Monday, July 28, 2014

What can fastpitch softball teach healthcare marketers?

As I sit in the hotel waiting for the start of the USSSA 16U A Fastpitch Softball World Series to begin, with my thoughts that this is the last tournament for my daughter after 10 years of playing, I wondered what lessons are there for healthcare marketers if any?

As a left -handed pitcher Alex has had to learn how to handle success and failure. Endure her fielding or pitching errors and the errors of others that affected the outcomes of games.  Transition from one team to another and all along, building new team relationships and chemistry regardless if it was an intact returning team or a new one.  Plus learning new pitches and becoming a pitcher during the off-season work.

The older you get as you move up the age brackets the harder the game becomes because everyone is good. So it’s just not about throwing fast; the game becomes about  learning and having command the off speed pitches and hitting locations to keep really good batters with $500 composite bats off balance. It’s becoming a pitcher not a thrower.  Oh and handle extreme in-game stress of a one run game with bases loaded in the bottom of the 7th inning with two outs, the No. 4 hitter and a 3-2 count.

So here are my ten lessons for healthcare marketers from fastpitch softball:

1.       Keep calm. Healthcare is changing in ways that has turned the market upside down.  That doesn’t mean the game is over. It just means your strategy needs to change because the market is rushing ahead of you.
2.       Change it up! If you keep doing what one has always done, this market will just pound the daylights out of the organization. Stop doing the same things the same way like one has always done.
3.       Fail Fast. Mistakes happen as a result of errors and that is just a fact of life. Plans don’t work always as intended. When things go awry stop and change to get a better result.
4.       Hit your locations. Delivering the same message the same way every time is a prescription for disaster. People stop paying attention so one has to move the messages around and use all of the channels available.
5.       Build the marketing team capability and chemistry.  That may mean new players. Change is good and everyone needs to learn new marketing skills and to play nice in the sandbox.  One cannot be successful if there is no team chemistry and the team members can’t fill in for another. New skills breed new ideas and capabilities.
6.       Listen to your coaches i.e., leadership. It may seem like an oxymoron sometimes especially with marketing because anyone can do it, but you need to be at the leadership table and understand the business strategy, operational plans and financial challenges. Only then can one make a positive contribution.
7.       Do the unexpected.  That keeps your competition off balance. One can build the organizational marketing story and meet the healthcare consumer’s needs before anyone else has the chance. When someone is expecting a fastball throw a change or a curve.
8.       Know the strengths and weaknesses of the team and competitors. Put team members in positions and situation to win. Go after competitors at their weakest point. If they can’t cover a bunt keep doing it until they learn how, then hit away.
9.       You win some; you lose some. No organization is perfect so put the loss behind you and learn from it.  Enjoy the wins for a brief moment but move in to the next game. Best marketing team effort will have you winning more than losing.
10.   Have fun and play with passion. I think that is the biggest lesson from all of this. Life is about passion, friendships, success and learning from failure. No one remembers who pitched the no-hitter or who hit the grand slam in any particular game. Work is the same. Have fun and play with passion. Life is too short.

Thanks for reading. It’s time for the first pitch.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Are you skating to where the healthcare marketing puck will be?


There has been a lot of activity lately with making an analogy to Wayne Gretzky’s most famous statement that he skates to where the puck will be, not where it is as a great player.  And lots of people have been beating that drum in the media lately about how hospitals and health systems aren’t skating to where the puck is going.   And in doing so are placing the very survivability of the healthcare organization at risk.

And that applies to healthcare marketing as well.

·        The healthcare consumer is skating towards outcomes. Healthcare marketer’s skate to award logos and contextually meaningless content.
·         The healthcare consumer skates towards price information. Healthcare marketer’s skate to nondisclosure.
·         The healthcare consumer skates towards social media to find information. Healthcare marketer’s skate to web sites that are not SEO optimized or mobile friendly.
·         The healthcare consumer skates towards choice, access, convenience and price. Healthcare marketer’s skate to new buildings and equipment.
·         The healthcare consumer skates to the story of the healthcare organization. Healthcare marketer’s skate to single point clinical services or diagnostic equipment capabilities story.
·         The healthcare consumer skates to the totality of the healthcare experience. Healthcare marketer’s skate in a circle waiting for some marcom tasks and for the most part are not involved in the experience process.

One could continue to write a pretty long list but I think the point has been made. Healthcare is becoming a very tough consumer centric business which hospitals and health systems have never had to compete in.  And in any kind of retail environment, cost and consumers are kings.

So where should healthcare marketer’s skate?

·         Skate to demand management of populations across the continuum of care.
·         Skate to the totality of the patient or healthcare consumer experience not to the single touch-point of the day.
·         Skate to providing clear and unambiguous price information.
·         Skate to providing outcomes information.
·         Skate to leading the healthcare organization.
·         Skate to telling the story of the healthcare organization, not the service or equipment.
·         Skate to where the market research data indicates that the market is headed.

It’s time to stop circling the wagons and skate to where the healthcare consumer and market is heading.  Otherwise, the Zamboni will pick you up along the way.

The fastpitch travel softball season is moving to a close and it’s been a lot of fun.  The week of July 28 my daughter and I will be at the USSSA 16U A World Series where the team is currently ranked in the top 10 at No.7. It will be a wonderful last hurrah for her. The college visits have already started.  It’s been a great 10 years of fastpitch travel softball and I wouldn’t change it a bit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is healthcare consumer and patient engagement all of the time the new reality?

