Category Archives: Marketing Leadership

What’s your strategy for internal communications?

megaphoneHealthcare leaders recognize the importance of internal communication to create awareness, understanding and support for organizational change. And it goes without saying that “change” is the new watchword of the health industry. From cost reduction initiatives, to the creation of new ventures and partnerships, to care transformation initiatives, the magnitude of change for healthcare workers is significant.

So how do health system executives rally the troops to gain support for large scale change initiatives? By developing a stellar strategic internal communications program that engages staff and rallies support from internal audiences.

Join me on a November 12, 2014 webinar to learn how CenterLight Health System (New York) did just that. I’ll be moderating a panel discussion featuring Connie Tejeda, VP for Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at CenterLight, and Kim Fox, VP with Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock. Among the discussion topics:

  • How to build a sustainable program with the resources you already have
  • How core messages can ground and focus your efforts
  • How to help managers inform and connect with staff
  • How CenterLight Health succeeded in getting staff on board

The webinar is sponsored by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists; registration is complimentary for Forum members ($125 for non-members). Can’t make it on the 12th? You can also order the recording.

Follow the link below to register.

Creating a Stellar Internal Communications Program
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
11:30AM – 12:30PM (CDT)

For more information call 312.440.9080 x 23.

A lively healthcare marketing discussion in New York City

What a treat it was this past week to join the smart folks from National Research Corporation and their super smart healthcare marketing clients at NRC’s Market Insights Fall Consumer Collaborative in New York City.  We spent two days delving into healthcare research findings, exploring changes in the healthcare industry and brainstorming ideas to advance marketing practices.

I had the opportunity to lead a discussion on Customer Decision Journey Mapping – a method to help healthcare marketers discover the touch points or “moments of truth” that most influence consumer decisions to select, use and advocate for healthcare services, providers and brands.  By gaining deep insights into how consumers learn about, seek and evaluate healthcare providers – and how they judge the experience - marketers can better focus marketing investments on activities that convert seekers to brand loyal customers.

The slides from that session are embedded at the end of this post.

On a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the new One World Trade Center from my room on the 32nd floor of the conference hotel.  What an impressive building!

Evidence-based Healthcare Marketing: Rethinking Measurement

Save the dateHealthcare marketers face increasing pressure to make the most of their marketing investments.  The C-suite wants accountability for outcomes – volume, revenue, greater customer loyalty – and assurance that the health system is strengthening its competitive position.

The bottom line is that marketing is becoming more science than art.  Today, sophisticated tools and marketing analytics provide great insights into customer needs, values, drivers and behaviors.  They inform our decision-making, shape strategy, focus investments.  When actionable information is combined with rigorous planning, innovative ideas and disciplined tracking, marketing executives quickly close the accountability gap.

Welcome to evidence-based marketing.

On July 10, 2014, I’ll join Marian Dezelan, Chief Marketing Officer, and Chris Boyer, AVP Digital Marketing Strategy, for North Shore–LIJ Health System (Great Neck, NY) on a webinar to discuss how an evidence-based approach to healthcare marketing can better focus your strategy and produce measureable results.  Marian and Chris will share how North Shore-LIJ’s marketing department applies evidence-based marketing techniques for personalized targeted marketing, patient engagement and making the most of marketing data.

Sponsored by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists, the webinar is scheduled from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm CDT.  The session is complimentary for Forum members; non-members can participate for $125.

I hope you’ll join us.  In fact, gather your team, order in lunch and make time to learn together.

Click here to learn more about the webinar and register for the program.

Are you seeing greater consumer scrutiny of healthcare prices? You will.

eye drops 3More and more, I hear from healthcare colleagues that the number of consumers inquiring about healthcare prices is increasing. Some just want to know what a specific procedure or drug will cost. Others want to understand their out-of-pocket contributions. And many, many more complain about prices and pricing structures that, quite frankly, just don’t make sense.

