The Right Formula PART I: Right Message
Horrified, Coke launched a contest to come up with the best translation. The winning entry was by a professor from Shanghai, which translated into “happiness in the mouth” or “may your mouth rejoice.”
Today, as we all know, Coca-Cola is the number one brand in the world.
Though it is a consumer brand and very different from marketing healthcare, Coke’s lesson should not be lost on healthcare practitioners that want to market their services effectively. People respond to messages very differently. What they hear you saying is colored by their own experiences, their culture, their existing brand preferences, even their mood.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in marketing, the message matters most. What you say and how you say it makes a difference to today’s savvy healthcare consumer who has more choices in the marketplace than ever and more influencers (can you say drug company?). Market clutter and segmentation are high, and attention spans are eroding. We now have less than 2 seconds to grab someone’s attention.
Our firm was recently hired to conduct some opinion surveys with women. We asked them what they most wanted from a healthcare provider. The words that came up again and again were competence, comfort, and caring. The lesson here, in my mind, is that we need to speak conversationally, as healthcare marketers; we need to avoid clinical jargon in practice marketing wherever possible; we need to use marketing as an opportunity to educate; and the “brand promise” needs to match what is actually delivered. In other words, there must never be a disconnect between what you promise in your marketing and what you actually do. If there is, patients will feel negatively about your practice, and as we already know, they will likely tell, on average, 10 other people.
So how do you craft a marketing message that will resonate with today’s cynical consumer? Put yourself in your patient’s shoes. Think about it. What do you want when you or your family are on the other end of the stethoscope? You probably have some words that come to mind. Use them. Chances are, it’s exactly what your patients want to hear, too.
By simply changing your point of view to that of your patient, from the time they see your ad to the time they see you, you can gain valuable insight into what marketing messages would be most appropriate for your practice. As you do this exercise, you will also likely find that certain themes emerge — that you have a sort of “philosophy of care” — a reason you got into medicine in the first place. Use that, too. Patients love to hear it. They love to hear authenticity. Tell them.
To get started, gather all of your practice advertising in one place and pin it to a wall or spread it out on a conference room table. Create a marketing “war room.” Look critically at what you are saying about your practice. Analyze the words. Look at the images. Are they compelling? Is there an emotional connection? If you’re thinking, “I’m a doctor. It’s not that complicated,” think again. There are nuances to how YOU provide care and to how your practice differentiates itself from other providers. Patients want to know that.
Do you have a tagline — a one or two-line sentence that communicates what you’re really about? Could you describe to someone, simply and succinctly, what you do in 15 seconds? If these seem difficult, there’s work to be done.
Do your own mini focus group. Ask your staff, your patients, your parents, your family, your friends, anyone who will give you an honest answer, “What do you think about our advertising?” From your patient brochure to your website to how you answer the phone and the message patients hear when on hold, consider well the message you’re sending out. It can make all the difference between success and failure in marketing.
Stay tuned to this space. Next time, we’ll look at the second piece of the marketing formula: TIMING.
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Chuck Morris is a healthcare marketing communications and branding consultant with Morris Creative Group LLC in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee.