The vice president of marketing and communications/PR at St. Elizabeth Healthcare shares his perspective on consumer-centric healthcare marketing in an increasingly consumer-driven industry.
Matt Hollenkamp spent almost a decade at Procter & Gamble (P&G) before joining St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was intrigued by St. Elizabeth’s mission and the role that consumer-centric healthcare marketing, PR and communications would play in achieving it.
“St. Elizabeth has been in the area for 150 years and is a big part of the fabric of the community,” Hollenkamp says. “Its vision is to make northern Kentucky one of the healthiest communities in America, which requires progressive marketing to achieve. That challenge was very attractive to me.”
Building on a Retail Background
While St. Elizabeth’s business model may be worlds apart from that of a fast-moving consumables company like P&G, Hollenkamp’s experience helped set him up for success in his new role.
“During my time at P&G, I carried five different positions and learned much about innovation, influencers, being a market leader, utilizing digital e‑commerce and creating partnerships with other organizations,” Hollenkamp says. “The healthcare space has a constantly changing dynamic and is one of those industries that is leaning more toward consumerism than ever.”
When we asked how his time in the consumables industry prepared him for success, he provided insights on:
BEING A MARKET LEADER: “St. Elizabeth Healthcare is the market leader in our service area in the same way that Secret is the market leader for deodorant in the U.S. Your market position influences how you approach marketing and communications.”
INFLUENCE: “We want to ensure that referring physicians recommend St. Elizabeth, similar to how P&G influences dentists to recommend Crest and Oral‑B products.”
INNOVATION: “The rapid-fire pace of innovation that’s required to meet consumer and patient health needs is similar to how the development of new brand categories for a consumables company like P&G demands it.”
PARTNERSHIPS: “Healthcare-driven partnerships are critical to enable better access of services to patients, while other community partnerships help deliver greater reach and impact for our brand communications. For example, St. Elizabeth is one of the largest corporate sponsors for the Cincinnati Reds and the official orthopedics and sports medicine provider for a major Division 1 college program, Northern Kentucky University Athletics.”
Despite the similarities between Hollenkamp’s current and former roles, some key aspects of the healthcare industry present unique challenges, specifically around consumer-centric healthcare marketing. We asked how the market differs when it comes to:
NAVIGATING THE PATH TO SERVICE: “The path to purchase—or path to service for healthcare—is fairly different than the consumables market. In healthcare, there is often less of a 1:1 transaction for patients including more influences along their path. People can seek out or receive information from many sources related to their health needs. You don’t just have hospitals and healthcare systems—you have insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and other health-driven organizations that can all deliver similar messages and services. And of course, the digital space is filled with an enormous and diverse amount of health information. I think about what I can do to help people process that information and make their decision-making processes easier. So we’ve organized our marketing department differently to focus more so on consumer-oriented health segments, developing and leveraging deeper human insights and being more digitally enabled throughout all our go-to-market strategies.”
CREATING DEMAND: “With consumables, you can create demand more readily through all forms of innovation or through pricing incentives (such as couponing). In healthcare marketing, creating that demand lies more so in educating patients about topics, such as preventive services or navigating insurance deductibles. To borrow a term used at P&G, this is ‘commercial innovation.’ If people with a predisposition for coronary disease are educated on their risk factors, they may be more likely to sign up for a screening. Patients who have met their insurance deductibles at the end of the year are also more likely to pursue otherwise costly surgery if they’re made aware of the potential savings. Having said that, there’s a great deal of upside in health care to expand how we think about demand creation.”
Trends & Technology
As the healthcare market continues to evolve, Hollenkamp believes that social media, online ratings and review sites will greatly influence marketing strategies. He also highlighted the following as important trends and technologies for the future of consumer-centric healthcare marketing:
AI AND VR: “Artificial intelligence and virtual reality seem like great enablers in the healthcare space with the potential to improve patient experience. Marketing should lend itself to supporting these technologies.”
SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE INTERNET: “In the age of social media and review sites, your brand is exposed 24/7. Your brand is less what you say it is and more what other people say it is, and I think the ramifications for the healthcare space might be larger than some other industries. Being able to manage that conversation in real time is the challenge, especially when people are more likely to leave negative reviews than positive ones. It’s good, because consumers should have more power, but you’ll need to be plugged into those conversations constantly to understand where your brand stands.”
TELEHEALTH: “Telehealth is becoming more prevalent from a service delivery standpoint. That trend isn’t going to stop. It’s good for patients and it’s good for us as service providers when people can access physicians via phone, video visits and e‑visits to get the care they need.”
VIDEO: “The television platform is dramatically changing with On Demand services, which allow viewers to skip commercials. Instead, people are being exposed to information in short snippets on the Internet, which makes creating and delivering strong short-form video content via the proper channels more important. This content should vary in length—anywhere from six seconds to two minutes can work depending on your platform and message.”
Final Thoughts on Consumer-Centric Healthcare Marketing
Based on his personal experience, Hollenkamp has important advice for marketing professionals who are joining a hospital or health system for the first time. His recommendations include:
KEEPING IT SIMPLE: “Don’t be overwhelmed by the complexity that exists in the industry. I think that can be a common pitfall. Instead, find out what your patients and consumers need and the pain points that exist for them. Work to understand your market and audience extremely well, then focus on delivering service and communication that address their needs.”
STICKING TO THE BASICS: “Determine your organization’s brand fundamentals and how your marketing strategy will fit into them. Focus on your organization’s goals and how you can advance them from a marketing, PR and communications standpoint, then determine what skills and capabilities are needed to do so. I think those are some of the most critical things to look at.”
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