Sunday, October 4, 2015

Can providers succeed with the right words?

Words are important, and that is something that I can think we can all agree. How a provider uses words not only in the content but contextually, can greatly influence a positive or negative perception of the brand.

Words can drive an individual to take action, become motivated, inspire and in some cases by the contextual environment communicated by the words become life-changing. And we all know that words can unintentionally by use and connotation reach a pretty high giggle factor, raising more questions than answers. In some case, words conveying a position on a topic become oxymoronic resulting in a negative brand image.

With that in mind, how would you rate providers in the use of words?

An important question as I see more each day of providers and vendors using words that don’t say anything.  Lots of squiggles on a page intended to convey information but essentially say the same thing over and over again.  I increasingly see the use of jargon to cover up any real meaning. 

Cleaver and creative marketing communications are needed to cover positions and information in a way that hopefully motivates the reader in some way. But the real question at hand is what do they convey? What do those words convey in reaction and meaning?  Do they raise more questions than what they were intended to answer?   

Words matter.

A hospital states in an advertisement that we are patient-centered, and it’s all about you. The question then becomes what does the healthcare consumer think or accept that statement?  Is a consumers position I get it because everyone else makes that statement, but I don’t know means? Or maybe the healthcare consumer says wait a minute, you are a hospital that provided care to me. Are you saying that wasn’t the case last time I received treatment?  You are a hospital that provided care to me; did the hospital raise the question unintentionally that it hasn’t been about me?

Is patient-centered an oxymoron based on the person's experience?

Words matter.

Let us consider the health system that opens a new physician and diagnostic center for example. The only thing one reads about in the press, hears in radio interviews with leadership, sees in the ad are words defining the building as ever so convenient and patient friendly. What a great environment in their view but no words about the quality of care, services or price.  What words conveyed the reason I should go there to seek medical care because it is a nicely designed building?  

Observation. Hospitals are still so brick and mortar oriented to solve problems when the market is moving in a very different direction.

Words matter.

These are just a couple of examples.  But we all see that on a daily basis, whether it’s a product manager thinking they are creative writers or senior leadership thinking that meaningless language and jargon will win the day and build the brand.

Words do matter and the contextual use matters.

Words and their meanings matter, especially in a market that is becoming retail in nature and filled with healthcare consumer choice.

Maybe at some point, providers will begin to understand that words matter and begin to start using the right words, to convey the right message, at the right time.  Could this very well become a version of the Triple AIM for marketing professionals?

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Where is the hospital service line patient brand evangelist?

Do you know who your patient hospital brand, evangelists are? I ask this question for a very important reason.  In an age of little provider differentiation in the actual retail medical marketplace with me too messaging, how is a healthcare consumer to make a choice?

Now that being said, I realize that many a health care leader will dispute the above statement.  But the fact is there is little if any messaging differentiation.  I know as I was there too but made a conscious effort to move away from the “me too” messaging. And that was in the early 2000s.

So where am I going with this?

Consumers are demanding price and quality transparency.  Maybe in reality what they want is more price certainty and know what the value is they are receiving for the dollar paid?  But few in the Provider segment are listening to the needs and demands of the healthcare consumer. Then they howl loudly then a third party releases data that is publically available on the hospitals or health systems prices and quality.

Consumers of healthcare are shopping.

Consumers are now paying one-third of the cost of care out of pocket.

A consumer uses the internet and social media 41 percent of the time in gathering information to make provider choice.

And the answer by hospitals and health systems is to market trust our expertise with messages that are full of ambiguous claims and statements.

One way to answer those questions is through the use of patient testimonials, aka the service line patient brand evangelist. 

Let me give you an example. When at a multihospital health system, I developed with BVK the Third Opinion Oncology campaign.  Upon an individual receiving a cancer diagnosis, the next step is the second medical opinion.  But we found that there was a third step. The patient then talks to everyone and anyone that went through that cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Instead of going to the market with a look at our great oncologists, technology, expertise and it’s all about you messaging we went in a very different direction. The campaign focused on three individuals along common cancer diagnoses of breast, colon, and prostate. By the way, it was hard to find those three brand evangelists. That tells one a lot about the hospital brand and experience too.

