Podcast #78

Patient-Centric Marketing: How to Define and Reach Your Ideal Audience

Even the most creative marketing campaigns can fail if it doesn't reach the intended audience. So, how do you ensure your brand shows up when patients seek care? On this episode of Ignite, our hosts, CEO, Alex Membrillo, and SVP of Strategy and Analytics, Rich Briddock dig into best practices for defining your audience, common challenges healthcare groups face, and how to leverage machine learning.

Episode Highlights:

Rich Briddock

Rich Briddock: “The theory is, or the hypothesis is, that if you educate and give these prospective patients something at the beginning of the funnel, they’re going to know you by the time they’re actively seeking care out at the bottom of the funnel. They’re going to trust you, and so when you appear in the auction next to your competitive set, they’re going to select you.”

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: What’s going on, guys? You know who I am, so I’m not going to introduce myself. This is Rich Briddock, our head of performance marketing. This is going to be a really cool episode for a lot of you all because there’s so many advertising platforms, so much stuff we have to do from a marketing perspective. Now, so many channels, so many tactics. Where do you start us with understanding your patient, what she cares about, how she takes her journey, where she looks for information, and at what point you serve her with what kind of advertising Rich? Welcome back to Ignite, begrudgingly.

Rich Briddock: Thank you for having me, begrudgingly. I’m excitedly.

Alex: You’re excitedly.

Rich: I’m excited.

Alex: I just saw the episode of Succession last night where they altered Logan Roy’s thing, and he said, “And I’m excited about this.”


They said, “Can you sound excited, when you say “excited”?” Oh man, that shows so cringy. I love it. All right, guys. Geez, guys, where do we start? Typically, Cardinal’s not known as a marketing research firm, but do we use any kind of insights before we get into marketing plan? Companies come to us and they say, we want to increase patient volume and we want to do it quickly. Where do you typically start?

Rich: I ask them what they mean by that.

Alex: I want two X the amount of patients is what they say, right?

Rich: Right, and so we’ve kind of covered this topic before, but if you want a great media plan that achieves your goals and objectives, you’ve got to have great measurable goals and objectives, right? I think we did, a webinar for the ADSO where we chatted about this, and it’s like a lot of the times when you speak to someone for the first time, they’ll say, it’s just something like you just said, right? Which is like “I need to double my patient volume,” or “I need to increase my patient volume by 10%.” Typically, they’re a multi-location company. They are multidisciplinary. What do you really mean? Right? What does that, what is that goal really, right? It’s usually then when you dig in it’s, “I need to increase the patients at this location by 12 a month, to fill my provider capacity, and I need a certain number of patients for this service line because this is where the profitability is. I need to have a certain number of patients on this service line.” Really understanding the specifics around the objectives is number one, right? Getting that goal.

Alex: You get the goals, and we have the quantifiable metrics and, right. That’s great. I love that clients are now just not just saying, I need X amount of leads. They’re saying patients, and we’re saying, how are we going to track them? That’s good. We’ve got that. Then where do we go?

Rich: Then you really got to understand how those specific patients in those specific areas find you. Right?

Alex: How do we do that?

Rich: That’s going to be first defining the patient persona, right? Are there any specific demographic traits around that patient to start with at the highest level? As an example, right? Like if you are a podiatry provider, right? One of the core audiences for people who use podiatrists are diabetics, right? If you are, a diabetic, you pretty much always have to go and see a podiatrist, or there’s a heavy percentage of diabetics have to go and see podiatrists because they have issues with lower extremities. One of your patient personas is probably going to be diabetics, right?

Then it’s like “Okay, how, if I’m a diabetic, first of all, how do you tell you’re a diabetic? There are certain DSPs out there, display platforms, native platforms that can target those patient populations. Then if I’m a diabetic and I need to find a podiatrist, how do I begin my patient journey? What am I searching? What am I looking for? Right? Probably I’m not typing in “podiatrist near me,” to begin with. I’m probably typing in something like “leg pain, with diabetes,” because I’m starting my journey with a symptom, not with the known solution.

Another example, is we were at physical therapists last week in Chicago, and one of the stats that got mentioned is only 10% of their patient population or people who are suffering with pain know that they need physical therapy, only 10% out of the available patient audience that they could address. You’ve got to start with actually what people are searching, which is they’re trying to self-diagnose. That’s where you initially get in front of them, Then it’s your goal to give them something that’s of value to them, if I’m typing in something like “lower back pain and limited mobility when playing golf,” something very specific like that.