It’s ironic that I ran across this Huffington Post article – More Proof that American Health Care Prices are Sky High – just when my husband called to let me know that the price of the eye drops prescription I had asked him to pick up was $208.00. Our health insurance company wanted to consult with the provider about alternatives before approving and paying for the script. It was 7:30 in the evening and the doctor’s office was closed – meanwhile my eyes are nearly swollen shut from the overabundance of pollen we’re experiencing this year. So we shelled out the $208 and will spend the next few days making multiple phone calls to try and align this patient’s needs with the doctor’s recommendations and the insurance company’s procedures.

I was curious about the cost of the drug when I read this blog post regarding the latest data from the International Federation of Health Plans, an industry group representing health insurers from 28 countries including the United States. The author’s point is that American patients pay the highest prices in the world for a variety of prescription drugs and common medical procedures.

So I looked up pricing for the eye drops on drug retailer websites from several countries, including the UK and Canada, and found that prices for the very same prescription (brand name, strength, dosage, etc.) were significantly less – around $40 (with free shipping). That’s about $8 per ml, whereas we paid $41.60 per ml. I’m talking about a bottle of eye drops that barely stands 1½ inches high. The pharmaceutical people have some explaining to do.

In fact, all of us who work in this industry do – about how prices are established, why there is so much variation across providers, products and services, why it cost so darn much. As healthcare marketers, we’re removed from pricing decisions, which are core to branding, positioning and marketing strategies for both wholesale (contracting) and retail (out of pocket) relationships.

Personally, I hope we see consumers ask more questions – and demand more answers – about the price of healthcare services and goods. And I hope we as an industry will have good answers.

It’s time to bring pricing into public view.

Part 4. Invest to build a high performing healthcare marketing team.

Marketing Team 2
Final post in a four-part series.

Marketing resource allocation planning is critical to assuring that limited marketing funds (and FTEs) are focused on marketing initiatives that have the best potential for driving revenue growth, improving overall business performance and positioning health systems for long-term success. Parts 2 and 3 of this series described the first two decision points in resource allocation modeling:

  • First, what businesses, clinical programs or market expansion initiatives offer the best opportunity for growth and profitability?
  • Second, within priority programs and service lines, what strategies and tactical initiatives will best achieve marketing goals?

The third decision point is: what infrastructure investments are required to optimize marketing performance and ROI? In other words, what capabilities, technologies, skill sets, business partners, processes and tools are necessary for the marketing team to effectively execute marketing strategy? Building a high-performing marketing team and the systems to support them are strategy-critical investments that will generate significant returns over the long term.

What should you consider?

  •  Structure, staffing and skill set of the marketing team. Is the team optimally organized and staffed to execute and manage against strategic priorities? Do they possess the skills required in today’s complex and competitive world – including business analytics and strategic thinking skills? Can they mobilize and align clinical, administrative and other functions to execute marketing strategy? Are they fluent in digital media and skilled in web, social networking and mobile technology platforms?
  • CRM and call centers. Next, evaluate the capabilities, systems and processes to capture and respond to customer inquiries (both consumer and physician), and to capture, analyze and manage customer level data. Today, marketers are moving toward integrated customer contact centers that better leverage call center, web inquiry and CRM capabilities in order to connect customers with services, capture data to improve marketing decision-making, and measure the effectiveness of marketing investments.
  • Digital marketing capabilities and systems. One of the biggest challenges facing marketers today is the pace of change and shift in investments required to ramp up digital marketing. Web, search, social media and mobile marketing are no longer optional – nor should they be secondary priorities. There is no better time to stop funding tactics with marginal returns (among my favorites are billboards) and plow those dollars into the staffing, training and systems to become digital marketing experts.
  • Decision support systems. The key question for marketers is “do we have the information needed to inform our decisions about strategy, investments and outcomes?” Competitive intelligence, market research, trended performance data (e.g. volume growth, revenue, margin, etc.), market projections, industry trends, segmentation studies and other robust information sources are vital to effective marketing decision-making.
  • Business partners and outsourced support. What to build in-house versus what to outsource is often a tough question. The rule of thumb is that if it’s not critical to core operations or a core competency in which you’re willing to invest and nurture, then outsourcing is probably the best alternative. Business or outsourced partners include advertising agencies, digital marketing firms, call center operations and research firms, among others. A periodic review of contract terms and performance is always a good idea.
  • Shorten your “to do” list. Often, one of the more difficult tasks for marketers is to eliminate activities that do not contribute to growth and improved competitive performance. But in today’s environment, “squeaky wheels” must give way to an evidence-based approach to marketing investment. The key to success is focusing your time – and dollars – on fewer, more impactful activities.

Conclusion

More than ever, chief marketing executives are being held to a higher standard of accountability for return on marketing investments. A disciplined approach to marketing resource allocation planning is required to understand what programs, services or segments will best drive growth and improve business performance, and what activities and support systems will contribute most to those initiatives.

Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to marketing resource allocation planning are necessary; top down for strategic marketing planning across a health system’s portfolio of service lines and growth initiatives – and bottom up to develop specific marketing plans and budgets within each priority program.
Most important, perhaps, is to use a data-informed approach to gain organizational commitment to stay on strategy.

Read the series:

Part 3. Let strategy drive healthcare marketing decisions.

Marketing FocusWe’ve all been there.  That place where we’re executing carefully crafted marketing plans, launching highly targeted and creative strategies, balancing both the over-stressed marketing team’s time and the under-resourced budget to make it all work when someone (e.g., administrator, doctor, service line leader) marches in with the marketing demand du jour.  Without a methodology for focusing activities and budgets on strategy-critical projects with the best potential for return on investment, every new demand takes on equal importance and, in the end, sabotages marketing performance.

Marketing resource allocation planning is the process of determining how returns on marketing investments are optimized.  It’s a multi-dimensional decision process encompassing priority services, markets and segments, the marketing mix, and marketing operations and infrastructure investments.

Part two of this series (Focus Healthcare Marketing Investments to Improve Business Performance) described the first decision point – determining those programs, products, markets, segments and initiatives with the greatest potential for growth and ROI.  Once the decision of what programs and service lines to grow has been made, you will then need to determine how time and budget dollars are allocated against the marketing mix.

Investment considerations that come into play at this point include:

  • Research and development to build, expand and enhance the mix of service offerings
  • Service line planning, clinical program development and patient care experience design
  • Building brand awareness and stimulating demand in target customer segments
  • Cultivating and strengthening access channels, physician relations and referrals
  • Sales, third party contracting and pricing
  • Advertising, promotions, marketing events and co-marketing partnerships
  • Digital, social and mobile strategies and tactics

Marketing goals and strategy decisions should clearly guide these choices. The secret to success in marketing resource allocation is to know where investments return the biggest bang.  Consumer influenced or directed services such as bariatric surgery, plastic surgery or sports marketing require more investment in direct consumer marketing, events marketing and call center support; services and procedures influenced more by physician referrals should be more heavily invested in sales, physician relations and new clinical program development.

SCALING ACTIVITIES TO INVESTMENTS

The scope and scale of marketing activities should be matched to investment levels and expected return on investment.  In the example below, Tier One priorities (those most important to strategic and financial goals) receive the majority of marketing resources whereas activities and resources for Tiers Two and Three (those with modest to no return on investment potential) are scaled back considerably.

This may seem like a no-brainer but too often, the marketing team’s time and budget are compromised by squeaky-wheels, pet projects and deep-seated needs to keep everyone happy. (I think the misguided concept of ‘internal customers’ is also to blame, but that’s an entirely different post to write).