The simple message-  “Ask me how I beat breast cancer”, with a professional photo of the individual, email, print, billboard and direct mail. Calls and emails went to my RN based call center. Prior to the campaign launch, a detailed Q&A was conducted with the three individuals, clinicians and oncologists to identify the type of questions they had and the answers.  When a question came in that, we did not have any answer for we went back to the individuals and clinicians for an answer.

The entire campaign pulled the consumer to the hospital, pushed through to the oncologist, then pulled the oncologist to the hospital.

I did not message quality, technology, drugs, surgery; we care about you or anything else. I didn't say best and brightest; it’s all about you or we are the only choices. Those are arrogant and pejorative vague claims that are indefensible. One message that was clear and unambiguous offer a solution to a serious medical situation. Answering healthcare consumer questions that are life and death in nature that a healthcare consumer has. That came in the answers to real questions from real consumers.

Use of a patient brand evangelist clearly differentiated the systems oncology services and established a position in the market that no other provider could claim.  The campaign drove appropriate utilization, built the oncologist practices and increased hospital revenue, market share and brand awareness.

And all of that was before a change in the market that is becoming retail medical in nature.  Today the stake are even higher, and the hospital or health system brand needs to mean more than ever.
The hospital of 2015 still operates in a market dominated by fee for service and the production of care.  In a market shift to value and risk where the consumer has a growing portion of the expense and choice of providers brand and value is everything.

Changing your marketing today from ambiguous we are all the same features and benefits marketing to patient brand evangelists and solutions marketing, will set one up for success in the future whatever the payment system is.  A strong established brand will be in narrow networks, the provider of choice in consumer-driven exchange plans and the dominant provider in the market.

What one does today in creating a strong hospital or system brand will impact tomorrow's ability to survive in a retail medical consumer choice driven market.

Is it really that hard?

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What can providers learn from physician sales, engagement in specialty pharmacy?

I was thinking the other day about what lessons in physician engagement in specialty pharmacy and how that could transfer to providers. That is a meaningful engagement for managing population health, changing health behaviors, keeping referrals and members in the network as well as experience improvement.

It occurred to me that specialty pharmacy have been engaging physicians through the sales process for a long time now, and there are lessons applicable to hospitals and other healthcare providers. Specialty pharmacy with a physician is transactional in nature, and many a specialty pharmacy utilize a Huitwaite SPIN based approach. This approach is highly applicable to selling to physicians in the provider network as well.

Nine  lessons to learn from:

Lesson One: Reach out and touch someone. If you want a doc to be engaged, you have to establish a personal connection. That means a human connection all of the time, not just when the patient is in the hospital or sales is in the doctor's office.  Without a human connection to the organization, engagement never has a chance.

Lesson Two: Do what you tell the physician you are going to do right now.  Saying you are going to take an action with a patient or commit to an action with a follow-up report of the outcome to a physician is usually right now not days later.  

Lesson Three: Invest in sales and marketing training in whatever sales methodology is being used so that it's done right the first time, every time.  Marketing to be effective and collaborative with sales needs to understand how the sale takes place.  In a situational selling environment, the right pieces need to created for a level behind.  Now, a piece of collateral never sold anything.  But the right price ate the right time can enhance the presentation or discussion.

Lesson Four: The same high standards you have for interaction with physicians for sales are the same high standards you have for your employees interacting with one another.  That means the right training, creating the right culture and having the right performance measurement.  If your employees are not engaged and happy, then the physician won't be happy when they encounter others for the provider.  In specialty, the sales are only the start of the engagement.  View the provider engagement as a whole.

Lesson Five:  Computerize the encounter. Not just scripting but an integrated approach using current physician information utilizing branching logic in response to questions and follow-ups. It is not only more effective and efficient but can enhance the encounter medically, personally and result in better outcomes.

Lesson Six: The same salesperson interacts with the physician on a regular basis.  Constant turnover of client executives destroys any potential for engagement. It creates uncertainty, doubt, and fear and is negative because the physician loses confidence.  People go on vacation, take days off, get ill, and life happens, doctors get that.

Lesson Seven: Understand, the physician you are talking too, what they want from you, and how they want the engagement to take place will define to a great extent your engagement strategy.  Physician engagement in specialty pharmacy is a personal one-on-one encounter, and one size does not fit all. Yes, you have process and systems, but they need to be adaptable and ever-changing.

