Weight-loss surgery has the power to transform health and save lives. Here’s how to ensure your bariatric marketing campaigns reflect more than just the cosmetic benefits.
As the obesity epidemic marches on and related chronic diseases become increasingly prevalent, more and more researchers, clinicians, and insurers are concluding that bariatric surgery has a key role to play in combating this public health crisis. The problem: Less than 1 percent of eligible patients undergo weight-loss surgery because they think it’s unsafe or that diet and exercise are more effective at fighting obesity, among other factors.
What can healthcare marketers do to boost bariatric volumes? Start by embracing a messaging strategy that gives weight-loss surgery its due as more than a slim-down tool.
“Bariatric surgery is more than a cosmetic procedure,” says Eric Silberman, CEO at True North Custom. “It can help control many chronic health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, and certain sleep and joint problems. A lot of the hospitals and health systems we work with seem to be moving away from emphasizing the cosmetic benefits of the surgery and more toward highlighting the health improvement aspects.”
Embrace Storytelling Through Bariatric Marketing Campaigns
Compelling patient testimonials are especially potent motivators in marketing bariatric surgery. Successful patients can be your program’s biggest advocates—if you share their stories strategically.
“Everyone loves a success story, especially when it involves weight loss,” says Lisa Rodgers-Dark, content director at True North Custom. “Telling surgical weight-loss stories celebrates patients’ successes and inspires other people to think it might work for them, too. Cross-channel marketing is a smart approach to surgical weight-loss marketing, especially when combined with a storytelling approach that connects on an emotional level. It’s effective for print, digital and in-person events, like seminars.”
Patient testimonials can demystify bariatric surgery and help readers understand the operation itself is only a small part of a wholesale lifestyle change. By getting a window into successful patients’ motivations, surgical candidates may see a bit of themselves in the stories and feel more capable of undertaking a surgical weight-loss journey.
To make your bariatric marketing campaigns more effective, here are answers to a couple common questions on the topic.
Can you target someone needing bariatric surgery?
Yes, although keep in mind that bariatric surgery often has a long lead time. Patients may research and consider a procedure for months or years before meeting with a surgeon. Six to nine months more may elapse between the initial appointment and the surgery while insurance approves the procedure and patients undergo nutrition counseling and various health evaluations.
“At True North Custom, we create campaigns that meet potential patients where they are in their journey,” Silberman says. “For example, a comprehensive digital campaign could have targeted content that speaks to each stage in a different way—awareness, education and action—depending on what a hospital is trying to achieve. Providing compelling content for every stage of the decision-making process helps ensure you’re sending the right message to the right people at the right time in their decision cycle.”
Silberman recommends involving clinical staff in bariatric marketing campaigns to secure buy-in. They can also provide invaluable perspective about distinctive aspects of a program to highlight, such as safety data and postoperative support services.
What are some examples of effective bariatric marketing campaigns?
Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg, New York, collaborated with True North to promote a new weight-loss surgery program. Specifically, the hospital's marketing team wanted to guide those interested in bariatric surgery with an information session and follow-up materials to support their decision.
Within days, our team had developed a multi-pronged campaign featuring direct mail, paid search and social ads and a landing page that provided seminar information, introduced the surgeons and encouraged candidates to register for a weight-loss seminar. Once registered, patients began receiving an email nurturing campaign featuring custom content that guided them along the decision journey.
In the first four months, the campaign generated 254 leads for the bariatric surgery program—including 51 seminar attendees who signed up for a formal evaluation.