Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Is your hospital marketing agile?

Agile Marketing is a corporate buzzword being thrown around a lot lately.  But unless you’re familiar with the Agile Software Development process which Agile Marketing is adapted from, is much more than what some may think means doing something fast and shifting tactical marketing on a dime.

At its heart, Agile Marketing is a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high-value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure the impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.

Hardly a short tactical strike as some may think.

So what are the hallmarks of an Agile Marketing organization? 
1.       Responding to change instead of following a plan. 
2.       Rapid tactical iterations over big loud campaigns. 
3.       Testing and data over opinion and conventions. 
4.       Many small experiments over a few large bets. 
5.        A focus on individuals and interactions, not target markets. 
6.       Collaboration over silos and hierarchy.

I would maintain that in a healthcare provider B2C environment, where technological developments, new entrants, and shifting market dynamics are creating future uncertainty, is an excellent place for Agile Marketing.

Agile marketing and even what some are terming Agile Social Media is sustainable marketing that requires you to keep a constant pace and pipeline.  It also requires a very high degree of integration between the marketing and clinical, physicians  and senior leadership

Marketing programs are delivered from every couple of weeks to a couple of months with a bias towards the shorter cycles. Successful Agile Marketing also requires the organization to learn how to execute PDCA or OODA feedback loops. Failure is acceptable as long as one does not make the same marketing mistake twice.

The moral of the story here is that Agile Marketing is not as simple as some may think it is, or that they have a clear understanding of the concept.

Unless marketing can be organized in the provider into focused teams with collaborative input from other critical areas focusing on the individuals and interactions, it’s not Agile Marketing.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hospital Marketers, It’s Time to Stop Age-based Segmentation and Marketing.

A funny thing happens when you get older.  Brands, especially those in healthcare, suddenly decide that based solely on age, that one is now in need of senior services, specialized care, and other age-based items. Hospitals are particularly brazen at this because really, most are unaware of the deep segmentation characteristics of who uses them and how.

Age based segmentation is wrong on many levels. And is not in any way shape or form, reflective of the new market realities of how someone of any age uses technology,  their experiences or expectations as individuals, as well as how they relate to the world, their beliefs, self-perceptions, attitudes, and lifestyles’.

I am an individual. I am not a demographic segmentation based on age.

And just because I reached that magic age, I did not become an invalid, incapacitated or suddenly in need of “senior services.” I did not suddenly need a geriatrician.

In this age of personalization with the wealth of segmentation data available, it is sheer laziness on hospital leadership and marketers to rely on the old traditional age-based segmentation assumptions.  I even propose to you, that relying on age-based segmentation and assumptions of the age group and their needs, is a form of racism and bias that perpetuates age related stereotypes in society.

It’s time for marketers to stop their dependence on outdated and irrelevant age-based assumptions and segmentation to become people, oriented marketers.  Becoming a people-oriented marketer will lead to brand growth and success.

The sooner you realize and start removing traditional age-based assumptions and segmentation from your marketing efforts, the more effective your marketing will become
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And even better, by dropping age-based segmentation, your messaging will become more relevant, more personalized, more effective. And you won’t be reinforcing age-related biases and discrimination in the society either. Your brand will be seen in a very different light.

Now, it isn’t that hard, is it?

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.


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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

It’s the Hospital Quality Award Season. Is the Insured Consumer Listening?

Or as I like to call it, it is the silly season of meaningless hospital marketing.

Like the back-to-school physical ads, hospitals and health systems are touting their newly minted quality jewel or consecutive awarding in clinical categories for two or more years. The quality award in and of itself is an accomplishment at some level. But, when these awards are the result of a black box that no one knows how the data is analyzed, besides the awarding organization, do these quality awards make any difference to the insured consumer.

And when there is no context outside of the award seal in the advertising or on the website on what the awards mean for the insured consumer, what’s the point?  Is this just wow look at us? Or maybe a checkbox for senior management, the Board of Directors and physicians in what they consider to be good marketing?

It also flies in the face of the publicly available data, that for the most part, shows the award winners with overall only average medical care at best, overpriced and just average satisfaction. Not great. Not bad. Just average.

