Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone.  
Best wishes for a successful & prosperous 2016!

And thank you for reading.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top 10 posts from Healthcare Marketing Matters in 2015

What a year for healthcare marketing 2015 has been. The changes taking place in healthcare marketing for providers and vendors are moving faster than a light saber.  And the market demand for adequately meeting needs, be it patient, the healthcare consumer, physician or providers will grow exponentially in 2016. Healthcare consumerism is at the forefront, and the shift has begun from interruptive outbound marketing to inbound value and solution marketing. Have it your way could be a theme in 2016 for providers and vendors for responding with value and solution oriented marketing to market dynamic shifts and competition.

With that in mind, here are the top 10 posts from Healthcare Marketing Matters in 2015.

As 2015 comes to a close, this is my last post until 2016. Thank you for reading Healthcare Marketing Matters. 

1. November 7,  1,169 views – What does it take to implement a strategic healthcare social media program? 

A lot of discussions occurs nearly every day regarding social media in healthcare.  Providers and some vendors still continue to lag in taking advantage of this channel for amplification of the brand message. The need for healthcare companies to actively use and mine the social media channels in reaching, engaging and influencing favorable decision and choices is no longer a nice to have but a business critical skill competency.

     2. July 26, 953 views - Defiant to the end, hospital closes. Nobody cares?

Dateline Anywhere USA. Hospital anywhere closed today after serving the community for 80 years. Beset by changes in reimbursement, competition from retail medicine, telehealth, innovation and an empowered healthcare consumer, hospital leadership and Board of Directors could not adapt to the new healthcare market.  Several hundred employees lost their jobs.  No one in the community seemed to care, as reported in the local paper.

     3. January 31, 895 views – What does a customer focused hospital or healthcare enterprise look like?

The question was indeed fortuitous, as the news coverage this week in various hospitals and provider focused news outlets, reported that consumerism is one of the top concerns on CEO minds these days.

 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 healthcare 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 customer-focused healthcare enterprise unless it accomplishes part two of the answer. 
         4.  August 16, 896 views -  Is it time to make hospital marketing stickier?

With all the things that hospital leadership and healthcare marketing executives have on their plates and keeping them up at night, here’s a new one.  And unfortunately, it’s out of one’s control, and no exceptions are allowed.

The economy has shifted from a product and service economy to an experience economy. Hospitals and health systems, any healthcare provider, is operating in an economy that is radically different than the past.

5. September 6, 850 views - How do you market quality in a healthcare consumer-driven market?

The interesting question isn't it?  Well, I posed a similar question in my  Healthcare Marketing Matters blog back on March 31, 2013. And so far it’s had 5,200 page views.  Some questions never seem to get answered or go away.  So this is an update looking through the lens of the market changes occurring during the last couple of years.
It presupposes that healthcare consumers have some idea of what they need in the way of healthcare services. 

      6. August 30,  839 views – Is healthcare consumer/ patient engagement all of the time the new reality?

As healthcare continues its rapid evolution into a far more accountable, cost-effective, quality outcome and consumer-driven model, it begs the question, is engagement now an all of the time a new reality? Secondary to that question is, are healthcare providers prepared for that new marketing reality?

      7.  May 9, 804 views – Is the smartphone the new doctor for physician independence?

The healthcare consumer will shell out $345 billion dollars this year for health insurance, co-payments, and deductibles. On top of that, they will spend another $271 billion on health-related items like gyms memberships, weight loss programs, exercise equipment, etc. That's a whopping $626 billion dollars out-of-pocket that is expected to rise for the foreseeable future.

The healthcare consumer and patient are demanding value, price and quality transparency from healthcare providers. Customers want retail medicine, mHealth, and Telemedicine. All the while healthcare providers focus on market dominance and acquire physician practices to create market heft and then wonder why consumers are cranky?

      8.  January 4, 790 views – Really? The hospital doesn’t do social media?

Imagine my surprise when I heard some hospital leadership types make the statement that “the hospital does not do social media.” And proudly I may say as if it’s some badge of honor. That kind of leadership points to a healthcare enterprise that has hunkered down with self-imposed barriers, unable to adequately understand the nature or respond appropriately, to business model changes required in today’s healthcare environment.

