Advertising in Hospitals: The Power of Onsite Marketing
So many of Hospital Marketing teams’ strategic planning discussions revolve around activities that only focus on getting patients in the doors of the hospital. Of course, this is extremely important–patient volumes keep those doors open. But what happens once they are in the door? Are you just as focused and intentional with your communication strategy once you get the patient–and their family and friends who are there to wait with them or visit them–through the door?
You have a captive audience. An audience that has already chosen you, either directly or indirectly, and is open to hearing more of what you have to say. There are endless opportunities for cross-promotions within the hospital walls. A weekend-warrior husband who is recovering from his knee-replacement surgery has a wife visiting him who could be very interested to learn more about your Gynecologic Oncology Program. Or the daughter and son-in-law who are there to visit her father who was admitted to the heart institute late last night for chest pain. The couple are considering having their second child, and she would certainly be interested to learn that your hospital is the only Level II NICU in town. He would be pleased to hear that you have private recovery suites equipped with flat-screen TVs and offer free movies and a celebratory dinner for mom and spouse after the baby is born.
In-room literature and signage, collateral pieces that accompany discharge papers, re-purposed commercials running within your closed-circuit TV program, posters, light-pole banner, elevator clings and table tents, oh my! Let’s use every avenue available to give the people that already know us lots of reasons to actually like us.
Here’s an example of a fun elevator cling:
Light-pole banners posted on the hospital property offer great visibility, not only for patients and their families walking to and from their cars but for traffic driving by.
The light-pole banner above targets patients. But it also targets another critical audience: Your loyal group of 1,000+ brand ambassadors, otherwise known as your associates. Seeing as hospital reimbursements are now contingent upon the quality of service provided, and hospital employees have a significant impact on the overall patient experience which fuels that quality of service, instituting initiatives that speak directly to our associates is at an all-time level of importance. Your associates represent your brand and the words they say both inside and outside the hospital walls carry a much heavier weight than even the most creative, compelling marketing campaign could ever hope to do. It’s critical that their morale remains high and that they can help share your brand’s story with patients.
Here is an example of an in-house poster to boost nurse morale and recruitment:
You should also create opportunities within your campaign platforms to engage associates, entertain them, educate them and most importantly, make them feel a sense of ownership in what the brand has to say to the outside world. Consider unveiling your brilliant, new advertising campaign to your own people before sharing it with the outside world by inviting them to a launch party. Make a day of it. Run the spots once every hour to make sure everyone has an opportunity to stop by and check it out. Pop some popcorn, roll out the red carpet and invite your associates to an exclusive sneak peak preview while you give them the elevator speech as to why you’re doing what you’re doing. Rest assured that the next time they’re watching TV with a friend or family member and your commercial comes on, they will undoubtedly take some ownership in it and say something along the lines of “Oh yeah, this is OUR new TV commercial. . .” And they will be much more informed about the happenings beyond their unit, which makes them an even more valuable wealth of knowledge to the patients they interact with. By keeping your associates in the loop and on-message, they essentially become an onsite marketing medium themselves.
As for the new advertising campaign, after you’ve unveiled it to your associates, give it a big presence inside your hospital. Run the commercials on your closed-circuit TVs or looped on display monitors around the hospital. Put up posters. Even your telephone on-hold messages can feature the audio from your TV or radio commercials.
And finally, how informed are your all-star physicians in regards to the many programs and service offerings available to their patients? Even more importantly, how aware are they of all your team’s efforts to promote them, support them and drive patients into their sales funnel? Your world is one where the question, “What have you done for me lately?” is real and constant. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve helped a client scramble at the last minute to put the finishing touches on their “show and tell” presentation they have to give to a group of disgruntled physicians at 7AM the next day. Nine times out of 10, I get a positive report that it went really well and that the docs are happy and had no idea how much you’ve done this year to promote them.
Of course, an easier way to reassure doctors that you’re promoting them is to have a robust onsite marketing presence. When they walk the halls of your hospital and see posters, elevator clings and more featuring their service lines and—even better—their own smiling faces, a huge burden will be lifted from your shoulders.
So remember that your hospital campus is an excellent venue for marketing. Not only does it deliver a captive audience of patients and prospective patients, it can do wonders for internal morale and politics as well.
Gayle is a former BPDerr with 10+ year healthcare marketing experience working with nearly every type of client and campaign.