Medical marketers can’t differentiate their practices on procedures, doctors, or statistics alone. Storytelling inspires emotion, demonstrates empathy, and differentiates your organization.
The popular wisdom would have you believe that medical marketing and consumer marketing are two entirely different beasts. In some ways, that’s true: tight regulations, smaller audiences, and higher-stakes products and services distinguish healthcare from other verticals. But in an era that’s increasingly geared toward patient-centricity and healthcare “shoppability,” it’s time for medical marketers to take a page from the consumer marketing playbook.
As medical marketers, it’s not enough to tout the benefits of your practice, device, or treatment, and it’s especially not enough to do so with facts and figures. The best marketers, like the best healthcare providers, understand human needs and respond to them accordingly. In medicine, those responses are quality care and groundbreaking innovations. In marketing, they’re stories.
Here’s why storytelling works so well in healthcare marketing:
Storytelling Communicates Using Emotions
All too often, healthcare providers try to distinguish themselves from their competitors by touting their superior service or compelling success rates. But while those things are important, they’re unlikely to make a mark in a consumer’s memory. Storytelling, on the other hand, evokes an emotional response — and strong emotions are scientifically proven to improve memory.
Ads that can evoke strong emotions are far more likely to make an impression than facts and figures alone. People rarely remember what they saw or heard, but how they felt makes a genuine impression. This ad from UCHealth successfully plays on that principle:
The ad’s tender mother-daughter relationship combines with the unexpected twist at the end — tragically, it’s the young daughter who’s fighting cancer, not her mother — for a tear-jerking, powerful effect.
The Human Nature of Storytelling
The healthcare field is all about human interactions. Each day, healthcare providers hear, help, and heal patients, face-to-face. Most nurses and physicians work long hours in high-stress jobs precisely because they care about their patients so much — but sadly, the demands placed on healthcare professionals can often get in the way of those one-on-one interactions, limiting their time with patients.
In these cases, storytelling can help to communicate empathy, reassuring patients that their caregivers understand how they’re feeling and want to help them. Storytelling can do what words often can’t, providing comfort to patients — and studies show that storytelling in healthcare marketing works, fostering positive relationships between patients and their care providers.
Standing Out with Storytelling
Storytelling differentiates your healthcare practice, offering dimension to your brand in a way that doesn’t feel forced or artificial. It’s often easy for healthcare marketers to get caught up in the “what”: what services they offer, what doctors they employ, what conditions they treat. But based on just these facts, most medical practices look very much the same to consumers.
Storytelling offers a “why,” communicating your values, your history, your identity, and your goals for the future — and often without explicitly saying any of those things. This “why” expresses to patients that you truly care about their health and wellbeing, lending humanity to all the facts and figures and cultivating patient relationships that are built to last.
Focusing on storytelling doesn’t mean overhauling your whole marketing plan – all it takes to get started is a simple mindset shift. Try a few ad campaigns or a blog post that tells a story about a patient, a family, or an industry trend, and watch how patients respond. In future posts, we’ll outline a plan for implementing storytelling at your medical practice and give you tools for success.