Thursday, June 25, 2015

Is healthcare consumer or patient engagement the new sales?

The other day I was thinking about how much healthcare has changed in a few brief years and how to, if one can say best way, engage the healthcare consumer and patients?

It dawned on me that healthcare consumer and patient engagement is really a lot like sales. And in all that is being written and experimented with across the healthcare channel regarding engagement, I haven’t seen anyone make a sales model connection.

In the ideal sales model, marketing is more than a group of people “who make things look pretty” and is highly integrated into the sales process.  In turn, marketing doesn’t see sales as “feet on the street” and having nothing of value to bring to the table.

 Marketing’s role is to integrate  and  work closely with sales to understand from a ground level perspective what is going on in the marketplace and respond with campaigns, tactics, events, collateral  etc.,   that support sales in order to generate high value Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) which become Sales Accepted Leads (SALs).

Now I am shortchanging the discussion here because a lot of work in relationship building, collaboration, sharing, listening, etc., goes on to get to the above point. That is a topic for another time.

Sales is a complex process in healthcare for the most part that requires significant time to build senor level relationships  that engage, educate, and provides solutions not features and benefits etc. Sales has moved from cold calls, sales demos and qualifying leads to social networks, education and engagement. The sales approach requires a plan of action for each organization and internal contacts that is individually designed and acted upon, that in many ways is consultative in the Miller-Heiman methodology for example.

The end result is a sale of a product or service that meets the customer’s need and solves a problem.  It creates a win-win situation. Sales generates revenue and commission. The client solves a problem which can generate revenue, improve efficiency and effectiveness or even change the competitive landscape.

What does this mean for healthcare providers?

I am sure by now all wondering what the point here is?  The point simply is that the healthcare consumer and patient need to be sold too. That’s right sold too. Many of the current engagement efforts are cookie cutter and rely on past mechanisms like generic informational newsletters, robo-calls etc., that have little understanding of the individual they are aimed at. In essence it’s a lot like the old sales model of cold calling and selling features and benefits not solutions to medical issues, concerns or problems 

Throw enough stuff against the wall and sooner or later some of it will stick.

The only way to successful engage a healthcare consumer or patient, is to understand what their needs are, how you can help them with solutions and answers, communicate with them they way they want and how they want the information. Engagement is about building a consultative relationship that is win-win in nature.  Its’ about selling what the healthcare provider has to offer on an individual basis to the healthcare consumer and patient. 

But what is really lacking in many healthcare providers is the integration of marketing as a collaborative partner in engagement and selling to the healthcare consumer and patient. Marketing needs to be involved from more than “make it look pretty“in healthcare providers to a trusted partner who understands the needs of and responds accordingly to the healthcare consumer or patient.

So back to answering the question, yes healthcare consumer or patent engagement is the new sales. The parallels are many between a consultative sales approach and engaging the healthcare consumer or patient.  Its  healthcare consumer or patient focused which is what many healthcare providers claim.

Easy right? Wrong.  Get outside help for this.  The healthcare provider doesn’t really know how to sell in this way. They never have.\


Tags: #sales, #hcmkt, #hcsm, #engagement, #providers, #marketing, #consulting

Monday, June 22, 2015

Can healthcare marketing take advantage of the third wave of digital?

In an interesting article,  HealthCare to enter third wave of digital, Erin McCann, Managing Editor, Healthcare IT News, June 15,2015, thought leadership at Accenture  in the report The Era of Living Services  published on June 15, speaks to the third wave of digital.  Accenture also produced a great infographic that illustrates the third wave.

Now this is very important as another transformational innovation anticipated to impact healthcare first that will directly impact the hospital, health systems, physicians and other medical providers.  This isn’t pie in the sky and few years out. This market changing digital third wave is coming over the next couple of years.  Bad news as the digital channel for most healthcare organizations hasn’t been mastered to really any great degree in the second wave of digital.  That by the way is not a slam at any hospital, health system or vendor it’s just a fact.

What does it all mean?

The healthcare consumer is increasingly in control.  Period.  They are in control of their heath and health data through wearables, mobile health platforms and self tracking devices. They are in control of the experience. They are in control of the expectations for services.

In the digital third wave instead of healthcare services being static, they become what the Accenture people call living services with liquid expectations.  And therein lays the marketing opportunity for healthcare providers, in understanding those living services and leveraging liquid expectations.

Marketing steps to take now.

1.       Market research to understand how  the market segments especially how the Silver Surfers are using digital health, the internet of everything, as well as their expectations around those channels.
2.       Understand the nature and function of the hospital or health system digital brand. Does it meet the expectations uncovered in the market research?
3.       Embrace the trend don’t fight.  That means marketing leadership and participation in hospital or health system strategy development.
4.       Understand and this is important for senior leadership and clinicians, all services in this new environment are liquid.  Clinical serves are no longer static and unforgiving of expectations.
5.       Understand the experiences that the healthcare consumer has in other industries and is transferring to healthcare. Learn and emulate.
6.       The healthcare consumer is moving between mobile, online, wearable and smartphone devices expectation for a seamless digital experience.  Can the hospital or health system deliver on the expectation?
7.       Development of internal marketing educational programs for all levels of staff about the third digital wave and what it means when the patient is searching for a providers and when they are in-house.
8.       More difficult but now essential transition from a provider centric business model to a consumer centric business model.
9.       Use digital to establish and manage engagement. That is where the healthcare consumer lives and expects to be engaged. Seamlessly across all digital platforms.
10.   Focus marketing efforts around the healthcare brand and value proposition around outcomes, price, experience and expectation.