      9.  January 10, 790 views – How can a hospital start the social media effort?

Social media is here to stay and is becoming an ever increasing focus on the healthcare consumer in searching out hospital and health care information.  As the healthcare consumer becomes more adept at using mHealth, informational websites for price and quality data,  Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and other outlets, the trend for hospitals not playing effectively,  or engaging the healthcare consumers in social media is lost market share and revenue.  It’s a straight line to the bottom line by not engaging in and meeting the informational and communication needs of the healthcare consumer.

     10.   February 15, 767 views – The healthcare consumer lives in a multichannel environment; the response is?


The other day I was updating my Healthcare Consumer & Patient Experience Matrix, when from the sheer size; I counted over 145 different touch-points along eight dimensions of interaction, that a healthcare consumer is exposed to for engagement and experience. That is an awful lot of information used consciously and subconsciously by a healthcare consumer or patient.  And there probably a few more as well that play a role in the process.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.  Best wishes for a prosperous and successful 2016.

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Are you using an OODA Loop in your healthcare marketing?

The healthcare vendor world regardless of product or channel is a very competitive place with clear winners and losers. It’s a winner take all proposition with hospital and health systems, hence the need for a sales and marketing strategy that can give an edge. And that can be difficult in a parallel world of messages, product capability and solutions.

Let’s first start with what is an OODA Loop? Developed by USAF military strategist Colonel John Boyd, OODA- Observe, Orient, Decide and Act applied it to military combat operation process at the strategic level. It is now making its way into the business world and how a competitive edge can be gained resulting in sales, growth, and revenue. This approach cycle favors agility over raw power in dealing with individuals or groups of individuals in any endeavor.

Besides the obvious goal of winning the sales, the activity of sales and marketing is to get inside the decision-making process of a company.  Boyd has postulated that decision-making takes place in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. Now, any sales and marketing team of a company that can process this cycle quickly observing and reacting to events more rapidly than a competitor, or to a competitor’s mistake, can get inside of the process and again a competitive and tactical advantage.

But first, let me take a moment to apologize my readers. The above-shortened explanation does not do the nature or complexity of OODA Loops justice. It serves in a small way to at least provide a conceptual framework worthy of further investigation.

Now think about how this applies to sales and marketing cycles for healthcare vendors in the provider space. 

Depending on the healthcare product or service, the sales and marketing cycle can be over a very long time span that could be defined in months or some cases a year or more. Sales and marketing gather information (observe), form a plan of action around customer activity, their intentions and competitors (orient), make decisions and act on them. This cycle is continuous in nature given the changing market dynamics, companies, needs, and requirements. 

The precise application of this process gives the healthcare vendor the advantage over a competitor who is merely reacting to conditions as they happen, or just isn’t paying attention to the opportunity. It also allows for the sale and marketing team of the healthcare vendor to recognize and capitalize on competitor mistakes, forcing them to spend time and resources in correcting the error.  By the time the competitor realizes what has happened and reacts, the headline and story have already been written. It’s too late, and they have lost any tactical advantage.

A word of caution is in order. More often than not, teams working the OODA Loop often get stuck in the D (decision) and no action is taken allowing the competitor to gain the upper hand. If a healthcare vendor is going to use the OODA Loop process, then they have to understand that decisions need to be made.  Otherwise, it is just a waste of time, energy, and resources.

So what does it take?
  • A far more sophisticated understanding of the OODA process than what is here.
  • Sales and marketing team which is highly integrated, collaborative and responsive.
  • Sales and marketing operations built on agility.
  •  Creation of an OODA Loop Team.
  •  An ability to respond rapidly to changing conditions measured in minutes and hours, not days or weeks.
  • A culture that accepts ambiguity and can tolerate rapid shifts in strategy and tactics.
  • An aggressive mindset that recognizes competitor mistakes and can drive action and accountability in responding. 
  • The ability to rapidly shift sales and marketing resources.
  •  Abilities to be different and succeed.

Nine steps that are a tall order for most healthcare vendors and many in their wildest dreams will never be able to do this.  But then, all you have to do is learn and use OODA Loops to beat your healthcare vendor competitors into submission in the market.

