Sunday, December 16, 2018

2018 Top 10 Posts from Healthcare Marketing Matters


It’s that time of the year where a; the Top 10 lists come out.  So, being a crowd follower (not), here are the Top 10 posts for 2018 from Healthcare Marketing Matters top to bottom.

Thank you for reading and best wishes for success and prosperity in 2019.

1. Increase the Power of Hospital Brand Marketing Using Your Triple Aim – Earned Media, Public Relations & Social Media http://bit.ly/2umpiyy

2. Hospital Marketing Appears Random and Unconnected, Says the Insured Healthcare Consumer http://bit.ly/2nj17MY

3. “Hey Alex, I Don’t Feel Well. Find A Physician Near Me.” Hospital Marketer, Is Your Website Optimized for Voice Search? http://bit.ly/2MHMg9G

4. Social Media Use for Hospitals, the Easy Guide to Message and Channel Integration http://bit.ly/2IyTrzi

5. Hospital Marketing Has a New Mission http://bit.ly/2LbJTew

6. Hospital Marketing If Done Right, Will Look Like a Distributive Network http://bit.ly/2Nn7YR9

7. What is Your Hospital Marketing Strategy Around Micro-Influencers? http://bit.ly/2HemQxn

8. Nine Essential Strategies for Engaging the Healthcare Consumer & Patient 24/7, Because That is the World They Live In. http://bit.ly/2IVFOdA

9. Hospital Marketing If Done Right, Will Look Like a Distributive Network http://bit.ly/2Nn7YR9

10. It’s Not Social Media Anymore. Social Has Become the New Mainstream Media. Now what? http://bit.ly/2JHfXdn

A note to my readers. You may have noticed that haven’t been posting as frequently as before. After 11 years of writing Healthcare Marketing Matters, the weekly research and topic selection becomes a bit of a chore. While there has been much progress in hospitals and marketing, it remains mired in a features approach looking at us and little content that fosters true engagement with the patient and healthcare consumer.

The other reason is semi-retirement.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed 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, November 11, 2018

Patient & Customer Centricity is Culture Driven, Not Program Driven

I have worked for enough hospitals, health systems, and vendors in leadership positions to live through the declarations of the customer and patient centricity. It’s more than hiring new talent. It’s more than just catching up and using technology more efficiently.  It is a whole lot more than declaring it’s all about the customer.

Customer centricity doesn’t happen overnight, especially in healthcare enterprises that have had an internal instead of external focus. It isn’t driven by technology, though that is a tactic and solution. It’s not just a one and done training program. It’s not a line in the business or strategic plan.

It starts and ends with the culture and focus of the organization.

An organization can not treat patients or healthcare consumer as a customer, nor be successful in the endeavor if the very soul of the healthcare enterprise leadership, focus, and culture are not devoted to the customer.

It’s all about the healthcare consumer or patient. The only thing that matters is meeting the needs of the patient or the healthcare consumer.  It’s not about the hospital or health system in many ways.  Focusing on and meeting the needs of the customer is the single most important trait and a hallmark of successful companies. One patient to the hospital. One hospital to the patient. You’re all smart and can go figure out what I mean.

The singular focus on meeting the health care needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, or shopper for that matter, brings growth and revenue. Period.

Are you ready to make that transformation? And I ask that question because in health care nothing is ever new. I can remember from the 1990s when hospitals and health systems were throwing the words “patient as customers” around like they were M&Ms. So here we are, and it's 2018, still talking about customer-centricity around the healthcare consumer or patient. These times the words are engagement and experience. Hospital marketing neither reflects the experience nor engages in any meaningful way.

The healthcare enterprise can talk all it wants about treating patients as consumers. But unless it starts with the cultural transformation and a singular focus on meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, otherwise all the technology, new hires, new clinical programs and delivery of care is just another expensive undertaking that is nothing more than me too compared to the other healthcare providers in the market.

The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.

A note to my readers. You may have noticed that haven’t been posting as frequently as before. After 11 years of writing Healthcare Marketing Matters, the weekly research and topic selection becomes a bit of a chore. While there has been much progress in hospitals and marketing, it remains mired in a features approach looking at us and little content that fosters true engagement with the patient and healthcare consumer. I guess I am just tired of beating a dead horse. The other reason is semi-retirement. Having a deep background in healthcare, I will be the hospital's worst nightmare patient.  Not from unreasonable demands, but from understanding healthcare delivery and my expectations of experience and engagement for an informed healthcare consumer standpoint. Get ready folks because I hate using a hospital for things that be done in a higher quality, more cost-effective, and convenient setting than the hospital or hospital-based outpatient services. I only need the hospital for three things, emergency care, care for acute complex medical conditions, and intensive care.


Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Do Your Employees Like Your Patients or Customers?

I may seem like I am asking a silly question, but truth be told, beyond the customer or patient satisfaction numbers, chances are, your employees may not like your customers or patients all that much.  I am not saying that your employees are treating customers and patients with open disdain or contempt. They may be exhibiting behaviors and using language in internal meetings that demonstrate a lack of respect in a “we know better than you attitude.”  

Really?  

The lack of employee concern and caring, communicated verbally and non-verbally in the workplace, with average to mediocre employee satisfaction surveys, may be a pretty good indication that leadership behavior is sending a powerful unspoken message.

When little differentiation exists (a service, is a service, is a service) to tell vendors, hospitals, doctors, and other providers apart, employees are liking their customers, can set you apart from your competition. And with little opportunity existing now, and in the future, to differentiate yourself in your competitive healthcare vertical, success and growth beyond a simplistic single strategy of the acquisition will only come when attitudes towards prospects and customer's change.

Besides, employees in the office and the field are your front-line brand ambassadors. The visual and emotional representation of your brand.  And if they behind closed doors speak with contempt and disdain, then what does that say about your brand, your leadership, and strategy?

Leadership and employees are the best brand ambassadors that exist. They can do more to create customer evangelists than you may even imagine. But, if internal attitudes and actions are arrogant, condescending, and pejorative, then growth just got a lot harder. And marketing with all the creativity and tactics in the world, can’t fix that.

Can't have one without the other. 

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed 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, September 16, 2018

"Hey Alexa, I Don’t Feel Well. Find A Physician Near Me." Hospital Marketer, Is Your Website Optimized for Voice Search?

How does this grab you? Thirty-eight percent of all internet searches are now by voice using a digital assistant like Siri, Alexa, Echo, and others on a smartphone or home voice internet connected device. Additionally, most voices activated searches are using the term “near me” sometimes combined with the term “near me today.” 

Putting it another way, will the healthcare consumer and potential patient voice searching for a physician, find the hospital via your “Find-A-Physician” portal on your website?

I ask the question about finding a physician because I don’t think people are going to voice-search the hospital, except maybe to get directions. And the other reason is that no matter the payment system, the hospital still needs a physician’s order for any diagnostic testing or treatment.

What to do?

Now that I have your attention and it very well could be an OMG moment, with now I have something else to worry about, optimizing the hospital or health system website is possible in short order. The following seven steps should enable you to start optimizing for voice searches. 

1.       Ditch the old fashion search keywords like hospital Plainfield or Cardiovascular Service Line. Nobody talks like that conversationally. Searches are in the natural language of the person. 

2.       Move to long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords generally run from three to five words. Long-tail keywords are important due to the preference of digital assistants to use natural language for processing requests. If you use a digital assistant for shopping, think about how you speak to Siri or Alex for example, you speak conversationally and naturally to the devices whether you realize it or not. 

3.       Exploit the power of near me searches. Voice searches are local. All healthcare is local. That’s the connection for you. The healthcare consumer isn’t looking for an exotic specialty; they are searching "near me" for the solution to their problem. 

4.       Make sure it's easy for bots and spiders to crawl your site and know what the hospital business is. Make sure you submit your sitemap to Google and Bing. Start incorporating microdata, schema, rich snippets, and so on. These little pieces of code give the search engines even more information about what your business is all about. 

5.       You also want to make sure that your online business directories (aka citation sites) are accurate as well. For example, if one address is on Yelp, and another is on Citysearch, the search engines won’t know which address is the correct one and will be less likely to pull your hospital up in voice search results. 

6.       Take a look at your analytics. Google’s Search Console reports show you what queries are bringing people to your site. Now that being said, you can’t tell if the search query came from voice search or the good old-fashioned way. You can get some good ideas based on how people are finding you right now. 

7.       Since most voice searches take place on mobile devices, you must have a mobile-friendly site. If a person does a voice search, goes to your site, and has a bad experience, it’s over. This not only impacts that individual searcher but a high bounce rate because your site is difficult to use on a smartphone can also negatively affect your rankings on Google.