Alex: Sounds like last week for you,

Rich: Right. Exactly. “When hacking away with a golf ball.” You should be giving me– or knee pain when I run. You should be giving me content that specifically addresses that. What exercises should I be doing? Do I need to change my golf swing? Do I need to change my running gate? Do I have the right running shoes? This is the kind of content that you give them before you say, come see me, I’m a physiotherapist.

Alex: How are you giving them that content? Blog content is obvious-

Rich: Blog content-

Alex: -because everybody’s already doing that.

Rich: -videos. You need to do like–

Alex: Read the videos and they’re provider UGC, like, let’s get text here.

Rich: Yes. Nowadays with the rise of AI, you could even do AI-generated videos. You could do AI-generated audio tracks if you wanted to do programmatic audio. I think the main thing is that first touchpoint. Blog post is going to be a lot of it, honestly. That main touchpoint is got to be so you are giving them something and asking them for nothing.`

Alex: How are we serving the right people? How do we know when they have lower back pain and they’re bad golfers like you?

Rich: Because they’re searching for it.

Alex: Oh. Then you’re serving up contextual– that’s contextual advertising, right?

Rich: Contextual advertising on display, native, connected TV, OTT, all those fun channels. That’s–

Alex: The next episode as Dr. Dre would say, “Not to be covered in this one.”

Rich: Right. And on search. Right? Being on those symptom-based terms as well as just being on physical therapist near me. Right? Again, that’s the other thing too, and that’s the key with all of this, your budget is also going to determine where you reach your audience, and when.

Alex: Why?

Rich: Because if you’ve got a really low budget, you’re probably just going to want to spend the majority of your budget further down the funnel. If people are actively looking for physical therapists near me, that’s probably where you want to spend the majority of your budget, if it’s low. You probably don’t want to be engaging them on low back pain. If you’ve got the budget to support engaging with them throughout their health journey, that’s when you are on these other task-

Alex: Is there any theory behind, even if the budget’s small, maybe 10%, let’s say they’ve got at least 30% impression shared, is there any theory there that maybe 10% should still be going to the brand to make clicks, and leads patients cheaper or six months?

Rich: Yes. Because it’s more about winning at the bottom of the funnel. The theory is, or the hypothesis is, that if you educate and give these prospective patients something at the beginning of the funnel, they’re going to know you by the time they’re actively seeking care out at the bottom of the funnel. They’re going to trust you, and so that when you appear in the auction next to your competitive set, they’re going to select you-

Alex: Same reason our clients have their logo at the high school football game.

Rich: Exactly. Known entity.

Alex: It’s no different? Just a little bit more targeted.

Rich: Yes, exactly.

Alex: Okay. Let’s talk specifically about the market research piece. How do we– we don’t really do this, but how have you seen this gotten really well? We’ve seen some presentations like “Wow, I never would’ve thought about that for this behavioral group or that physicians were even looking–” like, how do you go about this? What’s the best way to learn more about your patient demog?

Rich: Yes, I think there’s stuff that you can do easily and then stuff that’s more difficult.

Alex: Let’s talk about the difficult stuff first.


Rich: About the difficult stuff first. The difficult stuff first is speaking to patients, right? There’s no substitute for speaking to patients.

Alex: Why did they choose you?

Rich: You can do existing patient surveys, right? Why did they choose you? All that fun stuff. What were their motivations? What were they looking for when they were comparing providers? What awareness level did they have about the solution as they began their research? What started their research? Where did they start in their journey?

Alex: Right. Beautiful, I love that.

Rich: All those questions. Then you could do the same thing, but not to your existing patients. Just do a patient, you could do surveys to a broader demographic.

Alex: Do you do these surveys online with like the Google Surveys thing or–

Rich: Right. The secondary piece would be that, right? Is you could Google Surveys or you do Pollfish or you do these general audience surveys, where you have a screening question that says, “Have you ever used a behavioral health provider before? Have you ever used-”

Alex: Easiest question I have. I always answer it.

Rich: Have you ever used a physical therapist before?

Alex: Got it.

