Your website, your content, your social media platforms—none of them are for you. This seems obvious once it’s pointed out, but many a marketing plan or website has been built with a hospital and its main stakeholders all intent on what they want out of it, instead of thinking through what their audience needs.
To create the kind of marketing that speaks to the people you want to get through those hospital doors, you have to get inside their heads and really think about what they need. That’s what personas are for.
While the case for persona-based marketing is strong and most hospitals practicing inbound marketing know that creating them is important, they’re still resources that often go underutilized. It’s one thing for a marketing team to hear they matter and another entirely to devote time and resources (that have to be funneled away from other work) to creating them.
Creating personas really is important though. Thorough personas fuel personalized marketing campaigns and help empower all of your content creators to more effectively empathize with the people you’re trying to reach. If you need more to be convinced—they also lead to websites that are two to five times as effective.
So go ahead and get to work:
All of this will ensure you’re not treating buyer personas as a creative writing exercise, but actually basing them on what your audience is thinking.
Important Note: You have to be much more careful here than most marketers because you’re asking for more sensitive information. Make a big point of letting any patients you talk to know that all of their information will be anonymized, but still avoid asking them anything that’s overly personal. When talking to other members of the staff, ask them to keep things general: For example, “Don’t tell me about John Smith’s checkup—talk to me about a patient’s concern or experience.”
Once you and your team have your personas in hand and have gained a much clearer understanding of who you want to bring to your website (and by extension, your hospital), your marketing plan and campaigns should tie back to what you’ve learned.
Most hospitals and practices will have more than one target persona. You want to make sure your content efforts are devoted to the issues or subjects that appeal to those personas. In a way, this is where all the work you put into creating personas starts to make your life easier. If you ever struggled with coming up with topic ideas to cover, now all you have to do is revisit your notes on the persona’s questions, concerns and issues they’re interested in. Turn everything on those lists into items on the content calendar.
Make sure all of this gets distributed in a way that makes it easy for the people behind each persona to find what they’re looking for. For example, St. David’s has a Health Library divided into “centers” full of content for different health concerns. Somebody with sleep problems can head straight to the content created for them, instead of being sidetracked by content on lupus and assuming the information on the hospital’s site isn’t for them.
Seattle Children’s Hospital goes so far as to create several blogs, each devoted to a particular persona:
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. How much more likely would you be to visit a blog called The Autism Blog if you had a child with autism than a more generalized Seattle Children’s Hospital blog? Visitors to the website who fall into the categories their blogs cover know that the hospital cares about their questions, struggles and interests specifically.
Inbound marketing goes beyond what you put on your website and often, that’s not where your audience is going to be meeting you first (or the most frequently). In 2014, 90 percent of Millennial moms owned a smartphone, on which they spent an average of 2.3 hours a day browsing the Internet. That makes the Parents’ App produced by Texas Children’s Pediatrics pretty darn brilliant. The app makes it easy for parents to look up symptoms, join the community on message boards, and quickly find nearby locations of clinics in the Texas Children’s Pediatrics system.
It’s clear those on the hospital marketing team put some thought into the struggles of their patients. When your child can’t keep her food down and you have a mess to clean up, a crying daughter to watch, and in the midst of it all you want answers so you know how worried to be—a quick search on your mobile device is much easier than sitting down at a computer or making a phone call.
With 76 percent of women in the United States on Facebook, it also makes perfect sense for the Lakeside Women’s Hospital to also be on Facebook. Within 30 seconds of landing on its Facebook page, you know its primary persona is mothers, and the content there makes clear it knows its audience. Pictures of babies and inspirational quotes about motherhood and pregnancy all get their fair share of likes. These women probably make their way over to the Lakeside Women’s Hospital website when they need further information on contacting the hospital or making an appointment, but in the meantime, they stay engaged with the hospital in a space where they regularly spend their time.
Successful persona-based marketing means rethinking everything you do to prioritize the perspective of the person you’re most trying to help. If you can get inside the heads of your main patients (without the use of brain surgery, even if that’s what your hospital specializes in), then you can create content they care about and engage with. That kind of connection is what gets patients through those hospital doors.