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Success in 2016 will be due to pipeline marketing?

Smart healthcare vendors converted to pipeline marketing, and that may be the answer as to why you are losing sales and revenue.

And with solution value marketing, lead gen just doesn’t work very well.  Why may you ask? Simply put, in traditional lead generation marketing through plans, strategies and tactics create Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). In turn, the sales executives evaluate the lead to determine if they become Sales Accepted Leads (SALs).  

It’s akin to sales cold calling the difference being that marketing is driving the cold in calling. The “hook” is just using thought leadership, solution and value marketing to cast the widest possible audience in the hopes that someone will bite. Then when someone bites the marketing conversation goes something like this “Look we generated MQLs, and it only took 5 MQLs to get 1 SALs”. 
And I know because I did that too.

The measure of success is not how many MQLs were generated that became SALs for marketing, click through percentage or total touches.  The success measure is marketing’s impact on revenue and growth.  And that comes from pipeline marketing, not from lead gen marketing.

In pipeline marketing, the marketer prioritizes converting leads into revenue rather than generating leads.   Pipeline marketing is inclusive of all channels, campaigns, and activities.  Pipeline marketing is what you are doing, while content marketing, inbound marketing and growth hacking is how you do it.

The priority is on expanding the entire funnel and converting those opportunities into revenue. One uses down-funnel sales metrics as the measures of success not just the top of the funnel indicators.
The successful attributes of pipeline marketing include:

  • Complete marketing alignment with sales
  • Optimization of down-funnel sales metrics
  • Use of marketing automation tools, CRM and attribution models
  • An understanding of the customer persona, journey, and touch-points
  • A focus on content marketing, inbound marketing and growth hacking

I know it’s not just as simple as that. It takes a lot of work in changing the culture, interactions and process of an organization to successfully pipeline market.

Many will disagree with this, and some business development people I know will say marketing generates leads, period.

All I have to say is, have you looked at your financials lately? Just generating leads does not work.  You’re competitors have figured that out. Now it’s your turn.

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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

How is your hospital/system marketing allocated for 2016?

Marketing budgets for 2016 are almost completed if the provider is running on a calendar year or pretty close to it.  Though, I do know of some hospitals and systems that still haven’t figured marketing spend and won’t for a couple of months into the New Year.  But let’s assume for the discussion that at least one knows the total direct marketing spend allocated to tactics.
Much of the allocations assigned to the strategies/tactics by the marketing plan based on the strategic, operational and financial plan of the provider have been outlined.  But be that as it may, the question becomes has one seriously looked at the channel tactics, or was it just a rote exercise of assigning percentages based on what marketing has always accomplished?

This is an important question.

Health care is far more consumer and medical retail focused than in the previous year, and that trend is not slowing down or stopping anytime soon.  The result requires a change in tactics and the corresponding dollar allocations to reach patients and the healthcare consumers where they are, not where one wants them to be.  It is also important to shift from features and benefits marketing to value marketing to drive revenue and growth for the hospital or system.

Today’s marketing in providers should be all about value, price, outcomes, and experience to give patients, physicians or healthcare consumer a reason for choosing you.  A new messaging mindset and execution are needed as well as tactics to meet the needs of the audiences.  In considering and responding to the needs of the provider audiences, appropriate utilization, revenue and growth will occur.  It is a pretty simple straight line to brand and revenue growth.

That is if the provider is willing to change.

As a recommendation that takes into account all that we know about healthcare consumers and patient, how they make choices, search and spend the $350 billion they will shell out of pocket for premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, marketing needs to change.It’s all about adding value and how the hospital/system adds value to someone’s life. And one can’t do that in provider marketing if one continues to allocate and spend marketing dollars as always.

Everyone’s budgets are different so here is some food for thought and consideration on the direct marketing spend and percentage of dollars to apply.

