Sunday, May 20, 2018

Changing the Role of Hospital Marketing for Today’s Market, Six Essential Steps.


I came across an old post from December 2010 written with the passage of the Affordable Care Act on how the role of hospital marketing needed to change to meet the new evolving consumer-directed marketplace.  Then in 2012, a reader asked if hospital marketing had changed nearly two years later. My answer is 2012, sadly enough not much has changed in the current state and role of hospital marketing.  

Today on May 20, 2018, nearly eight-year after the original post, I decided to revisit the question. The answer is still; not much has changed overall. 

Oh, we have added an expanded social media and online practice, but much of the changing role and strategic marketing leadership that I envisioned with the passage of the Affordable Care Act hasn't taken place.  It's pretty much standard operations as in the past.  And that is disappointing. 

Understand that I am not talking about pharma, medical device manufacturers, insurance companies, suppliers and retailers moving into the healthcare space.  They get it.  A few hospitals and health systems get it. They understand the power and importance of marketing.  

What I wrote about eight years ago, still stands. Hospitals are falling behind daily in their overall marketing, engagement of the healthcare consumer and managing the patient/consumer experience.  

One new concept added to the post is marketing to the health insurance exchange consumers. Why? It’s an opportunity to have people select insurance plans in which you are a network provider. It’s is potentially a brand marketing opportunity that few if any hospital tries to take a competitive advantage. Hoping the buyer of an insurance plan where you are one of the network hospitals is not a strategy. 

Here we go….again. 

Marketing Leadership 

Marketing is strategy first, tactics second.  The voice of marketing should reflect the voice of your customers and not be a second thought.   Your future programs and services should be determined by the needs of the market, not your gut feeling.  You cannot become a customer-driven or market-driven organization if the skills and experiences of marketing are not at the leadership table. 

Managing the Patient Experience 

If anyone is prepared to understand and manage the patient experience across the organization, it's marketing. Patient experience means just that- understanding what that patient experience is at all touch points. And then changing or managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Patient experience is an integrating process across the entire organization internally and externally.  One organization to the patient, one patient to the organization. It is not simply another quality program or flavor of the day.  

Understanding and Executing Demand Management 

The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe.  It isn’t about “putting heads in the beds” anymore. The Affordable Care Act is designed to keep people out of the hospital.  Outside of emergency care, care for complex acute medical conditions and intensive care, hospital admission is a defect in the process of care. Marketing needs to understand what the demand for healthcare services will be, when they will be needed and manage that demand is making sure that the hospital or health system has the right resources, in the right place, at the right time to meet demand.  Gone are the days where marketing departments will be driving demand to fill hospital beds. They will drive demand to the appropriate place and location of service. 

Becoming a Revenue Marketer and Having Revenue Accountability 

Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) is necessary for anything marketing accomplishes, traditionally, socially or online. Marketers in healthcare organizations need to become revenue producers, not resource consumers that show little value beyond, it looks nice.  In fact, marketing should have P&L as well as an SG&A accountability for many of the products and services offered by a healthcare organization. 

Marketing the Manager of Change 

Who better in an organization than for marketing to manage the healthcare organizations transformation from an inward-focused it's all about me, to an outward-focused market and consumer-driven organization?   Open to much debate, this is probably the most controversial look at the expanding role of marketing.  Individuals who have worked at their organizations all of their careers, do not necessarily have the skills, training or abilities to change an organization in any meaningful, transformative way. 

Marketing to the Insurance Exchange Consumer 

Marketing to the exchange consumer is more than negotiating with every plan available and being included. In the new world of consumer-directed healthcare, purchasing health insurance is a big deal. Consumer shopping behavior is clearly at play in the exchanges. When there is a 10 percent difference in premium, the healthcare consumer exhibits consumerist shopping behavior and chooses the lower cost health plan with the narrower restrictive provider panel limiting their choice.

If I were running a hospital, you can bet my marketing department would be figuring out the educational campaign to target those healthcare consumers buying health insurance in the exchanges, teaching them how to buy insurance that included the hospital and the affiliated physicians. And that doesn't mean a list of insurance plans or doctors. 

The role of hospital marketing needs to change sooner rather than later. Eight years is time enough.
Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.
For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hospitals Have the Yips Over ‘Yelpification’ of Healthcare. Here is Your Marketing Response.

I read an interesting article on April 27, 2018, “Providers jittery over the ‘Yelpification’ of healthcare”, Tony Abraham, Healthcare Dive from the Manhattan Institute report, “Yelp for Health”. The striking part of the report is that consumer Yelp reviews and other text-based reviews correlate with Medicare consumer surveys. Oh, oh.

We all know that consumers are increasingly turning to social media to find and select healthcare providers.  Why is that such a surprise?

Now that the horse is out of the barn and not going back anytime soon, what is the hospital to do? 

