Applying the 4 Stages of Consumer Marketing Behaviors in Health Care

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Consumer Engagement

People are bombarded with messaging and content on a daily basis. How then, do you stand out from the noise, particularly with information that can influence the stages of consumer behavior?

The answer is meeting each healthcare consumer at the four stages of the decision-making process and tailoring your marketing message to consumer behaviors. The average person doesn’t spend a lot of daily time considering healthcare decisions. It isn’t until there’s a problem that consumer behavior is rapidly affected.

Once a medical issue does arise, patients and their families may scramble to find locations and services to best meet their needs. It can be a complicated and overwhelming process, particularly in the midst of a medical emergency or serious diagnosis.

This can also be frustrating for healthcare marketers, as messaging may be largely ignored until a patient needs care. Lay the foundation for a marketing strategy of consistent presence in the lives of potential patients by understanding 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 drives exponential returns on your marketing dollars.

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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