The Modern Healthcare Marketer's Charge: Meet Consumers Where They Are

The latest Deloitte survey on Consumers Priorities in Health Care found that a personalized experience with providers is the highest priority for today’s consumer.

According to Deloitte, “Consumers want to be heard, understood, and given clear directions” and as a result, “having an in-depth understanding of consumer attitudes and behaviors has never been more important for healthcare players.”

In this guide, you’ll discover how to engage consumers at every stage of the decision cycle through our interviews with:

  • Don Stanziano
    Chief Marketing Officer (Geisinger Health)
  • David Duvall
    Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications (Novant Health)
  • Preston Gee
    Vice President, Strategic Marketing (CHRISTUS Health)
  • Amanda Todorovich
    Director of Content Marketing (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Lee Aase
    Social Media Network Director (Mayo Clinic)
  • Holly Sullivan
    Director of Strategic Partnerships (Spectrum Health)
  • Ramon Soto
    Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer (Northwell Health)

Map the Journey for Your Patients

DanStanziano— Don Stanziano, chief marketing officer at Geisinger Health

There is no one best approach because every customer is on their own journey. Some are at the beginning of their consideration journey and are only seeking information while others know what they want and are ready to come in for a consult.

Social channels are incredibly powerful today to find and engage customers. Our marketing call center is now fully engaged in outbound calls as a critical component of our acquisition campaigns. We also, of course, use nurturing emails.

Online health risk assessments are great for early shoppers. The data they give you allows you to put them into a journey map for downstream nurturing. If they request an appointment in their first engagement with you, they’re ready now, and you need to make sure you’re removing all barriers to get them in the door.

You have to tailor your content and your channel selection to meet the needs of customers at every stage of the journey. If you have the right mix of content distributed across the right channels, the customers will tell you where they are.


Embrace Empathy at Every Touchpoint

DavidNovant— David Duvall, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Novant Health

One key realization [borne from consumer-segmented research] was that no matter where patients are on their wellness journey, they have a higher level of vulnerability than we ever appreciated— even if just for a wellness visit.

Going to the doctor is not something that people inherently want to do, meaning we have to go even farther than we ever imagined to engage in a compassionate way with a vulnerable population. Realizing the level of anxiety patients experience would be one of the biggest “aha moments,” and we’re doing a lot of consumer-centric work around that insight that is used to educate physicians and enhance the patient experience.


Let Research be Your Guide

PrestonGee— Preston Gee, vice president of strategic marketing at CHRISTUS Health

In our industry, we keep it high-level and focus on brand awareness and preference rather than ask, “What is it that matters most to you?” This has been very illuminating by uncovering ways we can apply learnings in our messaging and operational initiatives. As an example, we’ve discovered that what matters most to consumers are what we might call the “soft” or emotional considerations. For instance, consumers care about how attentive the staff is and how coordinated they are. Some of the things we typically spend time promoting like advanced technology, sophistication of devices, awards, or accreditations ... those are far down the priority list for consumers.

Our research yielded another fascinating insight that illustrates the increasing power of consumers. Historically, physicians have had significant influence over where the patient goes for treatment. That has diminished over time, and we’ve found that was quite far down the list at first. However, after a deeper dive we discovered that consumers still connect with physicians based on recommendations and then seek out other sources before making a decision. This was very insightful and speaks to the emerging clout, power, and involvement of the modern healthcare consumer. Again, this reflects the importance of the patient experience and the fact that people are consumers before they become patients.


Create Content Your Audience Cares About

AmandaTodorovich— Amanda Todorovich, director of content marketing at Cleveland Clinic

When people are seeking healthcare information or treatment, they turn to Internet searches, and we’ve done a phenomenal job of creating content that is actionable, helpful, and relevant to people dealing with medical issues that appears in their search results.

We’ve been publishing three to five posts on our consumer blog every day for more than four years, and that is quite a library on top of our existing A–Z health content on our website. Organic search is our No. 1 source of traffic to the blog now. We’ve also started leveraging our content in marketing automation campaigns.

Beyond where people are in the buyer’s journey, I think what matters even more is ensuring content meets them where they are, which is online, on their mobile devices, and using social media and email.


Sharing Speaks Volumes

LeeAase— Lee Aase, social media network director at Mayo Clinic

Facebook has driven more appointment requests than any other social channel, but YouTube also has been important. Uploading videos that feature a Mayo Clinic subject expert discussing a disease or condition is a great way to have search-optimized content available for potential patients.

We consider shares (or retweets) The Mother of All Metrics. Reactions, likes, or comments are great, but when someone shares or retweets content, that’s the ultimate validation: They’re saying the content is important enough that they want their friends and followers to see it. So we’ve developed a combined shares metric for all social platforms. Another important metric is click-throughs to our website, as well as appointment requests.

Brand awareness is the most important social media application, but we collaborate with Marketing on other stages too. One important platform we have is Mayo Clinic Connect, which is our owned social platform. It’s a patient-to-patient community that enables prospective patients to connect with others who have had an experience at Mayo Clinic.


Listen to the Voice of the Customer

HollySullivan—Holly Sullivan, director of strategic partnerships at Spectrum Health 

Consumerism is such an important trend. It impacts almost everything we do as a health system and how we deliver care, especially on the primary care side. We need to listen more and think about those we serve more as consumers rather than patients. In healthcare, we haven’t historically listened to the voice of the consumer. A lot of our marketing efforts are based on what the doctor thinks, what we hear sitting in boardrooms or in conference rooms, and we’re missing the most important part of the healthcare equation.

At Spectrum Health, we’re doing a lot more interviews and discussion groups with consumers, even looking at things ethnographically to really experience what consumers experience. This relates to another trend that’s essential to our evolution: segmentation. This is another area where we’re behind the curve in healthcare. We have a large segmentation initiative led by someone we brought on board from PepsiCo, and the initiative is designed to help us identify the segments and personas we’re serving across care continuum. It’s helping us segment our messaging to diverse audiences depending on the types of messaging we’re trying to get out to communities. It’s changing the way we do our work and the types of services we put out there.


Challenge the Status Quo

RamonSoto— Ramon Soto, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer at Northwell Health

I think we have a very long way to go [to exceed how marketing is construed in healthcare]. I actually think we’re probably 10 years behind the times in terms of our sophistication and approach, and I don’t think anybody benefits from that. Healthcare as a category is a $3 trillion industry—21 percent of the U.S. economy. If you think about it, what type of product or solution deserves to have a relationship with consumers? Clearly, it’s not a candy manufacturer or a phone manufacturer or a copier manufacturer: It’s healthcare.

What is more precious than health?

So we have a lot of work to rethink how we go to market, how we tell our story, and how we engage with consumers. It’s well beyond what historically has been episodic: get sick, go to a place, get better. We’ve got to break that down because as it is, it benefits no one. We have to get to a very different place. It’s a call to arms.