10 Ways Hospital Marketers Can Connect with Women

May 8, 2019

// By Kathy Selker //

Kathy SelkerWhile hospitals cater to everyone, their most influential consumers are women, who make 80 percent of health care decisions in America.

It’s important to segment and target by gender, but remember that women prefer gender-neutral marketing messages. With recent social media movements toward greater equality for women (in all realms, not just health care), women are more sensitive than ever to gendered messaging, and they dislike feeling pandered to.

Avoid “shrink-and-pink” tactics in favor of speaking to the human first and the woman second. Appeal to their active desire to be the best versions of themselves and portray them in marketing messages as actively engaged in decision-making. When women feel a hospital or health system understands the stresses and pressures they’re under, which can be compounded by health problems, they’ll feel reassured that your system can take care of all of their needs.

Here are four solid strategies with 10 components that can help you build successful marketing initiatives to reach female consumers.

Determine Audience Motivations

1. Segment audiences by needs and wants rather than demographics. Some women proactively shop for health care services, while others wait to engage until there’s a crisis. These choices often cross demographic lines and can be affected by determinants like whether they have young children, their education level, and the status of any chronic conditions that require ongoing care.

2. Determine the most important need for each segment. These often fall into three categories: quality of care, cost, and convenience. All three tend to be important to most segments, but one will rise to the top. For instance, convenience is likely to be more important to working moms, while quality may be more important for those who require specialist or chronic-condition care.

3. Determine how your organization differs from your competitors in meeting that need. Female consumers care more about how your system can directly benefit them than about what you say in your equity messaging. If you line up your value propositions against specific consumer needs, and market that instead of just touting your values, you’re a lot closer to earning new patients (and retaining existing ones).

Provide the Right Content and Guide Them to It

4. Develop a content marketing strategy. While many hospitals currently use content marketing (nearly 80 percent as of 2018), few have a strategy in place to support it. Once you’ve segmented your female audiences as suggested above, it’s easier to determine the needs they’re shopping for and to develop a strategy to give them answers.

Good content pays for itself by attracting new audiences and aiding in retaining existing audiences. Health forums on the web tend to be dominated by women, so part of your strategy should include publishing content on the forums where women congregate. It’s also a good idea to build a strategy for sharing your content on social media and encouraging your followers to tag their friends and family for whom the content might be appropriate. Facebook usage skews female and, per Facebook, women tend to share more about personal topics than men do, so a Facebook content strategy can pay off big.

5. Provide as much clarity as possible. Women who try to research hospitals on cost and quality often feel frustrated at the lack of transparency around this information; it’s compounded by factoring in what insurance will and won’t cover. Hospitals and health systems that work to provide clarity around this information will gain an advantage on the competition.

This can be accomplished in large and small ways; for example, you can devote sections of your website to it or build a calculating tool for consumers to use, or you can respond to consumer questions and complaints on social media with information about whom to reach out to for answers or issue resolution. When people see your system is committed to working with its patients/customers to provide a better patient experience around information clarity, their opinion of your system will improve.

6. Become a trusted source of information. Hospitals and health systems have a great opportunity to provide the exact content and information their patients and prospective patients look for. Women search for health information online more than men do, so ensure the content you create speaks directly to them. Draw on the expertise of your system’s medical staff to learn the questions women ask them most frequently, and work with your staff to create content that answers those questions. Then share that content via your social media platforms for exposure to the widest possible audience.

Engage Them with a Positive Consumer Experience

7. Work to improve the patient experience — and tell your patients and prospects what you’re doing. Best-in-class retailers like Amazon and Starbucks provide positive consumer experiences that keep their customers coming back. Consumers expect these sorts of solutions across industries, and health care is no exception. As startups continue to disrupt the industry by providing health care services stripped of problems around convenience, access, and cost transparency, patient experience is becoming more important. Women particularly value nursing care, so showing your female audiences how their experience with your nursing care is superior will speak to them.

8. Inform prospects about the technological tools you’ve built to improve the patient experience. If your hospital offers differentiators such as bedside infotainment units, an app that provides real-time surgery updates to families of patients, or a VR walkthrough of the hospital, let prospective patients know. Focusing on these sorts of perks shows female prospects that the hospital doesn’t just care for their medical needs; it also strives to serve their entire need set.

9. Amenities are key. They might seem like soft services, but women shop for hospitals based on them — particularly when they’re seeking a hospital for childbirth. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found nonclinical experience was considered twice as important as a hospital’s clinical reputation by those shopping for a hospital. Boston University discovered patients are willing to pay as much as 38 percent more out of pocket to stay in a hospital room that offers hotel-like amenities.

Don’t Forget the Follow-Up

10. Encourage patients to complete a post-survey about their care. Six out of 10 consumers look to Google for reviews, so when patients are released, encourage them to review the hospital on Google (and include a convenient link in their discharge paperwork). Also important to know: A large percentage of your social media followers, most of whom are likely women, have been to your hospital, whether for themselves or to visit a loved one. Make it a point in your social media strategy to speak to those existing customers. Engage them by inviting them to share their experiences with your hospital or by offering free wellness checks.

Kathy Selker is the president and CEO of Northlich, an independent full-service marketing and advertising agency, and the author of www.AimForThe80.com, a blog about marketing hospitals to women. Follow Kathy on Twitter @kathyselker.