The Value of Marketing Simplicity in a Complex World
How many times have you heard, “the average consumer is exposed to ‘X’ number of ads each day?”
The cliché often accompanies a pitch for a creative platform or placement intended to stand out in a crowd. In competitive markets, this mindset can drive growth in marketing budgets, as people become preoccupied with share-of-voice metrics and prestige placements. That’s why it’s worth remembering the subtext of the cliché is simplicity.
It’s true that consumers are inundated with commercial messages in more forums and formats than ever. Stimulating demand in a saturated advertising environment requires reasonable frequency. More importantly, however, it requires messaging based on your audience’s motivations and interests, simplified for each stage in the awareness-to-conversion process.
Message simplification can be challenging in healthcare. Topics are often complex. Accessing services may vary, based on the type of insurance. Technical points of differentiation — important to those in the subject matter domain — may not be drivers of choice for other audiences. And enthusiastic stakeholders may view white space as a missed opportunity to shoehorn in additional details believing that it strengthens the value proposition, rather than making it harder to find.
To simplify your messages, adopt a nurturing approach with prospects, rather than attempting to "close the sale" with the first touchpoint. Many healthcare services are "considered purchases," meaning prospects may delay taking action, even on services they need. For example, people with chronic hip pain may delay taking action on hip replacement surgery until discomfort, over-the-counter medications, heating pads and stretching exercises are no longer tolerable. Prospects, fearful of a procedure, may turn away from a "hard-sell" approach, but be open to learning about your orthopedics program in smaller, less frightening increments. By deploying bite-sized content over time, you create familiarity, build trust and place competitors at a disadvantage for consideration.
So how do you get others in the organization to understand and support a simplified messaging strategy? Take a traditional conversion funnel and customize it for your needs. Above the funnel, indicate the phases and questions consumers might pass through as they come to terms with their healthcare needs. Below the funnel, show how the content and timing of your messages align with each stage of the patient journey. Build in response mechanisms that allow ready prospects to advance to conversion, while other prospects continue to be nurtured at their own pace.
This funnel visual aid can help internal stakeholders understand why a paced approach with simplified messaging will be more successful than one that delivers too much information at one time.
Michael Crawford became interested in healthcare listening to the conversations around the patio table as his parents and their colleagues talked about work. For the past 30 years he's used his marketing expertise to help medical groups, hospitals and health systems connect with consumers, physicians, employers, brokers and health plans. He advocates for a strategic approach to marketing, audience-based communications, coordination between marketing and customer service functions, and early inclusion of the marketing discipline when planning services. His work has earned more than a dozen awards over the past few years. He’s no stranger to healthcare reorganizations or healthcare reform, from the failed effort during the 90s to the implementation of the ACA to today’s efforts at repeal. His blog, Healthcare Marketing Survival Guide, offers advice for B2C and B2B healthcare marketers trying to chart their course during uncertain times. Connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @health_crawford.