The New Year is here and that means it’s time to revisit marketing budgets and decide how to deploy those precious advertising dollars. Here are five key campaigns you should prioritize when rolling out your 2018 marketing strategy:
- Primary Care: Primary care doctors are the concierges of medical care, directing patients to specialists and other healthcare institutions when additional care is needed. That means they have a major influence over patients’ decisions about where to go for care. Interestingly, marketing toward PCPs is often overlooked when establishing a hospital marketing budget – and that’s unfortunate when you consider they are among the most important drivers for a hospital’s business growth. Ideally, you need to dedicate some of your marketing budget to helping local primary care providers understand your brand, mission and quality measures so they can feel confident recommending your hospital to their own patients.
- New Movers: Yes, longtime community residents are important for your hospital’s bottom line as well as its future growth, but many have developed some loyalty to your competitors and “wooing” them away can be difficult. You’ll have more success building market share by reaching out to people who’ve just moved into your community and have not yet developed strong connections to local healthcare providers. Making a special effort to attract them to your hospital and its providers can deliver a much higher ROI for your marketing dollars.
- Top Service Line: Much of your positive reputation is driven by the quality care provided by your top one or two specialties. Not only do these service lines generate a considerable portion of your facility’s revenue, they also help build up the institution as a whole, conferring a certain status that helps build brand and attract community support. Directing a dedicated portion of your marketing resources toward promoting these service lines means an enhanced reputation and continued growth.
- Employee Recruitment: Just like last year, 2018 is expected to be a year of tremendous staffing shortages at all levels of healthcare. Developing a compelling and targeted campaign to attract workforce candidates should be at the top of your marketing to-do list. From effective digital strategies to job fairs, identifying and targeting the best prospects and then engaging them through the hiring process can be a time-consuming and costly exercise. Keeping the existing staff engaged (see below) and happy means less turnover – and that means major savings.
- Internal Audiences: Truly successful organizational branding requires “buy in” from all levels of staff as well as key stakeholders. It’s a problem area when you consider that Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report shows that “just 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs.” When your staff and board are excited about the organization and the work it’s doing, there’s a “trickle down” effect that builds momentum and drives future growth. Internal branding promotes greater satisfaction and loyalty among employees while also creating word-of-mouth promotion that builds positive community awareness. The goal here is to align your core objectives with the goals of your staff and stakeholders to activate the brand on a more personal and emotional level. Truly invest in activities that help your key personnel understand and feel motivated by your hospital’s mission and objectives.
2018 is poised to be a year of increased competition for healthcare facilities across the U.S. To build your hospital’s bottom line and fuel its future growth, you need to start early and plan well.
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When you allocate your marketing resources, is it merely a rote exercise of updating last year’s numbers or are you seriously taking a fresh look at channels and considering changes in the modern marketing landscape? Because healthcare is more consumer-oriented and “retail” than ever, a change in tactics may be necessary to reach and influence consumers.
If you are in need of a change, start by adopting an “Agile Marketing” approach to your spending, which means continuously measuring impact and calibrating tactics to improve results over time. Be prepared and willing to shift marketing tactics on a dime. The hallmarks of Agile Marketing are responding to change instead of following a plan, ongoing testing and measurement, and making rapid tactical adjustments when appropriate.
Think about the following rough guideposts for allocating resources when you prepare your next marketing budget.
- Marketing systems: 10% The wave of successful marketing is based on the modern techniques of customer data tracking, marketing automation, marketing analytics and ROI measurement. To execute these well, the proper tools must be in place and ongoing investment must be made. The basic platform is an effective CRM, including the right focus and effort in its implementation. Without doing this well, you have no chance to move to the next step in today’s online marketing environment. With a good CRM in place, marketing automation and customized personal consumer marketing is now possible. If you are starting from scratch, budget in small increments over the next 3-5 years for a realistic implementation plan.
- Traditional outbound advertising: 25% Brands are established over a period of time, so smart marketers target messages to every level of the buying process. When meeting the brand, consumers may not be ready for a “two-way relationship”. With their extensive distribution and sizable impressions, traditional channels – TV, radio, direct mail, sponsorships and yes, even print – are well served to deliver the invitation to first meet the brand and then build upon top of mind awareness. Advancements in technology now make it easier to consume these traditional channels in more ways than ever before.
