Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Building the Hospital 2021 Marketing Budget & Plan – Ten Key Strategies

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has played havoc with hospital budgets overall. Rapidly declining revenues saw marketing budgets and operations, the first department to be cut. That is understandable as every dollar saved in marketing flows directly to the bottom line. The unfortunate reality is that when the hospital begins to emerge from the pandemic's first wave, any market momentum has been lost, and marketing is in a restart position.

Image by StartupStockPhotos on Pixabay

Looking into the crystal ball, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that hospital marketing budgets, for the most part, will continue to decline as a percent of revenues and operating costs for 2021. With 2021 planning already started in some organizations or nearly ready to start, the time is now for change.

The market has shifted dramatically.

Consider the seismic shifts that took place due to the pandemic for the plan and budget development  – acceptance of telemedicine, the patient using social media and local Google searches to find alternative sources of care, and finding information other than the hospital need answers.

Marketing the hospital is no longer about us, but about the hospital rebuilding trust and what the hospital can do for the patient by providing the patient's relevant content and experience in the channel and format they want.

What that means for the hospital is now changing the marketing plan's dynamics based on past action and experience with a diminishing budget to shifting resources to be creative in reaching the patient.

By any means is not an easy task when you consider internally how hospital views marketing and what marketing accomplishes. The staff, Board, and senior leadership feel good when they see the advertisement or receive the random direct mail piece. These are old and tired mass marketing channels and techniques that do not bring the return on marketing investment that the hospital now needs.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The following ten strategies are how you need to shift the budget and marketing plan for 2021 to reach patients in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. It is not an impossible task but requires maximum use of the resources on hand and staff creativity.

Building the Hospital 2021 Marketing Budget & Plan – Ten Key Strategies 

1.       Video- It is the preferred way the patient consumes content. Video marketing arrived several years ago, but hospitals and other providers have been slow to adapt. The patient or consumer has adapted and finds video easier to consume content than reading a blog post or informational sheet. With the programs that are available for editing and your iPhone, you can create all the high-quality video you'll ever need for your website and social media use, 

2.       Content– Content marketing drives organic web traffic and growth. After SEO, a web-generated content strategy requires a content marketing plan. Too many people think that content is a long-form blog post, which has its place in any content strategy, but over 40 different content types can be developed, and having a good mixture is essential. Each form has its benefits and level of engagement. You may settle on just a couple. Please make sure you change it up to keep people engaged. 

3.       Social Media– It's where your patients are. If the pandemic has taught us anything is the patients are using social media to a greater extent. While many hospitals have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page, that doesn't mean it has been better utilized or received substantial focus. The patient now uses social media to search out provider recommendations. It never too late to improve your focus on social media and content. The hospital can no longer afford not to be where the patient is. 

4.       Voice Search– Is being adopted by patients. With the rapid growth of iPhone Siri, Amazon Echo, and Google Home, voice search is becoming the most used healthcare search method. Voice search arrived years ago mainly on mobile devices but has now entered the home in a big way. That doesn't mean you have to go fill out on optimizing for or voice search, but it means the hospital needs to get started adapting for natural language SEO.  Dive into long-tail-keyword research and how Goggle defines search intent. Write conventional style content based on how people commonly asked questions when searching for a hospital or physician, and not answering what you want them to ask. 

5.       Digital Advertising – More targeted than ever. From demographic and geofencing, the available data has allowed hospital marketers to become hyper-focused and target precisely the type of patient you want to attract for a specific service if your ads are done right. You will be social media to leverage ad drive referrals. 

6.       Online Reviews–People trust online reviews as much as they do family and friend recommendations. In April 2020, in "How Patients Use Online Reviews," by Lisa Hedges and Colin Couey from Software Advice found that in 2019, found that 72 percent of patients used inline reviews as the first step in finding a new doctor, 88 percent trust online reviews as much as a recommendation for family and friends, and 48 percent would go out of network. Now is the time to actively request reviews from your patients and manage user-generated content and display them on your website and social media. 

7.       Micro-influencers- Extend your local reach. Not the well-known celebrity or sports star that carries a lot of risk, baggage, and expense.  The focus of your influencer marketing should be the micro-influencers in your community or region. These are the individuals who people trust and listen to. Finding a local influencer who align with your services is the way they go. It's nice to have Tony Robbins or Danika Patrick, but do they align with your services? Micro-influencers will drive followers and increase the utilization of your services. 

