How healthcare brands can avoid “marketing in place” during this pandemic

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Point #1 – Be Proactive

One concern we’ve seen since the novel COVID-19 started an official global pandemic is that people may feel that preventive medicine can wait. As healthcare marketing experts, we get it. Some of us have that sibling or that aunt who have postponed getting a mammogram during the pandemic due to fear of exposure to COVID-19. Not to mention so many Americans are weary of the current economy and they’re penny-pinching their way through the pandemic until they’re sure they can financially afford to get a screening.

But, as healthcare marketers who have worked to educate patients about the importance of preventive checkups and screenings, we know it is just as important as ever to communicate the benefits of prevention and early detection to your current patients and consumers. After all, most insurance plans cover preventative care such as prostate screenings or mammograms at no cost to the patient.

Waiting or forgetting to schedule preventive appointments can mean the difference in catching a disease early when treatment is less invasive versus when the disease has progressed. And, it’s easy to get into that cycle of pushing things to the back of mind, hoping that the scariest health issues will never happen. For healthcare providers, not having the volume of screenings can mean a drastic loss of reimbursement revenue.

As hospital facilities open back up and provide screenings, we spent a good deal of time helping clients communicate the protocols that are in place to assure patients coming into the healthcare facility that it is safe, clean and essential for a patient’s overall wellness. Those messages are front and center on the website, part of email campaigns, inserted into the on-hold messaging, incorporated into the intake and scheduling dialog and in text or email appointment reminders. But we also have been stressing making appointments for preventive care.

We are in an environment where it has never been more important to be the healthiest you can be and not be “at risk” for COVID. Planting seeds and nurturing current and prospective patients to get their normal screenings is part of what all healthcare marketers should be doing. Through lead nurturing efforts using emails or more broad efforts such as native ads, SMS ads or radio PSA type messages, we can encourage people to feel empowered to do the right thing.

As an example of this, our team at The Point Group has always helped Solis Mammography with preventive messages encouraging patients to be proactive with their health through collaboration with local celebrity influencers like Kellie Rasberry who boosted women’s self-esteem by promoting self-care. The kind of engagement and appointments made as a result of this campaign is how health movements are made!

Patient behavior has changed, and healthcare marketers need to always be ready to empower people to better care for themselves in this new normal instead of marketing in place.

Point #2 – Be Nimble and React Quickly

Among all the changes we’ve seen during the pandemic, one you should take note of is the choice of language use and tone. Perhaps you’ve even seen social media content or email marketing and thought to yourself “well, that sounds insensitive…” or weren’t sure why what you read just rubbed you the wrong way. That’s the effect of using the wrong tone, or in many cases this year, using a content piece that was planned pre-pandemic without adjusting to meet the tone of the current environment.

Aware or not, word choice in all marketing communications right now has seen a number of shifts since March. Language during the pandemic changed (and is still changing) frequently. To stay relevant, healthcare marketing needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the ebb and flow of these messaging changes.

In the beginning, “essential” was a word that brought attention to our health care brands, triggering the fact that these essential facilities were indeed open and treating patients and “these unprecedented/strange times” was a common phrase that connected people through empathy.

The language then transitioned to “new normal” as the adoption of CDC regulations changed how patients entered into healthcare facilities or if they even needed to come in at all to get treatment now that telehealth was becoming a “new normal” way of receiving treatment.

For our clients, we use versions of “What is science telling us?” as a way to differentiate fact from fiction about the way treatment is administered and giving the comfort that comes along with factual stability.

With the same quickness as COVID-19 messages were changing, so did our creative process. To react quickly, traditionally long creative approvals were set aside as well as lengthy production schedules. Our team leaped into action, bought media and produced three successful TV spots for one of our essential clients within two weeks, just one of the services provided to Enterhealth Ranch for a rapid response to COVID-19.

Being nimble and quick to adjust has given our clients the market visibility that is getting them successfully through this pandemic.

Point #3 – Don’t be afraid to jump on a new train

With the majority of people having sheltered in place, social media reached an all new high in consumption, particularly for adult women. As we know from our experience marketing to women, adult women are the primary healthcare decision makers for families.

Surprisingly, research showed us that Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram were consumed more than Twitter to source news about COVID-19 for our audience of adult women. Armed with this information, we looked at our clients’ level of posting and purchasing social media ads very differently.

In fact, we researched and bought on behalf of some of clients a Facebook behavioral product that created look-alike audiences to improve their lead generation results. Some clients using this product saw as much as a 50% improvement in qualified leads from the moment the new product was implemented.

For my B2B audience of physicians making referrals, we recommended using Doximity, a medical networking tool that showed a 42% adoption rate among physicians during this time. This exclusive physician-only social media platform proved to be a great way to generate awareness of some of our healthcare brands and led to a 23% increase in physician referrals for one.

When behaviors are changing and platforms are evolving, marketers should be going back to basics and evaluating how these platforms or new data can be leveraged successfully for your clients’ target audiences. The environment of healthcare marketing is changing on a dime, but it’s fresh and somewhat exciting to explore if you keep the right frame of mind and look for those new opportunities to take advantage. 

This is your official reminder to “look at the science” of media consumption and don’t be afraid to test, through the real time digital platform, other channels that have altered during this unprecedented time. It might just give a nice lift to your brand.