"Hey Siri, find a hospital near me that has the best satisfaction and experience ratings."  

Can you hear me now?

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed 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 26, 2018

Hospital Marketing If Done Right, Will Look Like a Distributive Network

Think about the headline question a little. If the real aim is medical care delivered at the right time, in the right place, at the right cost, it follows that the centralization of healthcare around a hospital is not the right model for marketing.

Think about this like a distributive computer network model sharing the work across many computers instead of a single large computer. 

If one examines the pace of change and innovation, it’s easy to envision marketing’s role more on the experience and demand management side of the equation, by building a hospital or health system brand that is distributive with the service and treatment location that best suits the healthcare consumers or patient’s needs. 

It’s all about meeting the medical needs of the consumer or patient in the “distributive network” and building the brand among connected network touchpoints. Touchpoints that are not separate but a connected whole.

A distributive approach to your branding significantly changes the message and brand story. No longer focusing on the hospital as the center of the healthcare universe, the distributive care network marketing approach is the value of the network and brand to the individual.   

Scanning the horizon, technology for health information exchange connectivity, EHRs, Google Glass devices, advances in remote monitoring, telemedicine, wearable devices, surgical procedures in an ambulatory setting, and pharmaceuticals, etc., the concept of distributive healthcare is a reality.

Instead of the centralization of work and workflow which currently is the most expensive and average quality setting, the patient or healthcare consumer for that matter, now moves in a system of care that is potentially more cost-efficient and effective with a greater opportunity for higher quality care that meets the Triple Aim. 

Instead of the patient moving to the beat of the system needs, the system is more responsive and moves to the patient's needs. It is also potentially more user-friendly resulting in greater engagement, experience, and adherence.

Now, what does this model taken from the computer world do to all those hospital mergers to create a “scale” when affordable and accessible patient care, for the most part, is prevalent without ever setting foot in a hospital?

Discuss.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed 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 19, 2018

Hospital Marketing Has a New Mission

And it’s not about “putting heads in the beds.”

The marketing mission is now engagement, experience, and demand management.

From what I can see, the great majority of hospital leadership still believes hospital and system marketing is the “all about us” story. The story of being “world-class” with dazzling high-tech equipment, state-of-the-art buildings, awards, and all the features of care as seen as important to the hospital or health system, without any mention of the value and benefit to the end-user, aka, the patient.

Old and tired from the 1990s, that kind of marketing and content doesn’t work anymore.

This is the new mission of hospital marketing in a value-based world.

Consumer and Patient Engagement

More than a buzzword, engagement is the way that one binds the healthcare consumer and patient to the hospital or health system network. In an age where the changes over the last decade mean that a person only needs a hospital for three items- emergency care, care for acute complex medical conditions, and intensive care, engagement is the currency by which the hospital or health system stays relevant in a world full of higher-quality, cost-affordable and convenient alternative treatment locations.

That means providing content that is valuable and impactful to the audience. It provides the reasons why you're relevant and important to them. It meets their needs, not yours. It is the value the hospital or health system provides, not the look at all the features.

Patient Experience

Patient experience means just that- understanding what that patient experience is at all touchpoints. And then changing or managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Patient experience is an integrating process across the entire organization internally and externally.  One organization to the patient, one patient to the organization. It is not simply another quality program or flavor of the day. 

Understanding and Executing Demand Management

The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe.  In the age of consumer-directed health care, hospital admission is a defect in the process of care. Marketing needs to understand what the demand for healthcare services will be, when they will be needed, and manage that demand is making sure that the hospital or health system has the right resources, in the right place, at the right time to meet demand. Telemedicine, digital health, non-traditional providers, in-home self-care, Uber for affordable, accessible on-demand transportation, all play a role in that demand management.  Gone are the days of hospital marketing departments driving demand to fill the beds. The need is to drive demand to the appropriate care setting and location of service.

I purposefully did not write about how to accomplish the needed transformation, as this focus is directionally strategic. It starts with the strategy of focus and direction, then to tactics, and finally execution. There are no longer any simple answers to what has been neglected for all these years in hospital and health system marketing as the market has evolved. Turning a slow-moving, hulking battleship 180 degrees to be more responsive to the healthcare consumer and patient takes time.

Always remember those wise words of Sun Tzu in The Art of War, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest road to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

There sure is a lot of noise from hospitals and health systems in the marketplace.

