How to Engage Your Healthcare Audience Emotionally

October 15, 2018

Ever feel like the odds are stacked against you?

This is something healthcare marketers face all the time. We have the revolutionary products needed to change people’s lives, but showing them that compellingly is easier said than done.

Many of us, armed with mountains of scientific data, focus on all the logical reasons why our audience should choose us.

These logical appeals have their place. But if done in a way that overlooks the human element of the experience, they become much less effective.

Fortunately, there’s a better way.

A high impact approach that engages healthcare audiences logically and emotionally. Head and heart.

A Missing Part of the Puzzle for Many Healthcare Marketers

Seeking healthcare is, above all else, an emotional experience.

It’s easy for us marketers to forget that. We’re usually sitting in cozy offices, far away from the intimate conversations – and often gut-wrenching decisions – between provider and patient.

The better we can reconcile with these emotional realities, the easier it is to strike a chord with our audience.

The data bears this out. A fascinating study published in the Journal of Services Marketing found that healthcare brands that invested in emotional connections with their audience had an easier time achieving “affective commitment,” the stage when someone starts to identify with a brand and form a deeper connection. Those people are much more likely to become brand advocates.

Bottom line: appealing to our audience’s emotions (instead of just cold, hard facts) makes them feel understood and valued. It makes them feel human.

How to Connect with Your Audience on a Human Level

Here are four ways you can better connect with your healthcare audience emotionally:

1. Recognize that State-of-the-Art Facilities, Equipment, and Qualifications Aren’t Enough

Seeking healthcare is still demanding, tedious, and expensive, but it’s less mysterious than before.

Thanks to the internet, everyone you’re trying to connect with has access to unlimited information at their fingertips. It’s never been easier for patients to get proactive about research, comparison shopping, and come to their own conclusions.

These things have resulted in heightened patient expectations.

Fifteen years ago, a healthcare system might have been able to highlight its state-of-the-art facilities and qualified physicians and have those be deciding factors in whether or not someone pursued a relationship.

Now, those things are expectations. They’re necessary, but not sufficient for successful impact. We’ve seen (thanks to being online) what kind of healthcare experience is possible. So we demand something more: connection on an emotional level.

Check out this example from Middle Tennessee Medical Center:

This “Built Around You” campaign is great because it recognizes that new equipment and facilities are no longer the powerful persuasion points they once were. Framing the upgrades from the audience’s perspective, it talks about how they will improve the patient experience.

2. Find the Story

Everyone is clamoring for a story. Gathering around a fire, being swept away by a skilled storyteller. It’s been going on as long as we’ve been humans – maybe even longer.

The same goes for your healthcare audience. This is a tool at every marketer’s disposalbut most of them don’t use it.

That’s a shame because stories help us relate to one another and make sense of the world. They’re how long-term relationships are made and deep emotional connections formed.

Take a look at this example from Philips:

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Philips could have played it safe with a standard ad focusing on symptoms and benefits. Instead, this story engages the audience to take it further. We get a sense of the human impact and just how much it could change someone’s life. Viewers who are struggling with respiratory problems feel like Philips understands them on a deeper level.

Stories are out there for you, too, if you’re willing to look for them. Instead of talking endlessly about benefits and clinical trials, we can show our audiences life-changing potential.

If your brand has been around long, you’ve probably collected hundreds of testimonials from satisfied patients.

Why not interview a few of them and let them describe their experience in their own words?

It doesn’t take huge budgets and production value for stories to be compelling. More than anything, people struggling to get healthy want to feel understood. They need to know that others have been in similar situations – and overcame them.

3. Broadening Your Perspective of the “Customer Experience”

As we transition from a volume to value healthcare model, more brands are focusing on the patient experience.

We are looking beyond the achieved medical outcome. We’re considering how that outcome was achieved. Was it done as painlessly, inexpensively, and conveniently as possible?

This is wonderful, not just because it will save patients from a lot of pain and trouble. With that said, it’s time to broaden our perspective.

Too many healthcare brands assume that “patient experience” equals their experience during the procedure or operation only.

But the reality is different. The experience begins much earlier. We are agonizing over our symptoms, wondering what that strange lump might be, fearing for the worst. We want to know we’ll be comfortable and taken care of while we seek treatment, and afterward as well.

If we broaden our scope of “patient experience” to range from preventing the health problem all the way to well after treatment, it’s easier to connect with people.

Take a look at this video from the Cleveland Clinic encouraging us to imagine what it would be like if we could truly empathize with every patient:

How can you show your audience that you value their experience before, during, and after their interactions with you? Their lives go on – hopefully, happier and healthier than before. So can your commitment to them as a brand. There’s no better way to make them feel special.

4. Connect with People on Both Levels – Head and Heart

Hopefully, the examples above have given you a sense of just how powerful the emotional angle can be.

With that said, should we forget about rational appeals completely?

Not at all.

A balanced approach – one that combines emotional and rational appeals – is the most effective healthcare marketing message you can create. Emotions get people engaged, and the rational angles justify our feelings and give us reasons to move forward. Each angle supports the other, so the sum is greater than the parts.

The perfect mix depends on your ideal audience. While physicians, engineers, and scientists are probably more focused on data than the average person, they’re still people and respond well to emotional appeals.

One example that gets this nicely comes from UnitedHealthcare. They take a boring topic, medical codes, and connect them to regular people in an entertaining way:

This is why we take our phrase “engaging head and heart” so seriously here at Bloom. Because both emotions and logic motivate people, it’s essential for us to connect with them on both levels.

So many healthcare brands neglect the emotional appeal entirely. If you address it, you’ll stand out from the pack.

It’s Time to Give Your Audience Something Meaningful

If we do nothing else as healthcare marketers, it’s up to us to remember the human impact.

When someone’s health is on the line, there’s nothing more important. The brands that thrive combine logical and emotional appeals in order to give context to the true nature of the experience.

In an overstimulated, hyperactive world, your audience is starving for relatable stories. Something meaningful. There’s no better time to give it to them than now.

 

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