Inbound Marketing 40 percent allocation:
Content creation, social media, SEO, website, mobile, blogging, thought leadership, behavioral emails, experience, engagement, value

Public Relation/Media Relations 25 percent
Press relations print and electronic, speakers and events

Voice of the Customer/research 15 percent

Outbound/ interruption marketing 10 percent
Sponsorships, emails, advertisements, direct mail

Marketing systems   10 percent
CRM, marketing automation, marketing analytics, ROI measurement

In a healthcare consumer retail medical retail focused marketing environment, it’s all about driving revenue and growth by giving individuals a reason to choose you. 

It’s simple, but hard to do.

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Is there any difference between provider bad publicity and PR in social media?

I wonder anymore with the individuals now being the new paparazzi if there is any longer a real difference between the concepts of the difference between publicity and public relations, good or bad in health care?  The power of the Internet of Things and social media is undeniable in defining a brand, company or even an individual for that matter, for better or worse.

So when some major visual branding mistakes by companies that I recently wrote about and termed as bad PR in a blog post, I was admonished for making a mistake and calling it bad PR when it was deemed publicity.

Well, that got me to thinking.

Now that being said, I appreciate the viewpoint of the commenter.  But so many things have changed in marketing and public relations with social media and the Internet of Things,  is there such a clear line anymore between it's just bad publicity, not PR, or are they now one in the same?

That is not to say that companies and PR firms should not continue to engage in publicity generating activities. That I do think remains a valued tactic to promote and build brand awareness when the tactics, messages and visuals are under one's control.

But when adverse publicity by the new paparazzi, namely the individual using social media and it goes viral, is it any longer just “bad publicity” or does it move to the world of Public Relations?  How much damage is there to the credibility and brand of the company in the process? Is it simply oh look at those idiots?  Or, does the brand suffer in the eyes of a particular audience causing lost sales?

And just what does the difference in the semantic distinction of is it just bad publicity in social media, not PR mean for healthcare providers?

That is the crux of the question.  

In an enormous sense, the choice of whether or not its publicity or PR, will have a lasting impact on the brand of the healthcare provider. The positive or negative publicity generated by an individual in healthcare social media and the Internet of Things stays around forever. With 41 percent of individuals using social media and the Internet of Things to find out about providers and use that information to make a choice, it’s just not bad publicity anymore.

I guess the decision of its just bad publicity and not PR will always be in the eye of the beholder. But for my money if I were at a healthcare provider, I would consider it bad PR in the new healthcare consumer-oriented retail health care market.

Nowadays, the game has changed, and the lines blurred between what is bad publicity or PR.

What would you do?

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Does image, font, and ethnicity choices matter in marketing?

Maybe it’s a just a case of product managers and marketing just not paying attention? Or, could it be that an issue of group think took place, and no one was willing to raise their hand and say, “This is wrong.” and explain why? 

Here are two images making its way around social media most likely causing some brand embarrassment and bad PR to the companies involved.  If they are lucky, it becomes more of a consumer going really and chuckling.  But the visual loss via social media sharing can label the company and brand as “idiots”.   

Here are the two images. You be the judge.

In the end, though, images, fonts and ethnicity always matter and matter greatly. Pretty embarrassing to the brand because it seems that no one was thinking or paying attention.

Healthcare providers are not immune either.

Consider nationally recognized health system, running a marketing campaign on prostate screening campaign that started the day after national guidelines with the national PR that came out about the ineffectiveness of prostate screening?  It was pretty funny to see that commercial run right after the news segment on the topic. It looks like the health system is driving inappropriate utilization.

Or the hospital that was laying the claim to being a top cardiovascular performer with the award logo in the current advertisement proclaiming greatness. Never mind that the award logo was from three years ago with the year of the award in the logo?  And that they hadn’t won the “quality award” for the three prior years. Maybe the unintended consequence was the healthcare consumer was asking why you weren’t a top performer for the past three years.

The point is that marketing needs to exercise leadership, not stupidity.  We need to pay attention to images, fonts, and ethnicity in our campaigns.  Mistakes happen, and no one is immune, but these? 

That is a lack of focus and understanding. If it’s wrong, don’t do it or pull it. Better yet, correct it if you can.

Mistakes like theses in marketing are inexcusable.

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

What is required of hospital marketing in healthcare 2.0?

