Crisis Marketing Is More Important Than Ever in Health Care

by | Apr 2, 2020 | Content Strategy

The data is clear: During times of crisis, organizations that fine tune their marketing strategies to evolving customer needs come out stronger on the other side. 

Depend­ing on the size and scale of your orga­ni­za­tion, COVID-19 has either con­sumed every ounce of your focus (and ener­gy) or had a less dra­mat­ic impact. No mat­ter your per­son­al impact, mar­ket­ing health infor­ma­tion dur­ing a cri­sis has proven to be a chal­lenge. The pan­demic’s impact could mean new time pres­sures and resource con­straints for your cur­rent ini­tia­tives to meet exist­ing patient demand.

Here at True North Cus­tom, we’ve seen a mix of both sit­u­a­tions and we are com­mit­ted to guid­ing clients on how to effec­tive­ly tai­lor con­tent and cam­paigns to ensure the health of their com­mu­ni­ties and organizations.

Con­sid­er­ing the caveat that no two health­care orga­ni­za­tions are alike, there are sev­er­al rea­sons that we—along with thought lead­ers like Atri­um Health Senior Med­ical Direc­tor of Pop­u­la­tion Health Zeev Neuwirth, MD—see mar­ket­ing as a linch­pin dur­ing chal­leng­ing times like these.

To illus­trate, here are a few key rea­sons why we rec­om­mend that health­care orga­ni­za­tions main­tain a mean­ing­ful, con­sis­tent brand and out­reach strat­e­gy to gen­er­ate favor­able out­comes now and into the future. Let’s explore how this busi­ness prin­ci­ple trans­lates to health care, and how mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions lead­ers can dri­ve long-term suc­cess for their brands.

Your community needs healthcare information now more than ever.

The demand for online health­care con­tent has been on the rise for sev­er­al years and has now explod­ed, with the major­i­ty of U.S. house­holds work­ing and edu­cat­ing their chil­dren from home. This is cre­at­ing a surge of up to 50% more Inter­net traf­fic than the same peri­od last year, and hos­pi­tal and health sys­tem web­sites are among the most trust­ed sources of infor­ma­tion on coro­n­avirus as illus­trat­ed in the chart below from a recent NRC Health study.


By engag­ing these con­sumers with health­care con­tent that edu­cates them on COVID-19 issues, eas­es their anx­i­ety and encour­ages them to take the most appro­pri­ate actions, your brand can cre­ate affin­i­ty that lasts long after the pan­dem­ic has passed.

Your service line prospects need a pathway to treatment.

That grand­moth­er who needs a hip replace­ment, the father prepar­ing for weight-loss surgery and a mom stress­ing out about her non-malig­nant tumor are cer­tain­ly con­cerned about COVID-19—and still seek­ing to address the phys­i­cal and/or emo­tion­al pain caused by their health issues.

It’s imper­a­tive that health­care orga­ni­za­tions stay con­nect­ed to these con­sumers, as demand will only grow as sup­ply is con­strained. In fact, a sur­vey of 1,000 con­sumers on their sen­ti­ment dur­ing COVID-19 found half (50%) are plan­ning to pur­chase health­care ser­vices in the next 30 days.

Rather than paus­ing cam­paigns pro­mot­ing these and oth­er non-COVID ser­vices, we rec­om­mend adjust­ing con­tent and calls to action to acknowl­edge the sit­u­a­tion and secure their place in line. For exam­ple, peo­ple who con­vert on a form pro­mot­ing spe­cial­ty appoint­ments can receive a mes­sage to the effect of, “We’re not accept­ing new patients right now, but please pro­vide your con­tact infor­ma­tion and we’ll reach out as soon as we can to sched­ule an appointment.”

This allows your orga­ni­za­tion to col­lect infor­ma­tion from these can­di­dates, expe­dite their treat­ment and enhance their over­all patient expe­ri­ence now and when restric­tions are loos­ened and capac­i­ty becomes available.

Your organization needs a short- and long-term marketing strategy for virtual care.