As you can see (pun intended), I had my retinal detachment surgery last week Monday, and I am back at it already. There are some limitations like no driving for a couple of weeks and not going over 1,000 feet in elevation or flying for eight weeks, which is better than what it could have been. The surgical procedure took 30-minutes in the outpatient surgical suite in the physician’s office. Never set foot in, or needed to be in, a hospital-based outpatient center.

Do you get my point now?

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed 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 12, 2018

Now Is the Time to Stop Age-based Segmentation and Marketing. “I am not a senior.”

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. I particularly enjoy the direct mail pieces for Medicare supplement insurance from Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, and others with the rhetorical question, “Are you turning 65?” in the headline.

Really? Do I have a choice in whether I’m turning 65? I never imagined it was a possible choice.  And here is the big one for me, Consumer Cellular, your ads portray “seniors” as bumbling fools who need help to understand that “new-fangled technology.”  Nonsense. Just nonsense.

Age-based segmentation is wrong on many levels. Age-based marketing does not reflect 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’. Your “seniors” use and are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, etc.

I am an individual who is your worst consumer nightmare if you keep marketing to me as an old fool. I am not a demographic marketed for services I do not need, based solely on assumptions of age.

And just because I reached that magic age, I did not become an invalid, incapacitated, or suddenly in need of “senior services.” I do not suddenly need a geriatrician. Hospital, if you understood who your user is, you would have seen I already have a primary care physician and have been using for health care system for over 20 years. Get a clue.

In this age of personalization with the wealth of segmentation data available, it is sheer laziness on 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 and become people-oriented marketers.  Becoming an individual-oriented marketer meeting their needs and not assuming 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.

And even better, by dropping age-based segmentation, your messaging will become more relevant, more personalized, and more effective. You won’t be reinforcing age-related biases and discrimination in the society either.

Now, it isn’t that hard, is it?

On another note, I will be taking a small few weeks' break from posting. I am having retinal detachment surgery on August 13, and my vision clarity, as well as writing, will be difficult at best for a while. I appreciate you reading Healthcare Marketing Matters, and I will be back writing again as soon as I can see clearly.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.

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

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

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Dark Social- What You Can’t See, Can Hurt Your Hospital

Bright social, where you can see your handiwork, and revel in the brilliance of your content in attempts to influence the choice of the healthcare consumer and patients in selecting the hospital and physicians for treatment could be falling way short.

Falling short you say?

Not entirely mind you, but with the changes in all of the social media platforms as a result of fake news, phony followers, misuse of user data, etc.,  Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and other social media platforms as restrictive content publishing houses only represents one-third of all the activity in social media on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Where in the world is this going?

Two-thirds of internet social media activity occurs in what has been termed dark social. I am not speaking of the nefarious activities of drug dealers, gun runners, blackmailers, etc. using TOR or another program that allows one to search the web anonymously. I am referring to all the social media activities that can’t be traced such as email link sharing, some applications, and one-on-one messaging.

Now what?

For example, a healthcare consumer is looking for a new physician or hospital.   The individual researches on the IoT, speaks with work colleagues and others, reads some published content about the brilliance of the physician or the hospital, and utilizes several social media platforms. 

But in this process, friends and others may send an email, might use Facebook Messenger. Google Hangouts or WhatsApp Messenger, send an SMS text with a link to a source of information or solution that would be of interest. It is the method of sharing information that makes it dark and potentially untraceable.

And what is of interest to me at least, is not the quantity of dark social traffic, but the quality of that sharing traffic that goes on unseen.

Think about this for a moment.

How important is the recommendation from someone you know about a service or solution when you receive a link to a website or shares some meaningful information? It’s one-on-one messaging as compared to the mass messaging which has some traits of personalization, but still a mass-market message.

Therein lays the opportunity. Remember all the talk and activity about word-of-mouth marketing that was always the perceived key to success over the years? Well, word-of-mouth marketing hasn’t gone away, it’s just gone dark. 

Pun intended.

So how do you reach the two-thirds of the internet that are currently not visible to you? Most marketers use some form of marketing automation providing us at least the fundamental information of  “shared.” Seeing the word “SHARED” can be the equivalent of shouting the word  “squirrel” and having the dog reaction of quickly turning around in the Disney movie Up.  Does your neck hurt yet?

But by who and where was it shared?