A little cognitive dissonance for the insured consumer?

But beyond the obvious campaigning, what I fail to see is how health systems or hospital awardees are communicating in any meaningful way what those quality awards mean to the insured consumer. As I have written in the past, what is the value of that information to the insured consumer? A nice representation of the actual award and saying are in the top 5 percent nationally in (insert disease here) leaves it kind of lacking, especially when other hospitals you compete against are making the same claim.

Wasted Opportunity

The campaigning I see in its current form treats the insured consumer like they are some idiot.   It also reinforces what the healthcare industry has been crying about that healthcare is more complicated than a 5-star rating.  An inadvertent consequence nonetheless, you are creating the simplistic 5-star rating system yourself by how you are all campaigning the quality award.  Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

It’s not about value not to you, but to the insured consumer. Instead of taking the opportunity to make the award meaningful with value and context to the insured consumer, hospitals and health systems take the easy way out and puff out our chest to say look at me.

Leveraging the Opportunity

The networked patient is one who is hungry for information.  And patients are networked today more so than at any other time in the history of healthcare. The future will only make it more so.  So why not get ahead of the curve and start making your ads and marketing communications pieces more value driven and providing healthcare solutions to the consumer?

Explain what that award means to the consumer.  Define the value. Show how it separates you from all the others. Communicate how it reinforces your brand and brand promise. Use the award to create trust. Define the award experience in the patient’s terms. Just don't throw it out there and say we are in the top 5 percent or whatever.  That is not meaningful to anyone.  In an age of outcomes transparency, quality accountability, and consumer choice, those ads sorely fail.

I am an insured consumer and your award ad claiming greatness in all things medical is meaningless.

Can you hear me now?

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Nine Strategies in Engagement & Experience for the New Reality Demanded by the Insured Consumer & Patient.

It’s the consumer demand for the Amazon experience that is beginning to drive expectations and experience in health care.  Secondary to the headline question is, are healthcare providers prepared for that new marketing reality?

Like anything in life and business, some are, but the majority is not.   But be that as it may, it would seem that healthcare consumer or patient engagement is not a part-time or some of the time activity comprised of hit or miss events.  My goodness, there are over 147 engagement and experience touchpoints with the insured consumer and patient with the hospital or health system. So when all of the interruptive outbound marketing that goes on with silly messaging of we have the best doctors, our nurses care more, etc., no wonder the insured consumer and patient roll their eyes during the engagement and experience process when reality meets fantasy. 

What engagement should be viewed as is the opportunity to create, foster, and nourish a one-on-one relationship that is enduring with those individuals and families.  

A scary proposition for some healthcare organizations as it means being accountable and responsible to those you serve and meeting their needs by delivering on the brand promise day-in and day out
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After all, healthcare is a $2.8 trillion dollars business, and the competition from traditional and nontraditional providers will only get more intense. The healthcare consumers will spend more than $350 billion out-of-pocket for insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.   Providers that can engage will become the go to destinations for healthcare that will not only survive the storm but prosper as well.

Providers now live in a retail medical market.  Though others will tell you that it’s all about experience, that’s just cover for the old ways of doing business and telling you what you want to hear.  It’s now about four dimensions-, price, outcomes, engagement, and experience.  Focusing only on experience with your marketing communications and campaigns is a prescription for failure.

So what to do?

Here are nine engagement strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly so that the health care consumer can interact with you any way they want when they want too. 

2.  Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging.  Messaging needs to be relevant to the audiences at the point in time it’s needed that is personalized, customized, and aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Incentives and motivational techniques will be necessary to keep patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction for ways to participate without money. Be creative.  Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools, and techniques to engage. 

4. Create a sense of community.  You have to compete, and one needs to feed the beast. The hospital has not yet tipped to be a cost center from a revenue center. That day will come but not for a while yet.  Get into the inner circle of the audience and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. Shape the behaviors to the point where they will recommend unconditionally.

5. Know the audience and with whom one is speaking too. This is back-to-basics CRM understanding the gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture, etc.  One cannot engage the insured consumer or patient unless there is intimate knowledge about them, their needs and how to tailor the information.

