The Role of Brand Experiences in Retention Marketing and Building Sustainable Communities

Winning at retention marketing by way of brand experiences.

How can your organization build an engaged and sustainable community? Of course, it starts with providing exceptional products or services. You have to hit a home run there. But great retention marketing—a strategy for keeping your clients or patients happy and coming back—is ultimately what will lead you to long-term success.

Why your organization must focus on retention marketing

Retention marketing has been a leading focus in the healthcare industry for a while now, with good reason. Healthcare providers want to keep their patients consistent—consistently happy and healthy, but consistent in the system. Now with the explosion of the experiential space, and the importance or building both live and online communities, retention marketing teams are exploring more exciting worlds. Events have their own retention challenges, with building and retaining an audience year after year, but events themselves have become an integral and wildly effective piece of the retention marketing puzzle.

Retention marketing is important first and foremost because of the bottom-line financial benefits of taking good care of your current patients and clients. Research shows that returning clients spend 67 percent more than new ones. And then there's the popular Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule. That 80% of your business revenue comes from 20% of your clients. It pays to keep your relationships in good shape.

Second, by nurturing and keeping communities happy with your services, you'll also benefit from word of mouth power. A 2016 Nielsen studied shows that 80 percent of people seek personal recommendations when making a purchase or choosing a service. So, if friends and family are saying good things about you, and specifically your healthcare facility, your reputation will grow as a trustworthy choice. New business will organically flow through your doors.

Third, and somewhat of a snowball benefit of the above, is improving upon or solidifying a strong brand image. A global survey found that roughly 60 percent of people prefer products and services from a familiar brand. A trusted familiar name is of course important to healthcare providers as prospective patients are rightfully so, sometimes the biggest skeptics. A trusted name in the event space is equally as powerful, and SxSW, CES, or HIMSS, for instance, aren't hurting for attendees. They've become industry flagpoles and destination events because of the way they build and nurture their communities.

How you can improve customer retention and build brand loyalty

Driving brand loyalty is of course ingrained in the DNA of marketing teams, made famous in college case studies of Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Nike's global efforts. But healthcare organizations depend on customer retention for success and in fact, the industry is so competitive that it's arguable building brand loyalty is even more crucial in healthcare than anywhere else.

Again, providing a great product or service is the first step in building and keeping communities, but when it comes to retention marketing tactics, what works best? Let's first look at the healthcare industry and how it has been revolutionized over the years.

How has the healthcare industry changed?

With changing regulations and rules, advanced technology and greater patient demands, health patients are now proactive consumers. The patient is now their own healthcare CEO, remarks medical futurist Robin Farmanfarmaian. In fact 80 percent of consumers brave their hypochondria and search for medical advice and health topics online, which means healthcare professionals are serving a customer base that's more knowledgeable than ever. You have to do more to stand out from the competition.

Michael Roy, executive director of Clearview Women's Center, states perfectly why marketing and branding is vital in the healthcare field:

“Many health care professionals think marketing isn’t something they should pay attention to, or even do at all. In my experience, delivering great service alone isn’t enough. Social media tools are increasingly providing opportunities to expand and help more people, and health care professionals who embrace the trend and make use of a bit of innovation will be in the win for a long time.”

Think of famous healthcare brands, like Anthem, Humana and Cigna. They have a unified vision of the brand and a clear marketing strategy. They also distinguish themselves from their competitors through marketing tactics across various channels, from their website and social media pages to television and print ads.

But embracing current marketing trends, like social media, isn't a foolproof way to build and keep communities. At the local level, you must even do more to nurture and keep your patients. You must focus on designing brand experiences because that's how you can establish a truly deep connection. This means inventing, crafting and driving real events and experiences.

Why healthcare events and experiences are the answer

Did you know that 74 percent of consumers have a better opinion of a brand after an in-person event?

That's an eye-popping stat. For healthcare organizations, brand experiences are an effective way to engage with communities and address their needs. It's a way to build trust and improve communication—two things that are key to better healthcare outcomes, according to a Northwestern University study.

For inspiration, look to healthcare organizations like Cleveland Clinic. They're a nationally recognized name because they do so well in the local community of Cleveland. First, they provide exceptional service. Second, they're great at content marketing, especially on social media (just look at the Instagram page).

On top of that, Cleveland Clinic hosts countless events across the city of Cleveland. From yoga sessions to nutrition classes to info sessions at sports games, the events calendar at Cleveland Clinic is always full.

There is another benefit of experiential marketing for healthcare organizations. If the people you engage with go home having had a good time, they'll share their experience. Research has found that good brand experiences are three times more likely to spark conversations between people than an advertisement. This means a great brand experience can create a cycle of positive online and offline word of mouth—which helps you build a truly respected brand.

Winning at retention marketing with brand experiences

Hosting a brand event isn't just a moment in time—it can advance your brand to the next level by igniting positive conversations about your organization. That's how you can differentiate yourself from the competition while building, and sustaining, an engaged and passionate community.

Experiential Marketing Trends

Explore Cramer and Event Marketer’s first 30 trends of 2017.

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Jonathan Ronzio

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