CRITICAL QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

  • For Tier One initiatives, do we have adequate research and market intelligence to discern strategies and methods to more effectively attract consumers, increase physician referrals and move volume and market share from competitors?  What additional information do we need?
  • By service line, what segments are most attractive in terms of growth and profitability?  How are those segments likely to be influenced (e.g. consumer marketing, physician referral development, program design, hours of operation, etc.)?
  • What improvements/innovations at the service interface (e.g. scheduling, registration, access, patient navigation, web appointments, MD hotlines, etc.) differentiate and add value? What do we invest to create these programs?
  • How can we leverage existing communications channels and tools to provide effective but lower investment support to lower tier programs?  Should we provide tools, templates and information to program managers to support their marketing efforts?
  • Do we have an adequate balance of activities and investments across research, product development, web, advertising and sales activities?
  • How will we track the effectiveness of these initiatives and when do we regroup to change course?
  • What marketing constraints, risks, etc. exist and how will those be addressed?
  • How will we gain consensus for resource allocation decisions and cultivate support for that focus?

Gaining consensus is critical to keeping the organization focused on the marketing plan and investment decisions.  Not that every bright shining object can or should be ignored – some may very well offer significant opportunities – but distractions can be minimized.  The keys to effective marketing management are the discipline of focused execution, ability to discern when course corrections should be made, and capacity to seize new on-strategy opportunities.

In part four, I’ll discuss investments to build marketing infrastructure and capabilities.

Read parts one and two:

Part 2. Focus healthcare marketing investments to improve business performance.

questions3How do healthcare marketing executives decide where to allocate scarce marketing resources – both people and dollars? In today’s complex environment, determining what gets funded and what doesn’t, how much to invest and what your team should be spending time on can be a daunting task.

Marketing resource allocation decisions must be made across multiple dimensions. What services offer the best opportunity for growth, profitability and improved competitive performance? Within those programs, what specific marketing strategies and tactics should be used to achieve goals? What staffing and infrastructure investments are needed to improve marketing performance?

While it’s not an exact science, the process of marketing resource allocation modeling will help CMOs better invest limited marketing resources in initiatives that improve business performance, build brand equity and position the organization for success.

The first decision point is determining what lines of business, clinical programs, market expansion initiatives and customer segments offer the best opportunity for growth, profitability and competitive advantage.

ESTABLISHING TARGETS AND OBJECTIVES

Effectiveness of the marketing resource allocation model is supported by the discipline to target and select the FEWEST, MOST IMPACTFUL programs in which to concentrate resources. Priority growth program investments are derived from the analysis of key elements such as:

  • Volume, revenue and profitability contributions by line of business (e.g., inpatient, ambulatory, physician services, etc.), service lines and clinical programs (e.g. cardiovascular, orthopedics, etc.), new market initiatives (e.g. joint venture partnerships, facility development, etc.) or customer segments (e.g., geographic, demographic, psychographic, etc.)
  • Overall utilization, volume and demand projections
  • Rate of market growth for encounters and procedures
  • Reimbursement and profitability rates and trends
  • Organizational capacity for new growth
  • Physician supply, access, capacity and alignment
  • Health system competencies, technologies, facilities
  • Patient experience and satisfaction
  • Quality indicators and rankings
  • Competitive positioning, brand strength and market distinctiveness

This will require some work but the outcome will be well worth the effort. By comparing this information across major business initiatives and service lines, it becomes obvious that a focused subset should be targeted.

The following is a simple framework for ranking business lines, services or segments in accordance with their potential for contribution. Tier one programs are those with the greatest potential for financial or strategic returns on investment. Tier two and tier three programs are supported at lower investment levels. In this example, 60% of marketing resources are allocated to tier one projects and the remaining 40% spread across tiers two and three, with three receiving a minimal amount.

These percentages can be adjusted up and down – keeping in mind that the objective is to adequately resource those projects most important to organizational performance.

I’ve found this process to be particularly helpful in arming the marketing team with an effective, data-driven platform to ward off requests that that seem to fly in from left field on an all too frequent basis. You know the ones I’m talking about. It also helps the CMO build agreement with his or her peer executives on a focused growth agenda.

In the next post, I’ll discuss decision point two: within priority programs and service lines, what strategies and tactical initiatives will best achieve marketing goals?

Read Part One:  The Secret to Healthcare Marketing ROI? Focus. Focus. Focus.