- Online/Digital Marketing: 35% We are moving away from a dominance of outbound interruptive marketing to inbound marketing driven by online consumer engagement. This calls for a change, from the broadcasting of clinical service messaging to delivering interesting and relevant content that gives your audience a reason to engage with you and ultimately call you when in need. It all starts with content focused on the patient and healthcare consumer. As challenging and labor intensive as it may be, the future of the organization is at stake. This means the marketing plan, the strategy, the tactics and the messaging all change for this lane of communication. You must deliver the right content at the right time to the right person.
- Public Relations/Social Media: 20% Modern PR does more than enhance the image of a company and raise the awareness of the brand. It capitalizes on the digital space and plays a significant role in the inbound marketing strategy. In addition, PR is now clickable, downloadable, interactive and measurable, making it possible to prove ROI on earned media.Thanks to a lack of manpower and a need for advertising dollars, traditional media outlets are also allowing brands to have more digital influence than ever before through native advertising, making it another opportunity for brands to give promote their image and create conversation.The digital age has not only forced traditional media to re-invent itself, but it has pushed brands to change the way they communicate through social media. These seismic shifts in communications have changed public relations. Today’s healthcare consumer wants to be engaged in social media channels. “We only do social media sporadically.” is no longer acceptable. If you are not where your audience is, you will lose.
- Research: 10% Market research is daunting and can be a lot of work and money. But the benefits it offers are essential. Why would we would be willing to invest thousands of dollars in a campaign, but not commit to learn whether this investment is effective? Research takes the guesswork out of marketing and gives you data you need to plan and execute successful marketing initiatives. Don’t make research a once-in-a-while thing. Make an annual commitment to ongoing market research by reserving a percentage of the budget for it every year.
Near-constant change in healthcare brings challenges and opportunities. To be successful, marketing professionals must adapt and lead proactive management of change. Here are four advances happening in healthcare marketing to consider in your strategic marketing planning:
1. Personalization and Engagement
Modern marketing delivery systems are sophisticated, offering consumers access to more channels of communication than ever. Contemporary healthcare marketing methods identify user interests and deliver timely, personalized and relevant content on a one-to-one basis. It’s about delivering the right message to the right target at the right time, starting a conversation and developing a relationship.
Social media is leading the way in personal conversation, creating an open dialogue between patients and healthcare providers, and generating trust and advocacy among loyal consumers.
The emergence of CRM and marketing automation platforms are fueling ongoing interactive personal engagement after the online “handshake” has taken place. When managed well, these platforms encourage two-way communication, offer a personal brand experience and stimulate brand preference.
2. Digital Marketing
In general, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt digital marketing strategies. Healthcare marketers need to push for more focus in this area.
According to Think with Google’s “The Digital Journey to Wellness: Hospital Selection“:
- 84% of patients use both online and offline sources for hospital research.
- 77% of patients use search engines prior to booking an appointment.
- 44% of patients who research hospitals on a mobile device schedule an appointment.
- Search drives nearly 3x as many visitors to hospital sites compared to non-search visitors.
- Patients primarily search on symptoms and condition terms prior to the moment of conversion.
For starters, your website must perform as a robust marketing platform. An Adobe Marketing Discovery survey found that 88 percent of interested consumers will follow up that interest by going to the company website and 62 percent will move on from if the website doesn’t meet their needs.
The impact of mobile devices on marketing strategy is staggering. According to an Ofcom survey, laptops and smartphones are ahead of desktop computers when it comes to internet use. Google responds to search requests using a mobile-first algorithm. Not only do you need to make your website responsive and that your content is readable on mobile devises, you must approach all campaign planning with a mentality that includes mobile access as a core element in the customer journey.
Retargeting tactics allow for the display of digital ads to individuals after they have indicated an interest in your website or content. Digital user profiles empower personalized messaging that is more effective in generating interest and response.
Programmatic digital media buying can produce greater ROI effectiveness by drawing on real-time data and messaging to reach very specifically defined on-line users. Programmatic buying will soon account for the majority of digital advertising spending.
3. Quality Content is King
The Internet is healthcare marketing’s front door. Patients are looking for information they can use in their everyday lives and share with their networks. However, with increased online competition for the attention of consumers, today’s content must be fresh, interesting, reliable and share-worthy to cut through the clutter.
Effective content sets up a call to action (CTA), such as downloading a heart health checklist or taking a quiz on proper eating habits, that creates further engagement and loyalty.
