As consumers begin to shop and negotiate for their health care services, it's more important than ever to differentiate a community hospital and it's hospital-owned physician practices from their competitors. Obviously, the key lever is authentic, systemic, and strategic hospital branding-make it clear to the five senses exactly what to expect from the brand. But at the tactical level, healthcare inbound can be a valuable piece of the healthcare marketing puzzle.
Inbound is an approach that offers something (an ebook, a white paper, a sample service or product, an experience, a report, some valuable data) in return for patient contact information and permission to use that information in a conversation that leads to a relationship. It's the two-way conversation, in close to real time, that marketers have been seeking for decades. And in branding a community hospital, it's a great tool for cultivating an actual community.
Here are three ways inbound for hospitals can help with the healthcare branding proposition:
1. Thought leader status.Community hospitals want to be seen as the healthcare experts in their communities. They seek to be known as the healthy center of a healthy community. This is an important component of desired perception, as a brand seeks to differentiate itself from other community options.
By offering high-value information, and inviting people to "purchase" it with their contact data, you begin to cultivate the desire perception of community health thought leader.
2. Data you can use.
Health care is one of the most regulated industries in the world. A big piece of that regulation is privacy protection. Although a health care organization captures tons of information, it is constrained from using a lot of it.
Generally, contact data collected via inbound marketing lives outside of the HIPPA paradigm (you might want to clarify your own policies and practices before proceeding down this line). In fact, patients and prospective patients are giving you their data, along with specific permission to use it.
3. Healthier community.
Putting good information into the hands of your community can only have a positive effect on overall community health. By taking the lead in offering information and insight, you can actually head off much of the misinformation that circulates regarding health and wellness issues. And, because you are engaged with the community via the inbound curriculum, you are in a position to debunk bad information.
Also, let's face it. With things like diet and exercise, many people know what to do and just don't do it. Reminding them that they have an advocate and a cheerleader may be just what it takes to get them out on the morning walk, and put a muffin in their hand instead of a doughnut.
In the marketing business, a technology or technique comes along every few years that people see as the magic formula. The tactical flavor of the month eventually finds its place in the overall marketing strategy. Inbound is no different. It is a new way of doing what we've been trying to do for a long time. It will be a valuable tool for a long time. Community hospitals that get out ahead of the curve will be glad they put some eggs in the inbound basket.