What can your health care marketing and communication program accomplish now, soon, and later to build patient volumes and increase revenue?
By Jacquie Goodwill, APR V2V Advisor
There are lots of euphemisms to describe the philosophy behind Stand-Walk-Run. Who wants to eat the whole pie in one sitting? Why not eat it one slice at-at-time? The same is true for launching or re-launching your marketing communication platform. There are some who put every item into what Covey’s Four Quadrants referred to as the “Urgent and Important” category. To them, it’s as if their entire organizational platform is burning. That philosophy will cost you a LOT of time, effort, and money, and most likely burn up and burn out everyone on your team before the fruits of your efforts can be realized.
For health care industry leaders, especially hospitals and clinic networks, revving up the MarCom engine is the proverbial icing on the cake to a pretty sizable transformation of your business. True, you’ve put so much work into building, or rebuilding, your reputation. Your team has worked tirelessly on Quality initiatives (yes, with a capital Q). You’ve instituted patient communication and engagement programs that really move the dial on your satisfaction numbers. The stage is set for your re-introduction to the community.
You want it, when?
Not surprisingly, C-suite leaders want to realize near-immediate results. They figure that now is the time to apply all that work to stem outmigration, increase patient loads, census numbers, and, naturally, revenue. One CEO told me, “Nothing is more important than rebuilding our brand. That’s priority number one!” Okay, sure. He said this after having been without a marketing team for nearly four years. So, I asked him, “What are you planning to invest, this year, into brand advertising, marketing, and communication?”
His thoughts trailed off into the distance before speaking. “Well, we have set aside a pretty good budget…” And then he proceeded to share an amount that was, literally, one-fifth the amount needed to quickly resurrect a marketing communication program aimed at engaging and attracting patients, key community stakeholders, and employees.
So, how did I handle this situation? First and foremost, I respected that in his mind’s eye, this was a significant investment in a long line of other, critical, deposits to ensure the turnaround of his health care business. Second, I asked him to share with me what he felt were the most important things he’d done over the past four years to maintain communication with each of their audiences and stakeholders. Third, I sat back and listened, closely, as he shared the heartfelt work that he personally led while the organization was without a marketing communication team. And, I learned a lot.
Focus on what is right before you, before doing anything else.
So, how did the conversation go? I learned what to focus on, first. We turned our attention to harnessing those communication vehicles that were already in place, such as the Intranet, and our email communication to employees, retirees, volunteers, and donors. Following that, we updated our website and gained back control of our social media sites so we could expand our story to prospective patients. After that we dusted off our Consumer/Patient Relationship Management (CRM/PRM) system, and invited people to consider our health care business, rather than traveling miles away. We also served as the in-house physician recruitment ad agency, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and recruiting dozens of primary and specialty providers for the organization.
These investments were relatively inexpensive, and garnered the participation of just about everyone in the organization. Our team got involved in writing, producing, and delivering some pretty great stories about the quality of our daily work and our patient satisfaction. The Stand-Walk-Run approach categorizes and prioritizes the specific tactics of your annual strategy. Its premise is to first harness what is already in place and what the organization can stand up, now, before investing into other things.
Build momentum for compound Success
After we became ADEPT℠ at these activities, we turned our attention to expanding the scope of our marketing communication work. To that end, we asked ourselves, now what? What can we do now that these specific tools are working well? And, when your marketing communication engine is running at full steam, what can you accomplish, later? To that end, a few months down the road we took advantage of the opportunity to allow our governing bodies to vouch for us, following successful inspections, awards, and other recognition events for our turnaround work. In what seemed like just a moment, we turned things around, increased patient volumes, hired physicians, new employees, increased revenue and, yes, profitability.
So, the next time you are pitched a big advertising or marketing blitz, ask yourself to take a deep breath. What can you do, now? What will be readily apparent to do, soon? And, later, when those activities are running at peak performance, what can you do, later? The answers to these three questions will help form the core to your results-focused annual or biennial Marketing Communication plan. Are you ready? We can help you tell your story, turnaround your brand reputation, and give you a Distinct Advantage℠ in your health care business.