In the near term, tele­health and oth­er vir­tu­al care options are expand­ing to address imme­di­ate health needs and reduce risk of COVID-19 infec­tion. Longer term, your orga­ni­za­tion needs a strat­e­gy for scal­ing and pro­mot­ing these ser­vices as con­sumers get accus­tomed to seek­ing a med­ical diag­no­sis via screen—and offer­ing a fric­tion­less expe­ri­ence becomes their base­line expectation.

Of course, the spike in demand for vir­tu­al care is caus­ing many sys­tems to expe­ri­ence capac­i­ty issues so the imme­di­ate needs are more like­ly relat­ed to oper­a­tional­iz­ing the tech­nol­o­gy and train­ing on cod­ing require­ments. How­ev­er,  now is the time to think strate­gi­cal­ly about how to posi­tion your orga­ni­za­tion as the best choice for care in the set­ting that’s right for your consumers.

Whether your favorite adop­tion curve apho­rism is “the tooth­paste is out of the tube” or “the genie is out of the bot­tle,” there’s typ­i­cal­ly no turn­ing back once peo­ple get com­fort­able with more advanced technology.

To facil­i­tate vir­tu­al care ini­tia­tives dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, we rec­om­mend point­ing urgent care patients to tele­health as an alter­na­tive to in-per­son vis­its, as well as redi­rect­ing top-of-the-fun­nel con­ver­sions for pri­or­i­ty ser­vice lines. For exam­ple, some­one who is research­ing for same-day surgery options and down­loads a guide can be direct­ed toward a COVID-19 updates land­ing page that high­lights the organization’s cur­rent poli­cies with a call to action to sign up for week­ly email updates on the evolv­ing situation.

Your leadership needs insights on the market.

A clear view of brand per­cep­tion, con­sumer pref­er­ences, geo­graph­ic mar­ket dynam­ics and oth­er met­rics still matter—and will be even more impor­tant when the dust set­tles. Rev­enue growth was the top pri­or­i­ty before the cri­sis, and rebound­ing from the finan­cial impact of COVID-19 will be para­mount as the virus dis­si­pates and health­care orga­ni­za­tions com­pete for pent-up demand.

Mar­ket­ing has a unique van­tage point into these strat­e­gy dri­vers and oth­er areas that can inform deci­sions. Keep­ing your team informed and clar­i­fy­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion dur­ing the cri­sis is crit­i­cal, and will ensure the most effec­tive invest­ments and oth­er strate­gic ini­tia­tives for long-term success

Your peers need to be informed and inspired.

The “we’re in this togeth­er” mind­set is per­me­at­ing through­out health­care, and main­tain­ing team morale is crit­i­cal to meet­ing expec­ta­tions from all stake­hold­ers, includ­ing patients, con­sumers, physi­cians and board mem­bers dur­ing the crisis.

Your organization’s mes­sag­ing strat­e­gy and active pres­ence on the web­site, social media and oth­er plat­forms should cel­e­brate those going above and beyond to care for the com­mu­ni­ty. Blog and social posts focus­ing on Health­care Heroes are see­ing engage­ment rates high­er than oth­ers, reflect­ing a sense of com­mu­ni­ty that your con­tent can help fos­ter through sto­ries of sac­ri­fice and hope.

Your competitors are either doubling down … or going dark.

Either way, now is not the time to scale back and shrink away from your audi­ence. Notwith­stand­ing finan­cial emer­gen­cies, a short-term response to cut a rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing func­tion sends a mes­sage that com­mu­ni­ty out­reach and patient acqui­si­tion aren’t priorities—and that could have last­ing impact beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

We pro­pose tak­ing a strate­gic approach to piv­ot­ing your mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives that reflect the real­i­ties of the day, with­out com­pro­mis­ing the brand per­cep­tion and rev­enue growth oppor­tu­ni­ties of tomorrow.

We’re Here to Help

Our health­care mar­ket­ing experts can share insights and best prac­tices based on part­ner­ships with orga­ni­za­tions like yours.

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