By now, we have all seen the articles, blog posts, and other content on consumer trends in healthcare marketing for 2018. From Artificial Intelligence and big data to value, there is no doubt the industry will continue to transform and consumer expectations and behavior will keep pace with the changes. And, while it’s tough to predict the future, there is a place to look and get an idea as to what will occur down the road; the rearview mirror.
According to Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos, this is often the first place he looks when predicting future trends and changes. Amazon is one of the most innovative companies on the planet, yet it was (and still is) built on a premise that is very down to earth: focusing on what’s not going to change.
Bezos is frequently asked to comment on “what’s going to change in the next ten years?” His answer may surprise you.
“While that’s an interesting question, I almost never get the question, what’s not going to change in the next ten years. And that’s the most important question because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in times and will be true ten years from now. It’s impossible to imagine a future ten years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘I don’t want great prices, faster delivery, and more selection.’” So rather than try and predict what will change, he focuses on what will stay the same and makes Amazon’s deliverables even better. And that’s a model all marketers can follow.
So, what’s not going to change in 2018 that healthcare marketers can make even better for consumers?
- Customer Service – consumers want the ability to see and be seen. From online patient portals and apps to getting an appointment within 24 hours or less, consumers want service from their selected provider. This demand is only going to increase and challenges marketers to evaluate their customer service programs and protocols to meet these needs.
- Competence – most people have access to “world-class” care. Some might have to travel a little farther for it, but – according to focus group studies – it is a small inconvenience for excellent care. There are a lot of ways to differentiate your healthcare brand, but if you’re a provider, the cost of entry is medical and professional competence. Marketers need to know their brands level of knowledge and distinction in this important area.
- Compassion – while most consumers will cite “competence” as their number one selection criterion for a provider, a close contender is how they are treated. It’s still healthcare, and people expect to be cared for and that’s not going to change.
- Convenience – while willing to travel farther for medical excellence, most healthcare interactions are not critical. Consumers want to access their favorite healthcare brand in as many ways as possible. More than ever, healthcare marketers have greater opportunity to become involved in the distribution channels of their brands physically, socially, and technologically.
- Cost – people are focused and obsessed on healthcare prices. This has been the case for the last 20 years and is unlikely to diminish anytime soon. Consumers still have out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles regardless of their coverage and remain actively involved in trying to figure them out. It might not influence their selection, but it certainly needs to be transparent and easier to understand.
- Confidence – studies show that when it comes to their favorite brands, consumers have confidence in them. Things just work and the people associated with the brands are smart. Healthcare brands, even more so, have to exude this level of trust and dependability with each piece of new technology, diagnosis, and treatment plan.
- Clarity – healthcare is confusing. Good marketing programs seek to simplify the big words and the confusion around people’s care in terms of who’s associated with what and how they are all linked together.
As we enter the New Year, yes it’s important to look ahead and think into the future. But it’s also important to look behind and get a sense of what’s not going to change and how healthcare organizations can better deliver on the tried and true expectations of their customers.
Best advice – clean your headlights, but also shine up your rearview mirror.