Sunday, June 26, 2016

Is Provider Marketing a Tale of Two Cities? Seven Steps to Change.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times.”

With apologies to Charles Dickens, I think that quote best sums up the state of healthcare provider marketing. And, it could describe a few healthcare vendors as well. We live in an age of data and analytics combined with marketing automation that gives marketers the ability to engage, define the brand experience, and creates brand evangelists to drive growth and revenue. 

From mobile to email to social media, the ability to deliver meaningful, engaging and personalized content to the patient and healthcare consumer has never been greater. Inbound marketing is the force driving growth and revenue as those providers are responsive to the needs of the healthcare consumer and patient, and drive the right message, at the right time for the right healthcare need, giving their audiences a reason to engage them.  Even the emerging fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) offer unprecedented ways of reaching and engaging as well.

“It was the worst of times.”

No marketing automation. No email marketing.  There is little healthcare consumer or patient engagement through social media. Messaging is communications fluff with claims of caring and high quality. Did the marketing department and leadership look at the publically available data from the hospital or health system which doesn’t support the claims? 

Interruptive marketing is the norm with messages and advertisements thrown out to the widest possible audience in the hopes that someone will call. It’s a scatter-gun approach that makes senior leadership and the Board happy because they see the billboard or hear the promotion. Never mind that no one is paying attention. Tell me, how did that ad work for Interventional Radiologists treating varicose veins, while competing with vein clinics that have a better brand story, engagement, responsiveness and convenience taking that cash business from the hospital?

Which are you?

See what I mean, a tale of two cities in provider marketing. One drives growth and revenue and is healthcare consumer focused. The other circles the wagons and is unresponsive to the needs of the market by being hospital focused, but the CEO and Board is happy.

In a world that is moving from hospital care to health care, provider marketing, and all leadership needs to start making that change as well.

How do you do it? Seven steps that hospitals and health systems can take in improving their marketing and improve the tale.

1.       Leadership. The beginning is where it all starts. The willingness to lead and the courage to drive organizational change.  Without effective corporate leadership that is courageous and accepts the fact that what has worked before doesn’t work today, nothing happens. That is why leadership is first.  
2.       Budget.  You have the budget. It’s not a question of new money, but a question of how one reallocates the marketing resources for marketing automation, social media, content development, etc. If you move the budget money from what doesn’t work and scale back the interruptive mass market marketing, lo and behold, you have the funds or for the tools that you needs for reaching the healthcare consumer and patient that lives in a mobile,  omnichannel world.  
3.       Staffing. Sad reality but, one may not have the staff in place that is capable of function in a content-driven, inbound marketing automated operation.  Engaging and relevant content feeds the new age marketing. And if your content is not engaging the patient or healthcare consumer, then all the social media, email, webinars, marketing automation, etc. won’t make any difference. Content is king. Not content that you want but content that is healthcare consumer and patient focused. It could be that these are not the skill sets one finds existing in hospitals.  Hard as it may be, the future of the organization is at stake. Change staff as needed.  
4.       Inbound marketing is simply the largest organizational and marketing department change.  That is, moving from outbound interruptive marketing to inbound relevant content driven marketing. The difference is changing from broadcasting clinical services and message in the hopes that someone will call, to sending engaging, relevant content that gives the audience a reason to call you and engage. That means the marketing plan changes.  The strategy changes. The messaging changes.  The tactics change.  You are delivering the right content, at the right time, with the right call to action message providing the reason to engage with the brand.  Inbound marketing is about engaging in a two-way conversation instead of a one-way now hear this message.  
5.       Content. Now comes the hard part, developing the content that is engaging and branded. The purpose of having a wide availability of content is to be able to participate in a meaningful way, the healthcare consumer or patient with the brand. For example, someone comes to your website and downloads some information.  Amazon like or via a confirmation email, recommendations are made that give the person more relevant information based on the action they took and the information obtained.  To do that you need content and lots of it.  
6.       Mobile devices and social media.  The healthcare consumer and patient uses mobile devices and wants to be engaged in social media channels.  Hardly anyone sits behind a desktop anymore. Think about how you like to be engaged. Why would it be any different for a healthcare consumer or patient? The “We don’t do social media.”  Or “We only do it sporadically.” is no longer an acceptable position for hospital leadership. If you are not where your audience is, then you lose, pure and straightforward.  
7.       Marketing Automation is now possible if you have started in the first six steps. I am not going to recommend a vendor as there are several out there for email social media, landing pages, content libraries, etc.  It depends on in the budget and strategic goals and objectives set in the marketing plan.  And don’t forget the tabular visualization software to show the results too. But please remember that marketing automation is a tool, not a solution. It exists to support and enhance the marketing efforts. If the first six steps are not in process, then marketing automation is a waste of time and resources.

Nothing about this is easy, not easy at all.  But in the end, which tale of two cities does your hospital marketing live, and are you willing to change?

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. I am also HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.

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

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