Tag Archives: marketing

Want to Become a Better Writer?

A formula that works for just about anything . . . marketing, brand building, strategic thinking, planning, strategizing, design, sales, cooking, tennis . . . and yes, writing.

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
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Brand Your Art and Copy, Too

Note to readers:  I read this post recently on the blog Hospital Branding and thought it offered excellent insights into the importance of key words, phrases and images that reinforce brand positions.  Thanks Rob!

by Rob Rosenberg, Hospital Branding

At a recent breakfast branding club, featuring those in the business and not famous cereals and toaster items, the discussion popped up about the strategy of owning key phrases and images. In addition to graphic standards, which organizations develop to illustrate proper spacing and color palettes, the conversation centered on the need for companies to create key words, phrases, and images that support their brand propositions.

Having once worked on Sealy Posturepedic mattresses, I recalled the “ownership” (and subsequent trademark) of the phrase, “designed in cooperation with leading orthopedic surgeons.” Key words that created a franchise and contributed to a 90% awareness of the Posturepedic brand. In addition to this copy, all sales materials and advertising were required to feature the now famous mattress “cut-away,” the scientific illustration that shows various layers of ticking, coils, and foam. This combination of art and copy became a hallmark of Sealy Posturepedic and helped to create an iconic brand.

Other examples of brands that “own” certain words, phrases, and images include Lexus, State Farm, and Southwest Airlines. Just the mention of these brands conjure up a unique “look and feel” that are associated with their traditional, social, and digital media communications.

Hospitals are getting better at differentiating their organizations. Strategic ideas are shining through in taglines and unique positioning buckets focused on a single-minded platform. But they are also falling short when it comes to standards reflecting branded words and images. No matter the market position – such as patient-centered care, breakthrough technology, or physician expertise – the executions always seem to fall flat and into the undifferentiated abyss of hospital advertising.

The words “excellence,” “comprehensive,” and “multi-disciplinary” are totally “me too.” Forget “advanced,” “quality,” and “leading.” In terms of images, try something other than a surgical scene, patient/physician consultation, or a slow-motion shot of a former patient engaged in their favorite activity, UNLESS they support your brand position.

Here in Chicago, there are some excellent strategies in play. However, when strategies turn to execution, the work often turns to mush. And is virtually impossible to distinguish one hospital or system from another for lack of branded words and images.

Here’s what you can do to help translate your strategy into execution: 

  • Create a list of “branded” words. Those that support your brand essence and tell your story. Use these copy points in all communications; from advertising to social posts to news releases.
  • Develop a library of “branded” photos and images. Again, those that support your position and visually reinforce your organization’s specific personality.
  • Include these copy points and art images in your graphics standards manual, or create a separate “Art & Copy” book.
  • Educate service line marketers, and associated entities within your organization, on the words and images that should be used for their promotions if the marketing function is decentralized.
  • Be consistent in all forms of communications; traditional, social, and digital media.
  • And – a separate note for social channels – develop “post” phrases and key words that should be used as the “voice” of your organization and not that of the poster.
Developing a powerful brand is a tough, but rewarding challenge. Once you’re there, don’t water it down in the execution. Be as creative, disciplined, and rigid with the art and copy as you are with the overarching strategy. Your brand will be differentiated and the recall of your messages will be greatly enhanced.
Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas.  He can be reached at rob@springboardbrand.com. Rob will also be speaking and exhibiting at the 17th National Summit for Healthcare Marketing Strategies, April 28 – May 1, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

What is Your Health System’s Marketing Philosophy?

Marketing departments differ from health system to health system. Some are expansive, core business functions with strong growth accountabili­ties aligned to strategic planning, business development, clinical operations and financial management initiatives.

In others, marketing is configured more functionally to support the development and deployment of marketing tactics aimed at research, promotions and sales.

And some have not evolved far from those early days when marketing relied on a narrow set of tools (e.g. press releases, health fairs, advertising, newsletters) to promote programs and services,  making it difficult to link marketing expenditures and activities to business outcomes.

Why such a difference? An organization’s approach to marketing is shaped by a variety of factors including strategic focus, growth objectives, culture or even leadership’s understanding of the marketing discipline.

Which of the following describes your health system’s approach to marketing?

