While healthcare is an old profession, marketing for it has been hitting new frontiers. From digital to even influencer marketing, healthcare businesses all over the world have been looking for new ways to reach their target audiences, and the role of the marketer has become more important than ever in the healthcare industry.
(Source: Health Strategy Institute)
One of the more effective yet underutilized methods is community-based marketing.
And while community-based marketing has been around for decades, the rise in digital and mobile technology has made it easier and more efficient for healthcare services to implement it.
But what is it exactly, and can such an old marketing method be effective in reaching an audience who reach for their devices as soon as they wake up in the morning?
What is community-based marketing?
Community-based marketing is a type of marketing strategy that focuses on engaging customers in ways that are relevant to their lives. It involves taking into account local and cultural contexts, building relationships with the local community, and identifying what matters to them, as well as creating products or services tailored specifically for them.
Community-based marketing focus on creating an environment where customers can interact with a healthcare service on their own terms. It also aims to create loyalty and trust between the healthcare service provider and potential patients by emphasizing personal connections rather than relying solely on traditional marketing tactics.
In this way, community-based marketing builds a community and maintains it through the use of diverse marketing strategies and techniques.
How can community-based marketing be useful in healthcare?
Healthcare providers are often at the center of the community, and the services they provide have an important role in people’s day-to-day lives. By meeting patients and clients in the community, healthcare providers can establish a deeper connection with them and build relationships of trust.
Community-based marketing also provides an effective way to reach potential patients and clients who wouldn’t otherwise hear about your healthcare services. It allows you to target specific demographic groups or people living in certain local communities, as well as spread awareness about health-related issues.
With community trust on your side, your patients will be more willing to work with you on their health goals, as well as provide your workers with more opportunities to get to know the community and its needs. This has immense potential effects on patient outcomes, with your patients being more likely to follow through on treatment plans and practitioners able to provide more relevant advice.
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Challenges to community-based marketing for healthcare businesses
While community-based approaches can be a better fit for your practice, there are some difficulties associated with them.
Reaching the right community
You need to do careful research and analysis to narrow down your target market and identify your target audience.
(Source: Search Engine Journal)
Who are the people going to your clinic? Where are they coming from, and how are they finding you? Are there parts of the local area that you aren’t serving? Parts that you’d like to reach? How old are they?
Identifying the right community is challenging, and getting it wrong can be risky. Your marketing efforts could fail to gain traction if you don’t accurately target the right people.
There are strict guidelines when it comes to marketing healthcare services, and for good reasons! Healthcare providers need to be careful about how they communicate with potential and current patients.
Constructing marketing strategies that are compliant with the guidelines laid out can take time, and if you’re using an external company to do your marketing, it’s important that they know what they’re doing in this aspect. They need to be aware of laws and regulations that are specific to healthcare, and preferably have experience advertising in this field.
Building and maintaining trust
Trust is the most important thing when it comes to both healthcare and marketing. But it’s also the most difficult thing to establish, and distrust has some dire consequences.
(Source: Hermesh, B., Rosenthal, A., & Davidovitch, N.)
It takes time, effort, and consistency in your messaging for people to trust you, and you won’t get instant results. Once people lose trust in you, it’s very difficult to get it back. So there’s pressure to get it right the first time in community-based marketing, or at least land softly when you fail.
The usual metrics like conversion rate and click-through rate are still important in community-based marketing, but they’re not as important as other factors.
Your success is more likely to be measured in terms of relationships and trust, and these things are hard to measure. It requires looking deeper into the engagement of your target audience and how they respond to your messages, which can be hard to condense into a nice report for your update meetings. Therefore, identifying the right success metric to focus on can be as important as the actual marketing strategy itself, or else your successes be buried under the noise of the rest of the data.
(Source: Leader Networks)
Choosing the right community management tool
Healthcare providers face several challenges when selecting the right community management tools to engage with their target audience. One major challenge is the need to comply with strict regulations and privacy laws, such as HIPAA, that govern the handling of patient data. Additionally, healthcare providers need tools that are user-friendly, cost-effective, and can scale as their patient base grows.
