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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

10 Essential Steps for Provider Marketing to Create Effective Email Engagement

Email

I can see your eyes glaze over.  And I can hear the chorus of but…but…HIPAA says we can’t do that, which is just nonsense. If understood correctly, a hospital can manage the marketing of clinical services with cost efficiency and effectiveness and handle the engagement or experience for the provider. It’s cost effective and efficient with an ROI that is over 4,200 percent.

From providing useful and relevant information, wellness programs like webinars and marketing hospital outpatient as well as inpatient clinical services, it’s one of the few mechanisms that hospitals can control in the market.  It’s a marketing tool to build brand loyalty, enhance the experience, and engage while driving growth and revenue.

For example, a clueless hospital system.

The hospital system that is the network in my insurance plan has never once engaged me in an email, social media or any other inbound tactic to engage and manage the healthcare consumer or patient experience. Even though I have used them, as well as my wife and family, the system has no clue regarding me or who we are as a family.  The provider system still focuses entirely on interruptive outbound mass marketing with the non-targeted shouting look at us making baseless claims, and non-needed services marketing like ads, and radio commercials all the while opening brick and mortar facilities in areas that over saturated and where the population is already existing primary care physician relationships.

But then, I do everything possible in my power to use more cost-efficient and higher quality providers that are far more convenient, cost-effective and provide a better quality experience to me that any system hospital-based services.

Don’t you think the system might want to engage me?

Better than outbound interruptive marketing where your messages are simply broadcast to the widest possible audience in the hopes that someone will respond, email can be a part of your inbound hospital marketing program.

But it just not a mail merge program to put a name at the topAnd it’s not buying an email list either. 

A word of caution is in order. Never buy an email list.  These people have not consented to receive an email from you.  Purchased lists damage the brand for that matter, end up in the junk folder or marked as spam. At some point in time, the Internet Service Providers will flag your emails as spam, impacting your ability to send emails.  

And emails marked as spam and unopened will eventually affect the deliverability of the email.

And I know a few who think that by asking people to whitelist their email address, that will solve the problem. A temporary fix at best, they need to repair the content, design, and CTAs to make them more responsive to the receiver.

There are plenty of touch-points in the hospital experience that can be used to obtain their email address and have the healthcare consumer or patient opt-in to receiving emails.

What next?

In the interest of blog readability, I won’t go into all the detail of how to create a successful healthcare hospital email program.  But what I will do is provide some useful tips for creating an engaging email and email program.

10 Steps to start the journey to an engaging email program.

1.       Start with a primary goal. Deliveries, clicks, and opens are metrics, not goals.   What do you want the email to accomplish? Send someone to their patient portal? Attend a wellness webinar?  Download some useful information? Attend a wellness program? Make the goal measurable.
2.       Write the copy. One of the few controllable factors in an email by the marketer is the copy. But structure and design are crucial, and it doesn’t matter how great the copy is if the design is all wrong. Every point of text should support the goal.
3.       Write for scan-ability. Use the right tone. Personalize when appropriate. Proof read, proof read and then proofread some more.
4.       Use the inverted pyramid structure to - grab attention, build anticipation, call-to-action.
5.       Have only one call-to-action (CTA).  You may have several links in an email, but each link must lead to where you want the reader to go.  Multiple CTAs confuse the reader and result in inaction.  But in case you just can’t help yourself with multiple CTAs stack your content.  In the event of emails, the choice is not okay. The only difference is a newsletter, but that is a subject for another time.
6.       Design creates a consistent user experience for everyone who receives your email. The design also helps to remove the friction in delivering your email. You have the opportunity to leverage branding and recognition to capture the reader’s attention. Use headers and sub-headers, font bolding, italics, numbers or colored text, but do not underline.  Be deliberate about the top 25 percent of your content.
7.       Reduce information density and add white space.  White space is good. Use a single column layout.
8.       Email design and web design are different. While there are only a few common web browsers, there are thousands of email clients. Each email client will render your email differently. Make sure you provide a link to an online version.  600 pixels is the ideal width. Stay away from HTML/CSS-based positioning and stick to table-structured positioning.  Add alt text to your images. Avoid creating emails as a single image and don’t use background images. Remember to define the width and height of your images. Oh and don’t use multiple images.  I know people say that they like images, but the data proves otherwise. The more images you have in an email, the fewer opens and clicks.  This one does not design around what the consumer says, but a design based on what the data shows how they act.
9.       Now really pay attention here. Create the email for mobile.  That’s right design it for mobile.  Here’s why: 54 percent of emails are viewed and opened on mobile; 81 percent of smartphone users say reading email is an activity that they use mobile for the most, and 41 percent say they want emails readable on mobile devices. (Source: Experian, OFOMC4, DMA) Think about how you use your smartphone. Looking at emails between meetings or a restaurant etc. people may not always be sitting behind desktops all day either.  Less is more and designing your email for mobile as it makes you explain the idea with greater clarity and gets you to the point faster.
10.   Use mobile-friendly templates.  The call-to-action should be above the fold; Navigation goes in the footer. User 14 point type. The call-to-action should be 44 by 44 pixels.

There is a lot here in creating a successful inbound email marketing campaign. But this is a good start.  If anything, it may give the system pause and hopefully reconsider its been doing for the last 20 years or so.

Oh, and don’t forget the marketing automation system like Eloqua or Marketo for example.  Without it, your email marketing will fail.

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, April 16, 2017

14 Steps for Crisis Communications in an Age of Social Media & Customers as the Paparazzi

I am not going to pile on United, though they have had a bad few weeks with two full-blown public relations crisis’s in social media in the last three weeks.  But it does make one wonder if United has any capacity to learn from their mistakes given the flow of events and missteps of the past few days.