  • Product-driven.  A product-driven marketing orientation assumes that as long as a health system has excellent outcomes and a top notch safety record, business will find its way to the front door. Performance improvement, leading edge clinical technologies, physician talent and development of clinical centers of excellence are core areas of focus. Awards and recognitions (such as “Top 100” designations) reinforce the organization’s quality achievements. Physician influ­ence trumps consumer choice. The clichéd expression “build it and they will come” is an entrenched belief, as it the assumption that clinical quality alone will create com­petitive advantage.
  • Sales-driven.  Sales-driven health systems primarily view marketing as a tactical tools to drive volume to clinical programs. Filling beds, getting appointments, and securing contracts are primary goals. Consumer pro­motions, physician referral development and managed care contracting are core capabilities. The focus is on more volume for existing services. These are all good things, but a purely sales-driven organization may miss opportuni­ties to discover new niches, create new products and lines of business, or enhance points of differentiation that grow overall revenue potential.
  • Market-driven.  Market-driven organizations place greater emphasis on market research to better understand customer needs and discover market opportunities that can be addressed in unique ways. Designing and developing services, programs and access points to attract key customer segments are priorities for the marketing operation, making R&D a core competency requirement. Marketing planning is more strategic than in sales-driven organiza­tions, encompassing segmentation and targeting, product positioning and design, pricing, promotion and channel strategies – and is a more integrated process through which value is created. Because growing overall market potential and profitability is as important as growing market share, marketers must have a strong P&L mindset.
  • Relationship-driven. Customer-driven organizations place significant emphasis on mass customization as a competen­cy to create one-to-one relationships, enabled by sophisti­cated, enabling CRM technology that recognizes, supports and delivers customized messages, offerings and solutions for valued customers. Today, some of these capabilities are embedded in call center and CRM systems, but new advancements, such as the widespread implementation of electronic health records and growth in social media communities offer health systems unprecedented opportunity to better understand and predict the needs of patients and customers – and proactively design the marketing strategies, tactics and programs that stimulate and drive demand.
  • Market-DRIVING.  Market-driving companies are those that re-set the rules of competition through value innovation – radical, disruptive moves that create new markets, transform customers into fans, and build such distinct points of competitive advantage that they are dif­ficult to duplicate. Think Apple, which continually breaks its own sales records, most recently having sold over 1 million units in the first 24 hours of the iPhone 4S launch. Innovation is the core competency – and success comes from developing deep insights into core human desires, discovering unmet needs, and bringing creative, profitable ideas to market.  Who are the market-DRIVING health systems?

One approach is not necessarily “right” where another is “wrong” – what is important to understand is that each path requires a specific configuration of core competen­cies, staff capabilities, processes and investments.  Misalignment occurs when management wants to achieve significant improvements in strategic growth, for example, but has a production-orient­ed marketing operation.

With all of the change going on in the industry, this is an ideal time for marketers to assess their marketing department structures, capabilities and investment priorities. 

So where do we start?

Investing in the Marketing Management Infrastructure

Part 4 of Prioritizing Marketing Resources Key to Return on Investment Goals.

Marketing resource allocation planning is critical to assuring that limited marketing resources (dollars and FTEs) are focused on growth and marketing initiatives that have the best potential for improving business performance and positioning health systems for long-term success.  Parts 2 and 3 of this series described the first two primary 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 will be required to support effective growth and marketing management?”  In other words, what are the capabilities, technologies, skill sets, business partners, processes and tools necessary for the marketing team to execute marketing strategy and achieve growth objectives?  Building a high- performing marketing team and the systems to support that team are strategy-critical investments that will generate far greater 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, strategy and critical thinking skills?  Can they mobilize and align clinical, administrative and other functions to effect marketing strategy?   Are they fluent in new 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 strategies.  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 here 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 management.
  • 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.  One of the more difficult tasks for marketers is to eliminate activities and tasks 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.


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 growth initiatives.  

Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to marketing resource allocation are necessary; top down for strategic marketing planning across a health system’s portfolio of service lines and market initiatives – and bottom up to develop specific marketing plans and budgets within each priority program. 

Most important, perhaps, is to use this data-informed approach to gain organizational commitment to investment decisions and staying on strategy. 

Read the series:

Get Ready for the Self-Directed Healthcare Consumer

By guest blogger Susan Lilly

So I’m Susan Lilly, recently “outed” on this blog as a breast cancer patient, and now, a survivor.  My experience over the past year has given me some fresh insight into trends that we’ve been talking about here at Corrigan Partners, most notably the rise of the self-directed health care consumer.

