Healthcare Marketing and Inbound Growth Strategy: The Perfect Pairing
Over the past 5-10 years, business has undergone a philosophical and technological shift in marketing strategy. The philosophical changes came by way of a change in consumer buying habits, which forced a rethink of traditional marketing models; namely, the shift from the product-centered sales and marketing funnel to the customer-centered marketing flywheel.
The second big change was technological. Sophisticated marketing automation tools have become more prevalent, enabling savvy businesses to respond to this increased complexity in the buying cycle, and conduct more individualized and personalized marketing.
Most businesses have been slow to adapt — and for a variety of reasons. But healthcare marketing departments are not as shaken as the rest because they already understand what many businesses are still learning: the value of a customer-centered approach.
Healthcare services companies have known for quite some time that the customer journey does not begin or end with an office visit, and that the patient journey is not nearly as cut and dry as it may be for an e-commerce company or retailer. They understand the importance of consistent communication long past discharge, and the value of patient-centered business operations, which makes them uniquely prepared for this brave new world.
Change is hard, but it is much easier to change a process or upgrade a tool than it is to change a culture or philosophy. While some healthcare marketing departments may lag behind on the technological side, they are leading the pack in philosophical approach, making them much more prepared to adopt industry leading applications and strategies.
Philosophical Change: Funnel to Flywheel
For many years, businesses used the marketing funnel — a methodical, plodding process of moving customers through a predetermined set of steps to encourage an outcome at the “end” — to convert prospects into customers. Then came social media, influencers, online reviews, and content platforms, which transformed the traditional customer journey into a complex series of touch points and seemingly endless feedback.
Thanks to these changes in customer expectations and buying habits, the funnel is no longer a sufficient model. Now, consumers expect personalized messaging and a dynamic, customized experience, which requires nuanced messaging and robust strategy.
The funnel has been replaced by the flywheel, where there is no “end” to the process of customer acquisition, engagement, and retention. The product or service is no longer at the center. Instead, the cycle is ongoing, with the customer placed at the center of all marketing, sales, and service operations.
Content, and the importance of developing customized “smart” content to engage with customers at any phase of the buyer journey, plays a large role in the transition from the old model to the new.
In the traditional funnel model, content marketing is treated almost exclusively as a tool for attracting customers; in the flywheel model, content is a tool that can reach people at any stage in the process. The role of sales and marketing shifts from “funneling customers toward a goal” to providing a holistic experience throughout the engagement, greasing the flywheel in the form of smart, relevant content and valuable engagement opportunities.
Examples of Content During Phases of the Patient Journey
Attract Phase (Discovery)
Educational content, brand awareness.
- Blog Posts
Engage Phase (Consideration)
- Case Studies
- Demo Videos
- Service Descriptions
Delight Phase (Retention)
- Customer Support Documentation
- Email Outreach
- Insider Content
Growth marketing is simply the application of the flywheel concept to your business strategy. Rather than traditional sales and marketing funnels where prospects are fed a series of offers, the patient is at the center of the spinning flywheel. Sales, marketing, and service arms all work together to identify and eliminate friction in the total patient experience. The point is to keep the flywheel spinning as smoothly as possible, around the patient, at all times.
The best healthcare companies are hyper focused on the patient; there is no shortcutting the patient experience. With new technology coming along every day, the pace of adaptation is often slow, as ingrained systems and regulatory compliance restrict unbridled growth.
But adapt they must, as failure to do so causes friction in the flywheel, and no matter how philosophically aligned your company, the friction creates patient experiences that are less than optimal.
Examples of Flywheel Friction
- Prospective patient searches for clinics in their area, calls a number, and gets a national line instead of their local office
- Prospective patient books an appointment or submits a HIPAA-compliant form but, upon arrival at the clinic, is made to provide the same information over again
- Prospective patient searches for information online and sees interesting content, only to be redirected to a homepage or provided with no extra information
- Prospective patient engages with site content, but is not provided with additional content suggestions
- Prospective patient submits a form for more information on a specific topic but is then sent generic information unspecific to the information requested
Here is where the dual forces of philosophy and technology blur together:
Marketing departments may well understand the need to provide a patient-centered experience, but also may not realize that the very tools they are providing to deliver this patient experience are confusing, clunky, or even broken. Today’s patient wants to feel cared for both online and offline, and without a healthy balance of both, we abandon our overall commitment to them.
Applying Growth Marketing to Healthcare Services
Creating personalized, genuine experiences for customers at every phase may seem to fly in the face of privacy and HIPAA compliance, but this could not be further from the truth. It does not take a special set of tools to make people feel great about visiting your clinic, but simply utilizing these tools with the same level of care and compassion that is demonstrated by the caregivers within it. Consumers and patients alike expect a certain level of communication and follow-up, and everything from HIPAA-compliant forms to double opt-in emails ensure communication is delivered effectively and responsibly.
Growth marketing encompasses more than just marketing. It is a belief system that all things marketing, sales, and service are intertwined and should support each other, with the patient at the center not noticing the transition from one to the other. It is a seamless, customer-centric marketing philosophy, which makes it a perfect fit for companies providing healthcare services. Often, the only thing missing is the technical piece, which is much more easily remedied than changing a culture. Partnering with a talented growth agency can get your clinic on the path to a successful, scalable, and profitable future.