Bariatric Marketing Campaigns: How to Strategically Tell Your Program’s Story

by | Nov 11, 2020 | Service Line Growth

Weight-loss surgery has the power to transform people’s health. Here’s how to ensure your bariatric marketing reflects more than the cosmetic benefits.

As the obe­si­ty epi­dem­ic march­es on and relat­ed chron­ic dis­eases become increas­ing­ly preva­lent, more and more researchers, clin­i­cians, and insur­ers are con­clud­ing that bariatric surgery has a key role to play in com­bat­ing this pub­lic health cri­sis. The prob­lem: Less than 1 per­cent of eli­gi­ble patients under­go weight-loss surgery because they think it’s unsafe or that diet and exer­cise are more effec­tive at fight­ing obe­si­ty, among oth­er factors.

What can health­care mar­keters do to boost bariatric vol­umes? Start by embrac­ing a mes­sag­ing strat­e­gy that gives weight-loss surgery its due as more than a slim-down tool.

“Bariatric surgery is more than a cos­met­ic pro­ce­dure,” says Eric Sil­ber­man, pres­i­dent at True North Cus­tom. “It can help con­trol many chron­ic health con­di­tions, such as Type 2 dia­betes, ele­vat­ed blood pres­sure and cho­les­terol, and cer­tain sleep and joint prob­lems. A lot of the hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems we work with seem to be mov­ing away from empha­siz­ing the cos­met­ic ben­e­fits of the surgery and more toward high­light­ing the health improve­ment aspects.”

Embrace Storytelling Through Bariatric Marketing Campaigns

Com­pelling patient tes­ti­mo­ni­als are espe­cial­ly potent moti­va­tors in mar­ket­ing bariatric surgery. Suc­cess­ful patients can be your program’s biggest advo­cates, if you share their sto­ries strategically.

“Every­one loves a suc­cess sto­ry, espe­cial­ly when it involves weight loss,” says Lisa Rodgers-Dark, con­tent direc­tor at True North Cus­tom. “Telling sur­gi­cal weight-loss sto­ries cel­e­brates patients’ suc­cess­es and inspires oth­er peo­ple to think it might work for them, too. Cross-chan­nel mar­ket­ing is a smart approach to sur­gi­cal weight-loss mar­ket­ing, espe­cial­ly when com­bined with a sto­ry­telling approach that con­nects on an emo­tion­al lev­el. It’s effec­tive for print, dig­i­tal and in-per­son events, like seminars.”

Patient tes­ti­mo­ni­als can demys­ti­fy bariatric surgery and help read­ers under­stand the oper­a­tion itself is only a small part of a whole­sale lifestyle change. By get­ting a win­dow into suc­cess­ful patients’ moti­va­tions, prospec­tive patients may see a bit of them­selves in the sto­ries and feel more capa­ble of under­tak­ing a sur­gi­cal weight-loss journey.

To make your bariatric mar­ket­ing cam­paigns more effec­tive, here are answers to a cou­ple com­mon ques­tions on the topic.

Can you target someone needing bariatric surgery?

Yes, although keep in mind that bariatric surgery often has a long lead time. Patients may research and con­sid­er a pro­ce­dure for months or years before meet­ing with a sur­geon. Six to nine months more may elapse between the ini­tial appoint­ment and the surgery while insur­ance approves the pro­ce­dure and patients under­go nutri­tion coun­sel­ing and var­i­ous health evaluations.

“At True North Cus­tom, we cre­ate cam­paigns that meet poten­tial patients where they are in their jour­ney,” Sil­ber­man says. “For exam­ple, a com­pre­hen­sive dig­i­tal cam­paign could have tar­get­ed con­tent that speaks to each stage in a dif­fer­ent way—awareness, edu­ca­tion and action—depending on what a hos­pi­tal is try­ing to achieve. Pro­vid­ing com­pelling con­tent for every stage of the deci­sion-mak­ing process helps ensure you’re send­ing the right mes­sage to the right peo­ple at the right time in their deci­sion cycle.”

Sil­ber­man rec­om­mends involv­ing clin­i­cal staff in bariatric mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to secure buy-in. They can also pro­vide invalu­able per­spec­tive about dis­tinc­tive aspects of a pro­gram to high­light, such as safe­ty data and post­op­er­a­tive sup­port services.

What are some examples of great bariatric marketing campaigns?

True North Cus­tom recent­ly part­nered with an acute-care hos­pi­tal in the South on a six-month dig­i­tal cam­paign for its bariatric pro­gram. The cam­paign fea­tured three land­ing pages: one that allowed vis­i­tors to take an assess­ment to get a sense of their can­di­da­cy for weight-loss surgery, anoth­er that encour­aged reg­is­tra­tion to attend a bariatric sem­i­nar and still anoth­er to make an appoint­ment with a sur­geon. Each page tar­get­ed poten­tial patients at a spe­cif­ic point in their jour­ney, with a goal of help­ing them progress to the next stage.

“If, for exam­ple, a poten­tial patient start­ed with the sem­i­nar land­ing page, then he or she would receive a reminder about the upcom­ing event,” Sil­ber­man says. “We also sent nur­tur­ing emails to encour­age the indi­vid­ual to take the next step of mak­ing an appoint­ment with a surgeon.”

Over the life of the campaign:

  • 441 peo­ple took the assessment
  • 85 signed up to attend a seminar
  • 34 com­plet­ed an appoint­ment sched­ul­ing form

Along with these results, the cam­paign gen­er­at­ed remark­able engagement—including a well-above-aver­age email open rate of 65.5 percent—proof of the effec­tive­ness of tai­lored mes­sag­ing to fit each patient’s progress down a poten­tial­ly life-chang­ing path.

Note: This post was originally published in November 2018. It has been updated for freshness.

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