6. Test and measure. No time to be reactive in approaching and engaging.  The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Use technology.  We live in a world of technology, and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With social media, smartphones, web, text messaging, mobile messaging, etc., eighty percent of consumers want the option of interacting with a healthcare provider via their smartphones. Forty-one percent of healthcare consumers use social media to make vendor choices.   The healthcare consumer and patient are inviting healthcare organizations to engage them all the time.

8. Know the influence of culture on behavior to engage.

9. Time it right, and add value.  If you health messaging is not resonating with the healthcare consumer or patient when they receive it, then one has lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. before.

If you can come to grips with the market reality that a hospital is needed for three things -emergency care, intensive care, and treatment for complex acute medical conditions, then you’d get away from the nonsense that is senior leadership driven that goes in hospital marketing today. Focus on engagement and experience so your more than three things to the insured consumer or patient.

Can you hear me now?


That's why you engage all of the time.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Patient Experience, Experience Touch-Points, and Hospital Marketing- Time to Connect the Dots?

In my quest to fundamentally change hospital marketing and make it more responsive to the needs of the insured consumer and physicians, hospital marketers are missing a valuable opportunity.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about major health systems marketing failure. So this post in a roundabout way continues that theme.  Which as an insured consumer using one of that systems hospitals for 22 years experienced a major marketing failure on their part due to lack of a CRM and understanding the data of who the customer is and how they use the system.

There are over 147 touch-points in an individual’s interaction with a hospital. That means that there are 147 instances of where the patient experience is influenced. Those 147 touch-points in the patient experience can also be marketing opportunities to get people to opt-in to various marketing activities and receiving emails.

Oh, but that assumes that the hospital or health system understands the patient journey in deciding. Understands the patient experience and knows which touch-points can be influenced.  That kind of detail data combined with permission based marketing activities fundamentally and strategically changes the commercialization of the hospital or health system.    

Okay, let’s be honest now, how many of you hospital and health system marketers have this kind of data and view of the patient and insured consumers?

That’s what I thought.   You just don’t have the marketing systems i.e. CRM or marketing automation to understand who the insured consumer and patient is, let alone send them meaningful individualized content with the right information at the right time, in the right format, in the delivery channel they desire.

Very quickly then, here are eight ways to tie together patient experience, experience touch-points and marketing to improve your market position, generate revenue and dominate categories of service.  

1.       It starts with a CRM, marketing automation and data. Here it is folks. None of what I have written about is possible unless marketing has a CRM with real data, continually analyzes the data for clues on the individual levels and has marketing automation platform to take advantage of those data findings. If you don’t have a CRM or marketing automation, then move along, you are not ready for this at all.   

2.        Brand and competitive position. Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying their needs and how they want their healthcare needs met through technology focused on them will gain new patients and the next generation of physicians.  It's not a crime to use text messaging to send people information or confirmations about appointments, health reminders, or use QR codes to link to specific education or health offers.  

3.        Engage existing customers and patients. An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they come in contact with you.  That is during the diagnosis, treatment and recovery phase.  Pre and post this experience; they are a healthcare consumer, not a patient.  So why then is it the only time one chooses to engage them meaningfully is during the period when they are a patient?  This lack of focus or tactical engagement execution doesn’t make a lot of sense as a consumer, and patient engagement is about all of the time activity, not just some of the time.  Engaging the healthcare consumer on a continuous basis builds loyalty and importantly keeps them in the network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.  

4.        Engage the physicians. No matter the payment model the hospital or health system still needs a doctor or physician extender’s order to get anything done in a healthcare setting. That means engaging physicians in meaningful ways, using the methods, technology, and systems that will make their life easier, improve their productivity and protect or increase their income. An effective and efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost and quality in the hospital than any other factor. 

5.        Focus on the doctor experience. How hard is it for a doctor or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization?  Have you looked at the hassle factor that medical practitioner’s encounter when they try to get things done in the hospital setting?  Understand how the doctor experiences your organization at every touch-point they encounter the hospital. Follow their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in an isolated segment. Fix what’s broken, keep what is working. The more satisfying the experience, the better you will do financially. 