Overall, selecting the right community management tools is crucial for healthcare providers to effectively engage with their patients and provide them with the support and resources they need to improve their health outcomes.
The key to success in community-based marketing for healthcare is listening.
Community-based marketing strategies for healthcare
Community-based strategies can be easily integrated into existing marketing strategies. What’s important is to reframe the goals as being community focused.
For example, you can…
Healthcare services can create content, webinars and workshops to teach the community about basic health topics. Holding these sessions for the local community helps them to become familiar with your name and also increases awareness of health issues in your community.
As you continue providing education sessions, you’ll also have a better idea of what the community is interested in learning about, their concerns and needs, as well as what is happening locally that can prove to be health issues. This can then become a valuable source of data, not only to revise your marketing strategy, but also to your clinicians in constructing histories and making diagnoses.
Becoming a true part of the community is an important part of the strategy, and there’s no better way to become a part of a community than to participate in it.
For healthcare services, this may involve attending or sponsoring community events, joining community organizations, or even inviting locals to participate in the goings on of your business. This will give your practice more visibility within the local area, promote social cohesion, and create positive sentiment toward your business.
(Source: N. Nxumalo)
But participating isn’t just about you getting your name out. It’s also about being there at the center of what is happening locally and listening. It’s just as important to mingle and get to know what members of the community need from you as it is for locals to get to know your brand.
Sponsoring local teams or events is a great way to build relationships with the community and increase awareness of your healthcare services. Partnering with other businesses in the area can also help you reach an even bigger audience through cross-promotion.
Investing locally demonstrates to the community that you care about their well-being. This strategy will not only get you direct exposure, but it will also generate positive word-of-mouth advertising. People are more likely to remember and share positive experiences with you when they involve something local that they can personally connect with.
This may be a strategy that you’re familiar with since it’s used in traditional marketing. But when it comes to community-based strategies for healthcare, targeted content is particularly important.
For one, you’re likely going to be creating content to appeal to people who are physically located close to your practice. Age matters less in healthcare since every one of every age can benefit from your services, but different demographics have different health concerns. That’s why it’s important to create segmented content that is relevant to the local community while taking into account the diversity of backgrounds and interests of those who live there.
And yes, this might mean using digital or social media avenues and creating content for digital platforms. But the important thing in community-based marketing is that when you choose to do these things, they’re to meet a need presented by your community, not just to hop on a trend and be relevant to the youths. Strategic digital marketing efforts are worth more than superficial “like” generators.
It’s also important to consider the language you use in your content, since not everyone may have the same level of understanding about healthcare topics or medical terminology. It’s your responsibility to make sure that everyone can understand what you’re trying to convey.
This is the most powerful part of any community-based marketing strategy. Building a network of businesses and locals who are invested in the same cause can help you reach a larger audience and make a bigger impact.
All of the strategies above contribute to this goal. Holding events, educating locals, and participating in local life are all ways to build strong relationships with the community and form networks.
Building communities not only increases the visibility of your healthcare services and trust in your brand but also allows you to build an audience for your own service. This could be a platform to share health advice, or even an online support group where locals can share their experiences with each other. If this happens all under the name of your healthcare brand, then you have a powerful tool for marketing your services.
Community-based marketing means community-informed strategies
While community-based marketing might seem like a novel approach to marketing a business, especially in the age of intensive digital marketing, the strategies still have value today. Especially for industries like healthcare.
People are starved for community. Healthcare providers are well-positioned to create these safe havens by investing in community-based marketing and building genuine relationships with their patients and local communities.
When healthcare services invest not just in creating a better patient experience but in creating healthier environments for the people they serve, it builds a sense of trust that can’t be bought with any digital ads.
Of course, it’s not that easy.
The key to success in community-based marketing for healthcare is listening.
From what your potential patients are worried about to the language you use, successful community-based marketing efforts in healthcare are about good communication. Take the time to refine your message into something that not only addresses your community’s concerns but is also engaging and accessible.
If you have any questions for implementing these strategies for healthcare, reach out to us and we can connect you with a strategist.