Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Inbound Marketing- Meaningful Engagement of the Patient During the Pandemic

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

While there have been great strides in hospitals and health systems adopting digital marketing, most marketing remains mired in traditional outbound marketing methods. That is, pushing low-value content out in display ads, direct mailers, and broadcast media, hoping that someone will pay attention and act. Calls to actions are generic, and there is a lemming-like approach by hospitals in the same market to do the same thing simultaneously. Today's practice is still a look at us with little value messaging of what is offered. Sometimes it is even those soft; we care kinds of messaging.

Commonly referred to as interruption marketing, outbound is all about sending generic messages out to the broadest possible number of audiences with no customization of content or news, hoping that someone will respond.

The pandemic defines today's hospital as it affects the brand promise, engagement, and experience. These are the difference makers between driving revenue and growth or failure with a future of merger, outright acquisition, or closure and liquidation. The patient is increasingly taking control and making choices. Is outbound marketing the best way to drive brand awareness, choice, and selection?

Switching to inbound marketing.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Let's start the discussion with a definition.

Inbound marketing is a series of marketing actions designed to give patients a reason to engage with the hospital and utilize medical services. It's about bringing the patient to you. Inbound marketing requires meaningful content used to engage, build value, and relationship. It's a pull strategy as opposed to a push strategy that hospitals and health systems utilize. 

Remember, this is not an either-or proposition; one needs both strategies well integrated to achieve maximum benefit.

Inbound marketing is all about why someone should contact and choose you, not what you do.

Understand that inbound marketing focuses on "reason to communicate with you" and not a "do you need a doctor?" or cancer services or insert clinical, technology, or building name here for outbound marketing.  That means having engaging content that engages the ad intrigues the patient, meets a current need, and prompts a decision to take action with a strong call to action.

What are the inbound channels?

Image by launchpresso from Pixabay

The major component of inbound are emails, SEO, blogging, social media, content marketing, and review/referral sites. One is pushing relevant messaging based on the user personas and behavior characteristics that address their "pain points" and interests so that the hospital stays top-of-mind in their decision-making process.

The hospital needs to understand the patient's persona and their buying process.

The patient now has a buying process.  And in that buying process, facilities and technology are a factor, but not the most important one.  Patients during the pandemic are searching for information beyond the hospital services.  With that, the case, doesn't it make sense to be proactive and connect on a very personal level?  Inbound marketing allows you to do that.  But, it's not sending mass emails with generic information.

Inbound marketing recognizes that the patient is now different.  Yes, one continues to use demographic information but pigeonholing people into these "group clarifications" doesn't get to the issue of their pain points and what solutions they are looking for in meeting their healthcare needs. A persona is needed for each individual attracted to the hospital to develop appropriate engaging messages and deter the optimal channel mix to reach.  

Multiple channels are needed as the patient is omnichannel and lives in a digital world.

Inbound marketing is patient-centric, not hospital-centric.

Suppose one considers the focal point of what they need, not what the hospital needs to generate revenue, then marketing shifts.  The marketing department needs to understand the journey of the patient buying process. Once that is understood, then comes the relevant and meaningful information, available at any point in the process, sent to the patient. The hospital's marketing mission and strategies nurture the patient relationship with inbound marketing that converts and expands the relationship.

Inbound marketing positively impacts fee-for-service, risk-based, or value-based contracts.

Because you shift to inbound marketing, the hospital is engaging and establishing a strong relationship with the healthcare consumer or patient.  In population health management, engagement, and meaningful patient relationships are everything. 

Inbound marketing is attributable to increased revenue, growth, and ROI.

Image by Goumbik from Pixabay

Here is what happens for the hospital in shifting some of its effort from purely outbound to a strategically integrated combination of inbound and outbound marketing. The hospital does generate revenue; market share grows, the cost of marketing decreases, and marketing ROI increases.

Today, shifting to inbound marketing will pay huge dividends tomorrow, no matter what the payment system.

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, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Nine Hospital Steps for Actively Leading the Community Through the SARS-CoV-2 Surge

 From Newsy, “Surgeon General, Others Warn Hospitals Can’t Handle Surge,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted Monday that hospitals can't sustain high levels of care during a COVID-19 surge. In New York, ICU occupancies have quadrupled. And in Ohio, doctors say hospitals are struggling to keep up. Dr. Helen K. Koselka, chief medical officer at Trihealth, said: "We're tired of seeing the fear on faces and tired of seeing people who are passing away. We're trying to blast a siren. We need the community's support."

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What are hospitals accomplishing with their marketing and public relations to provide leadership in partnership with State, County, and local health departments to actively engage and lead the community out of the pandemic surge?

It’s a valid question underlying the concept of the hospital’s responsibility in the execution of hospital and health system mission statements focused on community health and wellness, with a professed focus on population health management.

And what do we see in the media?

Media broadcast and print stories about the need to cancel elective surgeries.  News stories that are all about us and look at what we are doing to treat COVID-19 patients. Execution of marketing campaigns that make it seem as if all is well with the world.