6.        Focus on the consumer/patient experience. A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its patients and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - serves to increase their loyalty to the brand. Actively manage the customer experience in totality by understanding the patient’s point of view.  That is, all touch points internally and externally that a health care consumer/patient comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue. 

7.        Embrace direct health care. Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases.  Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior controllers, design offering around the user, not the hospital in a convenient location and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way market position, share and revenue will erode.   

8.        Turn to social media and networks to engage, manage the experience and drive adherence. As the health care focus crystallizes around a healthy consumer making choices in a semi-retail environment, social networks are an important marketing channel that is underutilized and underperforms today but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience, and adherence.

Best of luck and call me if you need me.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and is read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is the smartphone the cure to maintain 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 are expected to rise for the foreseeable future.

The healthcare consumer and patient are demanding value, price and quality transparency from healthcare providers. Consumers 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?

With all of this happening then, is the smartphone the tool for physician independence? And, can the use of apps, mHealth and telemedicine allow a physician or physician group practice to remain independent?

In both cases, I think the answer is yes, with some pretty large ramifications for healthcare marketing as well.

First let’s reflect on the independent practitioner, primary care group or multi-specialty group.  Here is a story to illustrate my point. 

Some of you may remember a time when there were corner grocery stores.  Little mom and pop operations located in quite neighborhoods before the advent of the big box grocery chains.

Then it appears as if overnight, the big box national and regional grocery chains take over for our food dollar. We all heard the doom, gloom, and prophecy of the demise of those little mom and pop stores. Sure they are gone from the corner in the quiet neighborhood; but guess what, they are still around today and have been for a very long time.  Though the form is different, those little mom and pop operations are now the 7-Elevens, White Hen Pantries and AM-PM Minimarts for example.

Mom and pop operations competing very well against the big box grocery chains on convenience, accessibility, experience, engagement and sometimes even price.

I am not saying that physicians are grocery stores, but the lesson is apparent.  But before everyone calls the independent physician or unaffiliated group practice a thing of the past, one needs to review recent history in other markets for potential lessons of survival.  Technology, innovation and meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer, experience and engagement will keep the independent physician a reality.

The smartphone as the doctor meeting the healthcare needs of the consumer.  All of this driving convenient, accessible, mobile and giving the healthcare consumer or patient a measure of value, price certainty, quality, control, and information.

The use of technology and innovative care practices by physicians, which no doubt requires a change in the business model and some openness, can be the doctor’s friend in countering the advances of hospitals and health systems. In the long run, independent physicians are better for healthcare consumers and patient in care, experience, and engagement.  Besides, no matter the payment system it will still take a doctor’s order to get anything done.

Long live the independent physician.


Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and is read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.


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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Consumers Buying Journey & Hospitals, the Marketing Starting Point

As the provider market for the healthcare consumer continues to consolidate through merger, acquisition, liquidation or disintermediation, there is one clear outcome. Fewer providers mean heightened competition within hospitals or health systems in a bid to stay atop the food chain. With the consumer's growing realization that they need a hospital for only three things, the ER, ICU and medical care for complex acute medical conditions, they are more in control with their physician of the buying process than providers want to admit.

To become part of the consumers choice for healthcare, successful providers will recognize that understanding the healthcare consumer buyers journey is the new way of thinking about marketing, how it impacts growth and can drive the organization in a better direction that is more customer-focused and responsive to their needs.

 Customer Buyer Journey

In this environment, providers are already losing meaningful differentiation. Marketing campaigns for example with messaging that we care more, we have the best facilities, we have the best technology, or better yet, our doctors care more, are meaningless when the data available shows most care is too expensive and average at best.  In essence, all hospitals and health systems do the same thing. How they communicate with little variations on features and benefits across the continuum of care may be different, but still at its most basic level are substantially the same. 

Of course, brand reputation can be a powerful influencer but where some providers struggle is when they don’t have a considerable brand reputation or more than basic customer understanding. Just because you have developed personas doesn’t mean that you fully understand the customer or their buying journey.

Now that being said, this discussion is not for the highly successful hospitals or health systems that are already using buyer’s maps and building customer evangelists along the way. In successful hospitals marketing is highly integrated, and leadership has set the strategy, vision and executes on a nonnegotiable customer-first strategy. But when you find one tell me!

