Been in a car accident? Concussed by a wild pitch during a softball game? Mauled by a bear?
In these situations, heading for the nearest hospital is a no-brainer. But how do hospitals go beyond being just a service in a time of urgent need?
That’s one of the many questions hospital marketing consultant Chris Bevolo aims to answer in his seminars and in his new book: “A Marketer’s Guide to Measuring Results.”
Bevolo started working in the marketing industry as founder of Interval back in 1995, and has recently started his own eponymous consulting firm, as demand for his services as a guest lecturer on hospital marketing increases. It’s an area, he says, that is struggling to catch up to other, more sophisticated areas of the health care marketing industry, such as the pharmaceutical side.
“When people see marketing from hospitals, it’s all the same,” he said. “The business is notorious for copycat advertising … and you get this incestual inbreeding of marketing — a vicious cycle of repeated bad marketing.”
Where hospitals and providers need to make a change, Bevolo said, is in showing they’re more than a funeral home or a law firm — existing to serve a particular purpose and need, and that’s all. Wellness-targeted advertising has shown levels of success, and is just one way hospitals can show they are about helping the community around them.
“Results do not drive hospital marketing,” he said. “I try to grab people by the lapels in this industry (health care marketing), because this is life and death for their career.”
Trying to show a traditional return on investment for this style of advertising is nearly impossible at times, yet it’s also not as hard as some people might think, he said.
“In health care, we’ve got some unique things that make it more difficult. McDonald’s could run an ad campaign in Minnesota, compare it to Illinois and see the shift,” he said. “You really can’t do that with hospitals.”
What hospitals can do is experiment with direct marketing campaigns, using coupons, promotions or various other incentives to entice one group to a special seminar or program that a hospital is offering, while promoting the event to a different, yet similar group without the incentive. Bevolo says more and more marketers need to think like scientists to make their marketing as effective as possible — especially in light of many hospitals being run by those of older generations who see marketing and competition in the industry as almost taboo.
“The new physicians coming out of med school have to compete like mad for patients, so they understand the value of marketing,” Bevolo said.
And some hospitals are starting to try out multiplatform campaigns. Phoenix Children’s Hospital, for example is using YouTube (seen below) to promote their hospital — often without ever directly saying, “Hey, we’re great — look at us!” The hospital offers a variety of tips on a variety of health issues, has senior management go over the top in a parody titled “The Suits,” and promotes the good in the midst of difficult life-or-death battles by having some of their patients become quasi-celebrities themselves.
When it comes to social media, Bevolo says the best way to tell whether a hospital is “getting it” with their marketing is by examining how they approach outreach on Facebook.
“If they’re doing the typical blah, blah, blah with press releases, it’s not relevant at all,” he said. “They should do helpful tips — information on wellness classes. Those are the things that would be useful to the Facebook audience.”
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Image credit, MSRPhoto, via iStock Photo