Marketing & Public Relations Firm - Verasoni Worldwide

All posts tagged hospital marketing

Check out this piece my Thom Forbes that came across my email this morning.  Affinity or lifestyle marketing comes to your friendly neighborhood grocery…about time!  I have been advocating integration of this type for years, in fact in our work with hospitals we have encouraged them to consider opening restaurants that offer healthy fare. It’s a natural, it’s not enough to tell people about the benefits of healthy living, it’s critical to show them.Can’t help but think that perhaps one hospital marketing strategy may be considering opening a restaurant :)

Whole Foods Opens Its First Wellness Club
Thom Forbes, Aug 15, 2011 07:41 AM

“If you know what’s good for you … ” is a phrase that’s fraught with threat. It implies that even if we do know what’s good for us, our actions suggest otherwise and may carry dire consequences. But even if we do know, deep down, what’s good for us, we often don’t know how to achieve it.

I’m not talking metaphysics here. I’m talking kale, and the new prototype Wellness Club that Whole Foods is opening in Dedham, Mass., this morning with the intention of not only showing and telling us what’s good for us but also how to prepare it.

A few years ago, kale was nothing more than a crossword-puzzle word to many of us. Then we began to hear how healthy this descendant of the wild cabbage — brought to Europe from Asia Minor by Celtic wanderers in the 6th Century B.C. — was for us.

The big question, as it is with so many healthy foods that don’t come in the cans and frozen packages that many of us grew up with, was “what do you do with it?” There wasn’t much of a trick to opening a can of Le Sueur Sweet peas and dumping them into a saucepan, or reading the instructions on a package of Bird’s Eye Cut Green Beans.

The Whole Foods Wellness Club, on the other hand, will provide answers to searing questions like exactly how to sear an Ahi tuna. Or pronounce “Ahi.”

“As at a gym, club members check in at a front desk, but in this case it’s steps from the salad bar, near the fish,” writes Kathleen Pierce in the Boston Globe. Once inside, members can use the reference library, take a lifestyle evaluation, or “learn how to prepare a dish — such as mango quinoa porridge — from a chef in a sleek kitchen, and then head out into the store to find, and buy, the ingredients.”

“The mission of the Wellness Club is to provide an inviting environment where members are empowered to make educated and positive lifestyle choices that promote their long-term health and well-being through coaching, delicious food and a supportive community,” according to a Whole Foods blog post. “It will feature courses and lectures developed by medical doctors, inspirational and informative skill-building classes, supper clubs and special events, coaching and support.”

Members get a 10% discount “when they shop for healthy foods.” But, as Pierce points out, “access to that empowerment comes at a price: It costs $199 to become a member of the Wellness Club, and monthly dues are $45.”

The upscale grocer intends to open four other Wellness Clubs before the end of the year — in New York; Chicago; Oakland, Calif.; and Princeton, N.J. — “and if the prototypes do well, we would open more in 2012 as part of a growth initiative,” John Mackey, chairman and co-CEO, told analysts during a conference call in February. “Our purpose would be to educate people how to eat better to achieve the highest degree of their health potential,” Mackey explained and Supermarket News’ Elliot Zwiebach reports.

Products that meet the club’s “code of health” carry a Wellness Club seal of approval.

“A lot of people get overwhelmed when trying to initiate a lifestyle change,” Heidi Feinstein, a Boston nutritionist and holistic therapist tells Pierce. “They can purchase a lot of stuff that they don’t know how to use, end up wasting it and don’t succeed. It’s nice to have a guide when introducing yourself to all the abundant ways to revitalize your life.”

A blogger who calls himself Calorie Ken doesn’t want to put a damper on the idea or be seen as “Nelly Negative,” but he gets the feeling from Pierce’s story that Whole Foods is overemphasizing what people eat at the expense of how much they eat. He suggests that Whole Foods and other retailers “teach us how to eat better and help us have a good time doing it, but build the effort on a foundation of portion control and calorie awareness.”

Calorie Ken also suggests that it would be nice to have similar Wellness Clubs in lower-income places that really need them. “Perhaps they should’ve chosen to do it in Mississippi, the fattest state in America,” he writes. “Oh wait! There’s no Whole Foods in all of Mississippi!”

It’s all about achieving that elusive “balance,” of course — a topic gracefully tackled by Katherine Rosman in her Family Finances column in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Invited cross-country to San Diego to moderate a panel about the benefits of financial planning at a convention of 2,500 female bloggers, Rosman decided to combine the engagement with some interviews, meaning that she’d be away from her husband and two young children for a longer-than-usual six days.