What is the change that is required?

The requirement is to move from an overreliance on features and benefits marketing to an organizational customer focused culture and strategy. The marketing operation becomes highly integrated and shifts to inbound marketing. Marketing’s job is now to provide the right content, at the right time, in the right healthcare context during the customer's buying journey.

Influencing the costumer’s journey is about highly effective marketing.

When hospital marketing understands the buying processes, then marketing becomes far more useful. Marketing moves from putting the heads in the beds or focused on brand or image in the hopes that they are not resources, to a defined process that enhances growth.

Next steps

Creating a buyers map takes time and resources. Let me be clear that this is some heavy lifting needs to happen. No shortcuts are allowed.

There are many different ways to map and a search on the IoT will provide one with all the templates necessary. But at a minimum, the following information is essential to the process and understanding.  Keep a singular focus as one gathers information on the buyer stages of Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. 
1.       Initial moments that lead to the first contact. 
2.       Process steps the buyers take and conversations they engage in to find solutions. 
3.       The flow of the process steps and experiences leading up to purchase. 
4.       Items associated with purchase and consumption.  
5.       Ongoing experience and reactions to the purchase.

After all, if you want to survive, thrive and grow in turbulent shrinking markets, then you must understand the healthcare consumer, aka the patient and the buyer's journey like never before.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What is wrong with this health systems marketing?

And it’s not a quiz either.

I try extremely hard not to call out individual hospitals or health systems for their lack of understanding of the healthcare consumer, their expectations, needs and for knowing who their patient is.

But sometimes the professional healthcare marketer in me gets the best of me when I receive some marketing material from a health system, through different incarnations, I have used for 22 plus years. That’s right 22 plus years.  Oh, and did I mention that my wife, children, and mother-in-law have used them too?

PH has no idea after 22 years of utilization from being a patient, using the ER, to outpatient testing,  WHO. I. AM.

And here is what set me off. And I can guarantee you that many a healthcare consumer, aka former patient, feels the same way.

The other day, I received a direct mail piece. It was a very nicely done, four-color, a heavy stock paper mailer that looked expensive with an offer for a chance to win a fitbit.  But the catch was if and only if, I will schedule an appointment with one of their most caring primary care physicians for a health checkup.

The marketing issues beyond PH for any number of hospitals and health systems is that if  PH had been paying attention, was being strategic in their marketing and messaging and fully understood who their customer was, they would have never sent me the direct mail piece.

Why, because for 22 years I have had a continuous relationship with a primary care doctor who I see regularly and who has me utilize the health system hospital.  With all due respect to Peter Frampton and Humble Pie, “I don’t need no doctor.” And I don't need any employed physician.

In one fell swoop, PH just told me they have no idea who I am. I know who they are from direct experience and utilization, but they are clueless about me, the healthcare consumer.

And in today’s marketing world of more data that you can beat with a stick, the availability of marketing automation, CRMs, experience mapping, the buyer's journey, AI and social media, that is just unacceptable.

It’s not that hard.

In today’s world of healthcare consumer choice where premiums, deductibles, and copays have the healthcare consumer paying for over one-third of the cost of care, hospitals, and health system marketing needs to be far more strategic, targeted, responsive, data-driven, and healthcare consumer oriented. 

There is no reason, no reason at all, not to understand who your audience is and the relationship that they already have built up with you. Understand what the healthcare consumer needs are, how the experience has been and how to communicate through the right channels with the right message, at the right time to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

For all hospitals and health systems out there in the medical-care land, just remember, that the healthcare consumer only needs you for three things- emergency care, intensive care and care for complex acute medical conditions. We can get all the care we need from our doctors and other providers in a far more cost effective, better experience, more convenient setting with higher quality outcomes than at a hospital or hospital-based outpatient service.

Can you hear the healthcare consumer now?

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.


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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ten Steps to Make Hospital Marketing Sticker.

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.

With the economic shift from a product and service economy to an experience economy, providers are at a clear disadvantage by continuing to market like it is the 1990s.  Now that being said, it’s not all providers, but the vast majority.  

