Sunday, November 15, 2009

Is there hope for hospital marketing leadership?

Is there hope for hospital marketing leadership?

A broad question which is really more than just a simple yes or no. And I for one, really don't know if an answer is possible due to the complexity of the question. Here's why......

A couple of weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with the CEO of a hospital regarding a Vice President of Marketing position, or was it Director? They hadn't quit made up their minds and advertised it as Vice President while their web site indicated Vice President/Director, the HR person said Director while the CEO never committed. Just a few red flags.

Another red flag was that the hospital set-up the interview for a specific time and they would call. The day came and yes they called.... 10 minutes late. No apology, no explanation, no initial courtesy to extend any kind of acknowledgement that my time was as equally as valuable as theirs.

The CEO and the Director of HR on one end of the phone and me on the other. The HR person never said a word the entire time. The CEO did all the talking. Another red flag.

We covered the usual questions. He really had not read my resume or application like he stated he did. When referencing some of the resume, he was a surprised oh really.... another red flag.

Then came the clincher. What do you do best Michael? Is it research? Design ads? Write copy? What do you.. do best?

My answer was marketing strategy and leadership. Well, it sure became quite. A buzz kill if there ever was one. That was not what the CEO was looking for. I explained that tactics are easy, strategy is hard. Marketing strategy is a coming together of critical key organizational leadership - senior management; Board of Directors; and physicians. Marketing strategy is built upon the business plan, financial plan and strategic plan of the hospital. Marketing leadership motivates, inspires excellence, rewards individual accomplishment, builds teams, doesn't care who gets the credit and grows the entire organization, not just a department. Marketing sits at the leadership table.

The concepts were foreign. Marketing to this CEO was ads, copy and stuff. Not leadership, not direction, just him telling you what to do and when to do it. Marketing does not sit at his leadership table.

By this time, I had lost any interest in the position.

Unfortunately, this type of story is replayed day-in and day-out around the country. Marketing does not sit at the senior leadership table. Marketing is seen as stuff. Marketing is not integrated into the culture and values of the organization. Hospitals, even after the advent of DRGs in 1983, still don't get marketing.

And I have been on both sides- for-profit healthcare GPO, international, medical device and pharmaceuticals and not-for-profit hospitals, integrated multi-state, multi-hospital health systems and nursing homes with some very important learning's.

Being in the for-profit world now, marketing strategy, leadership and execution is everything, not just "stuff".

Marketing leadership and strategy in the hospital segment of the healthcare industry is in deep trouble. A lot of that is due to the ego driven persona's of senior management, insular cultures divorced from the real-world and organizational arrogance because they are a "not-for-profit" "doing good things" so that means they can do whatever they want, as well as blame everyone else for the state-of-the-industry. It is also complicated by a lack of marketing knowledge. As the old saying goes, "you don't know what you don't know".

And with healthcare reform on the horizon, marketing leadership, strategy and execution will be needed more than ever.

Look around, for-profit companies are already at the fringes of the hospital world and making headway all of the time. Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and others play for keeps. The recognize a need, build a program and execute. They are not going away like some of my colleagues have expressed. They have plans laid for areas and stand to benefit from them financially while improving care and customer service at you and your physician's expense. Retail clinics, infusion centers, home health care is just the beginning.

Your future is not as bright as you may think it is. Time to get your marketing strategy and leadership act together. Your future depends on it.