Applying the 4 Stages of Consumer Marketing Behaviors in Health Care (with Examples)

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Consumer Engagement

Healthcare consumers are bombarded with messaging and content on a daily basis. Here’s how to stand out with information that can both educate your communities and influence their behavior.

A hall­mark of effec­tive health­care mar­ket­ing has always been meet­ing your audi­ence where they are and tai­lor­ing your mes­sage to con­sumer behav­iors. Reach­ing your com­mu­ni­ties with the right mes­sage, in the right chan­nel, and at the right time is even more crit­i­cal in 2021, as the pan­dem­ic has sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact­ed brand loyalty.

These recent stud­ies reflect the fact that con­sumers are more open to switch­ing health­care brands:

  • Near­ly half (45%) of con­sumers report that they have already changed their health­care brand pref­er­ence, and 62% expect their brand pref­er­ences to change once the pan­dem­ic has end­ed. (NRC Health, 2021 Health­care Con­sumer Trends Report)
  • 64% of patients are like­ly to switch providers if they do not meet expec­ta­tions han­dling COVID-19. (Accen­ture, Ele­vat­ing the Patient Expe­ri­ence to Fuel Growth)

The NRC study also found more than one-third of con­sumers express no par­tic­u­lar brand pref­er­ence when it comes to health­care providers. When asked why, near­ly 1 in 4 said they sim­ply do not know enough about local health sys­tems to make an informed choice.

For health­care mar­keters, this presents a tremen­dous oppor­tu­ni­ty to guide con­sumers while gain­ing mar­ket share. For exam­ple, help­ing fam­i­lies who are scram­bling to find infor­ma­tion, loca­tion and ser­vices dur­ing a med­ical emer­gency through search engine opti­miza­tion can estab­lish a life-long patient relationship.

To lay the foun­da­tion for a con­sis­tent pres­ence in the lives of poten­tial patients, it’s crit­i­cal to align your mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy with the four stages of con­sumer behav­ior—aware­ness, active eval­u­a­tion, deci­sion-mak­ing, and post-pur­chase.

These stages com­prise the typ­i­cal patient expe­ri­ence. Under­stand­ing and engag­ing con­sumers at each stage builds trust and dri­ves expo­nen­tial returns on your mar­ket­ing dollars.

With our deep expe­ri­ence in health care con­sumer trends and mar­ket­ing, here are rec­om­men­da­tions for mov­ing your audi­ence from aware­ness to action.

Stage 1: Awareness

While con­sumers at this stage are not active­ly look­ing for your ser­vices (yet), estab­lish­ing even the most basic famil­iar­i­ty with a poten­tial patient is a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage when she takes the first steps on her health­care journey.

This is the point where broad, uni­ver­sal­ly appeal­ing con­tent can cap­ture an audience’s atten­tion, estab­lish­ing famil­iar­i­ty and build­ing trust with your brand and ser­vice lines.

This top-of-the-fun­nel con­tent is best deliv­ered through a blog or con­tent hub, social media or a tar­get­ed com­mu­ni­ty pub­li­ca­tion or direct mail post­card that reach­es the widest-pos­si­ble audi­ence of poten­tial patients.

Read the case study: Methodist Health System drives exponential growth in consumer engagement.


Stage 2: Active Evaluation

When some­one deter­mines they may need to vis­it a health­care provider, they tran­si­tion from the aware­ness stage to active evaluation.

In this stage, poten­tial patients typ­i­cal­ly begin research­ing options. Out of all con­sumer mar­ket­ing behav­iors in health­care, this one involves meet­ing a poten­tial con­sumer direct­ly at their inter­est lev­el dur­ing the deci­sion cycle.

To reach this con­sumer, focus on con­tent that guides her on the path to bet­ter health. Whether on a blog post or land­ing page, make sure to include spe­cif­ic calls to action that help her move on to the appro­pri­ate next stage in the process.

Read the case study: Baptist Health converts more qualified leads into patients.


Stage 3: Decision-making

Peo­ple at this stage have not only researched you, but also have expressed inter­est in your ser­vices. This is a cru­cial turn­ing point in the process and a real test in mar­ket­ing your health­care services.

The key for this seg­ment is to meet them at the Zero Moment of Truth. Deliv­er rel­e­vant ads or search-opti­mized con­tent that offers the infor­ma­tion they need and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to connect—or at min­i­mum, enrolls them in email or direct mail nur­tur­ing cam­paigns for ongo­ing communication.

This allows you to send per­son­al­ized con­tent that ensures your brand is top of mind when they’re ready to act.

Read the case study: American Health Imaging pivots its digital strategy to drive 2,000+ conversions during the pandemic.


Stage 4: Post-purchase

The rela­tion­ship does­n’t end with the patient encounter (live or vir­tu­al). Email can be an excel­lent tool for keep­ing this seg­ment engaged and well informed on the health­care journey.

Cre­at­ing cus­tom con­tent that focus­es on the patient’s areas of inter­est can ensure that they keep your facil­i­ty in mind, not only for them­selves, but for refer­rals as well.

Note: This post was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in June 2017. It has been updat­ed for freshness.

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