Being paid for the production of care in the fee-for-service model is a product and service approach to healthcare.  Though the payment mechanism is changing, little has changed in provider marketing.  

A vast majority of healthcare providers still taking product marketing features approach. Notice that I did not say features and benefits marketing. Providers only go halfway choosing features or warm fuzzy improbable benefits but not both in their marketing.  I have yet to see a provider or provider system provide me with compelling reasons on the advantages of using them. It’s no wonder then that little differentiation exists in the market resulting in provider marketing that is not sticky.

Nobody remembers the advertisements.  But the healthcare and patient remember what they saw on social media or the Internet. The healthcare consumer is talking and searching for healthcare information to learn and make choices. 

Welcome to the experience economy, where the experience of care trumps the products and services of care.

Now what?

Time for a change.

To grow and thrive in the experience economy while all else is in flames around the hospital or health system, it means moving from traditional marketing to experiential marketing that addresses needs of and meets the experience expectations of the healthcare consumer and patient.

Making provider marketing sticky is all about the care experience and engagement of the person on a very personal level. And given the multitude of ways, one of the most efficient will be social media.

Here are ten new marketing rules in an experience economy for making provider marketing stickier: 
1.       Understand fully and comprehensively the healthcare consumer and person experience. With over 147 touch-points for the customer and patient experience with a hospital. It’s vital in the experience economy that marketing understands what information they are seeking, and deliver it to them at the right experience touch-point with the right call-to-action. 
2.       Content is king. Make it memorable. It’s how you drive engagement through effective and compelling storytelling around the experience of care, not the how of the care.  From the website to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope, etc., focus on the experience. Be visual. Be compelling. 
3.       Identify and work with the leading influencers.  Providers need community influencers to amplify the message through social media. Encourage user generated content. 
4.       Develop testimonials about the experience of care and engagement from patients and healthcare consumers. 
5.       Integrate and communicate the value of the brand, key brand messages and brand promise across all channels. 
6.       Use social media and SEO to amplify your message. Influencer’s and patients providing testimonials need to complete online reviews to raise your placement in Google and other search engine results. 
7.       Integrate the information and experience across all channels and platforms that consumer will use- desktop, smartphone or tablet for a seamless experience. No disconnects. The healthcare consumer moves freely between all three devices expecting the same experience across all three. 
8.       Traditional marketing needs to focus more on the price, outcomes, experience and drive engagement.  No more buildings, smiling doctors, shiny new equipment.  
9.       Teach employees how to use their social media channels to amplify the provider. 
10.   Show the healthcare organization that marketing today is no longer about transactions but value.  Transactions will come after the value is understood.

There is no escaping or slowing down the experience economy as it overtakes healthcare.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.


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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Are You Using a Hospital Clinical Service Line Brand Evangelist for Differentiation?

Do you know who your patient hospital brand, evangelists are? I ask this question for a critical 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 is that there is little if any messaging differentiation.  I knew 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 cost certainty and knowing what the value is they are receiving for the dollar paid?  But few in hospitals or health systems are listening to the needs and demands of the healthcare consumer. Then they howl loudly than 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.

An individual uses the internet and social media 41 percent of the time in gathering information to make provider choice.

Consumers no longer rely on word of mouth to choose doctors and hospitals but on the Internet of things and social sharing sites.

And the answer by hospitals and health systems is to market the “trust our expertise” with messages that are full of vague claims and statements.

One way to answer those questions is through the use of patient testimonials, aka the clinical service line brand evangelist. 

Let me give you an example. When at the multihospital health system, I developed 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 phase. 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,”  Jane@hosptial.org with a professional photo of the individual, email, print, billboard and direct mail. Calls and emails went to my RN based call center. Before the campaign launch, a detailed Q&A was developed and 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 a reply.

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 bu providing alternatives and choices by clearly answering health-related consumer questions that are life and death in nature.

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 2017  operates in a market that is more value and risk than fee-for-service. And 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 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 an indelible hospital or system brand will impact tomorrow's the growth, revenue, and profitability.

Is it that hard to be responsive to a consumer's need for healthcare problem solutions? 