It’s time to stop having the yips or jitters over patients and consumers using Yelp and other social media channels. It’s now time to respond strategically and tactically from a marketing perspective.

You must get over it organizationally and stop believing your press releases about how great you are. The yips and jitters come from inaction and refusal to accept the reality of the market driven by the growing consumer dominance of healthcare. Consumers desire actionable information and transparency. If you are not going to give them either, then the healthcare consumer will create their version based on their experience for others to learn.  You reap what you sow. And the silence from the hospital is deafening to the consumer. Silence is acceptance and acquiescence on the part of the hospital reinforcing for the consumer that it must be true.

Yul Benner as Rameses in the movie 10 Commandments says it best, “So let it be written. So let it be done.”

What to do?

The time for the yips, jitters, and silence on the ‘Yelpification’ of healthcare has passed. It is now time to accept the reality of consumer reviews and treat them like the survival of the hospital and health system depends on them.  After all, the healthcare consumer knows one only needs three services from the hospital or health system, emergency care, intensive care and care for acute complex medical conditions. Period.

It comes down to the following key factors.
1.       Know the audience. Know the markets. Know what information the healthcare consumer is searching out. Know what social media platforms they use to gather information and engage. 
2.       Build a social media response plan and a proactive social media content plan integrated into the overall marketing plan and strategy for the hospital or health system. Include in your plan, goals and objectives, key messages, engagement strategies. How it will be measured and evaluated and who is responsible for executing the plan. What gets measured gets done. 
3.       Monitor, monitor and monitor some more the social media channels where consumers are posting reviews on the hospital, health systems, and physicians. 
4.       Engage and build a meaningful relationship with the healthcare consumer. Stay away from meaningless fluff and anything that looks like it’s all about the organization. And listen. Listen very carefully to social media and respond accordingly. 
5.       Allocate the resources for someone to do this full time all the time.  Don’t say the hospital doesn’t have it.  Reallocate the marketing budget to social media from more traditional areas. 
6.       Invest in staff training on social media, identifying the skills sets that may be lacking and if need be, hire from the outside. Experience counts as the healthcare enterprise does not have the time for trial and error. 
7.       Budget is marketing IT resources and systems for measurement, automation and reporting on social media channels and activities.

There you have it. The beginnings of a strategy and tactical execution plan to meet the healthcare consumer on their terms on their ground.

Or, you can have the yips and jitters about the ‘Yelpification’ of healthcare, feeling sorry for yourself while all around you the healthcare consumer burns and takes you to the ash heap of history.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Extra, extra, read all about it. Hospitals Discover Patient Brand Evangelist Influencer Marketing

Do you know who your patient hospital brand evangelists are? I ask this question for a very important reason.  In an age of little provider differentiation in the retail medical marketplace with me too messaging, how is a healthcare consumer to make a choice?

Now that being said, I realize that many a healthcare leader will dispute the above statement.  But the fact is it is little if any messaging differentiation.  I was there in the same place but made a conscious effort to move away from the “me too” messaging.

So where am I going with this?

Healthcare consumers and patients are demanding price and quality transparency, as is CMS, employers and other key constituents. Maybe what they want is more price certainty and to know what the value is they are receiving for the dollar paid?  But few in the hospital or health system segment are listening to the needs and demands of the healthcare consumer. Then they howl loudly than a third-party releases data that is publically available on the hospitals or health systems prices and quality.

Consider for a moment. 
1.       Consumers of healthcare are shopping.
2.       Consumers are now paying over one-third of the cost of care out of pocket.
3.       A consumer uses the internet and social media 41 percent of the time in gathering information to make provider choice.

And the answer by hospitals and health systems is marketing trust our expertise, buildings and technology with messages that are full of ambiguous claims and statements.

Now that being said, kudos to UChicago Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital for leading the way in the Chicago healthcare market by bucking that trend. They comprehend the value of the patient as brand evangelist and influencer. And that is gratifying to me as a topic I have been writing about for a few years now. But let me be clear, I in no way claim any influence in the hospitals or their agency’s marketing direction. It’s nice to be proven right.

For the rest of the hospitals and health systems which do not yet comprehend the value and effectiveness of the patient as brand evangelist and influence, this is for you.

Let me give you an example. When employed as the Regional Director of Marketing at a multihospital health system, I developed with BVK the Third Opinion Oncology campaign.  Upon an individual receiving a cancer diagnosis, the next step is the second medical opinion.  But we found that there was a third step. The patient then talks to everyone and anyone that went through that cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Instead of going to the market with a look at our great oncologists, technology, expertise and it’s all about you messaging we went in a very different direction. The campaign focused on three individuals with common cancer diagnoses of breast, colon, and prostate. By the way, it was hard to find those three brand evangelists. 