When one looks across providers delivering healthcare and the marketing, one has to wonder if there is an understanding of the importance of marketing in healthcare 2.0.   Which begs the question in the title, will big box hospitals have a chance of surviving in a highly competitive, efficient retail medical marketplace without clear and unambiguous marketing involvement and leadership?

I don’t know is the honest answer.

Here’s why.

Healthcare 2.0 is a market animal that is completely different than anything Hospital leadership has ever had to contend.  And this animal has teeth with little regard for whether a hospital or health system survives. Highly competitive, innovative and retail in nature, the sole focus is on understanding and meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer.  Note this importance of that sentence.  It’s focused on meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer, not the hospital or health system.

That implies that the hospital or health system evolves from being in the hospital business forever in search of a revenue stream to being in the healthcare business meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer regardless of clinical service, time, and place.

What is healthcare marketing’s role? Here are five areas for consideration.

1. Voice of the Customer

VoC is far more important now in healthcare.  There are over 147 healthcare consumer and patient touch-points in the typical hospital.  Each interaction is the opportunity to hear about organizational performance.  Then most importantly is the ability to use that information in an actionable way to identify and meet healthcare consumer needs.

2. Using market data to manage the patient experience

Patient experience means just that- not one isolated clinical or administrative service experience but understanding what that patient experience is at all touch points.  Next is the challenge of managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Patient experience is an integrative process across the entire organization internally and externally.  The rallying cry in any hospital should be one view of the patient, one patient view of the organization. It is not another quality program or flavor of the day. 

3. From demand generation to demand management

The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe.   Marketing needs to understand what the demand for healthcare services will be, when required and manage service demand in making sure that the hospital or health system has the right resources, in the right place, at the right time to meet demand.  The days are rapidly slipping away where marketing will be driving demand to fill hospital beds. They will drive demand to the appropriate place and location of service.

4.  Preparing the hospital for enhanced competition

It’s a sad but true, hospitals and health systems continue to fall behind non-traditional providers and new entrants into the market. Hospitals are losing share and revenue to others.  There are many reasons for this, but the most striking is the inability of traditional providers to connect the dots through technology, data and a deep understanding of the healthcare consumer to meet their needs.   It’s about the capacity to have the market research and internal data to draw actionable insights to meet the healthcare consumer’s needs and competition. 

Is it any wonder that Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart are leading the way and taking revenue and share from providers?  Their deep understanding of the consumer and the dynamics of price, choice and convenience give these companies and others an edge that hospitals are missing.

5. From outbound features and  interruptive marketing, to inbound value solutions marketing
Value marketing is making the case to the healthcare consumer how you are solving their medical problem, offering a solution, giving results and even making them happy.  

Value marketing is about a creative exchange between people and organizations in the marketplace.  It is a dynamic transaction that continually changes based on the needs of the individual compared to what the healthcare organization has to offer.

In the end, it’s all about giving the consumer what they want not what the hospital or system wants. That is healthcare 2.0. Welcome to the new marketing reality.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What does it take to implement a strategic healthcare social media program?

A lot of discussions occurs nearly every day regarding social media in healthcare.  Providers and some vendors still continue to lag in taking advantage of this channel for amplification of the brand message. The need for healthcare companies to actively use and mine the social media channels in reaching, engaging and influencing favorable decision and choices is no longer a nice to have but a business critical skill competency.

It’s easy to talk about the rationale and the importance of an effective and efficient social media program.  Or, to suggest social media channels as a starting point to drive engagement and business. It’s another thing to discuss the how you do it in a time of scarce marketing resources, lack of knowledge or the willingness to lead change.

What follows for your consideration are steps that need to be taken within providers and vendors to embark on an integrated and measurable social media program.

