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Do you ever get ads that just aren’t for you?

My bank regularly sends me information about a debit card for kids. They even print and mail me thick envelopes espousing the benefits of their kid-friendly card. No service fee! Monitor it and set limits!

These marketing efforts assume not only that I have a kid but also that said kid is old enough to create their own transaction history (which apparently is at age six).

The problem? You guessed it: I don’t have a child. And repeatedly getting these messages is frustrating. They clearly aren’t meant for me, and I’m irked my bank doesn’t pay enough attention to me to know that.

Any brand — including yours — can create a negative experience with seemingly harmless messages when they don’t pay enough attention to their audience.

Unlike other products or services, healthcare is a lifelong journey. So what your patients need changes over time. You can create individualized experiences that evolve with your patients through personalization journeys.

What is a personalization journey?

Personalization journeys customize the marketing and communication you send to someone over time. Marketers thoughtfully engineer a meaningful experience for people at every stage of their journey.

“Personalization lets us meet people’s needs before they even ask,” says WriterGirl Content Strategist Abbie Krajewski. “Organizations can create more unique experiences for their audiences by using data.”

Abbie points out that marketers have been personalizing advertising since the beginning. And as our data and marketing tools become more sophisticated, so can our personalization strategies.

In healthcare, we can use personalization to connect with people who want and need our services. For example, you can provide tailored information to specific at-risk populations. By giving them information relevant to their journey, you go beyond simply marketing — you start to build trust.

Personalization also means providing the right information at the right time and place. For example, millennials’ aversion to phone calls may be meme-worthy but don’t laugh it off. “Millennials don’t want a phone call. They want a text or an email. So don’t annoy them. Instead, listen to their preferences,” says Abbie.

Create one-on-one experiences

Healthcare is in a crunch. Amid workforce vacancies and slim margins, creating one-on-one experiences for customers might seem like a luxury. But even with tight budgets and staff, your team can prepare thoughtful marketing communications that make a patient feel like you’re talking only with them.

These one-on-one touchpoints contribute to a patient’s overall experience with your brand. They can extend the special connection with a primary care provider or mitigate the negative feeling of an overcrowded urgent care waiting room. Over time, personalization journeys can build brand affinity and help you retain patients.

How to get started with personalization journeys

The healthcare industry tends to be slower to adopt and become skilled at using new technology and techniques. But any team can start creating personalized marketing right now.

Start by implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) platform or electronic medical record (EMR) with messaging capabilities. This technology makes most digital personalization possible. But what if you don’t feel confident using your CRM?

“It can be really daunting to get into personalized marketing for the first time,” says Abbie. “If you’re feeling confused or stuck, now is a great time to bring in a consultant. A few hours of consultation with a content strategist who is knowledgeable about personalization can fast-track you.”

If a consultant isn’t in the budget, you can learn from thought leaders online or ask your healthcare marketing peers what’s working for them.

Chances are you’re already using audience segmentation, which Abbie mentions is a good first step on the journey to more personalized content. So now that you’ve identified different groups, address them in slightly different ways based on what you know about them.

You can create a campaign with different versions for each identified group. For example, if you serve in multiple cities or states, you could tailor messaging to each location.

Abbie recommends healthcare marketing teams first dive in with email marketing. It’s low-cost and easy to use. Plus, Abbie notes, you’ll develop your guiding principles as your journeys become more sophisticated.

“Getting started is a powerful thing,” says Abbie. “You can start out small, finesse your efforts, and then grow your strategy over time.”

Level up your personalization journey strategy

If you’ve already used personalization journeys, maybe you’re ready to bring things to the next level. One way to do that is through creating more complex journeys based on an individual’s actions or preferences.

WriterGirl recently worked with a large nonprofit health system in Florida to create emails for personalization journeys for their mobile app users. They developed dynamic communications with customized content based on each user’s experience with the app (their clicks, the features they used, etc.).

The team developed an automated marketing journey for each phase of app use: acquisition, onboarding, activation, retention, loyalty and re-engagement.

Circle flow chart showing the automated marketing journey through acquisition, onboarding, activation, retention, loyalty, and re-engagement.

How they introduced the app to first-time users (onboarding phase) differed from users who have already been using it (retention and loyalty). In the onboarding series of emails, messaging sets users up for success by educating them on the app’s features and benefits. Months later, once app users are in the retention and loyalty phases, they recieve emails that focus on maximizing their brand experience. Messages encourage them to make the most of the app features in a way that supports their lifestyle, such as setting medication reminders, uploading insurance cards and keeping a health journal.

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can also help you tailor communications based on specific patient needs and goals. “Everyone is still figuring this out,” says Abbie. “As AI becomes more accessible, I imagine we’re about to see a big boom in people creating more personalized content with the help of AI.”

Be personal, not creepy

At what point do things get too personal?

A patient’s healthcare information is highly protected and private. If you’re not thoughtful about how your marketing activities impact your audiences, you could breach their trust.

Avoid encroaching on someone’s personal bubble by first being aware of privacy laws and potential sensitivities. Then go one step further and proactively ask questions and get consent.

Do no harm

The cost of ill-informed, broad-stroke healthcare marketing can be steep. Think of the impact maternity messages could have on a patient who miscarried. Or weight loss promotions targeted to a broad group regardless of their history with eating disorders or individual care plan with their physician.

To avoid such scenarios, think through the possible negative outcomes before you start. Then, use your data to exclude sensitive audiences to the best of your ability. Even then, data is never perfect. So when crafting your messages, consider how you might avoid making assumptions while still offering a relevant service.

Extend an invitation

An even better way to make sure your audience will receive your messages positively: try asking. Even if your data says someone recently gave birth, invite them to subscribe to content about infant and toddler care before adding them to that journey.

Laws around using patient data for marketing are complex and evolving. “Asking users for consent is best,” says Abbie. “It could be as simple as saying, ‘You signed up for this birthing class. Would you like us to add you to our motherhood tips mailing list?’ Then ask for double confirmation.”

With this approach, you’re basing your personalized marketing on information patients have willingly told you.

Improve patient engagement

Marketers can feel nervous with an ask-first approach. What if consumers say no?

“Then they likely weren’t going to engage with your content anyway,” says Abbie. “Asking only makes your personalization journeys more beneficial to patients. Lead with goodwill.”

When presented as an invitation, Abbie finds people are eager to give consent. And you’ll have audiences within your personalization journeys that actually want to be there.

Consider the difference between a dinner party with eight close friends and a mandatory auditorium lecture for 50 busy physicians focused on their phones. Which audience is more engaged? By creating your own personalized dinner party, your marketing efforts will be more effective — and your results will show it.

Partner on personalization journeys with WriterGirl

Looking for a partner to support your personalization efforts? WriterGirl has content strategists who specialize in personalization journeys. You can use them as a guide to fast-track your marketing efforts.

If you feel like your strategy is set, our writers can skillfully create content tailored to specific audiences. Count on WriterGirl to bring healthcare marketing and writing expertise to every consumer journey.

Contact us to start creating your personalization journeys today.