Little if anything to engage and lead the community in slowing the community spread, staying safe, wearing a mask, social distance, and washing hands for a start.

I get it that we all want to move along and send marketing messages that the hospital is open for business.  The need to revive utilization should be balanced with the hospital's health and wellness mission in the community.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

It’s about taking responsibility and being the leader. The hospital is the source of credible news and information regarding COVID-19, in slowing community spread and countering false information by promoting safe practices such as wearing a facemask, washing hands, and social distancing.

This is what happened during the first wave, which, unfortunately, was quickly forgotten in a rush to normalize and reopen like it never happened.

Amid the pandemic fatigue, tragedy and despair, communities need leadership from hospitals and health systems, not the stupidity of gaslighting officials, the scientifically illiterate, and conspiracy theorists.

Hospital leadership can add the following to their already full plate to figure out how they will survive. 

·         Leading the community public health effort. 

·         Being the credible source of truth. 

·         Providing unbiased, scientifically accurate information for preventing the community spread of the disease. 

·         Continuous, efficient, and effective patient and community engagement

It’s not over until it’s over.

Given the lack of a coherent national plan and response, it now falls, rightly or wrongly, to the hospitals in the local community to take a far more active role in the leadership of the pandemic response to slow the community spread.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It is about continuing education and crisis communication messaging.

The marketing and PR messaging of the hospital and health system should flow along two simultaneous lines. One is educational by providing information and teaching what the individual and the community role in slowing the community spread of COVID-19. The other is treating every message as part of your crisis communications.

The hospital efforts all come down to continuing the educational and crisis communication activities. 

1.       Use social media for continuous communication for updates on the hospitals or health systems activities related to Coronavirus virus preparations and things the public should know. 

2.       Work internally with your employees, admitting physicians, Broad members, and volunteers to share what the hospital and health system are doing. 

3.       When you hear or become aware of stupid related to the Coronavirus, put out a statement to correct the misinformation. 

4.       Create easy to read and digestible educational information sheets on the Coronavirus for use in the community. 

5.       Back to massive digital and social media use since it’s the fastest method of information distribution and sharing to reach many people. Plus, that is where people live. 

6.       Run print ads, cable spots, radio ads were available and compatible with your messaging. 

7.       Message your community with status updates regularly in the messaging. 

8.       Become the trusted and reliable source of news and information in your community related to the Coronavirus. 

9.       Don’t be afraid to ask the community for help.

For the second mission, PR crisis communications, remember. 

1.       Effective crisis communications are grounded with credible sources. Credibility is about trustworthiness and expertise, as well as a perceived sense of morality. 

2.       Be honest to reduce rumors. Effective crisis communications are frequent, accurate and it does not over-reassure. 

3.       Aim for meaningful actions. Effective communications during a crisis involve persuading people to take harm-reducing steps. 

4.       Draw from experts, not amateurs. Effective communications during a crisis draw on the knowledge of subject-matter experts. 

5.       Be consistent. Consistency of messages is the final and maybe the most critical factor. 

As Charles Dickens writes at the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” 

Tomorrow will never be the same, but it can be different from the past when we were all unprepared.

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, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller -the app is needed with no web access. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Nine Steps for Integrating Marketing and Sales to Increase Healthcare Provider Growth

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Provider sales are hard. Provider marketing is challenging. It's even harder in vendors where marketing and sales are not highly integrated. The tension found in vendors can be summed up with the following statements. Marketing says, 'If the feet on the street would just sell it as we told them, they'd be successful." Followed by sales saying, "Marketing just makes things look pretty."

In many ways, healthcare vendors need to be focused on selling solutions to solve the business challenges, not selling features and benefits, because you know, "we have the best stuff since sliced bread." The all about us approach falls on deaf ears nowadays. By the time a provider contacts the vendor, they already have identified the problem, know more about you than you think, and are interested in your solution to their challenges.

Providers have seen your thought leadership, maybe seen your booth at a trade show pre-SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, heard the thought leaders in a webinar, and browsed your website.

Image by Nattanan Kanchamapart from Pixabay

Organic growth for the healthcare vendor is much easier when there is a collaborative, integrated, and respectful relationship between sales and marketing. 

Given today's customer journey and coming into the sales funnel from multiple directions, failure to integrate the two departments will not result in the organic growth you need. The result is low-quality marketing qualified leads, and fewer sales accepted leads impacting the pipeline.

In essence, you are working against yourself in a highly competitive market with internal strife and confusion while answering your shareholder's and investor's questions regarding lagging organic growth to budget.

Of course, it's a more complex issue than just sales and marketing integration, but no need to make it any harder with at least one variable you can control.

With that in mind, here are nine basic rules of thumb for sales and marketing integration.

1) Your salespeople must be using a common sales strategy across the enterprise. I have seen too many organizations where everybody's left to their methods. The result is incorrect messaging and using poorly designed home-grown materials.  Your sales force activities are about relationship selling and acting as the champion of your organization. If you don't have a method and training, chances are you will not be as effective as your competition. 

