Stephanie Burton

5 strategies for service-line marketing success

By Stephanie Burton on April 3, 2014

How do you market bariatric surgery to the people who have stopped at nothing to lose weight? It’s not as easy as you may think. Failure, embarrassment and years of emotional trauma tend to add more complexity to a service line that is wrought with stigma.

When Core Creative was asked to help promote The Valley Hospital’s Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery, we knew we’d move the needle. We never imagined we’d see an increase of 300 percent in requests for consultations and a 15 percent increase in surgeries performed in 2013 compared to 2012. Here are strategies we used that can help set your next service-line campaign up for success:

  1. Feature successful patients. I know what you’re thinking: Why would anyone show patients who are not successful? Yet, this happens often in healthcare marketing. We often see the heart patient grabbing his chest or the orthopedics patient in a cast. Our thinking is shifting, but hasn’t sunk in with everyone.
  2. Tease your audience. An ad shouldn’t give away the story; it needs to leave your audience wanting something more. It needs to inspire action. We didn’t show clichéd before-and-after pictures. Instead, we showed real people surrounded by a simple quote and a web address,, that offered a payoff to the story.
  3. Use real people. No one can tell your story better than a patient. Not your CEO, not an actor, not a doctor, not even a healthcare marketer. So, we asked our patients to tell their stories and watched the credibility of our campaign increase.
  4. Leverage key news events. In May 2013, when New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, announced he had bariatric surgery, we worked with The Valley Hospital to react quickly by buying Google AdWords and leveraging social media channels. As a result, requests for consultations soared.
  5. Create an emotional connection. Stories, combined with powerful images, help create emotional connections. Through tears, Frank discussed how proud his father would have been of his weight loss … if only his father hadn’t fallen victim to obesity himself. Lauren felt her weight held her back, but after losing nearly 100 pounds, she achieved the happiness she had longed for: a family.

The number you saw above is not a typo. Together, these service-line marketing strategies helped create a 300 percent increase in requests for bariatric consults at The Valley Hospital compared to the same period in the previous year. Perhaps more importantly, we’ve helped give people their lives back. That’s healthcare marketing at its best.

Stephanie Hungerford is a healthcare marketing strategist at Core Creative.  Follow Stephanie on Twitter @shungerford.