By: Abe Kasbo
The old English expression goes “may you live in interesting times.” Well, perhaps there’s never been more interesting times for hospital and healthcare marketers than right now. When thinking about how to efficiently and effectively advance his or her organizational business goals, the hospital CMO has more than enough to consider, including industry consolidation, downward budget pressures, the rise of urgent care centers, patient portals, accountable care organizations, media fragmentation and the social and digital enterprise. We believe the following are key business driven ideas to be considered by hospital CMOs as part of their integrated marketing strategies for 2015:
1. Be More Physician Relations Focused: Physician relations isn’t sexy or hip in the hospital marketing world. Actually, in many hospitals it’s a stand alone department with its own business objectives, staff and goals. Though we believe Hospitals who find synergy between marketing and physician relations as enterprises will be more efficient in the delivery of their message or the sale. At this time in the business life-cycle of the industry, good physician relations strategies can deliver more efficiently and effectively from a marketing perspective to an already cash strapped industry. The cost per customer acquisition for establishing a physician as a “customer” is far more efficient on a per impression and per dollar spent basis than traditional hospital, service line or brand marketing. Yes, it’s sales. Yes, its business. But hospital marketers must embrace physician relations as an important part of their integrated marketing strategies and as a business imperative today more than ever in order to advance their business agendas. With more consolidation, your hospitals physician enterprise will grow and hospitals need to think of how to cultivate those relationships for growth.
2. Your Social Enterprise is a Distraction and Inefficient: Refocus on Your Website – We are going to go on a limb and call organic social marketing for hospitals inconsistent at best and a failure at worst (wink, wink…while anecdotal evidence of social media success abounds in trade publications and should be celebrated, it’s hardly reliable). According to Forrester’s 2014 North American Consumer Technographics Customer Life Cycle Survey, “In fact, 45% of US adults stay in touch with the brands they like by visiting those brands websites, while just 16% stay in touch by visiting brand’s Facebook pages or becoming Facebook fans…” To be clear, there is lots of activity and hype in this sphere, but there is no credible evidence that organic social produces the same consistent results as traditional advertising. Social advertising, on the other hand, and its impact on hospitals is another matter, and we will discuss that in a later post. However, organic social platforms like Facebook and Twitter do offer opportunities to create “digital events” which can drive more engagement and offline PR which is more tangible, immediate and valuable to your integrated marketing strategies. But be careful where you drive engagement. Meaning, these campaigns should be carefully crafted to drive traffic to your website, and not to your social media pages since space in social is effectively “rented” by your organization. We’re big on ownership of our media and our audience. One of the more critical ways for hospitals to think about organic social is from a customer service perspective. Long a successful staple by industries such as retail, hospitality, airlines and others, hospitals can find delivering good customer service by say Twitter or Facebook as an excellent way to drive patient satisfaction and customer service. With proper policies, social customer service can easily be HIPAA compliant and implemented seamlessly across your organization.
3. Seek Value: Needless to say, hospital marketing budgets are not Coca Cola’s and hospital CMOs who face budget challenges must find new ways to extract value from their enterprise, including renegotiating media contracts for better terms, prices and value adds. You may be surprised to find just how much outlets are willing to deal! The fragmentation of media may be frustrating but also presents ample opportunities to redirect budget and leverage one media against another to grow your marketing footprint.
You may also consider managed marketing organizations to drive down the costs of human resources, administration, creative, media buy, web, events, PR and social. Managed marketing organizations have long been used in other industries and can deliver real value to your hospital’s bottom line and a more agile approach to your marketing enterprise. You negotiate one set and predictable fee for all of their services. The trick, as always, is to find a reliable partner, but they are out there.
And speaking of owning your media and your audience, patient portals are yet another place to gain value. Think of it as your very own private social network dedicated solely to your patients. While implementation and rollout may be at its infancy for some institutions, the marketing and promotional opportunities in that space could prove to be more than interesting.