Is Your Advertising on an Ego Trip?

Anne Moss Rogers
Marketing Health Services
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Key Takeaways
  • Eighty percent of all Google searches are related to health, and Google processes a billion requests per day.
  • You have to get patients in the funnel before a health disaster strikes to make them aware of your service lines.
  • Digital marketing captures attention at the very point that people are seeking information.

Most hospital advertising is about the hospital—awards and ratings, centers of excellence, doctors and technology.

Oh, and buildings, too.

In other words, it’s boastful. 

Hospitals have done these types of campaigns for decades and since there wasn’t really a way to measure the results, there was no proof these types of ads weren’t working.

Digital advertising is changing that.

Eighty percent of all Google searches are related to health, and Google processes a billion requests per day. So nothing shows success or failure as pointedly as an online search campaign. If you take those offline campaigns and put them online, you’ll start to have data that proves whether or not your messaging is effective.

Remember that consumers are besieged with information these days. And if your message is not relevant to them, they can easily dismiss it (and your brand along with it). In short, if you want to reach your goals, health care advertising should be about how your services benefit a patient.

What Sparks Interest?

Popular advertising subjects like “cardiac excellence” have no relevance to patients. They are simply too generic. If your marketing goal is to increase cardiac patient volume, you should concentrate on how starved people are for legitimate information. If you are not producing it, they are getting it elsewhere. This is an opportunity for you to post relevant content and position your facility’s expertise.

You have to get patients in the funnel before a health disaster strikes to make them aware of your service lines. If an aging parent dies of heart failure, all of a sudden the child of that parent will want to know his or her own risk factors.

Reaching Out 

An ongoing health information initiative might translate into online assessment tools or smartphone apps, presentations, webinars and videos on subjects related to maintaining health or assessing risk based on health and family heart history. 

Your goal should be to get patients to sign up for something like a newsletter or to “like” or “follow” your social media pages so you stay in front of those with heart health risk and stay top of mind when they do need a procedure.

In terms of advertising or content marketing, campaign messages should focus on patient concerns such as their fear of having heart surgery or how procedures at your hospital have benefitted patients.

“Cardiac excellence” and other generic phrases also aren’t relevant enough to grab attention. Once you engage them by addressing what they care about first, you can interject facts about your facility that validate their reason to put their health care in your hands.

Another common example is da Vinci surgery. While this technology seems cutting edge, the name itself does not help the consumer understand why da Vinci procedures are better for them. Doctors, in particular, love ads that talk about their skill using this amazing piece of technology. And it is amazing. But first, you have to make the consumer care. They don’t care about how long someone trained if they don’t know how it benefits them.

For example, when women have da Vinci single-site hysterectomies, they are out of the hospital faster, experience far less pain, and recovery is significantly improved. So, you need to use one of these messages to communicate the importance of the technology in patient terms. Once they know the benefits, they’ll be ready to listen to who does it and will want to learn more about it.

The Traditional Approach

Let’s say an executive or physician at your facility is really pushing his or her agenda and you know it’s not an effective approach.

First, you need to find out what it is that the doctor is looking for. More surgery cases? More notoriety? From there you can deliver a solution that benefits both the facility and the physician.

Run the campaign the doctor or hospital executive wants in pay-per-click (PPC or Google ads) against a more patient-focused ad. Or, use a Facebook ad if you need to use a visual. Basically, you’re doing A/B testing—one ad against another. This 30-day test alone will run you all of $200, but it’s a good idea to test messages on a regular basis so you put the most effective messages out there.

Digital marketing captures attention at the very point people are seeking information. Nothing will tell you more about the relevance of a message like the clicks and follow through from a PPC or social media ad.

Once you have results, you can put them in front of the interested parties to show them what’s working and what’s not.

Be the Choice

People hate going to the hospital and they only go because there is a health need. These days they have choices. If you want to be the choice, you need to engage early by offering things they care about so when the need arises, you are top of mind. 

Self-focused advertising does not accomplish this initiative. That doesn’t mean, however, that you cannot publish press releases, blog posts and publicize an award. It simply means that your overall strategy needs to follow an integrated model of paid and unpaid media to cater to what potential patients are looking for so you can engage them and build trust. With sufficient brand awareness, you have a far better chance of having them answer a call to action and meeting your marketing goals.


​This ​was originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Marketing Health Services​.​​​​​​​​


Author Bio:

Anne Moss Rogers
Anne Moss Rogers, a former copywriter with 14 years of health care marketing experience, is cofounder and creative director of Impression Marketing, a digitally focused marketing agency that places the website at the hub of all marketing activities. Connect with her on Twitter, @ImpressionM, and at Impression-Marketing.com.
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