Lesson Eight: It’s not uncommon in specialty sales and marketing to have a difficult patient program. Every physician has one or several difficulty patients in specialty pharmacy, so a difficult patient solution is usually the preferred course of action.   You gain trust and utilization. The physician gains a compliant patient and improved outcomes.

Lesson Nine: Eliminate the hassle factor for the doctor and help improve the practice of medicine and patient care. And fix the most important hassle factor being the patient complaining about you to them.

There are more, of course, but these are the nine lessons I thought are most important in transferring knowledge on physician engagement and sales from one segment of the healthcare industry to another.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hey healthcare sales exec, can you please read LinkedIn profiles carefully?

I could have written a rant how healthcare sales executives are using LinkedIn to prospect. But in thinking it over, I decided to provide some helpful tips for using LinkedIn for becoming more sales productive.

And maybe in the process stop getting useless, poorly targeted, as well as disjointed sales emails and calls. Oh and this goes for their employing companies too.

Now that being said, I get that currency for being on LinkedIn is relationships, connections, networking and the ability to prospect. I am okay with that.  What I am not okay with is the seemingly increased amount of inappropriate prospecting that is going on from sales execs.
Your regularly scheduled program will begin shortly.

I am a marketing guy that is a Miller Heiman alumnus and Huthwaite SPIN trained as well. I also pride myself on having integrated sales and marketing in healthcare vendors. The end results were that marketing improved, sales improved, revenue and market share grew. Sales and marketing teams went from “if the feet-on-the-street would just sell as we said”, and “marketing just makes things look pretty” to highly collaborative, productive and successfully integrated operations.

Tip 1:

Pay attention to the profile. Carefully read what they are saying in their intro. Clearly understand their current employment status and industry. Pay attention to the groups they belong too. What companies are they following? Read any post and view their recent activity. All of the above will provide you with the clues to decide if that person is even a viable prospect.

Tip 2:

With all due respect to Richard Ogilvie, think the man in the chair to understand who we are. Answer those questions before hand and you will be more successful on LinkedIn and stop wasting so much of your time and mine. It may be old, but it’s still true today.

Tip 3:

When contacting someone, please write in English that is spell checked and grammatically correct. Enough said.

Tip 4:

When requesting me to make an introduction, how about a compelling reason on why I should take the time out of my day to help you?  Why should I risk my reputation and credibility on you and your product or service? It’s a simple request. I am not looking for payment or a quid pro quo.  Just a rock solid reason on why I should take that action.

Tip 5:

Don’t tell me what to do. Now that’s an easy one.  Emails that request an action or provide information for your benefit to selling me something go to the recycle bin. I especially like the cold calls and emails from the data list sellers. Please tell where in my profile you see that at this current time with my employment status that I need to buy an email or mail list of anything?

Tip 6:

Make it about me. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace, but it has to acknowledge in some form what’s important to me and how you can solve my business challenge. If you paid attention to my profile and the attendant activity you can pretty much figure out what is important to me and the issues that are keeping my up at night.  Make your introduction along these points of interest.  Not about what you are selling.

Tip 7:

Find a sales mentor in your company. Someone that is proficient at using LinkedIn and social media for that matter. Learn from them on how to use LinkedIn properly for prospecting and outreach.  Using LinkedIn to find prospects is an activity. I do have to admit that it looks great on your management reports. Using LinkedIn is not an outcome. Don’t confuse the two. To all vendor sales leadership, please help them out! It reflects just as much on the brand as it does the sales.

Tip 8:

Don’t argue with me!  I especially dislike the phone call that starts with “Hello Michael we are connected” on LinkedIn and then proceed to tell me about what they need.  Then the argument starts when I ask the simple question of did they read my LinkedIn profile and from understanding that what made them think that I was interested in whatever? I don’t mind the calls when someone has paid attention and what they have or want is relevant.

Tip 9:

Respond to me.   I understand sales compensation and the hard work it takes to be successful sales, person. Sales are not easy. Know that I try to be courteous and respectful of your time and efforts so that you don’t waste your time on a prospect that will bring little economic value for your efforts at this time.

When I respond to your email that I am not interested, or the offer isn’t relevant to me at this time, do yourself a big favor and respond with a thanks for letting me know. Today’s no interest no sale may be tomorrow’s client as things change. 

Tip 10:

Pay attention and act accordingly.  Now is that so hard?

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.