A look inside the mind of our healthcare marketing guru
At Vimarc, we pride ourselves on being experts in our clients’ industries. From our company president down to our summer interns, it comes with the culture. That’s why we always jump at the chance to share our knowledge and show that we have what it takes to deliver on any project.
To prove that point, we sat down with President and CEO Richmond Simpson, whose work and knowledge in healthcare marketing has made him and our agency forerunners in the industry. We recently picked his brain on five big topics…
1. Is healthcare marketing different than other types of marketing? If so, how is it different? How do you adjust your strategy?
Healthcare marketing is in a transformation based on the changes in the healthcare industry. Because it is one of the few products that continue to escalate in cost, most carriers and employers are providing cost and quality data to employees, empowering them to make better buying decisions. Essentially, healthcare should be considered as a consumer product. Due to the movement to transparency of data, this is now possible. This is why you are now seeing more product and price advertising on procedures such as MRIs or hip replacements.
The unique difference lies in the compliance factor. For example, Medicare Advantage advertising is highly regulated by CMS, as is Medicaid communications by DMS, and the regulations continually change. Our job as marketers is to not only understand the product, but to be compliance experts.
2. What is the most effective marketing strategy or trend you are seeing in the healthcare industry?
Marketing hospitals may be different from marketing a Medicare Advantage plan, but both basically are recruitment strategies. Whether we are wanting to fill more beds or drive membership, it still involves presenting a unique selling proposition to differentiate your brand over the competition. To go back to the first question, the most effective strategy is to treat healthcare like a consumer product and give the consumer a reason to purchase. This involves getting away from the healthcare jargon and speaking in simple language.
The most effective strategies recognize the consumer condition. A great example is the multiple new partnerships between retail and healthcare, such as the Little Clinics in Kroger stores or Humana agents in Walmart stores. These healthcare companies are meeting the consumer on their terms as well as creating association with brands they know and trust.
3. Give an example of a successful campaign you have implemented. Why did it work?
Vimarc is contracted with Vitals, a New Jersey company that aggregates healthcare data to be used in consumer-purchasing decisions. They sell direct to health plans and large employer groups. Basically, they offer a program that allows the employee to go online and search for specific procedures in their area while providing cost and quality information. The employee receives a cash incentive if a lower-cost option is selected. It is a win for the employer, employee and the health plan by helping to lower the cost of care.
We rebranded the key product, SmartShopper, to be less corporate and more consumer-friendly by using the analogy of shopping for healthcare like consumers would shop for jeans. One of the elements was a tradeshow exhibit that actually looked like a retail store with racks of jeans and large displays. The campaign increased their sales by more than 100%.
4. What marketing trends outside of healthcare do you think will enter the marketplace?
I believe you will see a great deal more of reviews online for physicians, hospitals and procedures that will begin to impact selection. I also see more retail-type advertising and promotion. Co-branding will continue, especially in the Medicare Advantage space, whether it is with a provider or with a trusted nonprofit such as AARP. I believe it will get more specialized by procedure and marketers will take narrow expert positions through marketing and earned media.
5. Healthcare or non-healthcare, what is your favorite commercial/ad/campaign?
My favorite campaign is not one that I think is cute or funny, but one that creates measurable change. Vimarc has experience in educating the public on the impacts of addiction and has recently launched Findhelpnowky.org, a platform for families dealing with substance use disorders and seeking help. They can go to the site and see facilities with real-time availability, costs, and types of treatment in a specific area. Our objective was to create emotional communications that would drive visits, and it has been very successful in the first two months. I feel like we are a part of an important movement to keep people alive.
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