Plenty of conversations this week have centered on good plans for the new year, if not on resolutions. This is the year Braden is going to eat healthy and Maya is going to get to the gym four times a week and Devon is finally going to quit smoking.
Most of those plans won’t actually happen. We’ve reached a point in the United States, at least, at which lifestyle changes by patients have the potential to make more difference to public health issues than hygiene or new medications or technological innovations. But healthcare providers get tired of encouraging changes they know probably won’t happen.
A study in JAMA reported that 25% of men who experienced a stroke or heart attack made no lifestyle changes. The changes they should have made were the same ones we’re hearing about in those New Year’s conversations: quitting smoking, improving eating habits, and exercising.
We’d expect that nearly dying would be very motivating. We might think someone who has suffered a heart attack would be leaping at the chance to eat some Brussels sprouts and bok choy in order to avoid going through that again. But for fully one quarter of the men in the study, that was not enough motivation. Only 4.3% of subjects made changes in all three areas.
Of course it begins to feel pointless to tell people to make those changes.
Marketing has something in common with lifestyle counseling. Research and decades of experience tell us that consumers need to see a marketing message 5 to 12 times before they take any action on it.
You know that a visit to your massage studio will improve the life of that person passing by. You see him look up at the window where your welcoming sign hangs. He pulls out his phone as he walks on, and you hope that he’s checking out your website. You imagine him calling up and making an appointment.
No call comes.
But he might have visited your website. He could make three more visits, reading blog posts and checking your prices, ask his friends on social media what they think of your studio, and finally call for an appointment.
Braden has been trying to improve his eating habits. Last year he ate enough fruit to begin enjoying it. This year he might do the same with vegetables. He’ll hear that message about more fiber and less sugar from his doctor again, do a 30-day junk food freedom challenge, and read his doctor’s blog posts on the importance of eating produce.
Who knows? Maybe by the end of the year he’ll be one of the 10% of Americans who get the recommended number of fruits and vegetables each day. Since revolutions are built on victories, that might be enough to get him to switch to whole grains the following year.
The point is, it takes a lot of repetition to get from seeing a message to taking action. As marketers, we sometimes behave as though our readers or viewers will digest the information we present, make a reasoned decision about its value, and take action.
That’s not what happens. Instead, people move from being unaware to being aware of information. They move from that awareness of the information to a desire to apply that information in their own lives. They winnow the possibilities down to the best choice for their circumstances. Then they take action.
Modern consumers do more of this on their own terms. They’re less willing to be helped along the way and less interested in talking with a sales person.
But that doesn’t mean that they won’t take action. It can mean that we need to provide more information and give more touch points.
Your patients and clients may also need more information. Fortunately, patient education and healthcare marketing can overlap. A good healthcare content marketing strategy can do both.
For the new year, approach your marketing strategy with new enthusiasm. Haden Interactive can help. Consider a custom SEO Strategy Document to get on track.