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Personalize Your Healthcare Marketing without Making Patients Uneasy

By Kristen HicksOct 16, 2015

 personalized-healthcare-marketing

A TV commercial that airs during a football game is designed to reach as many people as possible in the hopes a small percentage of those watching will also be the ones buying. But today, trying to reach the many with a message meant for the few has proved inefficient. A healthcare brand with a specific audience in mind—say, women with breast cancer—doesn’t need its message to reach the masses, just the specific category of women it’s best suited to help.

Online marketing has made it increasingly possible to provide more efficient, personalized marketing to target audiences. By homing in on a specific audience and reaching them with a message directly relevant to their needs, you can build a more meaningful connection.

The Case for Personalized Healthcare Marketing

Personalized marketing is powerful. A 2013 study of email marketing results found that personalized promotional emails produce six times the revenue and transaction rates of those that weren’t personalized. Another study found that personalized ads receive 10 times as many clicks as non-personalized ones. Those are impressive numbers.

Personalization works for a reason. According to psychological research, we’re all struggling with information overload, and encountering content directly relevant to our particular needs and interests helps us feel less overwhelmed and more in control. When you can cut through the noise to give your prospects the specific information they need, it creates a positive connection with your brand.

All that should be sounding pretty good, but there’s a catch.

The Tricky Balance Between Personalization and Privacy

All industries must worry about potentially crossing that line where personalization starts to make prospects uncomfortable, but in healthcare marketing where privacy is an utmost concern, the line is even trickier. Yes, people want to find information that’s relevant to them and their specific healthcare needs, but not at the cost of feeling like some faceless stranger knows all about their private health issues.

A 2015 survey found that 96 percent of consumers in the United States report that they’re concerned about how companies use their data. Those same consumers who respond to personalized messages and ads in droves are uneasy at the idea that businesses and organizations know the information required to provide personalized ads.

So what’s an ethical healthcare marketer interested in personalization to do?

3 Tips to Excel at Personalization

If the results and research seem conflicting, they don’t necessarily have to be. While consumers say they’re concerned, many also say they’re open to a tradeoff. In a survey that helps clarify things, 49 percent of consumers say they’re OK with businesses having a certain amount of their information in exchange for messaging and offers that are more relevant.

The two things you need to be sure to do to stay on the right side of the line is:

  • Use personalization effectively.
  • Only use information that falls into that category of data consumers are willing to give up for the tradeoff.

Here are three ways to do that.


  1. Create personas.

    Marketing personalization depends on developing buyer personas.  You can’t know what marketing to create until you’ve taken the time to identify and understand the people you’re creating it for.

    Most hospital and healthcare practices will need to create more than one persona to better clarify the different audiences you serve. Take the time to talk to patients and learn what they’re thinking about, what questions they have, what their main concerns are (about their health and their experience at a hospital), and what matters most to them in the hospital they choose. Base your personas on what you learn.

  2.  Keep the doctor’s office separate from your marketing data. 

    For healthcare marketers, this probably goes without saying, but we’re saying it just in case. Personalization does not mean a patient gets content tailored to what they just learned during their private doctor’s visit. That would be crossing a big line (ethically and legally). The data you use to provide personalized information won’t come from their visits—it will come from their interactions with the hospital online and any information they freely choose to give you.

  3. Follow the data.


    Customer relationship management databases (CRM) can help you keep track of an individual’s online relationship with your hospital. A good CRM will provide data on what content visitors view (which tells you what subjects they’re interested in) and where they are in their buyer’s journey. This provides you an opportunity to be more strategic in the content and offers you provide. A first-time visitor will need different information than someone already on your email list, and someone looking at content about autism will respond better to different offers than someone concerned about heart health.

    Marketing software like HubSpot can help you tailor content for visitors based on their data. Email marketing programs will allow you to segment your lists so you can send emails relevant to the information patients have already viewed and where they are in the buyer’s journey.

At every relevant opportunity, give visitors a chance to provide you with more information (of their choosing). Anything they’ve given you freely, you know it’s OK to use. Opt-in marketing is the best possible way to stay on the right side of privacy concerns. And the more consumers tell you, the more you can provide them the marketing content that helps them live a healthy life while getting you the best results.

Wellness Marketing Content Strategy

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The Author

Kristen Hicks

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and content marketer specializing in helping businesses connect with customers through content online.
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