Old-fashioned marketing technique brings in targeted patients

In an age where social media engages new customers and Internet advertising targets younger users, MLive reports a handful of Michigan hospitals now use an old-fashioned marketing technique to bring in new patients: billboards.

Of the roughly 150 patients that came through Hurley Medical Center's new hernia center in Flint, Michigan, about 40 percent said they made an appointment for hernia surgery because they saw the billboards posted in the area, according to the article.

As hospitals fight to earn revenue, a billboard is a local medium that immediately grabs passersby attention, said Dan Lake, a marketing lecturer for the School of Management at the University of Michigan-Flint. The investment paid off for Hurley, which gets 10 to 15 calls a day from people who see the advertisement, and saw hernia volume increase 140 percent, Michael McCann, director of the Hurley Hernia Center of Excellence and chief of Hurley's trauma and surgical care unit, told MLive.

"I think the billboard being the biggest bang for the buck is accurate and we will continue to use that option," John Stewart, administrator for emergency and trauma services at Hurley, told MLive.

McLaren Flint hospital also uses billboard advertising, which brought in business especially when used as part of an overall integrated media campaign, McLaren Health Care corporate director of marketing, Lauri Prochazka told MLive. The bariatric and metabolic surgery programs saw a 38 percent growth in patient volume last year after an outdoor, electronic, print and online media campaign that ran from last year through the beginning of 2014. Now the hospital is 34 percent ahead of 2014 patient volume, according to the article.

Despite the success of the billboards, Nicole Fisher, president and CEO of HHR Strateigies, a healthcare advising firm, recently wrote in Forbes that social media and online advertising play a crucial role in healthcare advertising. "Social media influences 93 percent of shoppers final purchase decisions," she said"Further, 90 percent of consumers indicate that they trust peer recommendations. Therefore, previous patients are your greatest allies. Their reviews online matter more than you think."

Targeting specific audiences is also important, Fisher wrote. Think about exactly who needs to see an ad and what information they'll look for when hospitals create marketing strategy campaign.

To learn more:
- here's the MLive article
- read the Forbes article