HealthDecember 06, 2019

The missing piece in your hospital’s reputation and branding campaign

Hospital reputation and branding campaigns that directly target healthcare providers can help you recruit top talent as well as increase referrals.

Reputation and branding campaigns are a hot topic for hospital systems — and for good reason. They are designed to enhance system visibility, accelerate community engagement, and gain market share. However, there is a vital piece to any reputation and branding campaign that many hospitals neglect or miss completely: marketing to healthcare providers (HCPs).

Although many hospitals advertise on local billboards and in commercials, their messaging is more often than not tailored solely to an audience of healthcare consumers, not healthcare providers. This is a missed opportunity for hospitals, which must fiercely compete in the healthcare recruiting environment. Hospitals face several challenges:

  • A limited talent pool where many physicians are considering or have made an employer change due to burnout, lack of delivery care support, or organization financial status.
  • An increasing and aging population that requires more healthcare services than ever.
  • A healthcare workforce (most notably physicians) that is aging at a rate too fast to replenish in order to meet the needs of the U.S. population.

All of these issues have led the Association of American Medical Colleges to project an estimated physician shortage of up to 124,000 by 2034. With no end to these challenges in sight, it is vital for hospitals to tailor a portion of their reputation and branding campaigns to healthcare providers in their professional environment. In fact, if creating a mindset of differentiation and positive identification is important in marketing to consumers, it’s an absolute necessity when it comes to building relationships with providers.

Tailored messaging yields long-term benefits

By targeting their marketing to HCPs, hospitals can realize important long-term benefits. Take, for example, provider referrals. When a provider gets ready to make a referral, two considerations are top of mind: they want their patient to receive the best care possible, and they want the referral to reflect well on themselves as the issuing provider.

So, how do they ensure that these two things happen in tandem? How do they decide which hospital can meet both of those needs?

The answer lies in the hospital's reputation and brand. If the patient has cancer, for example, the provider will want to send them to a hospital known for its success rate in treating cancer patients. If a hospital's marketing department has focused on positioning their institution as the number one cancer treatment center in the state, they're far more likely to get that referral from the provider, and every subsequent referral as well, which adds up to a big boost to the hospital's bottom line.

Another area where hospitals can reap outsize rewards from marketing to HCPs is in their yearly rankings. The better the hospital does when it comes to broadcasting its branding and reputation, the more likely it is to enhance those rankings in publications, from the annual U.S. News & World Report to Consumer Reports. Once again, the better the rankings, the more likely providers are to refer their patients to that hospital, and the more likely patients will be to trust the hospital. This means that a hospital marketing team's decision to create unique messaging targeted to HCPs (or not) can make or break their revenue projections.

The third area where a marketing campaign targeted to HCPs can yield long-term benefits is in hospital recruitment and retention. Successful recruitment and retention are often two sides of the same coin: when providers are happy where they are, hospitals win by saving on system resources and reduced turnover.

A campaign that speaks to providers

Ultimately, when it comes to their marketing efforts, hospitals must remember to treat providers as consumers. After all, the goal is to get providers to buy into the hospital, whether for the care the hospital can provide their patients or as a place where they would love to work.

When it comes to increasing referrals and improving rankings, the hospital's marketing team must showcase the system's unique value proposition. What sets it apart? What makes it the best choice, above and beyond the competition? And why would the provider trust the hospital with his or her patients?

On the flip side, hospitals cannot afford to neglect the recruitment and retention aspect of marketing to HCPs. Hospitals can achieve this in a number of ways, including by showcasing their provisions for loan forgiveness, additional time off, and so on. By clearly demonstrating the system’s unique features and how they make their providers’ lives better and easier, hospitals can confidently grow their staff.

Hospitals should also paint a picture of the benefits that the surrounding community offers providers. Maybe the area’s school system is one of the highest-rated in the country, for example, or perhaps the lakes and hiking trails nearby provide a chance to enjoy nature just minutes from town. In other words, hospitals need to connect the unique value proposition that both the system and the community bring to the table in order to create a personal appeal to providers.

This approach hinges on the understanding that many decisions are not “business” decisions, based on factors like compensation packages and terms, but are in fact emotional decisions, based on factors like a sense of recognition and purpose and the assurance that their patients are in good hands.

Get a jump on the competition

For hospital marketers tasked with boosting the bottom line, enhancing rankings and referrals, and improving physician retention and recruitment, now is the time to design reputation and branding campaigns that directly target healthcare providers and reach out to them in their professional environment. Systems that embrace this challenge will get a massive jump on the competition, while those that continue to neglect this often-overlooked marketing necessity may quickly fall behind.

Contact us to learn more about how we can customize a hospital branding program to meet your unique needs.

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