      1.   It starts with leadership. If marketing does not have Board, CEO and executive leadership support, it’s not going anywhere. Why, because it all about resource allocation and slaying some sacred cows.
2.       Improve the organizational marketing process. Let face it, we all do things that don’t make any sense or has become so ingrained we react without thinking. Take a step back and look at the marketing processes. Find efficiencies and increase effectiveness. Stop doing what doesn’t work and move those resources to social media.
3.       Find the one person in the organization that knows social media and put them full time on the job or hire someone.  It takes an FTE dedicated to run a successfully integrated, efficient, and engaging social media program.
4.       Commit to social media all the time. The challenge is to keep in front of your audience with relevant information, all the time.  Attention spans are short.  If someone sees no changes on a pretty regular basis in your content or information, they will fall away.
5.       Measure everything.  Evaluate.  Adjust based on your findings. Redeploy budget as needed.
6.       Use social media with brand evangelists, followers, customers, physicians, employees, etc., to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty.
7.       Develop a content plan and editorial calendar.
8.       Repurpose all content across social media channels.
9.        Make it interesting and about the challenges the organization is solving.  All about you is boring and glossed over.  All about your customer’s or patient’s and how you are helping will.
10.   In the end if the human resources are not available in the department, consider outsourcing the social media function.
The bottom line is that the multiple stakeholders and audiences are out in social media searching for answers.  So it is probably about time that the provider or vendor is where they are, not where they would like them to be.

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Are hospital/systems missing the Health Insurance Exchange marketing opportunity?

The Federal government and insurers opened the health insurance exchanges on November 1 for 2016. In its third year now, individuals and families are renewing or selecting new health insurance products. And what are hospitals and health systems doing in the lead up to and the reopening of the exchanges?
Nothing. Nothing at all.   

Instead, hospitals and system are still engaged in interruptive outbound marketing with meaningless slogans and platitudes about our focus is on you, quality care, impressive facilities, technology and wellness programs that people have little interest.  All the while the healthcare consumer is looking for information on being able to choose plans that may or may not include the hospital or health system.

It’s like going to Vegas and rolling the dice to see what happens.  Ops threw snake eyes at the table. A group of newly insured and renewals went in a different direction, and the hospital is not in that plan or network.

I can sum it up with good…bye…revenue.

After all, the market in many ways is still to a great extent fee-for-service. Are hospitals and health systems paying attention to the needs of the healthcare consumer? 

Apparently not.

Providers have an enormous stake in participating actively and reaching out to the exchange marketplace buyers to choose plans that include you. So where is the marketing opportunity for hospitals because not everyone will be eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage?

In case, one thinks that all you have to do is sit back and deal with the new demand for care, how can one be sure that the newly insured healthcare consumer will choose plans inclusive of the provider? Right now one can't. Unless of course marketing starts an inbound marketing program that educates about insurance and the value brought to the healthcare consumer by the hospital as part of the choice of plans/networks. That also means giving them reason to choose based on price, experience, and outcome transparency.

One has a real opportunity to launch an effective inbound healthcare marketing campaign to influence choice at this point, which will have a direct bottom line impact. Wait and it will be too late to change the course of the healthcare consumer choosing the plan and network.

Now in my third year that I have been writing about this opportunity for hospitals and health systems, it would seem that hospitals and health systems still don’t get it.

Being customer focused means that you recognize the healthcare consumer’s needs and respond accordingly.

It’s not that hard. Really. It’s not.

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

Can you make your sales efforts to physicians memorable?

Physicians are the lifeblood of many a healthcare organization.  With the focus and attention of the physician determining in large part the success or failure of so many providers and vendors, cutting through the din of messages and relationships can be a daunting task.  So how do you cut through all of the chatter?

The answer is in an integrated collaborative relationship between sales and marketing.

In many ways, one needs to be selling solutions to solve the physician practice challenges that allow them to make money and do what they love, practice medicine. There are some clear goals for your sales relationship with physicians. Help them  to practice medicine more efficiently. Support efforts to measurably improve the quality of care.  Help solve the cost conundrum and be cost effective. Easy to use you for the physician and office staff to use. And the services or sale, when delivered reduces the patient hassle factor by cutting down on complaints, or increase patient satisfaction.

With that in mind, some basic rules of thumb apply:

1) Your sales people 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, incorrect messaging and using poorly designed home-grown materials. Your sales force activities are about relationship selling and acting as the liaison for the physician to your organization. If you don't have a method and training, chances are you will not be as effective as your competition. 

2)  Use a sales database system to collect information and the marketing department needs to have full access.  If you’re just starting to look at one, marketing needs to be at that table.  Don't assume that sales or IT knows what marketing needs. They don't.  Systems breed accountability on all sides of the ledger.

