Bariatric surgery has the power to transform people’s health. Here’s how to ensure your marketing reflects more than 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 Allison Bryan, senior account supervisor 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.”
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, prospective patients may see a bit of themselves in the stories and feel more capable of undertaking a surgical weight-loss journey.
Meeting Patients on the Path to Weight Loss
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,” Bryan 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.”
Bryan recommends involving bariatric clinical staff in a marketing campaign 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.
Case Study: A Three-pronged Digital Campaign Pays Big Dividends
True North Custom recently partnered with an acute-care hospital in the South on a six-month digital campaign for its bariatric program. The campaign featured three landing pages: one that allowed visitors to take an assessment to get a sense of their candidacy for weight-loss surgery, another that encouraged registration to attend a bariatric seminar and still another to make an appointment with a surgeon. Each page targeted potential patients at a specific point in their journey, with a goal of helping them progress to the next stage.
“If, for example, a potential patient started with the seminar landing page, then he or she would receive a reminder about the upcoming event,” Bryan says. “We also sent nurturing emails to encourage the individual to take the next step of making an appointment with a surgeon.”
Over the life of the campaign:
- 441 people took the assessment
- 85 signed up to attend a seminar
- 34 completed an appointment scheduling form
Along with these results, the campaign generated remarkable engagement—including a well-above-average email open rate of 65.5 percent—proof of the effectiveness of tailored messaging to fit each patient’s progress down a potentially life-changing path.
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