“If you can judge by the absolute swarm of marketers who had descended upon San Diego to try to get these bloggers to sample their products, these women have real influence,’ she writes. “Yet almost every woman I met or listened to at the conference revealed a continual inner struggle between a desire to be fully engaged in family life and professional ambition.”

But “balance is almost an impossible ideal …,” she concludes, “even as we still aspire to it.”

It makes eating well, in the right proportions, seem comparatively attainable — or, at least, a good place to start. If you know what’s good for you.

By Abe Kasbo and Kim Reydel

Social media was a huge buzz word in 2009 and the hype will undoubtedly spill over into 2010.  Without a question, social media is now the new mass media (television still dominates…for now), and while businesses are still scrambling to figure out how to maximize their investment, social media delivered the following important points to the market:

1. Aggregation

2. Segmentation

3. Revelancy

As companies continue to embrace social media to grow their businesses, expand their brand footprint, and utilize the medium for PR purposes, some are still struggling to optimize social media to its full potential. According to the Social Media and Online PR Report, 86% of companies plan to more money on social media in 2010. Conversely, 54% of those surveyed say the biggest barrier to better social media engagement is a lack of resources. So, although many are plugged in to various social networking outlets, about half of them see a hurdle in using the tools to their full capacity. In addition 60% of companies say that they have gained “some benefit but nothing concrete” from using social networking. Let’s be honest, when using a tool to grow your business it’s crucial to see the results and reap the benefits. Until you know how to properly engage in social media, it’s not an essential tool for your business.

According to a survey by Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia in the B2B world 11% of respondents were heavily involved in social media while 23% were not involved and 65% experimented only. In the retail business 10% of respondents were heavily involved, 27% not involved, and 63% of retail respondents only experimented with social media. Like any other business strategy you must follow through with a plan, and a short presence on facebook is sure to generate zero business for any company. The concept of social media may have been an experiment, but building your company’s presence on a social network is a business strategy that requires a commitment and understanding of the platform. The majority of companies agree that major benefits of social media include; increased brand awareness, customer engagement, communication with key influencers, and better brand reputation. Additionally 54% of supply side respondents say their clients are incorporating video and video sharing in their use of social media. It’s superb that so many companies have hopped on the social media bandwagon but truth be told, it might as well be obsolete unless you are using it as a tool to engage your audience.

So, although statistics show that companies know how to use social media, there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the value of engagement. In other words, any company has the ability to create a fan page on facebook and populate the group, but often times it stops here. Companies have to keep in mind that those who join your network on twitter or facebook or linkedin are looking for something and it’s your responsibility to give it to them. The social networking platform allows you to offer coupons, contests, news, videos, promotions etc to ENGAGE your audience. It’s important to bring people together via your social network but it’s crucial to keep your site functional and relevant. As another year is about to begin, let’s make a resolution to remember to engage engage engage!

The article below was featured in The River View Observer on September 10, 2009. You can view it by clicking here or reading it below.

New Jersey Company Doing Their Part to Help Bring  Down Health Care Costs…


New Plan by Cambridge MedCom Will Save Marketing Costs and Create Effective Strategies for Medical, Dental Practices, Hospitals

Healthcare Marketing Communications firm Cambridge MedCom has the prescription for healthcare providers looking to cut marketing costs and improve the bottom line.  According to Cambridge MedCom, using truly effective marketing tools can increase profits, cut costs, and allow healthcare providers to improve the quality of their services by reinvested otherwise wasted dollars into patient care.

Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni Worldwide, the parent company of Cambridge MedCom estimates that the average medical or dental practice spends approximately $50,000  per year in marketing costs, and hospital marketing budgets can range from $500,000 to several million. “We’re in new world of engagement, not advertising.  Our clients know that they are no longer in control of their brand; their patients are now in control.

So how do you engage these folks?” Physicians, and dentists hire highly specialized marketing like designers for brochures or programmers for the web, who are good at what they do, but do not necessarily understand how to attract new patients,” says Kasbo. “In addition, we find medical, dental and hospital professionals usually expend their budget on tactics, rather than campaigns that are directly to business plan, leaving them with little to no return on investment. Cambridge MedCom helps healthcare professionals increase their business footprint, and save precious dollars by developing and executing integrated marketing plans, utilizing the internet as the center of their clients’ business universe.”

Physicians, dentists, and hospitals as well as other healthcare professionals continue to rely heavily on advertising, and are slow to adapt to the rapidly changing new media realities that can be leveraged to attract new patients, keep patient engaged with their brand. The Internet has changed the economics of healthcare marketing and radically impacted pricing on media buys, the ways people shop for healthcare services, and the way they interact with a healthcare brand.