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

10 Essential Steps for Provider Marketing to Create Effective Email Engagement

Email

I can see your eyes glaze over.  And I can hear the chorus of but…but…HIPAA says we can’t do that, which is just nonsense. If understood correctly, a hospital can manage the marketing of clinical services with cost efficiency and effectiveness and handle the engagement or experience for the provider. It’s cost effective and efficient with an ROI that is over 4,200 percent.

From providing useful and relevant information, wellness programs like webinars and marketing hospital outpatient as well as inpatient clinical services, it’s one of the few mechanisms that hospitals can control in the market.  It’s a marketing tool to build brand loyalty, enhance the experience, and engage while driving growth and revenue.

For example, a clueless hospital system.

The hospital system that is the network in my insurance plan has never once engaged me in an email, social media or any other inbound tactic to engage and manage the healthcare consumer or patient experience. Even though I have used them, as well as my wife and family, the system has no clue regarding me or who we are as a family.  The provider system still focuses entirely on interruptive outbound mass marketing with the non-targeted shouting look at us making baseless claims, and non-needed services marketing like ads, and radio commercials all the while opening brick and mortar facilities in areas that over saturated and where the population is already existing primary care physician relationships.

But then, I do everything possible in my power to use more cost-efficient and higher quality providers that are far more convenient, cost-effective and provide a better quality experience to me that any system hospital-based services.

Don’t you think the system might want to engage me?

Better than outbound interruptive marketing where your messages are simply broadcast to the widest possible audience in the hopes that someone will respond, email can be a part of your inbound hospital marketing program.

But it just not a mail merge program to put a name at the topAnd it’s not buying an email list either. 

A word of caution is in order. Never buy an email list.  These people have not consented to receive an email from you.  Purchased lists damage the brand for that matter, end up in the junk folder or marked as spam. At some point in time, the Internet Service Providers will flag your emails as spam, impacting your ability to send emails.  

And emails marked as spam and unopened will eventually affect the deliverability of the email.

And I know a few who think that by asking people to whitelist their email address, that will solve the problem. A temporary fix at best, they need to repair the content, design, and CTAs to make them more responsive to the receiver.

There are plenty of touch-points in the hospital experience that can be used to obtain their email address and have the healthcare consumer or patient opt-in to receiving emails.

What next?

In the interest of blog readability, I won’t go into all the detail of how to create a successful healthcare hospital email program.  But what I will do is provide some useful tips for creating an engaging email and email program.

10 Steps to start the journey to an engaging email program.

1.       Start with a primary goal. Deliveries, clicks, and opens are metrics, not goals.   What do you want the email to accomplish? Send someone to their patient portal? Attend a wellness webinar?  Download some useful information? Attend a wellness program? Make the goal measurable.
2.       Write the copy. One of the few controllable factors in an email by the marketer is the copy. But structure and design are crucial, and it doesn’t matter how great the copy is if the design is all wrong. Every point of text should support the goal.
3.       Write for scan-ability. Use the right tone. Personalize when appropriate. Proof read, proof read and then proofread some more.
4.       Use the inverted pyramid structure to - grab attention, build anticipation, call-to-action.
5.       Have only one call-to-action (CTA).  You may have several links in an email, but each link must lead to where you want the reader to go.  Multiple CTAs confuse the reader and result in inaction.  But in case you just can’t help yourself with multiple CTAs stack your content.  In the event of emails, the choice is not okay. The only difference is a newsletter, but that is a subject for another time.
6.       Design creates a consistent user experience for everyone who receives your email. The design also helps to remove the friction in delivering your email. You have the opportunity to leverage branding and recognition to capture the reader’s attention. Use headers and sub-headers, font bolding, italics, numbers or colored text, but do not underline.  Be deliberate about the top 25 percent of your content.
7.       Reduce information density and add white space.  White space is good. Use a single column layout.
8.       Email design and web design are different. While there are only a few common web browsers, there are thousands of email clients. Each email client will render your email differently. Make sure you provide a link to an online version.  600 pixels is the ideal width. Stay away from HTML/CSS-based positioning and stick to table-structured positioning.  Add alt text to your images. Avoid creating emails as a single image and don’t use background images. Remember to define the width and height of your images. Oh and don’t use multiple images.  I know people say that they like images, but the data proves otherwise. The more images you have in an email, the fewer opens and clicks.  This one does not design around what the consumer says, but a design based on what the data shows how they act.
9.       Now really pay attention here. Create the email for mobile.  That’s right design it for mobile.  Here’s why: 54 percent of emails are viewed and opened on mobile; 81 percent of smartphone users say reading email is an activity that they use mobile for the most, and 41 percent say they want emails readable on mobile devices. (Source: Experian, OFOMC4, DMA) Think about how you use your smartphone. Looking at emails between meetings or a restaurant etc. people may not always be sitting behind desktops all day either.  Less is more and designing your email for mobile as it makes you explain the idea with greater clarity and gets you to the point faster.
10.   Use mobile-friendly templates.  The call-to-action should be above the fold; Navigation goes in the footer. User 14 point type. The call-to-action should be 44 by 44 pixels.

