Health care marketers work in a difficult but highly rewarding industry that has changed drastically both internally and externally over the last several decades. In addition to more competition, tools and media channels to wrangle, marketers in the health care space also have to navigate a world of shifting public opinion and legislation, all while “speaking” to audiences as varied as health care providers, insurers, advocacy groups, suppliers, patients and more.
In order to implement the trade’s biggest tips and tricks, it is crucial to understand the landscape of how we’ve gotten here — from the highly regulated oversight to how social media has given a platform for anyone and everyone to become an “expert.”
The Constraints And Challenges Of Health Care Marketing
For most marketers, using a variety of methods to reach the right audiences is par for the course. However, for health care marketers, legislation is understandably strict.
Laws such as the Medicaid Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), the federal Stark Law, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) all work to prevent consumers from being deliberately misinformed and stop the spread of dubious health claims. This can also block legitimate marketing programs, especially incentive-based promotions. Health care is a highly personal and sensitive topic for most people, and patients are often wary of sharing their personal information, meaning that marketers have fewer data points to work with to fine tune their targeting.
Additionally, the rise of social influencers has been both a boon and a curse for marketers. On one hand, influencers can sway public opinion by getting the word out about life-saving preventive treatments and methods and driving awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. They also offer a way for marketers to tap into new markets and raise awareness for their products and services that is more organic.
On the flip side, they can spread false information without the legal constraints that health care marketers face. Examples of this include conversation on the anti-vaccination movement, as well as selling dubious weight loss products like “fit teas,” appetite-diminishing lollipops and more.
In this brave new world, what are the top tips every health care marketer should know?
Three Rules All Health Care Marketers Should Follow
When most people think of health care marketing, they may automatically jump to pharmaceutical companies or health insurers. Unfortunately, neither has the best reputation for being forthcoming with information. However, health care is filled with brands that are marketing themselves well, and for marketers, there are three cardinal rules to follow.
1. Credible And Focused Messaging
Without fail, your message must be compelling but also credible and fact-based. If it veers into any gray territory, there are legal ramifications for brands, so ensure your message is focused and clear. The key is to keep it upbeat and aspirational, too.
2. Humanize The Message
For marketers, the way to break through the fray is by being a storyteller for your product, industry and/or customer. By connecting what your brand can do for the end user and how it can improve their life, you bring urgency to your messaging. An obvious way to do this is to leverage the stories of real people and how they have been positively affected. Don’t discount the power of emotion and authenticity — I find they are the most effective ways for health care marketers to connect with consumers.
An example of a brand doing this well is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has a mission of finding cures for life-threatening diseases and helping to save children who are battling them. The hospital has done a tremendous job in promoting its work by showing who it’s helping and making it real for those who aren’t impacted by these medical issues. The marketing material is respectful and measured. It highlights the human cost and toll of these illnesses, and what people can do to help.
3. Know Your Customers
For marketers, research is key and necessary for creating consumer personas, which will help identify who you should be targeting and how. Targeting the right consumer has never been easier. I find that Google Ads is the gold standard, but the growth of Facebook and Instagram has allowed uniquely specific audience targeting, as well as broad viral growth.
The mistake many health care marketers make is painting with too broad a brush when trying to reach a narrow audience. Instead, you should know exactly who you are targeting in your messaging, as well as what that audience needs.
Health care marketers are working in an industry that can be constricting from a legal perspective, so it is important to follow the cardinal rules and ensure that the right message is reaching the right audience. By following these rules, you’ll have a healthy start to your marketing efforts.