Straight talk about the state of healthcare marketing

chief revenue officerEarlier this week, I sent an email to a group of long-time and much respected healthcare marketing colleagues with a rather innocent request:  one of our health system clients is recruiting a director of marketing and seeking candidates for the position.  What followed was a firestorm of comments – about the lack of qualified candidates, murky state of healthcare marketing, unattractiveness of healthcare to people that want to practice “real” marketing – countered by a few expositions on the societal flaws that brought us to this state.

So here are my two cents.  By and large, healthcare executives do not really understand the marketing discipline. And I’m not just pointing fingers at the C-suite; as marketers, we’ve made our own beds, so to speak.  In nearly every other industry, marketing is considered a strategy-critical, revenue-generating core business capability.  But if we’re honest, in healthcare, marketing is still very much structured and primarily resourced around communications activities that are not designed nor hardwired to significantly impact customer acquisition and retention.

Holding on to a narrow view of healthcare marketing as simply promotions wastes marketing investments and sub-optimizes performance.

Changing these dynamics requires straight talk from the chief marketing executive, CEO and other C-suite leaders about what it really takes for marketing to drive revenue growth, build brand equity and improve financial performance.

Let’s get that conversation started:

  • How is competition changing and what will be required of the health system to compete effectively? Is a plan in place and are actions underway to effect those changes? If not, why not?
  • Is the marketing department structured, staffed and resourced to achieve revenue targets, build brand equity and improve the organization’s competitive leverage? If not, why not?
  • Are financial, business and market analytics driving marketing planning, and the decisions for where you focus marketing activities and investments?  If not, why not?
  • Do you have the right people with the right skills sets and the right tools in place to execute marketing strategies that drive patient acquisition?  If not, why not?
  • Are you investing full speed ahead in web, social, search, mobile, CRM/PRM and other marketing systems and capabilities required both now and in the future? If not, why not?
  • Do marketing and operations work collaboratively, and are they held mutually-accountable for customer acquisition, customer experience, and customer retention outcomes? If not, why not?
  • Are you measuring marketing performance?  If not, why not?

I’m sure there are other questions, but you’ll probably need to order in lunch just to get through these.  Tell me what you think.  And, if you know a good candidate for that director of marketing position, please give me a call.

4 responses to “Straight talk about the state of healthcare marketing

  1. So true. With tight budgets and health care reform, we should be making decisions that start with data followed by patient acquisition data to prove the value of the efforts.

    Hey Kathy!

  2. Kathy, Ruth – thank you for your comments. It’s hard to believe that nearly three and a half decades after the advent of marketing in the health industry, the discipline is still so poorly understood (and in some cases, practiced).

  3. Dealt with it daily as a senior director of strategy for 30 hospitals and close to a 100 team members. I made progress to convince the c-suites but it was a day to day effort. We need to be further along in understand the role and its contribution. Thanks for posting this. Will share it.

  4. So true … in my opinion, until marketing in healthcare is more universally viewed as a revenue and growth center — as opposed to a communications and cost center — it won’t garner the respect it should at the CEO table. It is incumbent on the modern CMO to be responsible for strategically growing organizational revenue, as CMOs are in all other industries. Until then, we are just glorified writers and event planners. There is so much that could be said on this topic … where to start??

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