Build Trust in Online Communities. A Healthcare Marketing Strategy that Steps Back from Self-Promotion.

The internet has enabled us to find like-minded people, no matter how obscure our interests. The same goes for the very people you’re marketing to in healthcare.

Patients and physicians, administrators, and insurers organize themselves into communities where they can share, engage, and interact. If you can create one of these communities with your marketing, you can attract the right people and earn their trust. It might take a change in strategy.

Here’s why it’s worth it–and what you can do to get started today.

The Woes of the Narcissistic Marketer

Healthcare marketers struggle to connect with customers because their message is too focused on themselves. When they stick to their expertise and accolades, they overlook the most important part: the people they hope to attract.

It’s natural for medical device manufacturers to “talk up” their innovations. If you’ve developed a revolutionary new drug or medical device after a decade of painstaking research, you want to shout it from the mountaintops.


This type of marketing repels would-be customers. Why? It doesn’t speak to their needs. Customer’s look to bond, interact, and share —it’s impossible with messages that are self-involved.

Lay the Foundation for a Strong Community

You’ll have more success if you:

  1. Understand what attracts healthcare customers to communities.
  2. Build your own community that focuses on that attraction.

This is a long-term strategy and one that positions your organization as a thought leader.

Here’s how to get started.

Stop Broadcasting to the Healthcare industry, Start a Conversation.

Building Conversations in Healthcare Marketing

Think back to a conversation with someone who doesn’t listen. They just wait for their turn to talk. Maybe they skip the waiting altogether and cut you off. It’s frustrating.

Traditional marketing tactics, such as paid advertisements, billboards and direct mail, are proverbial interrupters. It’s a one-way broadcast to get the message out to as many people as possible, rather than a conversation.

People join communities to participate, to be part of a process, to interact and to build bonds. They do not expect, nor will they accept, being constantly assaulted by marketing and self-promotion materials.

Take a look at your current marketing. Is it inviting? Is it a closed loop of promotional material, or do you encourage the reader to get involved?

Here are just a few small changes you could make that add up to a big impact:

  • Add live chat to your website. Communicate with visitors in real-time and answer questions before they move on.
  • Support via social media platforms.
  • Publish a blog and/or feature content created directly by former customers.
  • Open up blog articles to comments (always respond).
  • Build an online forum with a focus on people who face similar health situations; a place for friendship and emotional support.
  • Gather visitor feedback through surveys which can guide future marketing decisions.

What Draws People to Communities in the First Place?

What Draws People to Communities

People join communities for a benefit in a common interest, i.e., answers, fellowship, security.
And it takes a healthy dose of relevant, useful content and interactions to keep them around. Provide these values in your marketing and it will force you to consider what your ideal customers look for —a solution.

An overwhelmed administrator, physician or a typical patient simply looks to:

  • Educate themselves with information about the situation at hand.
  • Find resources to answer questions and resources to explore further.
  • Not feel alone.
  • Feel understood.
  • Share and/or hear relatable experiences from others who have been in similar situations.

There are many different angles to create value. The scope is larger than you might think.

Model Other Successful Communities

Model Other Successful Communities

You don’t have to start from scratch. The internet naturally fragments audiences into tiny groups with obscure interests. Your chances are extremely high that there’s already a community of people that would like to hear your message.

Communities like PatientsLikeMe (with nearly a million members) and Inspire (hundreds of different health conditions) are two examples. With these established communities, aligned with your target audience, you will better understand the struggles, successes and path of your audience.

For instance, if you market a diabetes-related product you could check out the Diabetes Daily forum (nearly 150,000 members). As you spend some time interacting, you discover what drives the Diabetes community. More than an intimate look at personal journeys, these are a cache of potential blog posts, videos, emails, and marketing content.

This relevant community pulse is your cornerstone for website, social media platforms, and marketing initiatives.

Earn Trust Before You Recommend Your Solution

Building Trust in Healthcare Marketing

The best communities are full of members eager to help one other. Members go there for resources, a shoulder to lean on, or guidance from someone who has taken similar paths. The advice taken stems from earned trust.

You build that trust through long-term commitment to educate and communicate with your audience. It doesn’t happen overnight. However, each small interaction and the credible information you provide gradually builds the trust a person needs to consider a purchase of your product or service. Over a period of time, you’ve shown them you have their best interest in mind and it’s worth taking your suggestion.

Implications for Every Marketing Decision

A change from old-school self-promotion to community building sounds like a broad philosophical shift. And it is. It also has sweeping implications on your day-to-day marketing decisions.

Once you understand what your target customers look for in a community and how they expect to engage, you can tweak your website, social media platforms, emails, and every other touch point to better meet their needs.

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