Trust in Healthcare Marketing

The primary goal of early-stage marketing is to establish trust with your target audience. It is the foundation of all relationships and without it nothing happens – no messages are received, no calls-to-action taken.

Establishing trust in healthcare is extremely difficult. Not only are there a myriad of regulations to be aware of, there is also heightened sensitivity when medical data is involved. Anyone who markets a cloud-based Health IT solution or a healthcare service that collects patient information is immediately met with skepticism.

Google looks at your search patterns to better target ads that you might be interested in. Amazon mines past browsing and purchasing activity to make product recommendations that are more likely to be added to your shopping cart. Apple analyzes song lists and listening routines to better suggest songs you might enjoy.

As consumers we are now much more aware that our data is being used to better market to us.

Perhaps that is why the recent purchase of PatientsLikeMe by UnitedHealth Group has been met with public skepticism. They key question – will UnitedHealth use the information patients share on the platform to market to them (or worse to use that information to affect their coverage)? Or can it keep its fingers out of the pie?

Early statements from the company are what you’d expect to see:

“As always, we are committed to using your data for good, protecting your data, and advancing our understanding of diseases through your partnership,” an email to PatientsLikeMe users said. “There are no changes to the PatientsLikeMe name or your PatientsLikeMe membership. Our community and site remain a place where you can connect, track, and share with others as you’ve always done.”

For me, this acquisition highlights how important trust is to an organization’s success.

Just imagine if your target audience did not trust your organization? How hard would it be to generate interest in your marketing materials? How difficult it would be to build a pipeline of interested people?

So how can you build trust? Operating in a transparent manner helps. So does owning up to mistakes (not necessarily medical errors, but misstatements or incorrect facts), meeting people where they are, supporting common causes and of course, being personable.

But how can you build trust through marketing? And once built how do you maintain it?

I’ve used two tactics in the past that I found effective.

At one company I found myself in the situation where we had several outages of our service in the span of a few months which caused major disruptions for customers (they couldn’t see patients). When the second outage hit a week after the first, the Marketing Team took it upon ourselves to provide customers with email updates on the situation every 2 hours. These updates provided summaries of all the different things the technical team was doing to try and isolate/fix the problem. We even included things we tried that didn’t work.

The updates helped immensely. Not only did they help to curtail phone calls to the support desk, they also demonstrated our willingness to be transparent. Even though customers were mad, the regular communication helped to maintain trust.

At another company, we used content marketing to build trust…but not in the typical way. Instead of trying to establish our staff as thought-leaders, we chose instead to make our customers the star of the show. We took a handful of our best customers and we became their PR department – helping them land speaking engagements and quotes in articles. By letting our customers do the talking, we became known as a trusted solution provider much more quickly than if had tried to use our own voice.

Trust is a finnicky thing. It can be hard to build and extremely delicate to maintain. But it’s partly what makes healthcare marketing so interesting.

Please join us for the next monthly #HITMC tweetchat, Tuesday July 9th at noon ET, 9am PT (for your local time click here) when we will be discussing the following questions:

  • T1 What effective ways have you used to build trust with a target audience?
  • T2 What tactics have you tried that HAVE NOT been effective at building trust with a target audience?
  • T3 It’s not 100% Marketing’s responsibility to build trust. Who else should be involved from the organization and how have you gotten them involved?
  • T4 How can Marketing help when people lose trust in your organization/product? Like after an acquisition or a public incident (eg. data breach).
  • T5 Once you establish/re-establish trust in your organization/product, what’s next? What should Marketers do once they have the trust of an audience?
  • Bonus What brand or organization do you trust the most?

Image Credit

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

About the author


Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at HITMC.com. Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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The Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) is an extension of the HITMC conference that is the first of its kind event that brings together marketing and PR professionals from throughout the health care community. We strive to provide amazing marketing and PR related content that helps HealthIT companies and healthcare organizations  stand out amidst all the noise of the industry. If you’re looking to market to hospital executives, doctors, practice managers, patients, or other healthcare professionals, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the HITMC community!