Was it shared externally or internally in the recipient’s organization?  Was it shared with a supportive recommendation message, or, reaching high in the chuckle factor? Important to know as dark sharing impacts and influences the healthcare consumer's buyer’s journey.

Changing how we track what’s going on.

We are early in the process of discovering the hidden treasure trove of data in dark social, but there are ways to begin to understand how your information is being shared and used.

It’s all about the embedded code.

One way is to add trackable code to URLs someone may copy and paste in messages. Another way is to add trackable code to your website content for when it is copied and pasted.  When publishers participate with your short trackable code is added to any text for when it is copied and pasted into a message.

It’s early, and more ways are being developed to track the activity on dark social. But all marketers need to begin to understand and respond to the influence of dark social on their marketing and find ways to see to be able to leverage that which is unseen.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed 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, July 22, 2018

Influencing Hospital Choice at Key Moments, Understanding the Healthcare Consumers Buying Journey

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 you stay atop the food chain. But with the consumer's realization that they need a hospital for only three things, emergency care, intensive care, and care for complex acute medical conditions, they are more in control with their physician of the buying process that providers want to admit.

To become part of the consumer's 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.

 Customer Buyer Journey

In this environment, providers are already losing meaningful differentiation. Marketing campaigns for example with messaging that we care more, see out new third-party awards with no context, the best facilities, technology, or better yet, our doctors care more, are meaningless when the data available shows most care is too expensive and average at best.  All hospitals and health systems do the same thing. How they communicate with 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.  

What change is required?

The requirement is to move from an overreliance on features and benefits marketing to 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 and image in the hopes that they are noticed, to a defined process that enhances growth.

Next steps

Creating a buyer's 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 ways to map and a search on the IoT will provide one with all the templates necessary. Keep a singular focus on the following key points 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 the 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 their buyer's journey.

I am the healthcare consumer, and you have no idea who I am, or how I choose providers to meet my needs, not yours. It’s time you started to learn.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives,  and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media. Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at  815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Increase the Power of Hospital Brand Marketing Using Your Triple Aim – Earned Media, Public Relations & Social Media


Given the extraordinary competing needs in hospitals to meet the of the healthcare marketplace from EMRs to employed physician, too new treatment and diagnostic modalities and declining reimbursements, marketing gets the short straw most of the time in those resource allocation decisions.  And that is a dangerous position to be in with a healthcare market that is a semi-retail, consumer-centric model with numerous consumer choices available for diagnosis and treatment that is far more convenient, accessible and affordable then a hospital setting.

When you have constrained marketing resources, with the requirement to have a continuous presence in the marketplace to shift healthcare consumer’s attitudes, preferences and choices, the triple combination of earned media, public relations and social media working in an integrated strategic fashion can achieve that end for you.

Make no mistake about it, combining social media, public relations, and earned media is hard. It is much more than a press release or an event. It’s about relationships, experience. Outreach and having content and information of value. That means understanding the needs of your stakeholders in an omnichannel world by developing content that meets their needs, not the need of the hospital to tell them how great the hospital with its shiny new building is, technology or smiling doctors looking skyward.

One needs to develop relationships with consumers and reporters to plant and cultivate story ideas. You must respond to the reporter's requests for more information. It takes time. It takes patience in a period where all we ask daily, "What did you do for me today?"  The payoff is providing across three channels of content that provides value. Value-focused content that gives the reporter and the healthcare consumer the reason why it’s you.

You need to find ways for reporters and editors to follow your tweets. Reporters can follow your blog or your company pages on LinkedIn, YouTube, or Facebook. That’s the value in earned media and public relations by integrating those efforts with social media. It becomes your ability to establish a powerful continuous presence by expanding human resources with the talent in your marketing operation with little financial outflow. And the payoff by combining the three in an integrated strategic fashion can be huge.

Earned media and public relations driving social media have value.

All that content that goes online comes from somewhere and goes somewhere.  A reporter writes.   A network broadcaster covers. Columnists look for it.  Content that goes out on Facebook, websites, YouTube, Twitter and electronic/print editions of magazines, daily newspapers, and specialty publications.

With the right content and strategy, public relations can become viral in social media because it has so many different outlets that turn into earned media due to the coverage.  When a news outlet or publication carries your brand messages, it makes what you are doing seems more believable.  Once the story runs about a topic and you're the first, it's much harder for your competitors to get out there with the same message.  A powerful way to differentiate yourself which also has a considerable number of aftermarket uses.