As healthcare continues its rapid evolution into a far more accountable, cost effective,  quality outcome and consumer driven model, it begs the question, is engagement now an all of the time new reality? Secondary to that question are healthcare organizations prepared for that new marketing realty?

Like anything in life and business, some are and the majority are not.   But be that as it may, it would seem that healthcare consumer or patient engagement is not a part time or some of the time activity. What it should be viewed as is the opportunity to create, engage, foster and nourish an enduring relationship with those individuals and families.

That is a scary proposition for some healthcare organizations. It means being accountable and responsible to those you serve and meeting their needs by delivering on the brand promises day in and day out.  I would also suggest that this extends to area employers as well.  Otherwise you will see more outmigration from your community for care because others can do it better, faster and more cost effectively.  

After all, healthcare is a $2.8 trillion dollars business and the competition from traditional and nontraditional providers will only get more intense. And that will be at the hospitals expense. They will become go to destinations for healthcare using effective “all the time” engagement strategies.

So what to do?

Here are nine engagement strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly so that they can interact with you any way they want, when they want too. 

2.  Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging.  Messaging needs to be relevant to the audiences at the point in time it’s needed that is personalized, customized, and aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Incentives and motivational techniques will be needed to keep patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction, for ways to engage without cash. Be creative.  Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools and techniques to engage. 

4. Create a sense of community.  You have to compete and one needs to feed the beast. The hospital has not yet tipped to being a cost center form a revenue center. That day will come but not for a while yet.  Get into the inner circle of the audience and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. Shape the behaviors to the point where they will recommend unconditionally.

5. Know the audience and with whom one is speaking too. This is really back-to-basics CRM understanding the gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture etc.  One cannot engage effectively   unless there is intimate knowledge about them, their needs and how to tailor the information they need to engage them.

6. Test and measure. This is no time to be reactive in approaching and engaging.  The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Use technology.  We live in a world of technology and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With social media, smartphones, web, text messaging, mobile messaging, etc., eighty percent of consumers want the option of interactive with a healthcare provider via their smartphones from a survey conducted by FICO. The healthcare consumer and patient are inviting healthcare organizations to engage them and engage them all the time.

8. Know the influence of culture on behavior to engage.

9. Time it right, and add value.  If the health messaging is not resonating with the healthcare consumer or patient when they receive it, then one has lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. That means knowing the patient like have never before.

For example, a patient or healthcare consumer, going to a restaurant to eat, or a supermarket to purchase groceries, means sending them health messages at that time, in order to enable them to make the right food choices.  It's not impossible.

The healthcare consumer and patent is moving from passive healthcare participants to active healthcare participants.  They are making choices and expecting to be engaged not part of the time, but all of the time. That's why you engage them. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Has it happened in your market yet?

Has what happened, one may ask? 

The first healthcare marketing shots across traditional providers bow that focus on cost, experience, convenience and access.  I am not writing here about the retail drugstore walk-in clinics that compete more with physicians than hospitals. What I am writing about is an advertisement that I heard on the radio this morning. The start of a healthcare consumer marketing campaign that takes on hospitals and even some physicians head-on leading with price, experience and convenience.

And these are healthcare marketing strategy topics that have been extensively written about for the last three years in Healthcare Marketing Matters. 

This ad went right after hospitals on cost, easy payment alternatives, experience and access.  They didn’t beat around the bush. All the aspects of a retail consumeristic focused campaign were present. This wasn’t some new enterprise driven by some private equity guys or venture capitalists sitting around the room thinking up a new medical service. It was two physicians.

They get it. They have realized that the growing healthcare consumer has choices, and can be influenced in a consumeristic way.  Isn’t that what all the research has shown about individual buying behaviors in the health exchanges?  It was found that for a 10 percent reduction in premium, individuals exhibited consumeristic shopping behaviors when making choices.  Now include the recent information that 41 percent of people use social media as one of their methods of obtaining information on healthcare providers for making choices. When one couples that with all the price and quality outcomes data available, it’s no wonder.

To me, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

In a semi-retail healthcare market a sharpened focus on the healthcare consumer is the driver. It’s all about their needs and wants not about what the provider needs or wants. So while hospitals stand still and fight to the death changing their approach and competency in healthcare marketing, the end result is market share and revenue loses.

I know the market is changing and moving to value payment, bundled payments, narrow networks etc.   But that shift will take time and in the meantime it’s still about driving utilization to generate revenue. The hospital hasn’t yet tipped from a revenue center to a cost center. The healthcare market, perceptions and choices are shifting in a titanic way, a way that hospitals cannot stop.

The first shots in the new healthcare market have been fired.  And the response will be?

On another note- the 16U A travel softball continues to move along. The team had some early struggles but has righted itself for the remainder of the season. It was all evident this past weekend when they played up in an 18U A USSSA tournament.  Against some very good teams who were older as well, they went 5-2 and finished third. So now the team has qualified for two USSSA World Series tournaments – one in 16U A and another in 18U A. The final season for my daughter is just going way to fast.

Thanks for reading and here’s hoping you're having a great summer.