The patient is the heart and soul of any medical practice. Supporting patients and their loved ones through some of life’s most important, and often most difficult, moments is the mission of every healthcare provider.
However, the practice of medicine is also, fundamentally, a business. After all, you can’t do this vital work if you can’t reach the ones who need you most. This is where the significance of digital marketing shines through. A robust online presence and, in particular, the creation of a strong, functional medical website, can be instrumental in helping you acquire new patients and build meaningful relationships with existing ones.
The problem, though, is that all too often medical websites are geared toward a homogenous target audience that has little relevance or attraction for diverse patient populations. The result is a digital marketing strategy that threatens to reinforce the marginalization of traditionally disenfranchised patient populations, including people of color.
This article provides strategies for instituting marketing and design practices that will help your medical website stand out, increasing your access to historically underserved patient populations, including Black patients.
Understanding Your Target Audience
When it comes to developing a marketing and design platform that effectively reaches your target audience and solicits their engagement, the first and most important priority is to understand who your target audience is, what they want, and what they need.
Doing this, of course, is no mean feat. It requires both a strong grasp of consumer psychology and deep insight into your ideal customer persona. For consumers of health services, the most effective marketing strategies will be those that emphasize the provision of compassionate and highly competent care. But this is only the baseline of what a healthcare consumer can expect when seeking a healthcare provider. They’re also going to want a healthcare team that knows, understands, and cares about them as individuals as well as members of a diverse community. Diversity and inclusive marketing approaches are of particular value in bringing this goal to fruition.
Marketing to Diverse Health Communities
The credo and guiding mission of the healthcare community is to first do no harm. For far too long, however, inequities within the healthcare system have contributed to disproportionate rates of morbidity and mortality in the Black community.
The good news, however, is that health systems are increasingly recognizing the long-standing racial disparities in both healthcare access and quality of care for Black patients and are taking proactive steps to address them.
Diversity in healthcare has become a core focus of healthcare practice and health policymaking. In light of this, the onus rests with healthcare marketers to reflect and respond to this shift toward diversity and inclusion within the healthcare system. After all, Black health consumers will never benefit from the health system’s move toward greater diversity if they are not first made aware of this ideological and tactical shift.
Making healthcare marketing more inclusive involves reimagining how audiences are represented as well as addressed. This means crafting marketing content that is more reflective of the lives and experiences of members of diverse communities while at the same time avoiding the stereotypes that are often not only just false but also misleading and offensive.
Diversity in Marketing Teams
If you’re seeking to more effectively reach Black patients with your medical website marketing and design, then building a marketing team that is as diverse as the audience you want to target is an ideal first step. There are, after all, cultural, social, and historical experiences that simply can’t be encapsulated in or captured through standard market research.
However, when you incorporate marketing team members who derive from the same communities you wish to speak to and serve, you’re going to have a depth of insight into the community perspective that might otherwise have been impossible.
For instance, members of the Black community may have unique and specific mental healthcare needs that neither clinicians nor marketers have been professionally trained to recognize. This might include, for example, anxiety and depressive disorders relating to generational trauma, systemic racism, and community violence.
Healthcare marketing approaches that speak to these particular needs, using the mental health-related discourse of the target community can help reach patient populations that have for too long been either misunderstood or entirely ignored by more traditional marketing strategies.
Diversity in Market Research
Diversifying your marketing team is one important prong in a broader strategy for better understanding and connecting with patients in the Black community, however. It is also incumbent on healthcare marketers to engage with the communities they seek to target.
This might include on-the-ground research using open-ended interviews and research surveys, or it may involve online studies, such as the analysis of online patient reviews, comments, and complaints.
Turning to a variety of social media platforms and online forums, particularly those oriented toward members of the Black community, can be an invaluable way to identify critical gaps not only in healthcare service but also in healthcare branding. You may also solicit similar information by developing and maintaining active discussion forums on your medical websites and social media. This kind of active engagement with the patient community can help you better understand the audience and to target your marketing strategies and website designs accordingly.
For far too long, persons of color have been marginalized and underserved by the healthcare system. This has contributed to systemic racial inequities in healthcare access and quality, resulting in disproportionate rates of morbidity and mortality in the Black community. In recent years, however, efforts to redress racial bias and inequities in healthcare have continued apace.
Healthcare marketing is striving to keep in stride with these efforts. Indeed, proactive measures to more effectively reach Black patients are critical to the development of marketing and design tactics that will truly make your medical website stand out. The key lies in understanding who your target audience needs, what they want, and what they expect.
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, activism-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.