Video content continues to grow in popularity and the statistics are staggering. For example, 46 percent of users take some sort of action after viewing an ad, 88 percent of viewers share videos with others and enjoyable video ads increase purchase intent by 97 percent. Numbers like these go on and on. Contemporary healthcare marketing can share stories by way of video content, including live streaming video on websites, blogs and by way of social media platforms. The advantages include timeliness, immediacy and educational impact.
Consumers have begun to take a more active role in their healthcare experience and seek options until they are satisfied. The increased financial stake they face and the availability of online information incentivizes them to use research to guide their treatment, provider and hospital decisions. Furthermore, the informed consumer is inclined to post ratings, comments and recommendations online.
A McKinsey study found that patients have the same expectations from healthcare companies as they do from non-healthcare companies. Patients expect both types of companies to:
- Provide great customer service
- Deliver on expectations
- Make life easier
- Offer great value
There are signs that indicate healthcare marketers are beginning to embrace this growing consumerism trend. Some hospitals are going as far as shaping their facilities to look more like hospitality centers.
The bottom line: There are reasons why healthcare marketing has moved slowly into the digital age, but continuing to move slowly will prove costly.
We recently attended the 2017 NESHCo conference (New England Society for Healthcare Communications) and heard some great thoughts and ideas about communicating with consumers in our rapidly changing healthcare marketplace. This year’s theme was “Navigating Today’s Healthcare Environment,” and here are some takes on relevant issues that caught our attention.
1. Pricing – Consumers are placing more importance on payments and cost messaging, but they don’t understand how healthcare pricing works and don’t feel like they have any control. Patients are exposed to “generic narratives of pricing” due to variances among providers and insurers. Consumers are also getting inconsistent information about the relationship between value and quality.
(Paul Griffiths, MedTouch and Robert Wasserman, Hallmark Health)
2. Customer Journey Mapping – Journey mapping informs marketers about the touch points that most influence consumer choice and what the ideal customer activation and acquisition experience looks like. It all starts with understanding customer personas and how to tell stories that help engage with them at their “moments of truth.” Journey mapping that delivers strong ROI requires a collaboration between marketing and operations that ultimately creates repeat customers and brand advocates. Today, more often than not, a customer’s healthcare journey begins online. The important factors of the consumer process to understand are:
(Carla Bryant, Corrigan Consulting)
3. Understanding Consumer Emotion – Science shows that the part of the brain that controls emotion reacts at a much faster pace to pictures, colors and emotions and that these impressions produce better memory recall. Women make the majority of health care decisions for others (59 percent), but they often lack confidence in the decisions they are making due to hectic schedules, lack of reliable information and a general sense of distrust in the industry. So we must become more relationship-based in our efforts … the “Know-Like-Trust Factor”. Ways to do this include:
- Personalizing physician bios
- Telling stories
- Making consumers feel empowered
- Making social media authentic, empathetic and interesting
(Kirsten Lecky, Writer Girl)
4. Campaigns – To set key performance indicators (KPIs), start with clarifying the purpose of the marketing campaign. What is the strategic initiative? Is it in response to a competitive threat? To increase capacity? Clarify KPIs in terms of new patients, patient retention, physician recruitment, etc. Executing a quality campaign takes time, so give it the commitment it needs. Content is still most valued by healthcare consumers.
(Paul Griffiths, MedTouch and Robert Wasserman, Hallmark Health)
5. Content – Start by gathering relevant information based on the target audience, then establish tone and POV. Appoint “blog champions” within the organization. Commit consistent time and resources. Increase the content life cycle by telling captivating stories that retain value and can be retold. Engaging content survives many uses. Focus on what your patients and providers are talking about. A Hallmark Health blog about a patient who overcame an opioid addiction led to a 258% increase in readership from the previous month.
(Paul Griffiths, MedTouch and Robert Wasserman, Hallmark Health)
6. Big Data – People are still stumped by digital media. There is the “creepiness” factor and misconceptions about the difficulty of HIPPA compliance. CRM is used for population health, patient education, predictive modeling and target segmentation. Its adoption is driven by the size of the enterprise. When utilized, it enables engagement, e.g., medical records, billing records, class registrations, website/campaign data, personas, demographics, etc. Some health systems are using digital metrics to segment their direct mail lists based on those who are most likely to read their newsletter.
