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Successfully Market Your Bariatric Surgery Program

Liz Siepmann


In the United States, doctors perform more than 196,000 bariatric procedures per year. In fact, bariatric surgery is the most effective and durable treatment for morbid obesity, resulting in significant weight loss and helping to prevent, improve or resolve more than 40 obesity-related diseases or conditions (MBSAQIP, 2013).

In today’s world, if you review the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) for most hospitals, there’s a good chance that “obesity” appears in the top three foci. Specifically, more than one-third (36.5 percent) of U.S. adults are obese (CDC, 2017). With obesity at an all-time high, many hospitals offer bariatric surgery programs.


This was the case for Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau, Mo. After completing a CHNA, Saint Francis partnered with other healthcare providers in southeast Missouri to carefully analyze survey results and additional data from focus groups and secondary sources.

With obesity ranking so highly as a community concern, expert bariatric surgery became an essential way to address it – leading to the launch of Weight Loss Solutions in 2012. After four successful years, Saint Francis hired a second bariatric surgeon. Doubling capacity, the organization turned to The Roberts Group to promote this growing service line.

As we began developing this campaign, we used a comprehensive method, called the TRG Process, containing four distinct steps for success:

  1. Assess
  2. Define
  3. Launch
  4. Evaluate

Assess the situation

For any marketing effort to succeed, it often helps to hear from the patients themselves. Our account team conducted focus groups with patients who had bariatric surgery at Saint Francis, asking questions such as: How did you find out about the program? What are its greatest strengths? What marketing vehicles might attract your attention? And how would you define the program?

Define the answer

The overwhelming response: Share actual stories showcasing how bariatric surgery provides hope. The Our Stories campaign does just that by relating the happy endings of a firefighter named Evan, a mother of two young children named Maria, and a woman named Brooke who lost 154 pounds.

Launch the campaign

To tell these stories well, all three patients held photos of themselves at their heaviest, shared what life was like before surgery, and detailed how Weight Loss Solutions provided a new lease on life. The campaign included a TV spot, digital and traditional outdoor, targeted web banner ads, Google ads, Pandora radio and display ads, and print ads. A call to action directed audiences to a customized Our Stories website page with short articles and two-minute patient testimonial videos.

Evaluate the results

After launching the Weight Loss Solutions testimonial campaign in December 2016, the bariatric service line saw an increase of more than 100 procedures compared to procedures completed in the same time frame the year prior – a 44 percent increase. Attendance at an informational seminar educating potential patients on the procedures also increased by 86 percent over the previous year.

Understanding your target audience is crucial for success. This campaign achieved excellent results by following a strategic four-step process, beginning with research. Let us set your organization up for success. Start the conversation now by reaching out to Julia Schultz, Executive Vice President at The Roberts Group, by phone (262-549-6848) or email.


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