’s mind and showcase how invested you are in patient health and wellbeing.
- Remember that strong relationships are as as collaborative as they are transactional. Make sure to treat consumer interactions as a dialogue, not a lecture. Know who you’re talking to, and be willing to adapt your message and your strategy to meet the audience’s needs.
- Be there for the patient and create a safe space. Patients can only engage and interact with your institution if they have avenues of communication, actual people to reach out to, and methods for being heard as a consumer. Have personnel specially trained for this interaction in digital and human-to-human experiences. Look into establishing new methods of engagement, such as an online portal for questions and concerns, or an in-facility comment board. These efforts will encourage patients to be involved and provide feedback, allowing you to adapt and position yourself as a premiere local healthcare option.
- Marry the voice of your marketing message with the patient experience to create a cohesive and familiar impression. Become a reliable friend to the community. Prove you will be there through well and unwell days. Call to check-in on your community members. Chances are, they’d love to hear from you.