(Theresa Komitas, KishHealth System and Eric Silberman, True North Custom)
In a previous blog, “Does Cost Matter to Healthcare Consumers”, we cited the lack of correlation between access to healthcare price information and spending less on medical procedures. The reasons for this revealed that much work remains in changing the culture of price transparency and how consumers can best use this data to make better, more informed decisions.
Some people are inclined to pay a higher price because they believe this means higher quality. Others will not, choosing to be largely influenced by price alone. And still others will fall in-between based on the procedure needed, their value system and their financial status.
The fact is, spending is not necessary highly correlated with quality. One of the key reasons for this is that price of the same service varies so much across healthcare institutions. Medicare payments are adjusted based on a variety of factors, including geography, medical education costs (e.g., teaching hospitals) and the share of caring for indigent patients. In the case of private insurer reimbursements, variation is due largely to negotiations with providers. Notice that the term “quality of care” is noticeably absent from the factors affecting price listed here.
So how do we treat price when marketing healthcare services?
The same way all other marketers do when they are avoiding the pitfall of competing on price … promote value. When healthcare consumers recognize positive experience and outcomes (quality), these factors can become more important than price.
Value is defined by this intersection of price, experience and outcomes. And it has the potential to make an everlasting imprint on your brand identity in the eye of the healthcare consumer. But to do so requires delivering consistent experiences and communicating meaningful information on outcomes.
With the healthcare industry headed more and more toward a consumer-centric (bordering on retail) model, the same consumer behavior we have seen in markets for other products and services will continue to emerge. Therefore, deciding where you fit into this positioning model and how you will communicate this positioning is not an option. It has become a marketing imperative. Your brand will be defined by it.
So how do you approach this process?
- All senior management needs to become aware of this brand positioning paradigm and prioritize it as a major hospital issue.
- Market research should be undertaken to understand the local healthcare consumer market, the value system in place and the decision-making process. This task is too important and impactful to be based on opinion and guesswork.
- A roadmap must be designed to guide how each of these three key brand elements – quality, experience and price – will be communicated, both individually and as a whole.
No approach to any of this will be perfect. For example, the quality message is currently communicated in a variety of often confusing, ways. Click here for our Quality Measure blog. Defining quality based on an award is a common practice, but the impact can be diluted when there is no context around the award.
Deal with this and other similar interpretations in the same committed manner you approach any other challenging topic or project. Devise a communications plan that a collaborative group agrees is best and further challenge it for any holes that may be distressful. Then run with it, invest in it and be consistent. Like any brand communications campaign, success will be a function of personal investment, time and funding.
Without this plan to effectively communicate quality and experience, you can be sure that price and out-of-pocket expense will become the market equalizer.
Your pricing and outcomes information is generally available now. And word-of-mouth is already playing a major role along with published measures in your patient experience reputation. Quality is communicated in a variety of random ways. If you haven’t already, it is now time to step up with a plan to lead public perception with a messaging plan that helps consumers make sense of all of this and differentiates you in terms of your own excellent brand dimensions.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you do, you’ll be chasing your competitors.
As healthcare margins tighten, the need to demonstrate marketing’s financial contribution has moved from a “consideration” to an “imperative.”
However, several major challenges stand in the way of progress in this area, including lack of data, no mutually agreed upon expectations and a narrow view of marketing’s role.
A publication released in 2016 by the Marketing Metrics Committee of SHSMD (Society of Healthcare Strategy and Market Development) aims to help. It offers, for the first time, a clearly defined set of metrics to help marketers demonstrate financial contribution to their healthcare system.
It is a breakthrough document.
The plan is laid out in Life Beyond Promotion: Core Metrics for Measuring Marketing’s Financial Performance, a whitepaper that defines a framework of four areas of strategic focus to which marketing contributes:
- Brand and Image
- Stakeholder Engagement
- Marketing Communications
In addition to creating this framework for metrics, the study calls for improved dialogue between marketing professionals and healthcare leaders, proclaiming that “there is often a fundamental lack of meaningful dialogue between marketing and executive leadership on strategy, appropriate roles, measurable deliverables and elements of success.”
Defining marketing’s influence has been, at best, a nebulous exercise, but the SHSMD plan attempts to clarify this influence by defining each area in two ways: accountability (marketing’s singular responsibility) and influence (marketing shares responsibility with other parts of the organization). By assigning metrics to each of the four strategic areas, financial performance can be judged more accurately.
