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FEAR: Diagnosis and Treatment for the Forgotten Marketing Barrier

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

"Panic" and "Calm" street signs[What Stewart’s Reading Series] I was reminded recently that FEAR is one of the most powerful emotions at play in marketing and advertising.

On one hand, fear can encourage a purchase decision. Consider the amusing television advertisement where a klutzy neighbor saws off a giant tree limb and it crushes the adjoining homeowner’s car. It’s a light-hearted presentation, but the fear of potential accidents (and klutzy neighbors) sells homeowner insurance.

But the reverse is also true. Fear can be a significant barrier for patients facing healthcare decisions. And it’s easy for us—providers, hospital executives and marketing professionals—to overlook this emotional barrier. Everyone’s busy. For a physician or surgeon, the first order of business is to diagnose and treat the medical issue. But for the patient, the need is more deeply rooted...although the fear might not be obvious.

Of course they’re looking for a successful outcome, but that’s only the surface part of their fear. Trisha Torrey is a former patient who writes about fear in The Thought Leaders Project book about hospital marketing. In a compelling case for a comforting and convincing patient experience, she reminds us:

“The patient will choose the hospital that helps her feel least vulnerable. She needs a personalized experience—one that helps her understand that her care is focused on her.

“To be sure she chooses your hospital, consider providing the following—a point person at the hospital who can answer questions about her upcoming stay and videos that take her on a virtual tour of the hospital. Provide her with an explanation of the actual surgery itself, a demonstration of what the hospital recovery will be like, and permission to ask all personnel to wash and sanitize their hands."

Reading about patient feelings is a reminder that fear is a huge impediment in marketing—it’s a decision barrier that is often as significant as cost or price. And it’s also a reminder that first class medical care is incomplete without assuring that patient experience is also top notch. (Even if the anxiety is not immediately evident.)

Marketing take-away for providers and marketing….

Going through the motions, or lip service, is not convincing and seldom achieves a high level of patient satisfaction. We need to look deeper for the emotion and address fear proactively to be successful. Going deeper to allay concerns might, as we recommend to clients, include interaction between prospects and real patients. Other techniques might include awareness videos that go beyond fundamental “patient education” to include doctors, staff and satisfied patients.

We’ve written about a related idea ourselves in, The One and Only Reason People Buy Healthcare. The core concept is that people shop for, and buy, happiness or a greater well being for themselves.

Fear can stand in the way unless physicians, staff and facility leadership diagnose and treat anxiety, providing a healthy reassurance for patient concerns.  What Stewart’s Reading: The Thought Leaders Project: Hospital Marketing.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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