There is a lot here in creating a successful inbound email marketing campaign. But this is a good start.  If anything, it may give the system pause and hopefully reconsider its been doing for the last 20 years or so.

Oh, and don’t forget the marketing automation system like Eloqua or Marketo for example.  Without it, your email marketing will fail.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.


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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

14 Steps for Crisis Communications in an Age of Social Media & Customers as the Paparazzi

I am not going to pile on United, though they have had a bad few weeks with two full-blown public relations crisis’s in social media in the last three weeks.  But it does make one wonder if United has any capacity to learn from their mistakes given the flow of events and missteps of the past few days.

Are you paying attention?

If companies are not paying attention, especially hospital and health systems, on how the public is the paparazzi, then they can expect sooner rather than later,  that they will experience a meltdown of the provider brand and reputation through their carelessness and folly.

What happens when the social media channel turns bad on the hospital or health system?

Conventional wisdom used to say that a public relations crisis were a three-day story. Ten years ago that was the case.  Today, however, it’s a different story with social media, Facebook live and any of the other distribution channels now available.  Before, a PR crisis could be contained locally or regionally. Now with live video and social media streaming, it can become a global crisis in a mere matter of minutes.



I am not minimizing in any fashion the seriousness of what is taking place. It’s to get one’s attention. Sometimes it becomes way too easy to panic. And that needs to be avoided at all costs. Just ask United.

Take these steps to mitigate the social media communications crisis to protect the brand and organizational reputation. Many of the steps are parallel and not sequential.

The 14 steps for a public relations crisis driven by the consumer paparazzi and social media:

1.)    Do treat this as a communications failure and have a social media crisis communications plan already in place. 
2.)    Care, concern, and compassion still rule the message and the days that follow. 
3.)    Don’t jump right to the “we followed policy and staff acted appropriately.”  That makes you tone deaf and unresponsive. Plus those kinds of remarks will just further add more combustible fuel to the raging fire. 
4.)    Don’t change your message or position every day. You will look foolish and unprepared. 
5.)    Understand what happened and why. 
6.)     Identify who the influencers will be to add voice and impact the conversation. 
7.)    Actively monitor your online reputation. 
8.)    Avoid the informational black hole.  Be ready with appropriate information and press statements.  You can’t hold a news conference every time you want to say something. 
9.)    Have social media appropriate messaging that is clear and concise.
10.) Integrate your response across all social media activities. Remember that some reporters use Twitter as a basis for information and facts without verifying the authenticity of the information. 
11.) If the organization blew it, take ownership.  No excuses, the appearances of excuses or rude behavior are allowed.  Social media users are a pretty savvy group and will see right through it. It will only make matters worse.  
12.) Integrate paid and earned media.  
13.) Have clear rules of social media engagement by employees.   
14.)  Don’t forget to use your staff and their access to social media and how they can influence the conversation.  Employees are your secret weapon in this battle.

And lastly, learn from United. Hundreds of millions of dollars in lost equity and capitalization with a negative brand reputation that will take years to recover. Here is hoping that a social media crisis never comes to your doorstep.

But you can always call me when it does. Have the checkbook ready too
.
Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

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