After my diagnosis last spring (Stage 2, invasive ductal carcinoma), I pretty much created my own treatment path by assembling a disparate, but top-notch medical team.  Why does this matter to health care marketers?  Because I did this without the sway of traditional marketing messages.  In fact, I decided to go out of area for part of my treatment because I found out about a unique surgical procedure from a top hospital’s online forum for breast cancer patients.

The irony is that the hospital’s discussion board was nothing fancy, but it was moderated by a nurse practitioner who counsels newly diagnosed breast cancer patients from all over the country.  Yet, by suggesting the out-of-area hospital as a destination for a second opinion – and touting its unique approach to a common illness – she planted the seed in my mind to go out of area to have a look.

This is why the digital space can be so effective at growing the business.  From the comfort of home, during a frightening time, people are searching for the best, most compassionate care after a serious diagnosis.  They (we) do this by searching for answers online, and seeking others who are going through the same thing.

Looking for a digital welcome mat, really . . .

Hospitals, with their mission to serve and available resources, are perfectly positioned to put out such a welcome mat.  Every single institution, from the rural community hospital to the academic medical center can set up such programs by building on their unique strengths in caregiving, and supplementing their internal resources with outside expertise – anything from marketing assistance to more technical matters.

The self-directed consumers are out there, and they’re looking for your help.  Will they feel welcome when they find you?

Next post – a challenge to the oncology field, and how marketing can help.

The Healthcare Marketer’s Dilemma? Too Many Projects. Too Few Resources.

Part 2 of Prioritizing Marketing Resources Key to Return on Investment Goals.

How do healthcare marketing executives allocate marketing resources? 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.


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 of by lines of business (e.g., inpatient, ambulatory, physician services, etc.), service lines (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, the health system allocates 60% of marketing resource investments to tier one projects and the remaining 40% is 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?

Prioritizing Marketing Resources Key to Achieving Return on Investment Goals – Part 1

Someone once asked me what the difference is between ‘focusing’ and ‘prioritizing’ – focusing is knowing what to do; prioritizing is knowing what to do first.  These are the decision points faced by marketers every day. And especially when planning and budgeting for a new fiscal year.

For those healthcare marketers managing to a calendar-based fiscal year, the mad rush of the holidays is compounded by winding down current year activities and preparations to launch newly-funded projects.  Hunkered down with marketing teams, plans and spreadsheets, most CMOs are trying to conjure up ways to achieve more with less.  Unfortunately, too many times we end up spreading scarce dollars over too many projects.

When stuck between a rock (the health system’s need for profitable growth) and a hard place (the drive to cut costs), how do marketers prioritize marketing investments and gain organizational commitment to those investment decisions?

First, clean house.  Use this opportunity as a time to take a stand and stop funding those activities that have no or minimal impact on strategic growth, customer acquisition, customer retention and financial performance.  Specifically look at non-marketing activities that sap resources and work with your colleagues across the health system to eliminate or move those deeds elsewhere.  Make sure your team is performing at its best; while it’s always difficult to move people out, when you are being asked to do more with fewer FTEs, each has to be a stellar performer.

Second, use a marketing resource allocation methodology to prioritize limited marketing resources (dollars and FTEs) to those growth and marketing initiatives that have the best potential for improving business performance and positioning the organization for long-term success.

In prioritizing marketing resource investments, there are three basic decision points:

  1. What businesses, clinical programs or market expansion initiatives offer the best opportunity for growth and profitability?
  2. Within priority programs and service lines, what strategies and tactical initiatives will best achieve marketing goals?
  3. What infrastructure investments will be required to support effective growth and marketing management?

In other words, what will you choose to invest in to drive growth and improve profitability, and what activities and support systems will contribute most to those objectives? Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to resource allocation are necessary; top down for strategic planning across a health system’s portfolio of service lines and market initiatives; bottom up to develop individual marketing budgets within each priority program.

I know that some of the toughest issues marketers face are cutting others’ pet projects, sunsetting outdated communications tactics, navigating the politics of competing priorities, and so on and so on.  Just saying ‘no’ has not been an option for some;  a marketing resource allocation method can better arm the CMO with data-driven rationale for investment decisions.

In upcoming posts, I’ll explore the components and key questions to delve into for each of the three decision points listed above.  In the meantime, let me know some of your toughest budget challenges — together let’s find a way to stop doing more and focus on achieving more