Why Is Healthcare Trying To Sell Socks?

There are 1,541,335 people in the US named Paul.  Four thousand and thirty-five people are surnamed Roemer.  And there are twenty-one people named Paul Roemer.  Among those are a PhD economist, a basketball player, a few doctors, and a male model—and no, I am not the model.

All the Pauls are different, as are the Roemers, and the Paul Roemers.

What could someone who had something to sell market and sell specifically to the Pauls and the Roemers and the Paul Roemers?  They could sell a keychain with the name Paul attached to the fob.  And a nameplate for a desk to the twenty-one Paul Roemers.  And a headstone to the same twenty-one people.

There is nothing else they could market and sell if their intent was to sell a product or service targeting those specific groups of individuals.  The Wall Street Journal would not create a marketing campaign targeting the unique characteristics of the Pauls.  Ralph Lauren would not create a clothing line specific to the type of casual wear favored by the group referred to as the Pauls.

And I had a think.  I thought about marketing and selling and healthcare.

But if you think about the marketing campaigns of providers and payers and big pharma, their whole approach to marketing and selling is to sell to the Pauls–not to Paul.

Healthcare markets in one of two ways.  It markets to everyone, or it markets to specific groups of individuals.  It markets to prospective patients as though they were all gathered in a stadium.

A healthcare provider tells everyone listening to NPR about its unique cardiology treatment.  A payer runs a thirty-second ad about its coverage for cardiac patients.  And the pharmaceutical firm places an ad in People magazine extolling the wonders of its new Beta-blocker.

These campaigns fail first because they approach millions of cardiology patients, or any other group of patients, as a ubiquitous group—the Pauls.

The second reason it fails is because their entire approach is to purchase patients’ attention.  Healthcare’s approach is to market information.  Their strategy is outbound marketing—marketing information.  Outbound telemarketing is one example.

Patients and members want value, not information.  They want connected marketing and connected interactions.

While your organization is marketing to the masses, or even to a specific subset of individuals, patients, and members want you to connect with them—a specific Paul, not all the Pauls.  Elderly people are not all the same.  Nor are cancer patients or children.

While you are marketing to a stadium of people, the people in that stadium are interacting with you as individuals. There is only one caller on each call.  There is only one person at their computer or smart device looking at your website.  The same holds true for patient portals.  One patient portal does not fit everyone.

I want you to know me.  Healthcare does not know me.

The world has gone digital.  Healthcare has not.  In the digital world, individual patients go find what they need.  This requires healthcare to change how it approaches and interacts with people.  It requires inbound marketing.

Provider and payer call centers approach callers as though every caller is the same.

Payer and provider websites do the same thing.  One size fits all.  While that may work it you are selling socks, it does not work if you are trying to acquire patients and members, retain them, and manage their health.

Healthcare must change its strategy to be effective at consumerism and access and engagement.  Otherwise, you are just selling socks.

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