8.       The importance of a mobile website. From bluelist.co "60+ Statistics to Help you Rank #1 in 2019",  60 percent of people search and access the internet from a mobile device. Google and other search engines favor mobile sites over those optimized for a desktop or laptop. Now that Google has announced they have mobile-first indexing, your website needs to be optimized for mobile viewing, lest you be left in the dust, and at the very bottom of searches. 

9.       Focus on how you help, not what you do. If anything, this was the most significant change to come about because of the pandemic. People don't care about technology, buildings, or a plethora of medical services and features. Patients want to know the benefit to them of what you do and how you help them. That means moving away from what to do service-wise to how you help them potentially solve a medical problem. It's not about the hospital anymore. 

10.   Optimize your website for local search. Smartphones and wearables have made ultra-precise location-based SEO one of the most significant healthcare marketers' strategies and tactics. In addition to long-tail keywords, SEO optimization also includes image optimization site maps, backlinks, meta tags, crawl errors, and more. There is no reason not to have a highly optimized landing page for the hospital.

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay

The pandemic forced a significant change in hospitals and marketing in 2020. One can expect more of the same for 2021 with fewer marketing resources. These ten strategies should assist you in your budget and marketing plan development and provide you with some agility to respond to changes and not go completely dark as it happened in 2020.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at  michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, PinterestTikTokFlipboard, and Triller -app needed no web access.

. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Importance of Communicating the Value of the Hospital During a Pandemic- Not Features


With the resurgence of COVID-19 combined with the start of the flu season and colder damper weather, and so much uncertainty, conflicting viewpoints, gaslighting, and outright false facts in society, how is the hospital and health system communicating value?

Image by Yogesh More from Pixabay

Why value and not features, benefits, and awards?

Patients and the community are scared, and there has been a loss of trust exhibited by patients not returning for care at pre-pandemic levels. With so much uncertainty, is it time to move healthcare marketing beyond "all about us" to the value and benefit brought to the patient and community?

Unless you are a new provider in the market, features and services or vague quality and excellence claims may be falling on deaf ears. 

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

It's about value, benefit, price, and convenience on the patient's terms in today's world.

It's about answering the patient's question of trust and benefit of using you. 

In today's world, you need to have a compelling value proposition with messaging that provides clear and understandable benefits to patients.

Enter Value Marketing

Value marketing makes the case to your patients how you are their partner in solving their medical problem, offering a solution, giving results, and even make them satisfied to whatever extent possible.

Value marketing is about a creative exchange between the patient and the hospital in the marketplace. It is a dynamic transaction that continually changes based on the patient and community needs compared to what the hospital, or physician for that matter, offers.

Change the message from communicating what is done every day to the value and benefit of medical services and the positive impact on health.

Instead of talking about programs and services that everybody else has, talk about the value and benefits of those same programs and services and what they bring to the patient, i.e., outcomes, price, experience, and convenience.

As an alternative to saying we have the latest high-tech gizmo, talk about the value and benefit of what that latest most fantastic high-tech gizmo brings to the patient.

As a substitute to just communicating the Best Hospitals or 100 Top Hospitals awards for care, for example, talk to your patient and community about the value and benefit of that award by putting context around the content.

Stop talking at your audiences, speak to them by providing meaningful content that has context, delivered to them when they want it, on the device and format desired—message patients by offering value-based solutions to their healthcare needs. 

Image by Lisa Caroselli from Pixabay


The patient desperately wants to trust and return for care. But they need proof it's safe. They need to know the value and benefit for them, not the hospital.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and now TikTok. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Your Definitive Guide for Making a Hospital Patient-focused in a Pandemic World

 

Image by Igor Link from Pixabay

The old rules of marketing and attracting patients are being cast aside like leaves in a storm. The acceleration of healthcare transformation into a personal technology-driven digital and convenient service point changes the hospital's rules to adopt a higher patient-centricity level.

But we are patient, and customer-focused is the cry.

But the answer to the question is not a simple as it may seem. There is no checklist of "if I do this and this, I will be a customer-focused hospital or health system, and the patient or consumer will think so too." The answer to the question is a two-part answer. And a hospital cannot arrive at the promised land of being a patient-focused healthcare enterprise unless it accomplishes part two of the solution. 