The whitepaper offers specific measurement recommendations for a variety of metrics in each of the following four categories:
- Growth (Accountability and Influence)
Take ownership by identifying your role and goals. How will that promotional event lead to an increase in admissions and surgeries? Will market share over your competitors improve? By agreeing on a baseline starting point, you can measure changes in volume, revenue, new patient acquisition and market share on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.
- Brand and Image (Accountability)
Few factors play a greater role in your success than image and reputation. Greater brand awareness can help you negotiate more favorable prices, while brand strength creates opportunities for growth. It is vital to annually review where your hospital is ranked, especially among your competitors. Equally important is your reputation. What kind of feedback are you receiving when people are polled about your services? How aware are they of what you have to offer?
- Stakeholder Engagement (Influence)
This is about patient satisfaction. How likely would someone be to recommend your hospital to a family member or friend? It’s not something that marketing can directly control. But it is an area where you can have influence by identifying areas of opportunity and suggesting programs that will create a positive impression in the community.
- Marketing Communications (Accountability)
How are your media campaigns influencing patient loyalty? Are those paid TV spots and newspaper ads leading to transactions? How many people are you reaching through company-produced publications? How often are you interacting on social media? Is the tone of free coverage positive, negative or neutral? What is the value of free coverage vs. the cost of advertising?
Although finance executives aren’t in complete agreement concerning all the ways to measure marketing’s contributions to a healthcare system, they did agree 100 percent on one thing: “Having metrics in these areas would create dialogue with our management team and our marketing department.”
The document concludes with an eight point plan of action to get started:
- Start here by using the applicable metrics offered in the whitepaper
- Seek consensus on a broad definition of marketing
- Get direction on specific, measurable activities prior to the fiscal year
- Get agreement on the metrics in advance of the effort
- Clarify when marketing is accountable versus influential
- Establish a review schedule
- Identify and apply the lag time between events to desired results
- Collaborate with peers
Getting to where we need to be to improve the culture of healthcare marketing measurement is no easy endeavor. But all agree that the need is acute. It is time for more focus and attention to be dedicated to the endeavor. Activating the eight point “Get Started” plan offered by this excellent SHSMD publication would be a great first step.
People seeking healthcare providers have more information at their disposal than at any time in history, so it’s more important than ever for healthcare marketers to be creative to ensure their message stands out.
In the generally conservative world of healthcare marketing, that’s not always easy. However, when you find that right campaign, the results can be eye-opening. Here are three great examples.
Marketing Is More Personal Now, So Be Personable
Dare to be fun, engaging and interactive. United Healthcare did just this with their award-winning 2014 campaign called “We Dare You.”
The campaign included monthly health tips shared in the form of dares. One month they challenged people to share a photo of fresh produce. Another included a challenge to incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity into your day. Participants tagged their entries #wedareyou and won prizes for top entries. More than 3,000 photos were shared per month.
Give a Voice to Your Biggest Advocates
Medical device manufacturer Medtronic achieved this by sharing the stories of how their equipment has helped a wide range of people live fuller lives. Each of their patient stories, in written and video form, is about a person who had a problem solved by a Medtronic device. To encourage sharing, they offered rewards to patients, such as a $20,000 charitable grant that winners can use to serve their communities. This successful technique is an example of promoting benefits instead of just features.
Connect with Consumers in their Language
The 2015 campaign called “Melanoma Likes Me” by Melanoma Patients Australia targeted 15-30 year olds, the age group at the highest risk of contracting melanoma. Rather than an all-encompassing, multi-channel marketing approach, they went right to where young people live: Instagram and Twitter. And they had some fun doing it.
MPA created an online persona for Melanoma that responded to, liked and followed over two million young Australians’ social media activities. After visiting the Melanoma Instagram or Twitter accounts, consumers were directed to a Melanoma prevention website intended to raise awareness and urge people to think about their choices.
As the campaign concluded, the algorithm that cost $430 to create had earned over $5 million in media value. Melanoma Likes Me was recognized for a Silver Lion at the Cannes Media Lions Festival of Creativity.
Modern consumers have no problem searching the internet for healthcare information. Facts and figures alone are not always enough to win them over. As these three examples showed, you need an emotional tie.