There is a bigger payoff too.

Every organization will experience a communications crisis. Taking the time to develop positive relationships with reporters, blog writers, broadcast media and others has a big payoff in a media-driven crisis. The development and cultivation of a relationship with media don't mean the story won't run. But what it can mean is the difference between a story that is balanced and fairly reported, versus a story that is one-sided against you.  As we all know, negative news travels farther and faster than positive news, which does more harm than good over the long haul.

Maybe it's time to rethink in an era of declining healthcare marketing resources traditional marketing activities, or flavor of the day social media strategies, to approaching your markets with a triple aim of earned media, public relations, and social media?

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives,  and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is an established influencer. Inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


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

Sunday, June 10, 2018

It’s Not Social Media Anymore. Social Has Become the New Mainstream Media. Now what?

A funny thing happened to what was ‘social’ media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Instagram, etc., where communities of people formed and came together to share funny videos of baby’s and dogs and photos of “here are the dishes I am having for dinner” postings.

Social media platforms have evolved for better or for worse into the new mainstream media #NMM. Twitter and other platforms now drive the news cycle. A racist tweet comes out, and a TV show canceled. The last petulant Twitter escapades of POTUS make headlines. Reporters post their stories on Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard for example, before they ever hit the website or print editions. 

Reporters who previously loathed the ICYMT in an email, now use the acronym to accompany their story posts and reposts.

Action and reaction drive the news cycle. Everyone is a reporter without the benefit of an editor or having to fact check. “If it’s on the Internet and social media than it must be true.” A statement that has gone from being a standard joke to some ridiculousness posted, to the new standard of acceptability as true without verification.

What does the mean for hospitals and health systems?  

It means a new approach strategically and tactically to social media. Strategy and tactics that are proactive for media news generation that is much more serious and refined. An evolution from the look at what we do, evolving to the significant news of the day that will have an impact on your health and wellness. From pretty pictures of buildings and smiling staff, to content and messaging that will impact the news cycles. From hoping someone will follow the hospital to following reporters and editors to pitch the news.

Consider the following hypotheticals. A person decides to examine the hospital history of malpractice settlement and tweets out the findings. Someone takes the mortality rate information from CMS and computes the number of patients that die in the hospital each year and say it is from preventable medical errors.

No warning. No anonymous news tips to reporters or assignments editors. A tweet. Blog posts. A Facebook post. A YouTube commentary. The story goes viral. News media outlets pick it up, and now there is a media crisis communications situation.

Do you still think social media is unimportant or just fluff?

It’s the new mainstream media.

And if you aren’t finding ways to leverage and build relationships with reporters and key influencers using the new mainstream media, then you risk losing control of the narrative you want in the market.

It’s time to stop calling them ‘social.’

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives,  and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is an established influencer. Inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


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

Sunday, June 3, 2018

What is Your Hospital Marketing Strategy Around Micro-Influencers?

All health care is local and is shaped by events nationally, regionally, and locally. Changes in healthcare policy and reimbursement such as the Affordable Care Act, state regulatory action, and new or experimental payment methodologies change the game on a regular basis. 

But in the end, it still comes down to medical care delivered in the physician’s office, the local hospital and other alternative and nearby ambulatory care settings that may or may not be hospital-based. Places of care where the healthcare consumer forms opinions and then shares in a variety of ways.

Even with all the market uncertainty, growing healthcare consumerism, data transparency driven by third parties along price and outcomes, retail innovation and non-traditional competition, health care is still a game of influence.  

Many hospitals and health systems are turning to micro-influencers to promote the brand in pithy clever campaigns. Then you see the same macro-influencers in the same market promoting other non-healthcare brands.  One must ask if they are really influencing the hospital brand in the market or just causing confusion? And what happens when the macro-influencers go bad?

The time had come for creating a brand strategy around the micro-influencer.

Instead of macro-influencers like celebrities which have a limited lifespan and are fraught with their endorsement dangers from ill-advised behavior or comments in social media on a much larger scale, it’s time for a better influencer strategy.

The age of impactful micro-influencers is here.

Micro-influencers are based in the community in the local hospital market and carry more significant weight with the brand endorsements than many realize. Think of it this way, what is of more value to the hospital in swaying the healthcare consumer? The celebrity with millions of followers all over the world, tweeting or blogging about the hospital, or the micro-local influencer with several thousand followers who are blogging about the hospital in the community?