Unfortunately too many medical providers are unaware of how this affects their bottom line, or they may not understand how to take advantage of the new opportunities. “All too often healthcare providers market without strategic plan, physicians and dentists are busy doing what they do best, which is providing patient care. They often “drop marketing bombs” by using singular tactics, which are very difficult to measure, and imprudent because you only have one data point to work with. For example you can’t just jump on Facebook and expect it to be effective by itself, because it’s about developing and sustaining a relevant network on Facebook.  In addition, Patient behavior tells us that people will join relevant social networks, but will go to the group’s main website, and if that’s not up to par with their expectation, then they will do two things, leave your group, and not do business with you because of your website. So because your website does not speak appropriately to your market, you’ve rendered your social networking efforts useless,” Kasbo states. Kasbo maintains that although online communications are now making a greater impact, the right media mix also encompasses vital offline communications and strategies, including a move towards patient engagement, and away from stale advertising techniques.

“The benefits of engagement are two-fold,” says Kasbo. “While clients save money by spending it more wisely on business-driven, effective campaigns which allows healthcare providers to invest the savings towards patient care. This way you not only save the healthcare provider money, but perhaps improve the quality of healthcare for their patients as well.”

Cambridge MedCom develops personalized plans for each practice that integrate all aspects of online and offline communications. The vital media mix will lead towards strong, strategic campaigns in which each marketing tactic complements works within an integrated plan.

The company believes that their plans will help redirect the future of healthcare marketing to be more beneficial for the patient, and not just the business. Cambridge MedCom’s practice has proven effective in the case of a plastic surgeon that previously overspent on advertising. Using Cambridge MedCom’s plan, the company was able to cut costs by about 25%, increase his exposure through a tailored integrated plan of Web, social media, advertising, public relations and events. Cambridge MedCom was able to increase the doctor’s business by 12% while saving him approximately 25%.

Another individually tailored case involved a pain management practice whose campaign costs were cut by 1/3 and incorporated physician networking events to meet referring physicians. Kasbo points out that while the events required more effort than simply advertising, the return on investment was greater, thus driving the cost per effective impression down, and the return on investment up.

Plans developed by Cambridge MedCom begin with strategy as a foundation, and are supported by strong tactics. Cambridge MedCom firmly believes in this strategy-based model due to the truth that tactics are dispensable, while strategy is not.

NJBiz, a leading business publication serving New Jersey featured Verasoni’s Cambridge MedCom in an article Tited “Marketing Exec: Health care industry must get social to save money.


Perth Amboy, New Jersey. March 23, 2009. Raritan Bay Medical Center announced today a partnership with Verasoni Worldwide to expand its reach and brand on the web. Raritan Bay Medical Center is in the process of redesigning and reprogramming its website found at “We’re excited about working with Verasoni Worldwide on this initiative. We selected the firm because of their significant experience in healthcare, and their market leadership on the web,” said Lynette King Davis, Assistant VP, Marketing and Business Development.

“Healthcare is the number one searched category in the United States on the web, and with that as a backdrop, we’re pleased to partner with Raritan Bay Medical Center to extend the reach of their world class services. Our goal is to help the Raritan Bay Medical Center make stronger and more meaningful connections with patients, physicians and the community on the web,” said Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni Worldwide.

Raritan Bay Medical Center, a leading New Jersey hospital with campuses in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, is committed to providing excellence in service and quality healthcare to residents of Central Jersey. For more information, please visit,

Verasoni Worldwide,, is a fiercely independent, diversified strategic marketing and public relations firm with clients in healthcare, financial services, media, hospitality, and government services. Verasoni delivers innovative, integrated marketing and public relations strategies across traditional and new media platforms.


Fairfield, New Jersey.  March 10, 2009.  The Dental Studies Institute, a leading provider of continuing dental education, announced today the selection of Cambridge MedCom, Verasoni Worldwide’s Healthcare Division, as agency of record. Cambridge MedCom will be responsible for developing comprehensive marketing strategies, including the Institute’s online brand launch.  “We’re excited to be working with the people at Cambridge MedCom. It’s their depth of understanding and experience in both healthcare and the marketing worlds that made them an ideal marketing partner for us,” said Lois D’Apuzzo, Director of the Dental Studies Institute.

“The Dental Studies Institute has helped thousands of dental professionals over the years, and we’re excited about the opportunity to help build their brand on and off line.” said Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni Worldwide.

The mission of Dental Studies Institute is to provide high quality continuing education programs using the highest educational standards. The educational activities are designed to review existing concepts and techniques, to convey information beyond the basic education and to update knowledge on advances in the chosen profession. The objective is to improve the practitioner’s knowledge, skills and ability to serve the public.

