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Defining a Buyer Persona for Healthcare Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

healthcare buyer personaThe marketing and advertising idea defining a “Buyer Persona” is well known in the retail world, but it’s a relatively new—and increasingly important—concept for doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers.

The nation’s healthcare delivery system is now consumer-centric and driven by informed and empowered “buyers.” Taking a page from the retail world, the consumer is thoughtfully gathering information and carefully weighing their healthcare purchase options.

Buyer Persona defined: “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.” [HubSpot]

You may have more than one buyer persona to define, but too much has changed in medical marketing to assume that you already know the answer. When you can deeply define and understand today’s informed consumer, you build a basis for a continuing relationship and gain a powerful insight to better serving their needs and doing so on their terms.

Everyone is not your patient.

As health care in America continues to redefine itself, and as competition continues to increase, providers no longer take patients for granted, assume they know their “buyers,” and/or simply see “the next patient through the door.”

Long before a typical consumer/patient calls for an appointment, they often do diligent research about doctors, medical practices and hospitals. The consider what you (and your competition) present on your website and blog. And they will consider what other buyers say via social media, online ratings and the like.

In short, they want to know a lot about you—your qualifications, reputation, location, etc—and ultimately the benefits that they believe you can deliver.

Here’s how to begin defining a Buyer Persona for healthcare marketing:

  1. Clean the slate. Pretend for a moment that you don’t know your ideal customer, patient, consumer or buyer. Let go of your biases and assumptions and work from a blank page.
  2. Don’t over-generalize. You’re painting a semi-fictional picture, but be as specific as possible. You will likely have more than one persona, so don’t let generalizations overlap.
  3. Do your research. The deeper you dig for details, the more refined and accurate your persona picture will become. Ask questions. Assemble information from several sources, including existing/previous patients, patient comments and survey data. Update regularly.

DEMOGRAPHICS: Chart the basic information such as gender, age range, education levels, occupation, household income, etc. Narrow any data ranges.

ACTIVITIES AND BEHAVIORS: What actions or activities are important in their daily lives? Determine their sources of information, both online and elsewhere. Does the patient use and rely on social media, word-of-mouth, referrals? What other characteristics define lifestyle or interests?

DREAMS AND EXPECTATIONS: What is the nature of their problem, needs or wants? How do they define satisfaction or answers to those needs. What is important or what happiness do they seek? What needs are not being met?

DECISION CRITERIA: What are the strongest reasons for buying? Do others influence their healthcare information gathering or decision process? What is their buying process and how quickly do they take action to seek services?

MEETING THE NEEDS: What, from the buyers perspective, is different, better, unique and/or compelling? How do we stand out from the competition? What do customers say that they like best about us? What can we deliver, and how can we deliver it, so that the buyer is delighted and satisfied?

Some doctors tend to distant themselves from “things retail.” But applying the concept of a Buyer Persona is, in fact, a technique that has been used successfully to move away from the old school, impersonal mass-market retail world to a personalized, customer-centric mindset.

A well-rounded and detailed persona provides a more intimate understanding of the customer/patient from a marketing perspective. And it reveals opportunities to more easily communicate value, open the door to better connectivity, and position your practice or facility to guide marketing strategy, and to deliver improved service and satisfaction.

Lonnie Hirsch

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