Five ways to rock healthcare marketing in 2015

Marketers rockMore 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

What Americans have to say about healthcare

Survey FindingsPerspectives, expectations and insights for healthcare marketers. 

Want to know what the average American thinks about your tax exempt status? How they’re using online ratings to choose doctors and hospitals?  The importance of smart phones and mobile apps for managing health?

Join Rob Klein, Founder & CEO, Klein & Partners; William (Bill) R. Gombeski, Jr., Director of Strategic Marketing, UK HealthCare; and me at 11:30 am CST on a January 22, 2015 webinar for an examination of key consumer perspectives revealed through Klein & Partners’ latest “kitchen sink” research.  The survey asks Americans a variety of questions about different healthcare topics – from their opinions about the Affordable Care Act to use of retail health clinics.  We’ll talk about the findings and explore the implications for healthcare marketers.

The webinar is sponsored by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.  There is no charge for Forum members; others pay $125.

Register here.

The Zen of Making Lists

listsTrue confession. I’m a compulsive list maker. Every morning over the first cup of coffee, I transfer all of the must-dos, want-to-dos and don’t-want-to-dos from my head to a clean, dated sheet of paper in the spiral bound notepad that accompanies me everywhere. This ritual, which began early in my healthcare marketing career, serves to control the excess noise that sabotages personal productivity.

Once every exhaustive action is out of my brain and on paper, focus kicks in and the course of thinking, conferring, learning, creating and decision-making finds its natural flow.

This morning, even my list has lists – subcategories of activities needed to navigate work, home and holidays during this zany month of December. I gave up on the concept of “work-life balance” a long time ago. If you want to understand balance, You Tube Nik Wallenda’s high wire walk across the Grand Canyon or Chicago skyscrapers. It’s spellbinding – and nerve racking – to watch him balance life and death on a straight, thin wire perched somewhere between the heavens and a long fall to earth.

In real life, how does one create equilibrium between “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?” Where balance is more about keeping the roller-coaster wheels on track than walking a tightrope? For me, making that daily list – and checking it off – is track maintenance.

So, one of the tasks on today’s docket is figuring out how to pack a single carry-on suitcase with the clothes and accessories needed to careen from work and leisure in chilly New York City to a family funeral in Virginia followed by a return trip to NYC and off to client work in sunny southern Florida – all in the next six days.

Balance? Only in my dreams. But I wouldn’t trade this wonderful, crazy life.

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!

Counting my blessings

Dearest readers,

I’ve been on a hiatus these past few months to focus on some urgent and unexpected family matters.

In September, my brother-in-law, Bill Cowherd, suffered a massive stroke. Unfortunately, he was alone when it happened and wasn’t discoveWilliam F Cowherd II Memorialred until six days after the ischemic attack.  Paramedics found him alive, but severely dehydrated, paralyzed on one side and unable to move or communicate.  He was hospitalized for three weeks, during which time he came around enough to recognize, even talk with the family and friends who traveled to be by his side.  The trauma, however, proved to be too much and Bill passed away on Sunday, October 5, 2014.

As families do, we came together to be with each other in our grief and to celebrate Bill’s time on this earth. His legacy lives on in his three accomplished and loving children, daughters-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, brother (my husband), sister and many life-long friends and co-workers.  We acutely feel his loss and will, I suspect, for some time to come.

The doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who took care of Bill showed great compassion for him and his grieving family. While they could not save his life, they helped him live his last weeks in comfort and dignity. Their caring nature so impressed Bill’s young adult children, that they established memorial contributions in the caregivers’ honor to benefit The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, a wonderful organization dedicated to “strengthening the human connection at the heart of care.”

Somewhere in the tangle of this past month, I also caught a bug that morphed into pneumonia; God’s proverbial “two by four” – a mandate to stop, slow down and recuperate.

This is my first week back on the road. Back to normal, I’m tempted to say, but “normal” is not an appropriate descriptive term for these crazy, wonderful lives we lead. Our lives are not normal; they are extraordinary. Not in terms of fame or wealth or accomplishments, but in the precious moments and unexpected events that shape us.

Loss is one of those events. It changes us.  Humbles us.  Strengthens us. Reminds us that we are blessed with loving families and treasured friends.

Evidence-based Healthcare Marketing Webinar Rescheduled

One of our healthcare marketing panelists has been called for jury duty during the week this program was originally scheduled.  See the new date and time, session description and link for registration below.

Evidence-based Marketing:  Rethinking Measurement
New Date and Time:  August 21, 2014 – 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. EDT

Healthcare 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 August 21, 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 12:30 am to 2:00 pm EDT.  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.