April 4, 2017

How are we already nearing the end of Q1? As a healthcare marketer, you're probably feeling that pressure to show how you've delivered on your goals for the year so far. How are your campaigns running? How's the big consumer engagement initiative? Is your brand performing as well as it should be overall? Now is the perfect time to review your healthcare marketing strategy. Even if you're hitting your marks and things are going really well, and especially if you aren't, it never hurts to look for new ways to improve your go-to-market strategy. Enter the new approach of design thinking. Early in your career, you may have been taught the 4 P's marketing recipe: product, price, promotion, and place. While this approach was useful in the days when consumers went to physical stores and relied on phone books to tell them where to find products and services, it's lost some of its potency now that advertising is a widespread, digital, and deeply personalized experience. The question, then, is how do marketers get consumers to listen to them through all the noise?

Applying the principles of design thinking to healthcare marketing gives you the opportunity to step aside and look at your efforts with fresh eyes, which is never a bad thing. So what is design thinking?

Design Thinking: A Primer

Design thinking, while it sounds like something just for artists and architects, is more about the process of creating a product or service. If you want customers to come to you, you have to offer them something they want. The production process is undertaken with the end-goal firmly in mind: what do our customers want from us? You can apply design thinking to marketing strategy as much as management styles.

Econsultancy discusses ways that, as a marketer, you can implement design thinking, adding the vital step of being customer-centric. This consumer focus is a necessary step in this age of healthcare consumerism. We all know brands who have suffered from poor crisis control, when all they really needed to do was listen to their consumers.

So now marketers can add a fifth P to their P's recipe: People.

Fjord, the design and innovation consultancy owned by Accenture, has outlined its approach to service design, which applies design thinking across these five P's.

People: What are the needs, hopes, fears, and pain points for people? They may be customers, staff, or third party partners and suppliers.

Products: What products, physical and digital, are in place, and are their benefits clear?

Place: Where are the products or services delivered, and what is that experience like?

Process: Where are the inefficiencies, forms, and frictions in the process?

Performance: What's the performance of the whole, from a customer perspective and from the perspective of the business?

Product design company IDEO considers customer respect to be the ultimate rule in design thinking and has even developed a handbook of design research ethics for all involved in the process.

From PepsiCo to IBM, companies all over the world are embracing design thinking in their office layouts, management structures, and product offerings. Design thinking may start with the product department, but ultimately it is in your marketing department's best interest to adopt a design thinking approach since you're the direct channel to the consumer.

Designing the Healthcare Marketing Experience

Healthcare is a deeply personal consumer experience. Your customers trust you with not just financial and security information (which is a bigger deal than purchasing music or groceries) but also their hopes for an answer to their suffering. This is not the kind of trust that's given freely, especially if the consumer has been burned before.

So don't just include customer-focused pleasantries in your marketing materials and expect that to be enough. Walk the talk.

Design thinking requires marketing and production to work together to determine that core premise.

  • You can apply design thinking to the programs that promote your services and service lines, such as how you create events or the educational materials you produce.
  • You can apply design thinking to the clinic experience such as the layout of the reception area and the tools used in the consultation rooms.
  • You can apply design thinking to communications materials such as websites, admission guides, and on-hold messages. Your online advertising may need to be revisited if you're just broadcasting messaging and not providing a personalized experience.
  • You can even apply design thinking to the way your employees interact with the patients.

Where does design thinking fit in with your healthcare marketing strategy? Everywhere. You don't ever have to stop applying design thinking. If you need to adjust your strategy to incorporate a new finding from your consumer research or patient experience surveys, then you are doing design thinking right — the world is always changing, so you should stay flexible.

Want help evaluating how you're doing in your healthcare marketing efforts so far this year? Request a Free Healthcare Marketing Assessment.