Hearing voices? My hope is that healthcare marketers hear the voices of consumers and referring physicians. I bring this up because when I attend regional and national healthcare marketing conferences, the voices of consumers and referring physicians are rarely present. Right now marketers seem to be caught up in the tools of the trade – particularly social media. I would never argue against the importance of healthcare marketers getting up-to-speed on the communications platforms and technologies of the day, but I don’t want us to lose sight of the target audience. Nor do I want us to forget the importance of understanding their needs, values and motivations. These are the drivers of their behavior. Technology just presents them (and us) with new tools for taking action.
In the end, our job is not to build social networks any more than it is to create television commercials; our job is to effectively and persuasively engage our target audiences in a manner that creates preference for our organizations and drives traffic to our services. To do that, we have to understand the target audience. For example, how your hospital uses social media (as one example) is not nearly as important as the ways in which your constituents use social media. In marketing it is easy to get hospital-centric and forget that it is always about the target audience.
Last week I was speaking with Debbie Reczynski from the Forum for Healthcare Strategists. They put on the National Healthcare Marketing Strategies Summit (CBM Conference of the past). Debbie was doing what good marketers do – she was interviewing healthcare marketers about what they’d like to see covered in the next National Forum. I applaud the organization for taking this step. One of the suggestions I made was to have a patient panel at the conference. I think that this would be incredibly well received. I’d love to hear a group of patients discuss their use of social media and the ways they gathered health information online. I’d also like to know how they networked with others facing the same ailment. Similarly, I’d like to hear from physicians who have embraced social media and are active bloggers/content generators. How do they make time in their day for social media? How do their colleagues react? Do they engage their patients online – and where do they draw the line? I have to believe that there is so much we could learn from patients and physicians. Yet for some reason they are not present at our marketing conferences. This is not the case with some of the Health 2.0 conferences where patients and physicians have played a pivotal role in the proceedings.
If we’re lucky, at the next National Healthcare Marketing Strategies Summit, we’ll be hearing the voices of patients and physicians – along with those familiar voices of our colleagues who are sharing their best practices and insights. Whatever the outcome, I hope to see you there! The conference will be held on March 27-29, 2011 in Orlando, FL. For more information go to http://www.healthcarestrategy.com/conferences/2011/nhms2011.asp.
Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer