Why Healthcare Needs to Be Communicated in 6 Words or Less
“This is now up to me.”
They’re only six words. Yet those six words sum up the new era of healthcare marketing. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans are moving from healthcare participants to healthcare consumers, with the onus of responsibility and decision-making falling more and more on the individual.
Although medicine and technology are advancing at a rapid pace, healthcare marketing needs to take a step back. By simplifying marketing through focused development and precise communication, companies will reach more consumers and deliver a stronger, more direct message than ever before.
And because of what will soon become the “new normal,” I’m proposing a much-needed challenge to the healthcare industry.
The ‘Six Words or Less’ Challenge
Using just six words or less to define a product or service, convince a consumer, or tell a story sounds challenging, but it has the potential to transform a healthcare marketing campaign from wordy, divisive, and heavy-handed to motivating and highly personal.
Using Dan Campbell’s book, “Six Word Memoirs,” as inspiration, I challenged myself and my colleagues to write our own six-word memoirs to help us understand the power that just six words can have.
I’ll admit it was tough. Selecting the right six words proved harder than I thought. But, in the end, we found that summing ourselves up in six words did not oversimplify our lives or our stories; it highlighted what was truly important.
This led me to think about how this strategy could — and should — be applied to healthcare.
Healthcare marketing has understandably become complex. In fact, it’s become too complex for the new “consumers” it will need to sell its services to. Companies have desperately tried to set themselves, their services, or their products apart from the rest by dumping a mountain of information into every flyer, brochure, and ad spot. Potential customers are so overwhelmed by the jargon, statistics, and benefits lists that it’s easier to do nothing — take no action — than to make sense of it all.
With a shorter, clearer marketing message, consumers get more concise, specific information from the company. They see how a product or service can benefit them personally. In return, the company gets consumers who are more willing to take action and make smart healthcare decisions.
Discovering Your Six Words
To find the right six words for your marketing campaign, it’s important to apply four values to your process. These values will help you narrow your campaign and give it purpose and direction:
Marketers have historically lumped consumers into large groups, specified only by vague characteristics like gender or age. Or, worse, they’ve relied on mass marketing — the equivalent of casting a net into the marketplace and hoping to catch something. In contrast, the most successful marketing campaigns target specific audiences. The Internet has given marketers a rich supply of customer profile information and real-time analytics that allow marketers to define and refine messaging, rather than resort to shouting their message at the masses.
In a narrative, specificity is what makes a story pop off the page and come to life for the reader. It fleshes out an object or idea into something real, tangible, and relatable. It’s the difference between writing “the two consumers” and writing “Jack and Jane.” The latter turns a vague description into two real people. In healthcare marketing, using specific words and phrases always pays off.
In the healthcare marketing field, communicating to make consumers understand should be your primary goal. An overreliance on jargon or complex ideas makes most marketing messages too difficult to understand. And when consumers know they’ll have to work hard to understand something, they give up trying. To gauge clarity, ask yourself if the average person on the street would be able to understand what you’re writing within 30 seconds.
Too often in healthcare, marketers focus on fantastic technological advancements or the many innovative features of a healthcare plan. They spend so much time evangelizing all the ways their service or product is better than their competitors’ that they often lose sight of the one or two true reasons consumers would actually benefit.
As more people — not corporations — begin purchasing healthcare, companies need to dramatically alter their marketing messages to reach individual consumers. The companies that figure out how to do this will become the winners in healthcare marketing.
Healthcare marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. As consumers gain more control over their healthcare and medical decisions, they’ll connect more with companies that speak to them in a clear, relatable way. If you develop strong messages for your consumers using six words or less, what you say will be much more powerful and ultimately reach more consumers.
(Succinct healthcare marketing / shutterstock)
Todd Wolfenbarger has more than 25 years of senior marketing experience with Fortune 50 companies in various industries and with his own marketing consultancy. He currently serves as president and partner of The Summit Group, an award-winning marketing communications firm located on West Temple in Salt Lake City that specializes in the healthcare, franchise marketing, and consumer retail ...