More than ever, healthcare marketing executives are being held to a higher standard of accountability for return on marketing investments. The basis for competition in healthcare is changing and health systems are racing to put in place the services, capabilities and structures to be successful in the new value-driven world.
This sweeping change requires a shift in thinking for marketers, a blueprint to transform healthcare marketing operations, strategies to forge critical allies across the health system, and capabilities to demonstrate ROI. So, let’s make 2015 the year we disrupt our healthcare marketing past and fully embrace the new.
Where to start?
- Welcome the science of healthcare marketing. Make this the year to build a robust marketing information technology center. Optimize investments in CRM, call center, digital and search marketing by hiring the smartest marketing analytics minds you can afford and setting them loose to aggregate, integrate, interpret and share customer data. Use that information to drive real-time decisions about customer, product, promotion, pricing and channel strategies.
- Add consumer pricing to the marketing mix. High deductibles, tiered networks, individual health-fund management of health savings accounts (HSAs), and a growing number of retail health options are giving consumers more incentives to shop price. And they want straight answers about the cost of services (when consumers say cost, they mean price). Marketers must help bring about a shift in thinking from pricing merely as a means to recover costs to pricing as a strategy to establish value. Competitive pricing will require greater-than-ever alignment of customer, product, channel, marketing and service delivery decisions.
- Do a radical makeover of the marketing department. If the marketing team is still organized, staffed and resourced to primarily promote things, then run, not walk, to the nearest whiteboard and start mapping out a new future. Business creativity – not advertising creativity – is the key to delivering profitable growth over the long haul. Restructure the marketing department to drive the health system’s growth strategy, and build the capabilities and skills to develop markets, launch new products, create valued customers and drive innovations in service delivery.
- Build a mutually-accountable partnership with operations. Marketing expenditures that generate consumer demand are wasted when prospects are lost because there is no mechanism to convert them into actual customers – or retain them as loyal customers. When it comes to marketing ROI, it takes a village. Marketing, clinical operations, physicians, nursing, purchasing, IT, finance, human resources and others must work together and be mutually-accountable for results. Stop investing marketing dollars on programs that have service delivery problems, but do come to the table as a willing partner to help solve those problems.
- Make customer experience a strategic priority. Leverage every available research finding, case study and soapbox opportunity to help executives, service line administrators, doctors and others gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be consumer-centered and what it will take to deliver a valued experience. Customer experience is not about HCAHPS scores. It’s about building brand loyalty through innovative products, services and personal experiences that make customers feel appreciated and willing to be your best brand advocates.
The healthcare world is changing whether we like it or not. How we embrace or resist the change will determine our fate. A bold vision, big ideas and a plan to transform the way we do marketing offer a far better chance for success.