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Using Patient Personas for More Effective Medical Marketing

By Anthony Watts on April, 18 2017
Anthony Watts

If you need a smile or want to know what’s hot on-line, Anthony is your go-to guy. As reigning Father of the Year, you can be sure he is equipped with the utmost patience and determination to foster and cultivate any online marketing plan! His digital expertise is a lot like his famous Bloody Marys: loaded with goodies and guaranteed to satisfy.

Someone said to me recently, "with all the data and technology today, marketing must be easier than ever!"


It’s kinda like the saying 'more money, more problems,’ except for a marketer it’s more like ‘more data, more problems’ or ‘more media, more problems.' But data is similar to money; if you organize it, plan how to allocate it and then use it to target your goals then you will have success with less stress.  

Yeah, ya-know…Demographics, right? 

In medical marketing the term “demographics” is thrown around quite a bit and generally describes the broadest characteristics of an audience. In contrast, a “Patient Persona” describes not only “Who” we are targeting with our marketing but “Why” and “How”.

Patient Personas are detailed target audience profiles created from all the data we have at our fingertips.

At Ren Scott Creative we look at a variety of different data points, for example:

  • Interviews of Staff and Patients
  • Google Trends
  • Nielsen Insights
  • Advanced Twitter searches
  • Facebook Trends & Instagram Hashtags
  • 1-to-1 User Based Cookie Data


arrow-dots.pngWith all of this data, we create dots that help us form a picture of who we are targeting. We first recommend finding pictures online and printing them out to help visualize the ideal patient. We then give each 'patient' a fictitious name, so they can be easily referenced during a strategy session. (I.e. Ms. Maya Hertz)  Finally, we construct a story that virtually brings the patient persona to life.  Often times, we develop 3-5 different patient personas for a single practice or protocol to ensure we are speaking to the largest, but most defined, audience possible.


What’s in a Patient Persona?

Here are 4 categories to include when developing a Patient Persona:

doctor-patient.jpgBackground - Basic demographic information:

  • Age
  • Relationship Status
  • Geographic Area
  • Education Status
  • Financial Information

Profile - Information about their lifestyle:

  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • How do they communicate?
  • Work/Life balance?

Decision Influencers - Where, when and how they get their information:

  • What influences their decisions?
  • Type of technology they use?  
  • What are their hopes and dreams?
  • What are their worries and fears?

Negative Information: Information that may be associated with this persona but that’s not part of your target audience, and you want to avoid.

Be detailed, but don’t worry about getting everything into the persona. Remember, you’re just trying to paint a picture and provide a level of detail that will guide the strategic and creative team. Once you get this outlined, spend 20 minutes to write a short 200–300 word story about a typical day in the life. 

And there you go, patient personas will help you create better targeting.

download free patient persona

Are you thinking this should be your first step in developing an effective marketing strategy? 

Let’s talk about how we apply the patient persona. Since the patient persona is a detailed description of our target audience, it is what anchors our strategy. We align our communication styles and media plans to this persona.

So let’s say our objective is to build a brand around a migraine treatment and generate new patients for a clinic who offers this treatment.

After detailing the personas we learn that there are three main types of migraine sufferers:

  1. Those who have accepted that migraines will happen and can live with it
  2. Those who have severe migraines and can’t control the triggers
  3. Those who suffer from migraines as a side effect of a different health problem

Let’s use the first patient persona, and detail some of this person’s characteristics:

migraine.jpgMost commonly, this individual is older than 40 years old and married. Spends a lot of time at night online, learning how to cope with migraine triggers or absorbing different digital media, like online streaming. This individual is typically an advocate for natural home remedy solutions and finds comfort in communicating their coping mechanisms in forums, social media, and blogs. Skeptic to all medically-based treatments, yet hopeful one will meet their naturopathic expectations. (This is only a short excerpt of a longer patient persona.)

The persona’s details tell us this audience will respond better to a consultative approach versus a direct, “Do you suffer from migraine?” type of ad. For online, we know that informative inbound social media campaigns and community influencers could be added to the digital strategy to build trust. After all, this particular patient persona is skeptical to new treatments that claim to be miracle solutions. 

So, everyone…can we please stop using the term “Demographics” as the end all be all of audience targeting?

Can you see how this isn’t “demographics”? Can you connect the dots on how this might shape a communication & campaign strategy?

I encourage you to try to develop some form of patient personas for your medical marketing. Imagine how this can improve your understanding and impact the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below or connect.


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