Verasoni Worldwide is a fiercely independent, diversified strategic marketing and public relations firm with clients in healthcare, financial services, media, hospitality, and government services. Verasoni delivers innovative, integrated marketing and public relations strategies across traditional and new media platforms.

Cambridge MedCom’s web portal will launch at the end of March 2009.


By Abe Kasbo

Well this post has been a long time coming.  While the internet has sent the marketing communications world in one direction, it seems businesses are still looking around, wondering what to make of it and how to leverage it?  I’m not talking Coke, Sony, Pfizer, McDonald’s, AFLAC, or Fidelity.  I’m talking about businesses whose revenues may range from $5 million to let’s say a couple of billion in annual revenues, from banks, financial advisors, to small publishing houses, retail, manufacturers, and especially healthcare providers like hospitals and medical practices.  You may be thinking, “you’re joking…in this day and age?” I am very serious.

Just look around you, look online, look off line and anyone with an analytic eye (only one eye will do) can see the challenges for businesses around marketing and the web.Here’s the problem – it’s a behavior issue.  It seems that businesses who have had success with certain media tend to stay with  it regardless of the state of that media in the market place.  Staying with what works is fine, but you could be overpaying in one medium and loosing strategic opportunities in an another.  For example, we all know that newspaper advertising is down, and rates keep going up. Looking at history, we know that when radio became popular in the early 20th century, everyone called for the downfall of newspapers. Didn’t happen. TV came along, and the death of radio was loud.  Didn’t happen. And the internet is here and everyone is calling for the heads of newspapers, radio and TV. Probably – and yes I am hedging here – not going to happen. If believe that your business has been getting great results from your existing media mix, review and verify.  Look at the cost per effective impression and results.  Try to get a better gage on what your media is delivering.  Are you in a medium because that’s where most of your target audience is now?  Or are you there because you may think it makes sense because it’s worked in the past?  The old financial services statement, “past performance is not indicative of future results” applies here.  Run the numbers. 

This is not the time to put your marketing plan on cruise control, it’s too important for your competitive advantage.  We’ve got a week consumer market, a downward spiral of business to business sales and in this case, my belief is that the smartest, most strategic businesses will do OK now, and come out ahead when it’s all over.  All of this means that businesses must continuously understand the media market and it’s influence – positive or negative. Sounds fundamental, but there is so much turmoil in the media markets that is worth while taking time to understand them or engaging outside counsel with expertise…don’t hire people who are going to sell you stuff, hire a firm who will explain the current rocky media landscape and your business can best leverage it for the next 18 months.  Build your communications plan on that, and incorporate it into your marketing plan.   

by Abe Kasbo

[This article was published in Strategic Healthcare Marketing's May, 07 issue]

Yes, I am encouraging hospital CEOs and chief marketing officers to think inside the box to build successful marketing campaigns that positively contribute to their organization’s bottom line. Successful corporations tap this kind of thinking every day.

Anyone whose kept a keen eye on recent advertising and marketing trends fully recognizes that the increasingly potent cocktail of media fragmentation, greater advertising clutter, Internet influences, and subsequent consumer control over media has made creativity in reaching patients and physicians a hot commodity. I am not talking about creativity in the sense of creating branded or image ads. I am talking about implementing what some may consider being non-traditional marketing strategies that will drive your business and increase patient volume. To do that, you have to fully understand what’s inside your box.

Industries outside of health care have heeded the message, understanding that the advent of the Internet, mobile phone, and iPod has brought about fundamental changes in the way people consume and respond to media. The marketing heads of the world’s largest advertising powerhouses, such as Procter & Gamble and American Express, have recently demanded more accountability from their agencies, noting that traditional ad campaigns are simply not working to their satisfaction. Corporate marketers are no longer settling for great ads, logos, and tag lines. They are seeking a tangible return on investment through concerted campaigns that push the traditional bounds of advertising and marketing.

Indeed, what’s inside the box can drive volume and positively contribute to your bottom line. Here are some ideas to fuel your thinking:

Define the key elements of each service line in your hospital and their relationship to the overall market. Your marketing efforts must reflect your strategic plans and should focus on those services that provide your institution with the best opportunities to profitably grow patient volume in your primary and secondary markets. Prioritize your service lines with this objective in mind. Carefully researched and executed advertising should enhance your organization’s brand while it tells your market about your hospital’s unique and specific services.

Take a broad view of the market. Today, a variety of different types of providers from outpatient surgery centers to imaging facilities may be competing for patients in your primary and secondary markets. By recognizing these entities as competitors and understanding their services, you can more clearly define your offer and what sets your organization apart.

