One of the main reasons your B2B healthcare marketing isn’t performing as well as it could be, or isn’t meeting your goals, is that you are delivering expected industry content and messages.
Why is healthcare marketing so often conventional, conservative, and lacking creativity? Stating the obvious here, it’s because we exist in a highly regulated industry. As a result, we follow well-established, ingrained approaches to how we think about marketing.
As a marketer, you are likely challenged with keeping to brand guidelines (which are probably fairly conservative) BUT still on the hook to deliver on those lofty goals, achieve those coveted media placements, bring in those massive pipeline numbers, and get those #1 SEO rankings.
We recently finished our first book in our ‘CQ Book Club’: Using Behavioral Science in Marketing by Nancy Harhut.
It got us thinking and applying over seven pages of strategic and tactical ideas to enhance, optimize and refine marketing programs. We hope you will keep reading as we outline and challenge your thinking because how often do you challenge your agency to: “make us stand out from the crowd?”
I am going to give you three high-level takeaways from the time we spent with this book and a few supporting examples. As the saying goes, “You can have your cake,” … but I’ll only let you eat a piece, not two. You get to “eat it too” when you become one of our clients. 🙂
Marketing PSA: For those of you who majored in marketing or double majored in marketing and psychology (that was a “thing” when I was in college), this book is an excellent refresher in those consumer behavior courses we took.
3 B2B takeaways, dozens of actionable tactics
But first. What is behavioral science?
According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “a branch of science (such as psychology, sociology, or anthropology) that deals primarily with human action and often seeks to generalize about human behavior in society.”
- You can stand out in a cluttered and information overload society.
- B2B marketers! You are marketing to people, not buildings.
- The enemy is the status quo.
1. You can stand out in a 24/7 news cycle and information-overloaded society.
The question is, are you working to create an emotional connection with your buyers?
Your buyers, even B2B buyers, use rational reasoning, but it’s the emotion that drives action even for highly educated buyers, Harhut suggests.
As healthcare marketers, we are in luck; there is nothing more emotional or vital than the work we do to advance medicine, modernize technology, and get treatments to patients faster. Often we don’t take our marketing that last mile and translate it from buyer to the patient. We just stop at the buyer and focus on pushing features and benefits.
As our colleague, Melanie Hilliard famously says: “features and benefits don’t win hearts and minds.” Below is an example that stood out:
Example LinkedIn Ad:
Are hospitals the next Blockbuster video? Patients want competence and convenience. If your health system doesn’t provide it, your competition will.
What stands out about this ad:
- Instantly makes you ask, what do VHS tape and healthcare have in common?
- It’s striking and direct.
- Creates FOMO.
- Looks unique.
And guess what? It has generated 100 leads and still counting four months later.
Other tactics to leverage from Harhut:
- Loss aversion (time, money, objects)
- Keeping up with peers (benchmarking)
2. B2B marketers! You are marketing to people, not buildings.
Why do we continue to distinguish our marketing as not being to humans?
Dare I say it, B2B healthcare marketing is fun, creative, and it can be exciting. If we are not seeing a person on the other end of what we are writing, designing, or building, how are we reaching their essence? Getting B2B marketing right means we get to people’s emotions, wants, fears, and desires as business professionals.
We are all in this business to “[insert verb] patient outcomes” – a common value that drives all of us. But every single organization in the healthcare industry is saying this. Below is an example of being human and speaking to humans:
Example of a content strategy:
One of our clients in the patient experience category, was struggling to sound different from their competition. We encouraged them to flip the script on its head and create messaging, content, and designs with the nurse and patient in mind.
We are doing it differently by creating content stories in which the buyer and user can picture themselves. Here’s how:
- Developing a brand mascot and giving their content a persona: Meet the newest member of your care team.
- Working one of the five senses into every piece: A day in the life of a nurse who doesn’t have to update those dirty whiteboards.
- Using one of the three C’s (creativity, conversational, controversial): Put your patient in the driver’s seat to help them get discharged sooner.
Other tactics to leverage from Harhut:
- Personal profiles that relate to why an employee works at your company. For example, if you are a life sciences organization and one of your employees has a rare disease, would they be willing to share their story and how working for your company fulfills something in them?
- Choose something that happens often, is extremely memorable, or is a salient painpoint to the audience. For example, if you work at a health system asking stakeholders do you know how dirty your hospital curtain is? When was the last time your privacy curtains were exchanged?
- Use … make them stop in your tracks … imagery that triggers a visceral reaction. Yes, that means you might have to invest in creating your own custom photo library with a photo shoot. Show something broken/negative and/or what using your product actually looks/feels like.
3. The enemy is the status quo, yet, you expect different results.
The good news, as you can see from the examples above, is that nobody is suggesting you change your entire content or messaging strategy. This is about stepping back and pivoting how you think and apply some of these behavioral science ideas to your marketing so that it becomes second nature in your content creation.
Part of combatting the status quo is to compare your marketing against that of your top competitors. Know where the bar is and figure out how to surpass it … and keep surpassing it.
- Are you subscribed to their newsletters? Do you follow their LinkedIn pages? How often are you checking their news pages?
Another way to fight the status quo is staying current with the news cycle and publishing content that is relevant to the stories of today, for example:
- Activate a recency and frequency bias by tying it to the news. Share your perspective on major stories like the Inflation Reduction Act, health equity, FDA approvals, updates to payer requirements, etc.
Other ideas to leverage from Harhut
- Pose contrarian viewpoints.
- Imply control by reminding your prospects and customers they have a choice.
- Push yourself and your leadership to position themselves against competitors; force the choice. We know this is a really sensitive one for many of you reading this.
- Position your products and services against the status quo. “You can’t do ______. Actually, now you can, with _______.”
- Highlight multi-part content or emails to pique your audience’s interest. Example: Tip 1 of 3 to achieve XYZ.
Thanks, Nancy! And a final plug; one element we all loved is the ‘Key Takeaways’ summary that appeared at the end of each chapter. It makes this book a desktop companion for us to easily refer to a particular topic and serve as a quick reference to support us when we are stuck or need an idea.
Harhut, N. (2022). Using Behavioral Science in Marketing. KoganPage.