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How patients can save a marketing campaign from falling flat

Let’s say a hospital or health system has recently purchased the latest and most technologically advanced surgical device for destroying cancer cells. The XYZ-3.0 (how about that fancy name?) sets the hospital apart from its competitors. Now, the marketing team is creating an online campaign to promote the device to health care consumers.

Here’s a rundown of the marketing content:

photo credit: BrotherUK Future of Surgery: Augmented Reality and Surgical Navigation Systems via photopin (license) 

  • The XYZ-3.0 is state-of-the-art—the latest of its kind to receive approval for regular use. It’s so new, their hospital is the only one in the region that offers it.
  • Their surgeons have received special training to use the device and have the expertise to maximize its potential.
  • The device allows for minimally invasive procedures, which means very small incisions, fewer complications, less pain and quicker recoveries. Patients can be back on their feet in days rather than weeks.
  • A small chart shows markedly improved patient outcomes compared to other surgical methods.
  • A rotating image of the XYZ-3.0 allows 360-degree views and offers descriptive text when the cursor hovers over image hot spots.
  • Quotes from their surgical team describe all the advantages of the new device.
  • A call to action includes a phone number and email address for scheduling surgical consultations.

These are all great facts to include with any promotional campaign for a new medical device. This campaign might be enough for the manufacturer to sell the device to a health system. But is it enough to attract patients?

What’s missing? A patient success story. Here’s a fictitious one I drafted:

Bill, 72, is a retired accountant who enjoys spending time hiking with his wife Liz and traveling across the country to visit their five grandchildren. They planned to take their oldest grandson to see Yellowstone National Park last summer, but had to put the trip on hold when Bill needed surgery for cancer.

During his first appointment at a local hospital, Bill learned he’d undergo a seven-hour procedure and would likely be laid up for four weeks. While the procedure has a fairly good success rate, he’d probably need additional surgeries.

Then, Bill and Liz visited our hospital and learned about the XYZ-3.0. The small incisions, improved patient outcomes and higher surgical success rate sounded very attractive to Bill. Liz especially liked the idea of avoiding further surgeries so her husband could resume his regular routine.

“Liz and I felt very fortunate to learn that [insert hospital name] is the only medical center in the area offering this advanced technology,” Bill says. “We felt reassured knowing the surgeons here have special training to get the most out of the XYZ-3.0.”

Bill had the surgery and experienced a wonderful recovery, thanks to the surgical team and the advanced techniques made possible by the XYZ-3.0. His cancer is in remission and he continues to see his oncologist for regular follow-up exams. Bill and Liz soon resumed traveling and fulfilled their promise to take their grandson to Yellowstone.

People respond best to a campaign when the marketing bullet points are wrapped within a story. To make a stronger impact, Bill and Liz could narrate their story in a short video clip that also features images of the surgical device, a quote from Bill’s surgeon, and photos from the Yellowstone trip with their loving grandson.

Stories are all around us: in books and songs, on TV and in films, even in the workday tales we share with friends at the bar or with family at the dinner table. Since childhood, we’ve been conditioned to love stories—short tales with a beginning, middle and end (think “Mother Goose”). Stories drive our lives and they should also drive marketing.

Health care settings are loaded with great stories: the heroic patients, the medical marvels, the brilliant surgeons. When you identify those great stories, the personal and relatable narratives, include them within your marketing campaigns as much as possible—and not just in the TV spots. You might even experience a gush of new business, kind of like Old Faithful.

photo credit: Jill Clardy Old Faithful via photopin (license)

Do you have a unique way of integrating storytelling within your marketing campaigns? Let us know in the comments section below.

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