Since most of the healthcare a consumer searching for hospital and physician services are online, then the value of using local micro-influencers in the hospital service area increases exponentially.

Micro-influencers are the new word-of-mouth influencers for the hospital and physician.

So how can a hospital or health system influence the influencers?

What it is about is identifying who the micro-influencers are in your local market and building long-term relationships. It’s like making a friend. Would one make a friend just by tweeting or commenting on a Facebook post or reading a blog? No magic bag of tricks here.  It takes hard work, but the micro-influencer of choice payoff for you is brand growth and revenue. Now, who doesn’t want that?

Since influencing the influencers is all about relationship building, it’s about getting them to an event, getting them on the phone, writing a personal email.  Influencing the influencers is traditional stuff that healthcare marketers use to do and still do to a certain extent, but instead, chase the shiny new channel or technique. Its old-fashioned relationship-building applied to a new way of reaching people.

Consider the following.

Micro-influencers can assist in recommending insurance plans one is a provider member of in the exchanges. Influencers can recommend hospital friendly physicians.  Influencers can make a great difference and speed up the brand and reputation recovery efforts after a major public relations or media disaster. Micro-influencers work and live in the community and our friends, family members, community leaders, and local radio personalities, etc.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Adding an influence, the micro- influencer’s component into your integrated marketing has the potential to pay some very large long-term brand, reputation, and revenue impacts.

Why isn’t a micro-influencing strategy part of your hospital marketing?

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Changing the Role of Hospital Marketing for Today’s Market, Six Essential Steps.

I came across an old post from December 2010 written with the passage of the Affordable Care Act on how the role of hospital marketing needed to change to meet the new evolving consumer-directed marketplace.  Then in 2012, a reader asked if hospital marketing had changed nearly two years later. My answer is 2012, sadly enough not much has changed in the current state and role of hospital marketing.  

Today on May 20, 2018, nearly eight-year after the original post, I decided to revisit the question. The answer is still; not much has changed overall. 

Oh, we have added an expanded social media and online practice, but much of the changing role and strategic marketing leadership that I envisioned with the passage of the Affordable Care Act hasn't taken place.  It's pretty much standard operations as in the past.  And that is disappointing. 

Understand that I am not talking about pharma, medical device manufacturers, insurance companies, suppliers, and retailers moving into the healthcare space.  They get it.  A few hospitals and health systems get it. They understand the power and importance of marketing.  

What I wrote about eight years ago, still stands. Hospitals are falling behind daily in their overall marketing, engagement of the healthcare consumer and managing the patient/consumer experience.  

One new concept added to the post is marketing to the health insurance exchange consumers. Why? It’s an opportunity to have people select insurance plans in which you are a network provider. It’s is potentially a brand marketing opportunity that few if any hospital tries to take a competitive advantage. Hoping the buyer of an insurance plan where you are one of the network hospitals is not a strategy. 

Here we go….again. 

Marketing Leadership 

Marketing is a strategy first, tactics second.  The voice of marketing should reflect the voice of your customers and not be a second thought.   Your future programs and services should be determined by the needs of the market, not your gut feeling.  You cannot become a customer-driven or market-driven organization if the skills and experiences of marketing are not at the leadership table. 

Managing the Patient Experience 

If anyone is prepared to understand and manage the patient experience across the organization, it's marketing. Patient experience means just that- understanding what that patient experience is at all touchpoints. And then changing or managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Patient experience is an integrating process across the entire organization internally and externally.  One organization to the patient, one patient to the organization. It is not simply another quality program or flavor of the day.  

Understanding and Executing Demand Management 

The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe.  It isn’t about “putting heads in the beds” anymore. The Affordable Care Act is designed to keep people out of the hospital.  Outside of emergency care, care for complex acute medical conditions, and intensive care, hospital admission is a defect in the process of care. Marketing needs to understand what the demand for healthcare services will be, when they will be needed, and manage that demand is making sure that the hospital or health system has the right resources, in the right place, at the right time to meet demand.  Gone are the days where marketing departments will be driving demand to fill hospital beds. They will drive demand to the appropriate place and location of service. 

Becoming a Revenue Marketer and Having Revenue Accountability 

Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) is necessary for anything marketing accomplishes, traditionally, socially, or online. Marketers in healthcare organizations need to become revenue producers, not resource consumers that show little value beyond, it looks nice.  In fact, marketing should have P&L as well as an SG&A accountability for many of the products and services offered by a healthcare organization. 

