Guest Author Greg Fawcett: Four Steps to Avoid a Medical Marketing Disaster like “Cheat Death”

Avoiding a Medical Marketing DisasterHistory is full of marketing disasters, and some are funnier than others. One addition to the ranks is the recent “Cheat Death” campaign created by North Carolina’s Caromont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia. Intended to promote healthy eating and increased exercise, the medical marketing campaign backfired badly when local government leaders had to step in and ask the hospital to “reconsider” the slogan. Apparently community members’ responses ranged from amusement to outrage, with some thinking it was silly while others considered it blasphemous. We have no way of knowing how much the failed campaign cost the hospital but one thing is certain: the money would have been better spent on market research and testing ahead of time.

Step #1: Conduct Market Research

There’s very seldom such a thing as “one size fits all,” particularly in the healthcare service environment.  If Caromont had taken the time to survey their current and prospective patients, partners and suppliers, they might have been clued in to the conservative values held by a majority of their community.

Takeaway: When in doubt, ask. Survey your target audience to find out what they want to see, what sort of messaging works for them and what turns them off.

Step #2: Create Patient Personas

Knowing who your potential patients are is helpful, but it doesn’t benefit you as much as it does to understand their mindsets. Boiling it down to demographic profiles doesn’t cut it, either. To really get to grips with who your medical marketing is talking to, you need to create patient personas that will bring your audience to life.

  • Start by humanizing your patients. Choose 4 to 6 personas to create, based on the most common denominators in your database.
  • Give your personas names, dates of birth and home addresses. Determine what they “look” like – what they do, what ailments they suffer from, how many children they have, what their income levels are.
  • Identify what drives them: this could be health and wellbeing, finances, time pressures or future opportunities.
  • Find out what media channels they consume, where they purchase their medicines, whether they have insurance and how likely they are to make use of your facilities.

Let’s be clear here: we aren’t suggesting that you gather specific information from anyone. These personas are simply a word sketch of the “typical” patient and all the information is gathered from anonymous surveys or based on unnamed, statistical analysis of your records.

Takeaway: Without a clear picture of who you are speaking with, it’s much easier to get it wrong.

Step #3: Develop Campaign Options

Armed with a clear vision of who your practice is targeting with your medical marketing campaign, develop several options. A good rule of thumb is to develop possible slogans and branding aimed at each of the patient personas and then look at where they overlap. You can either choose one persona to target specifically with a niche campaign, or you can use the overlap or “sweet spot” to create a campaign designed to appeal to those prospective patients who fit within two or more of the personas. These are the people most likely to take notice of the campaign and respond to it, anyway.

Takeaway: By developing a range of campaign options before you finalize it you avoid overlooking aspects that might be critical to any specific group.

Step #4: Test the Options

Test, test and test again. It sounds expensive, but it’s not as much as you might think and definitely not as much as putting a medical marketing campaign in place only to pull it a week or two later. Most comprehensive business marketing has a test phase, during which the marketer does some or all of the following:

  • Runs focus groups where the various campaigns are shown to respondents and their feedback is obtained.
  • Implements a pilot project with a small sample of the target market before going large.
  • Gets feedback from industry partners such as physicians and vendors that they work closely with.

Takeaway: Analyze the results of the tests, and keep in mind that one dissatisfied voice is 100 times louder than multiple satisfied ones. Unless your aim is to shock your audience into submission, you’re better off following the majority vote in your medical marketing campaig

Greg Fawcett

About the Author: Greg Fawcett is President of leading North Carolina medical marketing firm Precision Marketing Partners. In this capacity Greg helps healthcare service entities to research their target markets, build their brands and develop creative strategies to reach patients.

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