Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

Harnessing the Power of Content Marketing – Part One

If content is king, where are its loyal subjects?

Web, social networking and mobile technologies are transforming customer-business relationships, and revolutionizing business processes.  Consumers have hijacked the entrenched B2C (business to consumer) marketing model, and reversed the formula. The result is an absolute shift in power from marketers to consumers. The bidirectional and real-time nature of web, social and mobile requires marketers to have relevant information in the right place at the exact time consumers are seeking it.

C2B (consumer to business) marketing isn’t the future.  It’s here. Right now. 

Consumers are in control and have the skills and tools to search, collect information, compare, purchase, write reviews, and provide you the data and insights your organization needs to stay relevant.  “Content is king,” decree marketers everywhere – and businesses are churning content like never before. But without strategy, the monarch has no kingdom. Or at least no loyal subjects.

Content marketing is strategy, not just production of information in all its forms. 

Understanding customer needs at different stages in the buying cycle is critical to formulating effective content and channel marketing strategies.  What a customer wants or needs to know, terms she searches on, places she goes, social topics she connects with, inquiries she initiates and the actions she takes, can vary significantly across the purchasing decision process. 

Content marketing success requires a thorough understanding of:

  • Consumer needs at different stages of the buying cycle
  • The role of search and social interaction across the decision cycle
  • What constitutes relevant, valuable information, tools and relationships
  • Where consumers discover, consume and share information
  • Real-time accessibility, engagement and connectivity
  • Listening, learning and adapting services, products and experiences

Harnessing the power of content marketing is vital to patient acquisition and retention. 

More than ever, patients are seeking healthcare information, sharing experiences and selecting treatments and providers online.  And the vast majority of online health related discussions take place without input from healthcare professionals.   Essential tasks for healthcare marketing leaders are:

  • Learning about and helping providers understand how web, social and mobile have changed consumer and patient behaviors;
  • Creating a C2B content marketing strategy, executing  across the right marketing channels and using methods that will have the most impact;
  • Mobilizing marketers, administrators, managers, physicians, clinicians and business partners to execute content strategies that educate, inform and build loyal relationships with patients, families and staff.

Next up:  Part 2 – developing a robust content marketing architecture to guide investments.

Healthcare Digital Strategies Must Move Beyond the Website and Facebook

This Changes Everything . . .

We’re witnessing an amazing shift in terms of how people are relying on web, social networking and mobile technologies.  And that changes everything for healthcare providers in terms of how they reach, engage and communicate with healthcare consumers and patients.

The rise of smart phones and tablets such as the iPhone and iPad have put information, communications and commerce just a click or voice command away.  Digital strategies must move beyond the hospital website and Facebook page, to a fully integrated approach for reaching and engaging consumers, supporting patients with care management, facilitating workplace communications and promoting clinical decision-making. 

A comprehensive web, social and mobile capability, integrated with clinical IT systems such as EMR and patient portals, and embedded in physical environments , is no longer optional for organizations that want to remain relevant. 

Today, consumers don’t have purely offline or online experiences. They weave technology through nearly every point of contemplation, purchasing and use of products and services.  People may get healthcare in the physical world, but some of their best data, decision support, buying and communications tools exist in the virtual one. More than ever, patients are seeking healthcare information, sharing experiences and selecting treatments and providers online.    

A few facts to consider:

  • Over 80% of the U.S. population gathers health information online.
  • 55% of internet users look online for information about medical treatments or procedures.
  • 66% of internet users look online for information about specific diseases or medical problems.
  • 60% say the information found online affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition.

Terms like eHealth and mHealth are used to describe healthcare practices supported by the internet or mobile technologies.  Videoconferencing, remote monitoring and tracking devices for patients with chronic disease, electronic health records, on-line consults, and health topic chats and support groups are just a few of the ways technology is being used for care delivery purposes. 

Industry investments in the application of these technologies for purposes of healthcare are significant and projected to increase.  We can expect these to be important components of future delivery models where patient engagement and cost effectiveness are crucial aspects of performance.

Marketers can be change agents in helping health systems, physicians and other providers better understand how to employ these technologies. Many have had a head start by integrating digital technologies with traditional communications tools to engage stakeholder audiences.   And marketers have the communications expertise to influence consumer perceptions and behaviors.

