The healthcare sector in the United States has undergone major changes in the past decade. The passage of the Affordable Care Act brought a wave of new healthcare consumers into the marketplace. And recent efforts to repeal that bill and replace it with something new have underscored the importance of healthcare branding for providers that want to maintain their market share.
Attracting new patient and top-quality providers is a must. When patients shop for new healthcare providers, they do so with the experience they want in mind. In other words, your success hinges on being able to create a brand that will resonate with the patients you want to attract.
Given that healthcare providers are spending unprecedented amounts upgrading systems to adhere to electronic health records requirements, it can be difficult for CMOs to find ways to justify an investment in healthcare branding. We’re here to help.
Key Healthcare Marketing Statistics to Know
The first thing to know is what the numbers say about healthcare marketing and branding. The statistics point to a serious branding problem in the healthcare sector, and that’s something that must be addressed if you hope to improve your ROI.
For example, healthcare providers who focus on the patient experience generate, on average, 50% more profit than providers who focus on the bottom line. Cost-cutting might be important but skimping on patient services is likely to hurt you more than it will help.
A recent study found that 81% of all consumers said they were unsatisfied with their healthcare experience. This statistic points to a huge problem – or opportunity – for healthcare providers. Patients want to feel good about their providers. They don’t know, but with the proper branding, you can let them know why your services are better than what they’re used to.
The same study points to a big disconnect between providers’ perception of their services and what healthcare consumers think. For example:
• 63% of providers feel they’re providing quality services, while only 40% of patients do
• 51% of providers think they take the time to understand patients’ needs, while only 34% of patients do
• 57% of providers believe their staff members are empathetic to patients, and only 36% of consumers feel the same way
Of course, that disconnect is as much about service as it about your brand – but the two are related. When healthcare providers have a strong, consistent brand, it informs service because it gets to the heart of the provider’s philosophy of care.
Seeing Patients as Consumers
Digital marketing has impacted the healthcare sector in many ways. One of the biggest changes is that the ease of finding information about healthcare providers online has turned patients into healthcare consumers.
Today’s consumers are accustomed to learning about their favorite brands online. Most of them rely on websites and social media accounts for information. They expect to see a uniform presentation of a company’s brand across all media. Consistent branding is a must in every industry, including healthcare.
Familiarity is essential to branding. 59% of consumers say they’d rather buy from a brand that’s familiar to them than one that’s new. But at the same time, loyalty is difficult to come by:
• 44% of Generation X patients say they’re likely to switch PCPs in the next three years
• 54% of Millennials have switched providers in the past three years
• 43% say they are likely to switch in the next year
• 20% of Baby Boomers are likely to switch providers in the next three years
On a related note, 54% of Millennials say that they rely on online reviews to find healthcare providers. That’s a bit lower than the number who use online reviews to find other consumer products, but we expect it to rise in the coming years.
The takeaway here is that even if you’d prefer not to think of healthcare as a commodity, it is. Patients are going to research your practice or hospital online – and the information they find will impact their decision about making an appointment with you.
It’s also important to note that Millennials want to build relationships with brands whose purpose they share. A strong branding strategy must include a purpose, since having one can engage patients’ emotions and increase their loyalty to you.
Building Patient Infrastructure Isn’t Enough
One of the biggest mistakes we see providers make is assuming that if they invest in their infrastructure and focus on the patient experience, patients will come to them. That’s not always the case.
Existing providers can still sometimes miss the boat when it comes to creating a memorable brand. Our client Pain Consultants of West Florida is a case in point.
As the only integrated treatment center for pain management in the Pensacola area, you might think branding wouldn’t be a problem for this provider. Yet, in the absence of a coherent branding plan to help them identify and spread the word about the unique value they offered, their web traffic and new patient growth were both stagnating.
With our help, they saw a 571% increase in web traffic and a steady increase in new patient referrals. A combination of a new brand design and website with online, television, and print marketing to highlight the brand and its mission led to steady growth.
Their growth illustrates a key requirement for healthcare providers. It’s not enough to provide top-notch services. Those services must be tied to a strong brand – one that highlights the value you provide and gives patients a reason to choose you over your competitors.
Brand Performance Analytics
The branding services we provide at idgroup are comprehensive, and that’s important. After all, branding isn’t just a “set it and forget it” proposition. You must build a strong brand. Then, you must maintain it and keep up with changing patient expectations.
We developed Limelight Performance, our proprietary measurement and analytics tool, to provide our clients with real-time custom analytics they can access anywhere.
Having access to ad hoc analytics can help you measure the performance of your content, track audience engagement on your website, and measure a potential patients’ journey in real time. You and your team leaders can use Limelight to review custom analytics and measure a potential patients’ journey in real time.
That’s important because patient priorities sometimes change. When the Affordable Care Act passed, many patients were on the market for new providers. The providers who branded themselves effectively had a leg up on those who didn’t.
With new medical research and changes in patient care occurring more quickly than ever before, it’s your job to stay abreast of changes and be flexible with your marketing. You can’t do that if you don’t know how patients are interacting with your brand.
We can’t foresee what the future will bring in the healthcare marketplace, but the right analytics will ensure you don’t miss the boat when changes occur. Limelight is designed to help healthcare providers (and their marketing departments) stay on top of new trends and make real-time adjustments as needed.
Knowing Your Audience
Branding is a two-way street. To create an effective brand, you’ve got to know your audience and what they want. In other words, audience research associated with branding can help you in every area of your business.
Another way to look at it is that investing in patient services is meaningless if you don’t also invest in branding. Each process informs the other. If your branding research reveals that the primary concerns of your target audience are convenience and cost, you can use that information to help you improve the patient experience.
Likewise, patients whose primary concern is receiving state-of-the-art care may be willing to pay more to receive treatment from providers who are on the cutting edge of medical research. In that instance, you might be able to afford more spending on equipment and staff knowing that you’ll be able to make it back as you attract new patients with an effective branding message.
It’s hard to put a number to the effect that audience knowledge can have on your bottom line. But, you must keep in mind that healthcare is now seen as a commodity by consumers. They’re going to evaluate your services in the same way they would any other product.
You would expect any consumer brand to spend money on branding and marketing. It’s a mistake to think that healthcare exists in a non-commercial bubble. That might have been the case at one time, but it’s not true here and now, in 2018. Branding is as essential to healthcare providers as it is to any company.
It can sometimes be difficult to justify spending money on healthcare branding, but the takeaway here is that cohesive healthcare branding is the key to growth and an improved ROI. If you ignore branding, you risk alienating your target audience.
Talk to us today about how our dedicated team of branding experts can help you fine-tune your brand and reap the benefits in your bottom line.