Marketing the Manager of Change 

Who better in an organization than for marketing to manage the healthcare organizations transformation from an inward-focused it's all about me, to an outward-focused market and consumer-driven organization?   Open to much debate, this is probably the most controversial look at the expanding role of marketing.  Individuals who have worked at their organizations all of their careers, do not necessarily have the skills, training or abilities to change an organization in any meaningful, transformative way. 

Marketing to the Insurance Exchange Consumer 

Marketing to the exchange consumer is more than negotiating with every plan available and being included. In the new world of consumer-directed healthcare, purchasing health insurance is a big deal. Consumer shopping behavior is clearly at play in the exchanges. When there is a 10 percent difference in premium, the healthcare consumer exhibits consumerist shopping behavior and chooses the lower-cost health plan with the narrower restrictive provider panel limiting their choice.

If I were running a hospital, you can bet my marketing department would be figuring out the educational campaign to target those healthcare consumers buying health insurance in the exchanges, teaching them how to buy insurance that included the hospital and the affiliated physicians. And that doesn't mean a list of insurance plans or doctors. 

The role of hospital marketing needs to change sooner rather than later. Eight years is time enough.
Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.
For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hospitals Have the Yips Over ‘Yelpification’ of Healthcare. Here is Your Marketing Response.

I read an interesting article on April 27, 2018, “Providers jittery over the ‘Yelpification’ of healthcare”, Tony Abraham, Healthcare Dive from the Manhattan Institute report, “Yelp for Health”. The striking part of the report is that consumer Yelp reviews and other text-based reviews correlate with Medicare consumer surveys. Oh, oh.

We all know that consumers are increasingly turning to social media to find and select healthcare providers.  Why is that such a surprise?

Now that the horse is out of the barn and not going back anytime soon, what is the hospital to do? 

It’s time to stop having the yips or jitters over patients and consumers using Yelp and other social media channels. It’s now time to respond strategically and tactically from a marketing perspective.

You must get over it organizationally and stop believing your press releases about how great you are. The yips and jitters come from inaction and refusal to accept the reality of the market driven by the growing consumer dominance of healthcare. Consumers desire actionable information and transparency. If you are not going to give them either, then the healthcare consumer will create their version based on their experience for others to learn.  You reap what you sow. And the silence from the hospital is deafening to the consumer. Silence is acceptance and acquiescence on the part of the hospital reinforcing for the consumer that it must be true.

Yul Benner as Rameses in the movie 10 Commandments says it best, “So let it be written. So let it be done.”

What to do?

The time for the yips, jitters, and silence on the ‘Yelpification’ of healthcare has passed. It is now time to accept the reality of consumer reviews and treat them like the survival of the hospital and health system depends on them.  After all, the healthcare consumer knows one only needs three services from the hospital or health system, emergency care, intensive care and care for acute complex medical conditions. Period.

It comes down to the following key factors.
1.       Know the audience. Know the markets. Know what information the healthcare consumer is searching out. Know what social media platforms they use to gather information and engage. 
2.       Build a social media response plan and a proactive social media content plan integrated into the overall marketing plan and strategy for the hospital or health system. Include in your plan, goals and objectives, key messages, engagement strategies. How it will be measured and evaluated and who is responsible for executing the plan. What gets measured gets done. 
3.       Monitor, monitor, and monitor some more social media channels where consumers are posting reviews on the hospital, health systems, and physicians. 
4.       Engage and build a meaningful relationship with the healthcare consumer. Stay away from meaningless fluff and anything that looks like it’s all about the organization. And listen. Listen very carefully to social media and respond accordingly. 
5.       Allocate the resources for someone to do this full time all the time.  Don’t say the hospital doesn’t have it.  Reallocate the marketing budget to social media from more traditional areas. 
6.       Invest in staff training on social media, identifying the skill sets that may be lacking and if need be, hire from the outside. Experience counts as the healthcare enterprise does not have the time for trial and error. 
7.       The budget is marketing IT resources and systems for measurement, automation, and reporting on social media channels and activities.

There you have it. The beginnings of a strategy and tactical execution plan to meet the healthcare consumer on their terms on their ground.

Or, you can have the yips and jitters about the ‘Yelpification’ of healthcare, feeling sorry for yourself while all around you the healthcare consumer burns and takes you to the ash heap of history.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquiries for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.


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