Although demand for joint replacement surgery continues to be robust, most healthcare marketers face saturated markets. Orthopedics remains one of the top volume producers for hospitals and that trend is not expected to change – for example, knee replacement procedures alone are expected to grow to a staggering 3.48 million surgeries a year by 2030. (In 2010, there were 244,000 knee replacements among Medicare beneficiaries.)
One way to break through the marketing din is to develop a content marketing strategy to reach and engage prospective patients at each point in their quest to alleviate pain and restore mobility. To do this, we need to understand how consumers discover, consume and share health information on-line; and the role of search and social interaction across the consumer decision or buying cycle.
Why content marketing?
More than ever, patients are seeking healthcare information, sharing experiences and selecting treatments and providers online. A few facts to consider:
- 55% of internet users look online for information about a certain medical treatment or procedure.
- 66% of internet users look online for information about a specific disease or medical problem.
- 60% say the information found online affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition.
Content marketing is strategy, not just promotion
Engaging the right audiences, in the right places, at the right time to drive revenue and build brand loyalty is the goal of content marketing. By mapping content to different stages of the consumer decision or buying cycle, marketers can reach prospective patients early in their decision process.
For joint replacement patients, this is effective because most of those considering surgery have been managing joint pain for years, through OTC medicine, exercise and nutrition. As their disease progresses, consumers begin looking for providers and alternative therapies to not only treat joint pain, but to “fix” the problem for good.
By understanding how patients’ needs change from early stage disease to consideration of surgery, you can develop strategies to reach and engage consumers much earlier in their decision process. Information and materials, communications channels, search terms and social topics differ at key decision points. Consider the following:
- Interest Stage: In this earliest stage of the decision cycle, joint pain patients are seeking information on causes of joint pain and relief of joint pain. The marketer’s goal is to raise awareness and stimulate demand for joint care services.
- Consideration Stage: When self-care or non-surgical interventions don’t provide relief or restore mobility, patients begin to seek information about providers and surgical treatments. The marketer’s job at this point is to differentiate clinical program offerings and providers.
- Trial Stage: Hardwiring the patient acquisition process is critical to convert consumer inquiries to appointments.
- Retention Stage: Delivering an exceptional surgery experience aids in retention. So does anticipating and offering information, services and medical supplies that support recovery and return to an active life.
- Advocacy Stage: Last but not least, marketers want to deliver content that creates brand ‘fans’ and fuels word of mouth endorsements.
Start with the end in mind
To get started, answer the following questions about your hospital’s joint replacement surgery marketing program:
- What are the specific marketing objectives? (e.g., increase volume of joint replacement surgeries)
- Who are the target segments? (e.g., aging adults with degenerative joint disease)
- What are their needs at various stages of joint disease? (e.g., pain management, evaluation and diagnostics, physician referral, etc.)
- What content, communications channels, activities and offerings will best meet those needs?
After mapping the hospital’s joint replacement content strategy to different points along the consumer buying cycle, the marketing tactics will fall into place. Then, the biggest challenge will be keeping up with savvy consumer demand.