2)  The sales CRM and marketing automation need to be integrated as well.  The sales CRM is not marketing automation, but they need to be integrated and connected for seamless data flow. Your sales CRM is the source of truth for marketing.

3) Create an interdisciplinary marketing sales advisory committee.  Where most organizations fail is poor communication and working relationships between the two groups. It's time to get past the "the feet on the street" don't deliver the brand messages and promise in the right way, and all that marketing is good for is making stuff look pretty," because I need more stuff to leave behind attitudes. 

4) Train your marketing department in the sale approach that your salespeople are using.  This way, marketing begins to understand the opportunities and challenges faced and how your sales staff is trained to overcome them.  All marketing materials should be applicable and useful at some point in the sales cycle. It's all about shortening the sales cycle and creating usable and compelling collateral.

5) Let your marketing staff accompany sales on calls and presentations. They can be a new set of eyes and ears and which will provide marketing with new perspectives on the difficulties of selling. 

6) Cut down on the number of slides you use for presentations. An 80-page slide deck is all about you and nothing about your potential customer.  If you have to use more than 10 – 20 slides, you don't know what you are talking about and don't understand your audience. A talking head is boring.

7) Have marketing attend your sales meetings and pipeline calls.  It's about relationships and dialogue. A lot of marketing intelligence is available that sales had that will assist marketing in developing customer producing campaigns and messaging that hit the mark, create new thought leadership  content generating more marketing qualified leads to become sales accepted leads

8)  Annually establish joint goals and objectives and quarterly reporting.  Share in the pain and share in the gain.

9) Constantly evaluate and begin again.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As healthcare providers' consolidation continues unabated across all channels, sales, and marketing, integrated and on the same page, make for a formidable and successful competitor in the market.

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, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller -app needed no web access. 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.

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

Are You Telling Your Patients What They Want to Hear, or What You Want?

Are you telling your patients what they want to hear, or are telling them what you want them to hear? It’s a valid question in the age of pandemic because there is a difference between the two thoughts—a large chasm in some cases.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

As a potential answer to the headline question, there is one question you should ask yourself that is fact-based.  But the adage “never ask a question you don’t want an answer too” applies.  You may get an answer you never wanted in the first place.

Is telling patients what you want them to hear driving changes in your hospital or health system market share?

Since the 1990s, when the talks began about consumerism in health care in the Clinton administration, hospitals and health systems have been telling patients what they want them to hear, not what the patient wants to hear.  I see print and electronic advertisements. I see social media and banner ads. etc., etc., etc.

When the primary research market share reports come in, I’d be willing to bet that market share changes among competing hospitals in a given geographic area is only around one or two percent and driven more by physician admitting behavior.

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixaby

Hospitals have continued to close and affiliate or merge with health systems as patient admissions declined and payers restricted networks. Now, I am not saying that just telling patients what you wanted them to hear is the sole cause for loss of hospital independence and closure, but it is a contributing factor.

Think about this for a moment.

For 30 years now, we have been telling patients all about our facilities and new buildings. Our most recent and most fantastic high-tech equipment, testing, and diagnostics paired with how we care about the whole person and Centers of Excellence. All the while, your competitors have been doing the same thing.

Don’t you think patients after all these years already know what you do? Do patents come to your website via a home page entry to learn about you? Or are they coming into the website in specific areas to know some information they need as part of a self-directed Google search?

That is the difference between telling patients what you want them to hear versus what they want to hear.

As hard as we all try, hospitals and health systems tend to focus on the "all about us" of information that supports that idea. It is much easier to be all about us than to be patient-focused informationally. Patients are looking for not the feature information of what you want to tell them, but an answer to their question.

It’s the pandemic driving the informational bus.

In the age of a pandemic, patients are looking for leadership from the hospital. They are looking to understand how to stay safe and healthy. They are looking to trust the hospital again after being sacred by the first surge and changes in care and how they access care. Patients and the community are suffering from pandemic fatigue and the relentless 24/7 news coverage, political leadership gaslighting, conspiracy theories, false and dangerous misinformation, rising case count, and the death toll for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Patients are looking for public health leadership from the hospitals.

Sometimes, we need to tell patients not what we want them to hear but what they want to hear.

Image by fancycrave1from Pixabay

As an example, removed somewhat from healthcare but not, I write a fun blog that I started in March 2019, Perceptions, Observations and Musings of an Old Man. I have spent an extraordinary amount of time, 22 posts to be exact, on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.  Posts intended to provide answers to questions and different ways to cope.

I would highly suggest that you look at some of the posts for ideas on the information they want, not what you want to give them.  Leadership in a pandemic means we step out of our comfort zones and become accountable and responsive to what is needed, not what we want. It may not be healthcare as we know it either.

“22 Old Man Blog Posts for Surviving the Worldwide COVID-19 Resurgence” https://bit.ly/3kNMaPw

Take charge and lead.

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, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller -app needed no web access. 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.

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