By Kelley Connors
MPH, President and Chief Creative Officer
KC Healthcare Communications, LLC
Warren Buffet said it best. ” Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
It couldn’t be more compelling than in the health care space where big pharma, medical devices & diagnostics, insurance companies and hospitals influence your health today, your retirement tomorrow, and a good portion of the nation’s GNP. It’s compelling because the level of trust consumers have in your health brand or organization influences value. With women as THE health and health care influencers, marketers have a powerful ally to help a health or wellbeing brand connect with its audience in a way that builds trust and adds value.
The Game Has Changed
It’s well-known that women make or influence more than 85% all health and healthcare decisions, but, ironically, a recently published study in the Harvard Business Review described the new “female economy” as one that was larger than any bailout, but noted healthcare as one of six major industries that does a poor job of marketing “to” women.
As more women turn 50 than 30 and potentially enjoy thirty-plus years beyond “mid-life”, the $20 billion dollar women’s health market includes much more than oral contraceptives. Women have taken aging into their own hands and seeking out quality of life solutions that make 60 the new 40.
Demographic and psychographic changes in addition to the rapidly evolving 2.0 technologies of the Internet over the past few years have allowed women an enormous space to not only voice their opinions and emotions but to act on and share them immediately. As Laura Zalaznick, President of NBC Universal opined “Women are no longer simply consumers. They are moving from consumers to advisors, advocates, and activists.”
This means marketers and organizations must do more than use traditional “push” marketing to take their share of a whopping $800 million that working women in the US alone contribute to the US economy.
Marketing With, not “to” Women
Mike Silverstein, Co-author of Women Want More, the book inspired by the Boston Consulting Group’s Global Study in 2009 concluded that women don’t really love brands. What the global research among 22,000 women around the world showed was that women do cherish a sense of fulfillment based on her top values. This approach is the hallmark of a nuanced but values-based approach to marketing health with women.
Marketing with women effectively releases women from being captive consumers to one-way messages and transforms their role from passive to active influencers for co-creators of the brand. The focus, however, is not on the brand directly, but on a sense of fulfillment that comes from their most important values like love, health, and security. In achieving their own sense of fulfillment, women want to be able to give back and support other women on their journey to improve health or wellbeing. It’s about women empowering each other to be their own best health and wellness advocates.
The 4C’s: Savvy Marketing Health WITH Women Strategies
1. Conversations: Listen First to Nurture Insights
While we typically think of talking as the most important part of a conversation, if you want to market with women, you’re better off listening before you talk. There are many on-line strategies aimed at listening to women that can be executed simply and fine-tuned with text analytics. Understanding that women are not small men and appreciating their multi-dimensional roles is important to appreciate BEFORE starting your listening initiative. For example, for a growing number of women over 40, midlife represents a defining moment as they become mothers for the first time in one year and some begin menopause before their child turns five. For other women, midlife is a time of focusing on self-care, as the obligations around motherhood diminish and the “empty nest” time period provides more opportunity for re-examining her life, and choosing a new career or becoming an entrepreneur. Gaining a basic understanding of women in their multi-dimensional lives is important aspect to defining the conversational marketing strategy that will help you drive insights.
As Carol Osborn, Senior Strategist for Vibrant Nation.com and co-author of Vibrant Nation: What Women 50+ Know, Think, Do and Buy (Reily/Osborn) notes, “Women over-50 bring a richness to their conversations on-line unlike what you might find when they know marketers are listening…such as in traditional market research “behind the glass mirror”. Vibrant Nation has nurtured a rich circle of women over-50 bloggers who contribute frequently based on their personal experience and professional expertise including best-selling authors who spark on-line conversations with thousands of women over 50.
Whatever your method, meaningful insights need to be the goal of any impactful conversational marketing effort.
2. Content: Sponsor It, Create It, Share It!
Valuable content is at the core of all marketing health with women initiatives. Content is much easier to create when it’s promotional, but it’s truly VALUABLE when it’s educational and contains a variety of women’s stories to learn from and comment on, making women the hero in your brand’s strategy. In the health arena, it’s key that your content also include actionable strategies developed by women’s health experts that help women improve their quality of life, make necessary lifestyle changes and flourish.
Transparency is a key to assuring the content is trust-worthy, so make sure if you’re sponsoring content that your organization is clearly represented. This does not in any way “de-value” the content but does recognize your company as a contributor to women’s health and wellbeing. The goal is to offer fresh, insightful and original content on a regular basis. From financial services to health care marketing, this is a strategy that connects you with women as influencers around women’s wellbeing.
Aside from sponsorship, your team can create its own content and own media channel hosting videos, testimonials, blogs and articles. By creating your brand own content that is socially share-able, and has the potential to “ go viral” you can become a trusted advocate, mentor, or possibly a women’s best “friend” for life. For example, Medline, the manufacturer of pink latex gloves, set out to help fund mammograms for women who cannot afford them through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Initially launched in 2009 called the Pink Glove Dance. It started with healthcare workers at one hospital in Portland, Oregon dancing to raise awareness. Today, the video has virally attracted more than 11 million views, and tens of thousands of emails and events spurred throughout the country. It’s 2010 sequel video featured more than 4,000 healthcare workers and breast cancer survivors from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to New York’s Times Square and many sites in between.
That’s the power of sharing to fund awareness and save women’s lives!
3. Community: Create a Safe Haven
“As long as women feel safe in a community, they will feel free to express their personal viewpoints which adds authenticity and attracts other women “like them”, increasing a community’s value,” says Toby Bloomberg, Founder of Diva Marketing Blog and recognized by Forbes as a top women blogger. A community’s value should not be judged by the number of followers and likes, but by the relevance and engagement that the community generates. This initially is sparked by a core group of passionate fans or ambassadors you really know and that care about the particular health or wellness issue your brand supports. Even over the longer term, it’s much better to have a smaller following that appreciates your content and conversations, than a large list of disengaged fans and followers. More is not necessarily better and your team should evaluate how engaged your fans are as you publish and share content. This can be done through an analysis of how social media, including twitter and Facebook is used not just to send links but also to comment on and increase the following with relevant women.
4. Collaborations: Health Advocacy Relationships are Key
The power of collaborations is important for many reasons, as you aim to expand your brand’s circle of influence. Collaborations with key women’s health and wellbeing advocacy groups can provide the leverage and visibility your brand needs to take the focus off “the brand” and focus on women’s sense of fulfillment, the values they cherish more than any brand. Though this may sound counterintuitive, a great partnership with the right advocacy group can “voice” your brand’s mission and empower women to be their own best health and wellness advocates. This puts the power in women so they, not your brand, remain in charge of their health and wellbeing.
ROI: Return on Engagement
By the end of 2011, an overwhelming number of blue chip brands had committed significant budgets to the maintenance of a social media presence. Most are measuring activity to engagement ratios, potential impressions, confirmed impressions, comments and replies.
The paradigm for marketing health to women continues to change, however, women remain your best ally and advocate as they seek to manage quality of life challenges in their multi-dimensional lives. Marketers must become savvier to how engagement strategies drive the development of the 4C’s and increase brand and organizational value among women of all life stages.
Together, marketers and women can partner so new health product and health service innovations can be brought to market more effectively and efficiently, increasing market share and profits for all.
KC Health is a healthcare marketing and communications firm that connects brands and organizations with women as consumers, influencers, e-patients and agents of change. We empower women to be their own best health and wellness advocates as we build brand value, through candid conversations, content, community and collaborations. Together we can lead brands forward so they become a woman’s advocate, her mentor and, possibly, a best friend for life. Kelley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.