In the wake of the pandemic, people are reexamining their living spaces, work environments and lifestyles. At the top of the list for change is rethinking healthcare options and reengaging with providers now that vaccines are available and protective procedures have been implemented in offices.
Of course, we have plenty of care to catch up on. That creates new challenges, and a real opportunity for healthcare marketers.
Dentists as a case study of the opportunity
According to PR Newswire, 28% of consumers didn’t schedule a dental visit during the pandemic, along with significant drop-offs in morning brushing and flossing and increases in snacking on sweets. But this pent-up demand is offset by two very important industry factors:
- Dental offices are merging and consolidating. Many private dental practices are merging into bigger practices to gain efficiencies and offset the cost of new elective approaches, while 7% of dentists are considering mergers to manage education debt. As a result, Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) are estimated to grow 15% over the next five years.
- Patients are a moving target. A quarter of 2020’s movers were motivated by the pandemic, which uprooted many in search of a better living environment and more space in places that weren’t historically top destinations, choosing suburbs and rural locations over the crowded east and west coasts.
These dynamics should prompt healthcare marketers to effectively identify this new mover consumer to communicate changing practice dynamics and offerings, while reaching these potential patients where they are, in the moments that matter.
Moving Along the Path to Appointment
Reaching people with the right media and message is critical as they travel the increasingly non-linear path to engagement. Influencing healthcare consumers can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. The key is to find them and then give them a reason to try and to stay.
Now, dental patients do have a penchant for switching: Our research reports that 44% of patients frequently switch dental service providers. However, almost three-quarters of them also take the time to research healthcare options at least a month before deciding.1
Add to this that movers in general are more influenced by online, print, mobile and TV media. For the Medicines category, Prosper Insights reports that those planning to move within the next six months choose online media as their first choice, but that is closely followed by print media. In fact, 80% of new movers will redeem direct mail offers before, during and after a move.
Sixty-two percent of patients select a healthcare provider based on the office being at a convenient location. Therefore, consumer messaging should absolutely stress office accessibility in addition to engaging potential patients at the right times and in the right media along the way.
The bottom line is that the healthcare consumer, and particularly those who are moving, are actively seeking healthcare providers. So, the opportunity to engage and convert them is ready and available.
Finding healthcare consumers ready to decide
Of course, advertisers need to distinguish between the pre-mover and the post-mover, since they have very different sets of needs and decision-making modes. But that’s easily solved with vendors who offer great data sources — such as new homeowner deeds or new utility connect information — and predictive modeling of purchase intent can be achieved by ingesting data regarding the likelihood of moving based on weekly store visitation patterns.
Taking advantage of the opportunity
Healthcare practices have been changing to be more efficient and to better accommodate the needs of the post-pandemic consumer. As healthcare provider growth continues to accelerate and consumers continue to explore new places to live, the best strategy will be multitargeted, multichannel and frequent. Meeting these new movers wherever they are and with whatever media channels they choose will guarantee that healthcare providers stand out from the competition. That initial engagement will be just the first of many steps toward a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship with their new neighbors.
1. Valassis Awareness-to-Activation Study, January through March 2020
Susan Maurer is client strategy director for Valassis, partnering with clients to drive revenue. She has over 20 years of experience working in verticals such as CPG, Telecom, Healthcare and Finance, with a focus on using insights and strategy to help clients realize their consumer engagement objectives.