3) Create an interdisciplinary marketing sales advisory committee.  Where most organizations fall is the 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 creating stuff,  because I need more stuff to leave behind attitudes. 

4) Train your marketing department in the sale approach that your sales people 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 created to be applicable and useful at some point in the sales cycle. It's all about shortening the sales cycle, and creating usable, effective collateral.

 5) Let your marketing staff accompany sales on calls and major presentations. They can be a new set of eyes and ears as well as providing them 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 ten slides, you don't know what you are talking about and don't understand your audience. Talking head are boring.

7) Have marketing attend your sales meetings and weekly funnel calls.  It's about relationships and dialogue. Marketing should have a role in explaining the organizational strategy, and what they are doing to generate meaningful leads for sales to follow-up on.

8)  Joint marketing and sales goals and objectives should be established.  Share in the pain and share in the gain.

9) Constantly evaluate and begin again.

As the consolidation of healthcare providers continue unabated across all channels, physicians will play an exceedingly important role in the revenue opportunities for your organization.  The physician is your partner. Make it memorable.

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

When was the last time you said "thank you" in ending the patient engagement?

Sometimes, the simplest of actions for patient or healthcare consumer engagement have the most dramatic effect.  Now that is not to say that technology like patient portals, educational materials, online appointment scheduling, use of social media, texting, outreach calls etc., don't make a difference.  They do but are in reality just a technological solution or a process leading to an end. 

The danger in a single focus on the shiny new technologies to engage can lead to unintended consequences, inadvertently alienating the individual or set back the engagement efforts. Engagement is a personal one-on-one experience in a time when all that organization looks for is a quick fix thinking that technology can save the day.

Successful engagement of patients and healthcare consumers is a two-pronged approach that is both technological and human in nature.  I have written much in the past about the technological approach and the need for effective interaction and engagement. But today’s post is really about the human side of engagement.  And that is simply saying thank you at the end.

Thank you to the doctor for trusting the provider with his or her patients.

Thank you to the family member or significant other for visiting and being part of the person’s care network.

Thank you for the healthcare consumer or patient for choosing you as the provider.

Thank you to your staff for their work.

I know that is not sexy technologically-driven marketing.  But it meets a basic human need to be appreciated and recognized as an individual. Everyone will say we do that already in one form or another. But I ask you to examine that statement or thought. Spend some time watching and listening in on how that thank you is delivered.   You may be very surprised.

Patient or healthcare consumer engagement is more than pushing messages out, using social media, or population health analytics providing on some level predictive actions based on data what an individual will need. 

Don’t forget that on the other side of those care alerts, smartphones, emails and educational materials that there is a person.  Not a member of a population health group. Not just a member of an insurance plan.  But a breathing living human being, whose needs, desires, hopes, dreams and actions crave to be effectively and meaningfully engaged.

Saying thank you to the patient or healthcare consumer ends the process on the right foot.   

Sometimes the simplest of actions can lead to the greatest engagement benefits.

Thank you for reading and being engaged.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Has inbound marketing time come for hospitals?

Most marketing practiced by hospitals and health systems remains mired in traditional outbound marketing methods. That is pushing low-value content out in display ads, direct mailers, radio, billboard, etc., in the hopes that someone will pay attention and act. Calls to actions are generic in nature, and there is a lemming-like an approach by all hospitals in the same market to do the same thing at the same time. Commonly referred to interruption marketing, outbound is all about sending generic messages out to the widest possible number of audiences with no customization of content or message.

But in an age where the healthcare consumer and patient is increasingly taking control and making choices, is outbound marketing the best way to drive brand awareness, choice, and selection?

What is inbound marketing?

Simply put inbound marketing a series marketing actions designed to give healthcare consumers and patients a reason to contact you.  It’s about bringing the healthcare consumer or patient to you. Inbound marketing is commonly used in B2B to engage prospects and further build value and relationship with current clients. It’s a pull strategy as opposed to a push strategy marketing that hospitals and health systems use.  It’s not an either-or proposition; one needs both strategies well integrated to achieve maximum benefit.

