It’s that time of year again – when families gather, dishes are passed, stories are told (or retold), and we take a moment to connect around the table with those we love. It’s also the time of year when organizations are making plans and setting goals, looking forward to Q1 of a brand new calendar year. As our critical access and community hospital clients put together their marketing plans for 2020, we thought we would share five health care marketing lessons learned around the Thanksgiving table.

Lesson #1: Learn About Those Coming to Dinner

Before you host an event, you learn about those coming to dinner. Is your son bringing his new girlfriend who happens to be a vegetarian? Is Aunt Shirley insisting she bring her famous oyster stuffing to pass? Will your cousin be bringing the twins – one of whom is gluten sensitive and the other who is a picky eater? As you plan your menu and activities, you think about the individuals gathered around the table – what matters to them, what they like, what they don’t and how to make dinner the best experience possible.

For your marketing planning, dedicate as much attention and specificity to examining who is coming to your locations, what they need, and their experience when they get there. From data analysis to persona development, community hospitals need to employ techniques to learn more about their current and prospective patients than just their zip code. Digging into those demographic, psychographic and behavioral details will help shape not only what is offered by your hospital, but how it is communicated to your patients.

Lesson #2: Don’t Invite Guests to a Dirty House

Hosting company is a perfect excuse to tackle those cleaning projects you’ve been putting off. Just like you would never invite guests to a dirty house, marketers should consider their “virtual front door” before inviting patients to take a look. Overwhelmingly, the first impressions your patients have of you will be from your digital presence, so clean up your website, social media, and online reviews before investing significant marketing dollars.

Lesson #3: Make Sure You Can Accommodate Everyone You Invite

You’d never invite 50 people if you know your dining table can only set 12. Before promoting procedures or departments, make sure the care team has the availability to see the patients who will (hopefully) respond to the marketing. Encouraging a patient to call when there aren’t available appointments is the perfect way to send them to your competition.

Lesson #4: Some People like the Big Game, Some Prefer the Parade

Thanksgiving at my house divides into two camps – those who want to watch football and those that prefer the parade. How people receive their information – and the information relevant to them at any given point in time – varies dramatically. For your marketing budget, allocate a media mix that makes sense for what you are promoting. Are you building brand? Large-scale billboards, digital display ads and media relations keep you top of mind. Do you have a goal to drive volume in specific practice areas? Then consider a mix of search engine marketing, television and radio with specific calls to action.

Lesson #5: Recognize the Holidays Can Be Stressful

For most of us, the holidays bring a level of stress. The same is true when it comes to our health. It serves providers well to remember that our patients often come to us in extremely vulnerable states. They may be in pain, uncertain, worried or confused. It’s our responsibility to help our patients hear and understand what they need to know about their care. As you develop a marketing plan, focus attention on the information you’re providing before, during and after a patient visit. Consider the entire experience and ask your communications team – as well as the care team – if there are ways to simplify, clarify and streamline. Make every interaction, every touch point, as personal, reassuring and clear as possible to reduce the stress of the situation. In doing so, you’ll earn the trust and loyalty of your patients.

From all of us at Chartwell Agency, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. We look forward to working with all of our health care client to help set the table for a happy, healthy 2020 for their organizations and communities.