Rich: You click “Yes,” then you’re in the survey population. It’s going to ask you to fill out that survey. So you have these comparison points of people that picked you, and the people that didn’t pick you, especially.

Alex: Okay. You got patient surveys, then you have the non-patient surveys online. What else are the other fancy tricks?

Rich: One of the other places that you can go is you can do a sentiment analysis, voice of the customer stuff. Mining your own reviews online and mining other people’s reviews, competitor reviews. Like if physical therapy brand A wants to know why people go to physical therapy, brand B, they can go and look at physical therapy, brand B’s reviews, and see what commonalities start popping up in those reviews, right? Yes. Is it they love the doctor? Is it the fact that they accept all this insurance? Is it the fact that, that you can go on Sunday evenings, you know, whatever it is, right? There’s going to be some commonalities that pop out.

Alex: Okay, good, good. What is the easiest thing?

Rich: The easiest stuff is just looking around at your, at your competitors online, using competitor tools like Semrush, SimilarWeb, and then looking at like Facebook Ads Library, looking at Mote, seeing what kind of advertising competitors are putting out, seeing what content they have online, where they’re engaging with people. From that, you can disseminate what their strategy is.

Alex: Yes. You’re not going to reinvent the wheel. Yes, you’re right.

Rich: From that point, you can see everybody’s ads online. Facebook. Then you can figure out where the opportunities are, right? In that example that I gave about back pain, if physical therapy, B, who’s your competitor, has a really amazing article that talks about golf swings and back pain and all that fun stuff, maybe that’s just not an avenue, an opportunity, because what are you going to do? A similar ball post, and then you’re trying to fight for market share? Maybe you need to think, “Well, actually we’re going to go out to study the demographic,” because they’ve got that covered.

Alex: Surveys, the best research I have gotten has been from third-party market research firms. Do you need one of these agencies? You can go to Outboard. You got to do a third-party, is that we’re going to get the best interviews. Also, interviewing providers gives really cool insights too. What they find to be the best care avenues and what you’re doing well, and not so well.

Rich: Also, that’s another thing that you could be doing too. If you’re a fuel-based company, don’t just brand the patients, brand to the providers that refer you. I think you may have a sales team, you may have a field team that’s calling on these providers, but they might not be getting through. They might not know as soon as a new provider comes into the market. Whereas with digital, because you’re targeting by practice, by provider type, as soon as a new provider enters that market, we can be reaching them with digital, with display ads, with native, with programmatic audio, with programmatic video, external–

Alex: Even if the audiences are small. There’s always [unintelligible 00:11:19]

Rich: Yes, even if the audience is small.

Alex: You could stand up from B2B email automation too. If you’re a hub spot, you can get the list of the emails of the providers.

Rich: Yes, and actually there’s very specific products for that.

Alex: Like?

Rich: You might want to brand other technologies out here.

Alex: As long as they give me a 10% commission.

Rich: iTIVIA has a provider targeting email product.

Alex: Good. I saw it. It’s awesome. Very good stuff. When they land on the page, you know about it and you can reach out.

Rich: Exactly. Your sales team can follow up with them, try and build those partnerships. There’s a lot of stuff that you can do outside of just search to reach patients and also providers.

Alex: I love it. Guys, you heard it here from Rich. Thanks for joining us. We heard everything about that, everything that it takes to reach your patient base and know what the heck kind of content they want to read about, how they want to be educated, and where you find out if it’s resonating or not, and the different channels you use to get in front of them. This was fun. This is different. It’s not all just about strategies and blasting more media out there. You can be more effective with the media you’re putting out there and the content and it makes sense to educate your patient base before they’re coming downstream, guys. This is the new patient journey.

We can’t all just be on Google ads and SEO. You see other things are starting to take over. ChatGPT, people are going to find healthcare through there. The TikTok as well, except if you’re in Montana. There’s different patient journeys, and you guys got to get used to advertising on different channels with different kinds of educational content. I hope this was useful. We’ll see you next week for CTV OTT, all the acronyms for different media. Bye.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our [email protected].

Healthcare Marketing Insights At Your Fingertips

Listen and subscribe to Ignite wherever you get your podcasts.

Get Started

Ready to Grow?

Great partnerships start with great discoveries. We start with your business goals and budget, and then help you find the right digital marketing strategy to fuel growth.

Fill out the form to get started!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.