Understand that inbound marketing focuses on “ reason to contact 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 thought leadership content that is engaging, meets a healthcare consumer or patient needs and prompts them to take action. The healthcare consumer or patient may not think its thought leadership in those terms per se, but it’s helpful and useful information that prompts them to make a decision.

The major component of inbound is 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 is staying top-of-mind in their decision-making process.

I submit for your consideration that is the healthcare consumer and patient now has a buying process.  And in that buying process technology is a major factor. They are searching for information on the hospital, health system or doctor, etc.  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.  And it’s not sending an email with generic information.

I receive an email from Blue Cross Blue Shield every month with health information that is of absolutely little interest or any value to me. It does nothing more that clog up my inbox. That is outbound marketing.  I have several hospitals and health systems that send newsletters in the mail that are of little interest and value. They all go mailbox to the recycling bin.

If one considers the healthcare consumer or patient as the focal point of what they need, not what the hospital needs to generate revenue, then the task of marketing shifts.  The Marketing department needs to understand the buying journey of the healthcare consumer or patient buying process. Once that is understood, then it’s about having relevant and meaningful information available for them at any point in the process. That means the hospital marketing process with inbound marketing is to now attract, capture, nurture, convert, and finally expand.

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, the cost of marketing decreases and marketing ROI increases.

But here’s the kicker for everyone worried about value and risk-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.  Without meaningful patient relationships and engagement population health management fails.

So what one does today will pay huge dividends tomorrow no matter what the payment system.

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

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?

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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?

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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?

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

How do you market quality in a healthcare consumer-driven market?

An interesting question isn't it?  Well, I posed  a similar question in my  Healthcare Marketing Matters blog back on March 31, 2013. And so far it’s had 5,200 page views.  Some questions never seem to get answered or go away.  So this is an update looking through the lens of the market changes occurring during the last couple of years.

It presupposes that healthcare consumers have some kind of idea of what they need in the way of healthcare services. 

Yes and no.

On one side yes, in that medical care is complex and diagnosis is not as easy as reading a book or talking to someone. But the healthcare consumer, once they realize that their wellness is not to what they normally experience will more often than not seek medical advice as to the cause of the illness.  Then in seeking that medical advice they begin the process of gaining the necessary information to make reasonable decisions, or at the very least to participate in the process.

On the other side no, in that once the healthcare consumer has acquired a basic understand of what is medically wrong, they have now the ability to use quality data to make choices on where to seek treatment along several dimensions, their direct  cost, aka out-of-pocket expenses such as deductible and co-pays, and indirect costs such as time, convenience, travel requirements, access,  time away from work etc., on where to receive the care they need at the right time, for the right cost, in the right setting.

In a consumer-driven retail medical model, real quality data, not pretty award logos is what is required for the transparency that a healthcare consumer seeking care can use to make reasonable decisions.

Because of the lack of transparency around quality and outcomes, the healthcare consumer assumes that quality is equal among competing providers.  This brings us full circle back to the issue of being quality transparent in patient experience and engagement marketing to the healthcare consumer and why it hasn’t happened?

It is meaningless to tell a healthcare consumer that that the chance of acquiring a post-surgical hospital infection is .85 at the 95 percent confidence level. That is from their view statistical mumbo jumbo. 

What the healthcare consumer wants to know is that 1 in 1,000 surgical patients acquire a hospital post-surgical infection.  That the medication error rate is 10 in 250 patients.  Or the risk  of an acquired hospital infection is 1 in 10,000. Another is the risk of falling is 1 in 50 patients.  Just. Like. That.

Placing your quality information in those terms is meaningful and useful to the healthcare consumer and patient.  Not as I continue to see in so many provider advertisements the all encompassing we have “great quality” claims and look at this newest “award”!

At this stage of the evolution of healthcare consumerism and retail medicine, providers need to start figuring out how to communicate quality metrics in terms that are meaningful and understandable.
There are no easy answers.  The only way is by engaging the patient and the healthcare consumer, understand what they are searching for, and find the right channels and messages to communicate with them.

The healthcare consumer will spend out-of-pocket over $350 billion in 2015 for insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.  They have the right to know. It’s their real money.

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