What it will take is a stronger marketing, care delivery and operations partnership.  But, oh, the possibilities.

Marketing and PR: Partners or Frenemies?

Do your marketing and PR teams play well together? “Not always,” say many CMOs. And, unfortunately, sometimes I hear “not ever.”

So why can’t we all just get along?  It’s a complex issue with root causes ranging from the genesis and evolution of public relations and marketing functions in healthcare organizations, to conflicting and sometimes competing priorities and accountabilities, to misperceptions about the value and return on investment of both disciplines – all dished up with a pinch of territorialism.   And while separate leadership structures can also create roadblocks to productive working relationships, conflicts are just as likely to exist where marketing and PR report up to the same executive.

More recently, the explosive use of Web, social media and mobile technologies by everyone from patients to physicians to business partners and the media, has heightened tensions between the disciplines as to ownership of communications channels, messaging, audience engagement and other aspects of marketing and corporate communications management.

If you’re hearing the team make these kind of comments (pulled from real life – you can’t make this stuff up), then it may be time for an intervention:

  • “Marketers only care about the numbers.”
  • “PR is soft, and the metrics are softer.”
  • “When will marketing understand we do more than write press releases?”
  • “Show me a PR person that read a spread sheet.”
  • “The marketers get all the money.”
  • “The PR people have all the fun.”
  • “Marketing thinks Facebook is a free advertising channel.”
  • “PR wants relationships – I need volume.”

Sound familiar? To change the conversation, we need to follow the examples of organizations where public relations and marketing are united and work together seamlessly to further their health systems’ mission, vision and business agendas. What these high performing teams have in common are shared goals, synergistic capabilities, collaborative work processes, mutual respect and accountability for success.  Sometimes, they work in the same division; sometimes not. But they do work together.

Across all industries, the disciplines of marketing and public relations are increasing viewed as core business competencies critical to driving growth, innovation, customer loyalty and better business performance.  In healthcare, the opportunity for marketing and PR professionals is unprecedented.  Together, they can create collaborative, mutually-accountable disciplines that proactively address the changing basis for competition.  First and foremost, there must be clear alignment to the organization’s strategic vision and goals. 

The bottom line is that the traditional roles of marketing and PR are blurring somewhat, in large part due to the game-changing capabilities of web, social networking and mobile technologies.  And when borders get fuzzy, skirmishes sometimes erupt.  But opportunities also open up – new, blended competencies will better leverage those platforms for communications and marketing success.

It’s a challenge that will require a purposeful, comprehensive and collaborative approach.  And the timing couldn’t be better.

Download PDF.  “Can’t We All Just Get Along”  by Karen Corrigan, Terri Goren and Phyllis Marino. SHSMD Spectrum.  Jan/Feb 2012.

Five Forces Healthcare Marketers Must Watch

I got together with our Brains on Demand partners* recently and did a little brainstorming about trends shaping the future of healthcare.  We came up with five key forces that we believe marketers should pay attention to, as these will impact future demand and delivery models, and require ever greater levels of strategic thinking, planning and execution by marketing executives.

One – the new economics of health care reform. 

While it is difficult to predict with certainty the future of legislated mandates for reform, the wheels of change have been set in motion.  Reimbursement models featuring bundled payments and warranties to deny payment for errors, rework and readmissions are being developed and implemented.  If health insurance exchanges survive legislative challenges, they are set to roll out at the state level in 2014.  Insurance mandates could result in many more insured individuals and providers worry whether they have capacity for the newly insured, particularly at primary care access points.   

Marketers can play a critical role in how health systems better understand and relate to consumers under these new structures.  And must know not only the top line revenue implications of customer acquisition, but also the bottom line impact of key segments.

Two – market restructuring and emerging delivery models. 

Consolidation and alignment among health systems, hospitals, physician groups and post acute care providers, among others, will continue as organizations move to create the critical mass, economies of scale and geographic coverage to improve market leverage.  Competition for physician alignment remains fierce in many markets and employment is the primary model for integration.  These strategies are core to creation of ‘accountable’ delivery models where financial performance hinges on care coordination, quality outcomes and cost effectiveness, and will dominate executive suites for some time to come. 