Give your brand away. This is what successful brands do every day. Google, Yahoo, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, and MySpace create communities of people who share a passion based on their experiences with the product or service. The company here is almost irrelevant; no one talks about the parent company of MySpace, News Corp. Community building, although non-traditional, is an activity that allows for more business growth potential than any other communications form.

You can build communities by looking inside, to the people whom you’ve successfully treated as well as loyal physicians and volunteers and bring them together around specific events and functions. Let’s say you have patients with a unique experience with your hospital and you know that there are people in the community who would benefit from the same service. Involve those patients in your community outreach plan, and if they agree, and usually they do, ask them to speak at events on behalf of your hospital. Perhaps you can also feature their stories on your Web site or through a blog.

Make every patient a spokesperson. Focusing on the experience rather than the transaction is a surefire way to get advocates in the community to rave about your hospital. In speaking with marketers, I find that while the “patient experience” is important to them, they tend to focus more on advertising. Without a doubt, the patient experience piece takes time and effort to develop because so much of it has to do with how everyone in the organization interacts with patients, physicians, and visitors. However, staff encounters, or touch points, with patients and others are an integral part of how your institution communicates its brand and is perceived by various constituents. Experience management requires leadership commitment to operational changes and investment in training and incentive programs.

Consider how much you spend on external versus internal advertising. Let’s say you spend $7,000 a month on image print ads. Are you getting a good return on the ads? Consider moving some of your budget to inside your building to build your brand in-house. I once worked at a large academic medical center where the lobby traffic averaged about 2,500 people per day and that didn’t include employees, now that’s measurable.

Embrace the Internet. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 93 percent of health seekers have gone online to look for information about a particular illness or condition. Your Web site is your key to solid connections with your community. Utilize search engine optimization and fill your site with appropriate clinical content and relevant service information. Position your Web presence as your community’s health care resource and communicate that consistently to your community. Make it easy to do business with your organization by including tools such as online bill payment and registration for elective procedures and diagnostic tests.

Your Web presence is a vital strategic and business development function that needs to be an essential part of your strategic planning. We are now in the pull media age, meaning that the consumer chooses what he or she will watch and see.

Tap appropriate social networking sites. If you have specialized services where people choose to travel for care, such as cardiac or bariatric surgery, tell the world. Some sites to consider:,,, and (for physicians only).

Know that your employees are your sales team. Yes, your physician relations department is also very important, but if your organization has 1,000 employees, then you have 1,000 sales representatives. Be sure that your employees know about the organization’s key services, physicians, what sets it apart from the competition, and other relevant information that will enable them to engage in positive word-of-mouth communications with friends, neighbors, and family members. If recipients of positive communications believe in the clinical excellence of your physicians and nurses, they will also utilize your services. Remember that people buy from people.

Your communication should be to the point and focus on the benefits. Use different formats and make them fun. Think way beyond employee newsletters to intranet quizzes, facility treasure hunts, electronic bulletin boards, and one-minute stand-up expert talks. And, be sure the workplace is highly regarded by employees and the community at large.

Stay focused. Just because the competition places an ad in your local newspaper doesn’t mean you have to respond in kind. Focus on your game plan and brand distribution strategies. An effective marketing and public relations plan is a disciplined one based on which service areas you want to grow in a given area. Diverging from the plan for emotional reasons is likely to take you off course and waste resources. Keep an eye on your competition and their campaigns, but do not feel you have to respond to one or two ads. Research tells us that frequency reigns in media campaigns and most likely a few ads will not sway the market.

Although exposure to the market via traditional communications efforts is vital, it is equally important to demand more creativity from your marketing strategists and ad agencies. This year and next portend a far different marketing universe than 2005 or even 2006. With the speed of technology adoption by consumers, who knows what the media outlook will be like in the next few years. Accordingly, hospital CEOs and marketers must also recognize these changes in the market and consumer behavior quickly in order to build market-driven strategic marketing plans.

By having a thorough understanding of your box and what’s in it, you can create meaningful campaigns, using the right mix of traditional and non-traditional tactics and brand distribution strategies, to drive volume and heighten patient and physician loyalty.

So the next time you’re working on your strategic marketing and public relations initiatives, look inside the box for non-traditional ideas that, if implemented correctly, can pay off in a big way

Abe Kasbo is the CEO of Verasoni Worldwide, a marketing and public relations firm in Montclair, NJ. Kasbo is also an adjunct instructor in health care management in the Graduate Department of Public and Healthcare Administration at Seton Hall University. He can be reached at