Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Consumers Buying Journey & Hospitals, the Marketing Starting Point

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

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

 Customer Buyer Journey

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

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

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

What is the change that is required?

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

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

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

Next steps

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What is wrong with this health systems marketing?

And it’s not a quiz either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not that hard.

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

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

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

Can you hear the healthcare consumer now?

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


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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ten Steps to Make Hospital Marketing Sticker.

With all the things that hospital leadership and healthcare marketing executives have on their plates and keeping them up at night, here’s a new one.  And unfortunately, it’s out of one’s control, and no exceptions are allowed.

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

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

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

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

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

Now what?

Time for a change.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, May 15, 2017

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

Do you know who your patient hospital brand, evangelists are? I ask this question for a critical reason.  In an age of little provider differentiation in the actual retail medical marketplace with me too messaging, how is a healthcare consumer to make a choice?

Now that being said, I realize that many a health care leader will dispute the above statement.  But the fact is is that there is little if any messaging differentiation.  I knew as I was there too but made a conscious effort to move away from the “me too” messaging. And that was in the early 2000s.

So where am I going with this?

Consumers are demanding price and quality transparency. 

Maybe in reality what they want is more cost certainty and knowing what the value is they are receiving for the dollar paid?  But few in hospitals or health systems are listening to the needs and demands of the healthcare consumer. Then they howl loudly than a third party releases data that is publically available on the hospitals or health systems prices and quality.

Consumers of healthcare are shopping.

Consumers are now paying one-third of the cost of care out of pocket.

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

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

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

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

Let me give you an example. When at the multihospital health system, I developed The Third Opinion Oncology campaign.  Upon an individual receiving a cancer diagnosis, the next step is the second medical opinion.  But we found that there was a third phase. The patient then talks to everyone and anyone that went through that cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Instead of going to the market with a look at our great oncologists, technology, expertise and it’s all about you messaging we went in a very different direction. The campaign focused on three individuals along common cancer diagnoses of breast, colon, and prostate. By the way, it was hard to find those three brand evangelists. That tells one a lot about the hospital brand and experience too.

The simple message-  “Ask me how I beat breast cancer,”  Jane@hosptial.org with a professional photo of the individual, email, print, billboard and direct mail. Calls and emails went to my RN based call center. Before the campaign launch, a detailed Q&A was developed and conducted with the three individuals, clinicians and oncologists to identify the type of questions they had and the answers.  When a question came in that, we did not have any answer for we went back to the individuals and clinicians for a reply.

The entire campaign pulled the consumer to the hospital, pushed through to the oncologist, then pulled the oncologist to the hospital.

I did not message quality, technology, drugs, surgery; we care about you or anything else. I didn't say best and brightest; it’s all about you, or we are the only choices. Those are arrogant and pejorative vague claims that are indefensible. One message that was clear and unambiguous offer a solution to a serious medical situation bu providing alternatives and choices by clearly answering health-related consumer questions that are life and death in nature.

Use of a patient brand evangelist clearly differentiated the systems oncology services and established a position in the market that no other provider could claim.  The campaign drove appropriate utilization, built the oncologist practices and increased hospital revenue, market share and brand awareness.

And all of that was before a change in the market that is becoming retail medical in nature.  Today the stake are even higher, and the hospital or health system brand needs to mean more than ever.

The hospital of 2017  operates in a market that is more value and risk than fee-for-service. And where the consumer has a growing portion of the expense and choice of providers brand and value is everything.

Changing your marketing today from ambiguous we are all the same features and benefits marketing to patient brand evangelists and solutions marketing, will set one up for success whatever the payment system is.  A strong established brand will be in narrow networks, the provider of choice in consumer-driven exchange plans and the dominant provider in the market.

What one does today in creating an indelible hospital or system brand will impact tomorrow's the growth, revenue, and profitability.

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

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

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