Part One- The Patient as Health Care Consumer

Think of your own experiences when interacting with a customer-focused company.  One is engaged and highly satisfied. Interaction with the company in gathering information is easy, accessible, and understandable, be it in-person, or regardless of device, in any digital and social media platform.  The experience from the first contact to the last encounter is seamless, meaningful, and integrated—proactive recommendations tailored to your needs.  During the engagement process, trust is built, and in the case of previous utilization, faith is reinforced and enhanced.  The brand promise is delivered every time.

And most importantly, as this is perceptual, there is an emotional connection that all that matters is "me."  At no time do I feel or have an experience that is all about the hospital and health system, making me secondary to what is taking place. The organization is responsive. Satisfaction scores exceed normalized standards.

A note regarding satisfaction: because the healthcare enterprise may have high satisfaction scores, remember that it only measures the customer perspective during care.  It does not measure external influences or needs. High satisfaction scores, while important, do not make a patient-focused enterprise. Satisfaction is only one indicator of customer-centricity.  Satisfaction is a process that can be studied, manipulated, changed, and improved.

Part Two- The Healthcare Enterprise

Sometimes, one must look at the past lessons to find future solutions, as healthcare evolves into a retail medicine, consumer-driven business model. So here is some reading homework:  MARKOR: A Measure of Market Orientation, Ajay K. Kohli, Bernard J. Jaworski, Ajith Kumar,  Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Nov. 1993), pp. 467-477, American Marketing Association; Harvard Business Review, "To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple", Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman, May 2012; And  McKinsey & Company, "The consumer decision journey", David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder, and Ole Jergen Vetyik, June 2009.

Becoming a patient-centric enterprise requires two things. First is outward market orientation. The second is that the culture and behavior to support the organization, the customer-focused business model.

Customer centricity, in its pure and most straightforward form, it is a matter of market orientation. "Market orientation refers to the organization-wide generation of market intelligence about current and future needs of customers, dissemination of intelligence within the organization, and responsiveness to it." (Kohli, Jaworski & Kumar, 1993.)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

To become a patient-focused healthcare enterprise, and there are 20 indicators in the MARKOR scale to measure market orientation, these three areas can be considered to be the most important first steps:

Intelligence Generation 

1.       Meeting with patients and the community to understand current and future needs. 

2.       An in-house market research department or the availability of external market research resources. 

3.       The ability to detect changes driven by patient and community preferences. 

4.       Annual surveys of patient and community perceptions that are different than satisfaction measurement.  

Intelligence Dissemination 

1.       Regular interdepartmental meetings on market trends and development. 

2.       Significant developments within the market or with critical customers  are shared quickly. 

3.       Regular dissemination of satisfaction and perceptual  data at all levels of the enterprise. 

Responsiveness 

1.       Recognition of changes in customers product or service needs. 

2.       Alignment of product or service development efforts with customer needs. 

3.       Regular, interdepartmental planning to respond to changes in the business environment. 

4.       Responsiveness to customer complaints. 

5.       Making a concerted effort to modify products or services to fit community needs.

According to Walker Research and the Walker Index, these characteristics are some of the key differentiating elements of customer-focused companies that are most likely to produce significantly better long term performance.

Systems to gather the intelligence to be an evolving patient and community-focused healthcare enterprise are one thing.  Culture and behavior are another, and is more often than not, the potential stumbling block in hospitals and health systems becoming patient-focused.

Image by Free-Photo from Pixabay

The culture and behavior of the healthcare enterprise influence and ultimately determines success.  Just because the healthcare enterprise completes one or more of the above, or a select few of the 20 MARKOR scale attributes, that in and of itself doesn't make the healthcare enterprise customer focused. It only works if the organization's culture and behavior align with the underlying organizational beliefs and values.

