Top 10 Industry Impressions from SHSMD 2015

by Charlie Milburn, Senior Account Supervisor - 11/02/15

In case you missed it—or were torn between two compelling sessions—we’ve captured a quick top 10 list of where healthcare marketing is headed in 2016 and beyond.


The content at this years SHSMD Connections conference covered everything from how to practice sophisticated segmentation and incorporate powerful CRM tools to reaching the hearts and minds of your target audience. Heres our quick list of best practices to start implementing today.

1. Make the consumer the center of your universe.

Consumers are bombarded by more than 5,000 messages per day (Content Marketing Institute). Set your hospital apart by making the patient experience inside and outside of your hospital’s walls tailored to each individuals needs and interests. This means delivering customized, targeted content that will resonate with your audience and solve their problems.

Bonus: Your hospital becomes a trusted resources when patients are looking for solutions in the future.

2. Digital marketing is the future, and the future is NOW.

SHSMD’s success stories have two common elements:

Implementation of a brand ambassador strategy that shares relevant stories that create an emotional connection through multiple channels. People don’t want to hear about how great your hospital is. They want to see greatness in action. Looking for inspiration? Take a page from Saint Thomas Health.

The ability to segment and specifically target audience groups. Tools like Google AdWords and pay-per-click allow you to target users based on behavior and search inquiries, then deliver content especially tailored to their interests. Another advantage of going digital is the ability to course-correct and quickly respond to information learned as the campaign evolves. Which is why I invite you to...

3. Dare greatly.

Taking a phrase out of Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech, when planning your strategy, don’t be afraid to boldly challenge the status quo. Authenticity isn’t a buzzword—it is what your consumers expect and what sets you apart from the competition. 

4. Social media is a two-way street.

Cherish your relationships with followers, and don’t take them for granted. It’s not enough to build an online presence and set it and forget it,” or worse, completely automate your content on a never ending feedback loop.

Social channels and blogs must be updated regularly. When you open up the conversation, people respond to what you’re doing, positively or negatively. Listen. It’s an opportunity to make a deeper connection, earn an advocate, or tactfully solve a problem in a way that could win over skeptics.

5. Content is king, and it always will be.

The Harvard Business Review says it best: Content is the currency of modern marketers.” The more local, more specific, and more custom you can get, the more engagement—and ultimately, conversion—you will experience.

6. Storytelling is in our DNA.

And it’s the second best way to disseminate information (hands-on experience is #1). When you want to tell your hospital’s story, start by building your core narrative, which answers the broad question of why your organization exists in the first place and the impact you have on the community. Once you have a core narrative, build out your stories in a way that stay true to your core narrative, while speaking to the values of your audience.

7. Inspiration is a primary motivator.

Your stories don’t resonate when you tell people how great you are—physician promotion and tech promotion are terrible ways to engage consumers. Stories resonate when you tell people how great they can be. On a more practical level, our research shows that a large majority of readers prefer lifestyle-focused content rather than hard sells of certain facilities or procedures. 

If all content ties into the overarching core narrative of why your hospital exists, it will resonate and be more relatable to your audience.

8. Operations and marketing must align.

You could have the best campaign on the planet, but if hospital operations can’t carry out your promise to the consumer, everything falls apart. How do you do start to break down the barriers and align the messaging with the delivery? Step number one is including all relevant parties into the conversation. Making allies outside of marketing feel valued and securing their buy-in goes a long way in getting what you need, and your project is better overall, because youve built alliances and earned evangelists.

9. If you dont like what people are saying, change the conversation.”—Don Draper

No one knows this better than the fictional advertising giants of Mad Men: Sometimes you need to course-correct, and if that’s the case, you can start a productive dialogue with your consumer by:

  1. Communicating in real-time
  2. Holding yourself accountable (for your wins and your slip-ups)
  3. Putting your theories to the test and being willing to change as best practices evolve

The healthcare industry is changing fast, and it is not going to slow down anytime soon. Continuously improve as you go, learn from not-so-perfect moments, and stay agile.

10. Know when its time to ask for help.

Budgets are tight, and you are doing five peoples’ jobs already. With increasing operational costs, more hospitals are merging into large systems to consolidate their efforts. We are seeing more and more systems partnering with best in class agencies in their respective disciplines to leverage their resources as much as possible. As tools like CRM, digital marketing, and content strategy become increasingly more competitive and sophisticated, you need to have the very best specialists on in your corner to stay ahead of the curve.

Want more insights from SHSMD Connections? We interviewed president-elect Ruth Padilla Portacci.

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