The simple message-  “Ask me how I beat breast cancer,” Jane@hosptial.org with a professional photo of the individual, email, print, billboard and direct mail. Calls and emails went to my RN based call center. Before the campaign launch, a detailed Q&A with the three individuals, clinicians, and oncologists to identify the type of questions they had and the answers.  When a question came in that, we did not have an answer for we went back to the individuals and clinicians for an answer.

The entire campaign pulled the consumer to the hospital, pushed through to the oncologist, then pulled the oncologist to the hospital.

I did not message quality, technology, drugs, surgery; we care about you or anything else. I didn't say best and brightest; it’s all about you, or we are the only choices. Those are arrogant and pejorative vague claims that are indefensible. One message that was clear and unambiguous offer a solution to a serious medical situation. Answering healthcare consumer questions that are life and death in nature to real questions from real consumers.

Use of a patient brand evangelist differentiated the systems oncology services and established a position in the market that no other provider could claim.  The campaign drove appropriate utilization, built the oncologist practices and increased hospital revenue, market share and brand awareness.

And all of that was before a change in the healthcare market in 2006. Oh my, did I say 2006?  Twelve years ago?  What is old is new. Today the stake is even higher, and the hospital or health system brand needs patent evangelists and influencers.

The hospital of 2018 operates in a far different healthcare market than in 2006. But the idea and principles are the same. In many ways its even more important today than yesterday. Brand value, outcome, experience, and engagement are everything today.

Sometimes it's not rocket science, but the ability to adapt and change from past practices.  If I were on the hospital side in marketing, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Next Flavor of the Day for Healthcare Vendor Sales & Marketing - OODA Loops in Nine Steps

Something in the integration of sales and marketing in healthcare vendors could be amiss. One camp is still living in the 90s. Another in the 2000s and yet another in the 2010s around the selling and marketing process. I forgot to mention as well, leadership reading an article, attending a conference, or hearing speaker assuming they know it all and then mandating a change in organizational direction. Size of the company matters little for it happens in all of them.

The healthcare vendor world regardless of product or channel is a very competitive place with clear winners and losers. It’s a winner take all proposition with physicians, hospitals, and health systems, hence the need for a sales and marketing strategy that can give an edge. And that can be difficult in a parallel world of messages, product capability and solutions.

Enter the concept of OODA LOOP applied to sales and marketing.

But, let’s first start with what is an OODA Loop. Developed by USAF military strategist Colonel John Boyd, OODA- Observe, Orient, Decide and Act applied it to military combat operation process at the strategic level. It is now making its way into the business world and how a competitive edge can be gained resulting in sales, growth, and revenue. This approach cycle favors agility over raw power in dealing with individuals or groups of individuals in any endeavor.

Besides the obvious goal of winning the sales, the activity of sales and marketing is to get into the decision-making process of a company.  Boyd has postulated that decision-making takes place in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. Now, any sales and marketing team of a company that can process this cycle quickly observing and reacting to events more rapidly than a competitor, or to a competitor’s mistake, can get inside of the process and gain a competitive and tactical advantage.

But first, let me take a moment to apologize my readers. The above-shortened explanation does not do the nature or complexity of OODA Loops justice. It serves in a small way to at least provide a conceptual framework worthy of further investigation.

Now think about how this formalized process could apply to sales and marketing cycles for healthcare vendors in the provider space. 

Sales and marketing gather information (observe), form a plan of action around customer activity, their intentions and competitors (orient), make decisions (decide) and execute (act). This cycle is continuous given the changing market dynamics, companies, needs, and requirements. 

The precise application of this process gives the healthcare vendor the advantage over a competitor who is merely reacting to conditions as they happen, or just isn’t paying attention to the opportunity. It also allows for the sale and marketing team of the healthcare vendor to recognize and capitalize on competitor mistakes, forcing them to spend time and resources in correcting the error.  By the time the competitor realizes what has happened and reacts, the headline and story written. It’s too late, and they have lost any tactical advantage.

A word of caution is in order. Often, teams working the OODA Loop often get stuck in the D (decision), and no action is taken allowing the competitor to gain the upper hand. If a healthcare vendor is going to use the OODA Loop process, then they must understand that without decisions, it fails.

So, what does it take? 

1.       A far more sophisticated understanding of the OODA process than what is here. 
2.       Sales and marketing team which is highly integrated, collaborative and responsive. 
3.       Sales and marketing operations built on agility. 
4.       Create an OODA Loop Team. 
5.       An ability to respond rapidly to changing conditions measured in minutes and hours, not days or weeks. 
6.       A culture that accepts ambiguity and can tolerate rapid shifts in strategy and tactics. 
7.       An aggressive mindset that recognizes competitor mistakes and can drive action and accountability in responding. 
8.       The ability to rapidly shift sales and marketing resources. 
9.       Abilities to be different and succeed.

Nine steps that are a tall order for most healthcare vendors and many in their wildest dreams will never be able to do this.  But then, all you must do is learn and use OODA Loops to beat your healthcare vendor competitors into submission in the market.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.