When it comes to market restructuring and emerging delivery models, marketers will be challenged on many levels, including brand building across a diverse portfolio and in multiple markets, and developing marketing systems to support multiple SBUs. 

Three – evolution of brand in physical and virtual environments. 

As in other industries, healthcare is seeing a rise in brand driven competition. Brands that align core elements of competitive positioning, operational design, brand architecture, and service experience, will begin to establish value that ultimately equates to brand loyalty, growth and expansion.  Other critical aspects of brand evolution for healthcare marketers will be brand building and brand management for multi-facility, multi-market and multi-service health systems and standardizing brand experience across health system-branded, employed physician groups. 

Additionally, as organizations invest in clinical information systems such as electronic health records, and embrace web, social and mobile technologies, marketers will find that the complexity of building and managing brands in the digital space also increasing. 

Four – technologies that disrupt and transform. 

We’re witnessing an amazing shift in terms of how people are relying on web, social networking and mobile technologies, and that’s changing everything for how providers engage with customers.  The rise of smart phones and tablets such as the iPhone and iPad have put information, communications and commerce just a click or voice command away.  Digital strategies have to move beyond the hospital website and Facebook page to a fully integrated approach for reaching and engaging consumers, supporting patients with care management, facilitating workplace communications and promoting clinical decision-making. 

A comprehensive web, social and mobile capability, integrated with clinical IT systems such as EMR and patient portals, and embedded in physical environments, is no longer optional for organizations that want to remain relevant. 

Five – growing, changing, graying, connected consumers. 

The United States is experiencing a dramatic increase in the numbers of people who live to old age, challenging Americans of all ages as they cope with retirement funding, health care, lifestyle and other issues that are important to an aging population. People 65 and older numbered 39.6 million in 2009, representing 12.9% of the U.S. population – or about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000 and will count for nearly 20% of the population (Administration on Aging, DHHS). 

For demographers, 2011 was significant in that it marked the first year that baby-boomers began turning 65; and for the next 15 to 20 years, more than 7,000 people will turn 65 years old every single day. They will be a driving force for healthcare services in the coming decades – not just for ‘what’ is delivered, but ‘how’ it will be delivered.

So, what’s a marketer to do?

In the short term, one of the most important roles chief marketing officers can play is helping organizations understand and address the competitive dynamics of restructuring markets and intensifying competitor activities.   Longer term, the over-arching objective is to create a future-ready, high-performing marketing capability that can address the changing basis for competition and drive growth, innovation and better business performance.   

We’ll be publishing and speaking on this topic throughout the year, as well as on how marketers can make these critical changes.  Please let us know if you have ideas and examples that you’d like to share.

* Brains on Demand is a unique partnership of leading healthcare consultants offering seamless access to a full menu of research, brand, marketing, communications and social media expertise – served á la carte.  Its partners are Karen Corrigan and Carla Bryant from Corrigan Partners; Rob Klein with Klein & Partners; JK Lloyd with Eruptr; and Candace Quinn with Brand=Experience.

Marketing Executives: Are You Ready for the Future?

I’m looking forward to the 17th National Healthcare Marketing Strategies Summit, April 29 – May 1, 2012 at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida.  It’s a great forum for staying on top of trends and leading edge practices in the health industry, and for connecting with friends and colleagues.  And, hey, it’s at the Ritz-Carlton.  What’s not to like??

I’m also excited to be presenting with three top-notch marketing executives – Suzanne Sawyer (Penn Medicine), Ellen Barron (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and Phyllis Marino (MetroHealth) – on the changing role of the chief marketing officer in healthcare institutions.  Here’s our session description.  Hope to see you there!

Marketing Executives:  Are You Ready for the Future!
Sunday, April 29; 1:00 pm – 3:45 pm

More than ever, marketing executives are being held to a higher standard of accountability for driving growth, innovation, customer loyalty and better business performance in health systems.  This workshop will focus on the changing role of the marketing executive in establishing the discipline of marketing as a core business competency, and in creating high performing, future-ready marketing teams and operations.  Learn how three health systems are redesigning marketing to proactively address new competitive dynamics, drive alignment to health system growth agendas and master new media fluency.  Participants will also learn key methods for assessing their own marketing operations and establishing a road map for change.