Patient-centric organizational culture and behavior fall into four areas:

Senior management 

1.       Committed to and takes action on being patient-focused. 

2.       Drives business and financial planning based on the needs of patients and the community. 

3.       Utilizes market data in decisions. 

4.       Business development is externally focused on meeting the needs of the community. 

5.       Marketing is a member of the senior team, trusted and is involved in all decisions. 

6.       Has a high level of tolerance for change. 

7.       Accepts innovation and has some tolerance for failure. 

8.       Low tolerance for and eliminates "sacred cows."

 Interdepartmental relationships 

1.       Interdepartmental cooperation takes place at all staff levels. 

2.       Formal and informal connections to departments. 

3.       Openness to ideas from other departments. 

4.       Focus is on meeting the needs of the customer/ 

5.       Interdepartmental barriers to meet the needs of the customer is identified and eliminated. 

6.       Seamless handoff of customers between departments

Organizational systems 

1.       A balanced approach to organizational structure. 

2.       Market-based incentive structures that focus on long-term company health. 

3.       Low level of "office politics." 

4.       The mechanism is in placed to share patient-related data 

5.       Continuous evaluation and training on organizational patient and community centeredness. 

6.       Strict standards regarding patient service competency skills for all positions. 

7.       All touch-points  of the patient experience are integrated and seamless.

Organizational Culture 

1.       Organizations core values are widely shared and intensely held. 

2.       Senior management establishes norms of patient-focused behavior by their actions. 

3.       There is a culture socialization program for new employees. 

4.       Conveys a sense of identity. 

5.       People-oriented. 

6.       Team-oriented. 

7.       Outcome-oriented. 

8.       Fosters behavioral consistency.

Patient centrality cannot be marketed into existence with campaigns and forays into the market with "patient-centric messages" or internal declarations of customer focus.  Sooner or later, the patient and community will figure it out.  Employees will see it as the flavor of the day and wait it out until the next great leadership vision comes around. 

The patient-focused healthcare enterprise is a way of life that permeates the hospital or health system with a singular focus. It is outward-looking and responsive, not inwardly focused, and unresponsive.

Customer centricity is about changing the healthcare enterprise's DNA.  The patient-focused healthcare enterprise is hard to create and takes a lot of work. It's not a box on a checklist and is not just satisfaction. But in the end, as healthcare transforms into a patient-centric market, it is the only way that the healthcare enterprise can survive. Cutting costs and going lean will only go so far in retail medicine.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and now TikTok. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

LinkedIn Stories – Hospital Branding and Recruitment Opportunity?

In LinkedIn's drive to be the Facebook of business, LinkedIn Stories was launched on Sunday, September 27. week. In essence, it is the same digital story opportunity that one finds on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. With a few notable exceptions, the stories from the first 24-48 hours left a lot be desired, even the LinkedIn Story demo, which has been revised. Content has improved as major corporations figure out its place in the marketing mix.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I did create some content and found it easy to use and create content. It's very similar to other social media platforms' story options for content creation, sharing, tagging, etc. My one disappointing note, besides the lack of content, is that stories only appear on the LinkedIn app side. If you're creating on a desktop or laptop, stories are not available. For me, that is a significant shortcoming. Maybe someday, LinkedIn will figure out that the user experience needs to be the same across all devices.

The branding and recruitment opportunity for hospitals.

As I have written in the past, digital stories are an area where hospitals and doctors, for that matter, can improve their marketing and digital presence. In case you missed the post from August 25, it was "Digital Stories- the Missing Hospital Marketing Opportunity?" https://bit.ly/3aSTuoW. In the blog post, there are ten steps for creating compelling stories so that I won't revisit them here. All ten steps apply to create a dynamic LinkedIn Story.

In an interesting twist to our topic, I wrote about hospital stories in 2014 with the post "Is storytelling the new healthcare marketing?" http://bit.ly/108kfjF. What is old is new from six years ago. Go figure.

Image by Yogesh Moore from Pixabay

From a marketing viewpoint, I believe that the new LinkedIn story capability provides a visual and dynamic platform for hospitals and health systems to marketing their hospital, company page, and recruit staff and physicians.

Differentiating from your competition.

With thousands of position postings and the difficulty sourcing staff, stories show the human side of the brand and the daily impact on lives. You can answer the question, why us, visually. Who is the best brand ambassador? An influencer that you pay or your employees representing you?

As an industry, we need to move more fully into developing compelling content to engage and frame the experience of the hospital and health system brand for the audience. And that means storytelling assumes greater importance.

Stories can provide rich content, engage, frame the experience, and impart critical information influencing choice.

Stories are here to stay. Make the best use of them you can.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and now TikTok. The opinions expressed are my own.

Signup for the e-newsletter Healthcare Marketing Daily and have the latest healthcare marketing and business news for providers and vendors delivered right to your mailbox daily. Add your email address in the signup on the sidebar.

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