Things have just gotten a lot harder in healthcare. The healthcare consumer is gaining control faster than hospitals and health systems can keep up.  Not good.  Not good at all for the digital deaf providers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Is legacy healthcare marketing obstructing healthcare consumerism?

It’s well documented that the healthcare consumer and patient is actively engaged in searching for quality and price information when selecting healthcare providers. Social media, web sites, mobile apps and other channels play significant roles in the consumer informational quest. Each day more and more disruptive innovation takes place that brings the data healthcare consumers need to the forefront in spite of hospitals and health systems.  News coverage by electronic and print channels is also intensifying the pressure for price and quality transparency.

On one hand there is the need and consumer desire for price and quality transparency in a market driven to a healthcare consumer focus by disruptive innovation.  The other side of that coin is the legacy marketing approaches that hospitals and health system take in not meeting employer, healthcare consumer and others need for quality and price transparency.

Yet amid all this change and pressure, hospital and health system marketing is still for the most part based on legacy marketing tradition.  Legacy marketing  for example of quality award content lacking context combined unattainable brand promises, or claims of quality care surrounded by hyperbole..

In the reality of the market place all of this comes together with unintended consequence.   The lack of response to dynamic market changes does have the effect of obstructing and slowing, but not stopping the transformation of healthcare to a healthcare consumer driven accountable healthcare system.

The emperor has no clothes.

Looking in the mirror the hospital or health system has the appearance of being finely dressed in the mission, brand, brand promise and pronouncements of “customer-focused” or patient- focused”  operations.  But when the hospital or health system step outside in the light of the community, its poor experience, lack of information, unknown pricing and marketing as usual in regards to the healthcare consumer.

Exposure has a price.

For example, in a May 13, 2015 article by Jay Hancock in Kaiser Health News,  Radical Approach To Huge Hospital Bills: Set Your Own Price,  a consulting firm ELAP Services is telling clients to refuse to pay. ELSP then completes a detailed accounting analysis of the hospitals filled cost report to identify the true cost of the service. The client based on the cost analysis, pays that price plus a markup for some profit.  By the way this approach has been upheld in the courts.

As more and more information is published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and others, hospital and health system legacy marketing is creating confusion for the healthcare consumer. 

Health care is evolving into a retail driven, consumer focused medical market and that means new approaches.  A new marketing legacy based on price, outcomes and the value that the healthcare consumer receives. It’s not about logos, awards, vague claims or misleading advertisements. It is about being healthcare consumer focused and meeting their needs with usable, transparent, actionable information, not hospital centric messaging that makes the Board, physicians and senior management feel great.

To be a winning hospital or health system, healthcare marketers need to drive growth by increasing their precision, broadening their scope, reacting quickly and telling a better story. A story that is based on price, quality and value.

To answer the question posed at the beginning of the post, legacy healthcare marketing is obstructing the movement to healthcare consumerism, but it can’t stop the inevitable.  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Has the time come for AGREE marketing in healthcare?

Marketing is full of acronyms on how healthcare providers and vendors should be marketing aimed at various industries and audiences based on their peculiarities. This is not to slam any of them for they are more or less successful depending on how the enterprise in question implements the concept and processes organizationally. And commits the necessary human and capital as needed to fully implement.

Having worked in many of those environments, it’s amazing how some healthcare providers and vendors claim a methodology only to short cut the implementation, not train new staff, or not allocate the resources and then wonder why it doesn’t work.  Hmm….

So this time I am throwing my hat into the marketing system name game for healthcare providers and vendors, offering up a new methodology.

And here is why. 

Healthcare is changing so rapidly and moving in direction never before experienced that the old ways of marketing just don’t work like they used too. There are a lot reasons for that but the biggest one is lack of senior management focus. For example, one year its “patient focused” or “sales focused”. The next year we are “product or care focused”.   Then it becomes “customer and sales focused”.  And the best of all “we will be feared” in the market focus. 

And marketing is left holding the bag each time the focus or direction changes.

What is needed is a marketing framework that marketers can use to withstand rapid disruptive market changes and innovation, as well as senior management unpredictability. The shiny new program that works today may not work tomorrow. But some basic principles apply in any market.  And by focusing on those basics in an integrated fashion no matter what senior management does (short of liquidation or acquisition), marketing can be successful when all around is seemingly in chaos.

That’s the basis for AGREE marketing.

Acquire,  Grow,  Retain,  Engage,  Experience

The organizational marketing plan should have a detailed and highly integrated section of the marketing plan for each of the above areas.  Don’t make assumptions that one is doing this already. One may have bits and pieces scattered throughout the plans, or they may be assumed. But I am willing to bet that it is not detailed in a coherent strategy and tactical execution plan along these five dimensions.

This is not easy, but no matter what the organizational focus, direction or pronouncements of senior leadership with the flavor of the day,  AGREE marketing will keep focus on what is really important, and that is creating and keeping a customer for growing the healthcare enterprise.

Growth is good. Change is always. And marketing goes on. Agreed?