Ad Technology

The Reality of Hospital Marketing in 2017

By: Amanda Fiore

Today, it seems that hospital systems are popping up out of thin air. The large hospital players are not only buying up smaller community hospitals to join their ever-growing network, but also expanding their geographic footprint outside the New York City limits. It is no surprise that these extensive hospital systems are branching out and buying up smaller hospitals, as its a win-win situation for both parties. The systems get the community hospital feel, while the hospitals get exposure to the latest technology and the experience that the systems have to offer. The tri-state area has become a hot bed of hospital mergers and acquisition activity, posing a challenge that hospital marketers must look to overcome.

Hospitals must break through the cluttered landscape to establish themselves as key players within the space. There are two routes to take: go big or go targeted. To go big is to go where all the competitors are going: to compete with large awareness media tactics like, TV, radio, out of home and print, resulting in a surround sound approach. As everyone moves northwest of New York, its critical to compete in the market and out-shout the rest to protect your territory.

Smaller hospitals that don’t have big TV budgets, can also compete on a smaller, more targeted scale. In addition to the growth of hospital systems, urgent care facilities are changing the hospital marketplace and the way that the consumer thinks about the doctor. Why make an appointment at your doctor when you can walk into an urgent care facility to be looked at right away?

It’s up to hospital marketing strategists to be smarter in their media planning in order to shut this competitor out. By focusing on the various hospital service lines and targeting the media accordingly, smaller hospitals can combat the competition by promoting long term, preventative care at an efficient cost, which is something that urgent care cannot provide. Programmatic campaigns also pack a powerful punch for those clients with smaller budgets. Programmatic can be used to target patients getting as granular as possible, even offering retargeting and look alike targeting, while minimizing waste.

Targeted tactic approaches take a step beyond the standard print or banner ad. If a hospital has built a site or a landing page which they want to drive patients to, marketers must think of ways to get people there. Consumers are inundated with advertising from the moment they wake up and turn on the TV, right up until their commute home from work. The key is getting in front of the consumer at the right place, at the right time, and making them consider your hospital over another.

Patient stories via digital video have seen traction in this space. Hospitals are doing more than just advertising their new services and technologies and are highlighting successful patient stories and the entire care team behind them.

Whereas media strategies for prescription drugs focus on prescription lift, strategies for hospitals differ in their nature and objective. Hospital media strategies are typically more patient-centric, honing in on different demographic and geographic targets and dabbling in competitive conquests. There is a heavier call to action in hospital advertising, as the goal is to get people through to the doctor and to have them stay in the system from maternity to geriatric care. Whether the call to action is to pick up the phone to make an appointment, or to sign up on the site for more information, the path to the hospital door is shorter than the prescription path to the pharmacy.

There are multiple factors that go into each media plan; from the business objectives of the hospital, to the budget, to the strategic imperatives, each factor helps to define the road map for the plan. Media agencies must push their clients to define the action that they want the consumer to take, as overall awareness can only go so far. Is the goal of the campaign to drive patient calls, therefore appointments? If so, how are the clients measuring this once they end? Are they asking callers how they found out about the hospital? These are the things agencies need to push their clients to address so that we can tie it all together.

As the hospital marketplace continues to expand and evolve, it is critical to stay in front of the competition. Content marketing is one way to do so, but establishing yourself as a trustworthy leader in the space providing content to consumers.

It’s not just about getting people through the hospital doors but also keeping those same people within the hospital system for years to come.

Underscore Marketing employee Jay de la Cruz was consulted for this article and contributed invaluable information.