Are you paying attention?

If companies are not paying attention, especially hospital and health systems, on how the public is the paparazzi, then they can expect sooner rather than later,  that they will experience a meltdown of the provider brand and reputation through their carelessness and folly.

What happens when the social media channel turns bad on the hospital or health system?

Conventional wisdom used to say that a public relations crisis were a three-day story. Ten years ago that was the case.  Today, however, it’s a different story with social media, Facebook live and any of the other distribution channels now available.  Before, a PR crisis could be contained locally or regionally. Now with live video and social media streaming, it can become a global crisis in a mere matter of minutes.



I am not minimizing in any fashion the seriousness of what is taking place. It’s to get one’s attention. Sometimes it becomes way too easy to panic. And that needs to be avoided at all costs. Just ask United.

Take these steps to mitigate the social media communications crisis to protect the brand and organizational reputation. Many of the steps are parallel and not sequential.

The 14 steps for a public relations crisis driven by the consumer paparazzi and social media:

1.)    Do treat this as a communications failure and have a social media crisis communications plan already in place. 
2.)    Care, concern, and compassion still rule the message and the days that follow. 
3.)    Don’t jump right to the “we followed policy and staff acted appropriately.”  That makes you tone deaf and unresponsive. Plus those kinds of remarks will just further add more combustible fuel to the raging fire. 
4.)    Don’t change your message or position every day. You will look foolish and unprepared. 
5.)    Understand what happened and why. 
6.)     Identify who the influencers will be to add voice and impact the conversation. 
7.)    Actively monitor your online reputation. 
8.)    Avoid the informational black hole.  Be ready with appropriate information and press statements.  You can’t hold a news conference every time you want to say something. 
9.)    Have social media appropriate messaging that is clear and concise.
10.) Integrate your response across all social media activities. Remember that some reporters use Twitter as a basis for information and facts without verifying the authenticity of the information. 
11.) If the organization blew it, take ownership.  No excuses, the appearances of excuses or rude behavior are allowed.  Social media users are a pretty savvy group and will see right through it. It will only make matters worse.  
12.) Integrate paid and earned media.  
13.) Have clear rules of social media engagement by employees.   
14.)  Don’t forget to use your staff and their access to social media and how they can influence the conversation.  Employees are your secret weapon in this battle.

And lastly, learn from United. Hundreds of millions of dollars in lost equity and capitalization with a negative brand reputation that will take years to recover. Here is hoping that a social media crisis never comes to your doorstep.

But you can always call me when it does. Have the checkbook ready too
.
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, April 2, 2017

Has Influencer Marketing’s Time Arrived for Providers?

Influencer marketing is generating a lot of attention.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of activity but the little strategy behind the marketing. Oh, and let me be clear before going much further,  that I do not mean hiring celebrities to be the spokesperson for the providers B2C marketing.

Hiring a celebrity to be the spokesperson the hospital or health system can be an expensive and risky proposition. Not everyone in the entertainment segment or sport they represent may have a large enough following in your market.

What is influencer marketing?

Simply put, a person of influence can effect action.  Fans, friends, and followers are meaningless; it’s not about going after the most famous person. It’s about finding the influencer who can best move your audience to take action that brings benefit to you and them.  An influencer may be an industry expert. It may be someone internally. 

Think of influencer marketing as a relationship that co-creates meaningful content within a strategic marketing plan with defined goals that is measurable. Influencer marketing is not creating isolated pieces of content or campaigns. You want to build respective value beyond compensation.

Influencer marketing missteps to avoid.

There has been a limited effort to date on providers part in using influencer marketing. But from what I have seen, here are five things to avoid.  

1.       One-off campaigns: Using influencers once then abandoning the effort only to start again does little to change or influence the potential healthcare consumer. You must aim for sustainability. 
2.       Don’t focus on celebrities. Stars granted have a broad audience, but they are hard to reach, expensive to activate and may not be the most relevant. 
3.       Using Influence marketing for ads only: Sure the endorsement looks great in the ad, and it makes the board and doctors happy. But, is that driving the healthcare consumer to you? Doubtful. You need to co-create content and let the influencer step out and work on your behalf. 
4.       Pay-to-Play: I am not saying that you should not pay influencers. But what I am saying is that if the only value exchange between you and the influencer is cash, and you are not co-creating great content; then there is no mutual benefit. The benefit is one-sided, theirs. 
5.       Not measuring the right metrics: You can measure the business value of influencer marketing, not just social media engagements and brand lift. Start with the right goals and metrics to measure these aims.

What you need to in influencer marketing. 

1.       Have an adequate budget. It’s important to understand the opportunity for return on investment. What does it cost to implement the program measured against the cost of losing access to the top influencers in your market when the competition gets there first.  Think about it as a program, not unique projects. Long-term relationships create the most value for your spend. 
2.       Follow the insight.  That means doing your market research to understand the hospitals market and identify those influencers who can affect change and move the market. Don’t guess, know. 
3.       Identify the top influencer marketing goals. The influencer marketing program is about ROI, not brand lift and awareness. Make sure your goals and the influencers goals are in alignment. 
4.       Identify what areas are most impacted by influencer marketing. Social media marketing and content marketing are your best areas. Remember that social media is a baseline. Look to your make your program highly integrated across the organization and commercialization channels. The healthcare consumer is omnichannel which means that your influencer marketing needs to be omnichannel as well.

It is easy to get started in influencer marketing. From those first steps, you can grow your efforts in creating a sustainable long-term program built on relationships and moving markets.

Remember influencer marketing is additive, not exclusive, and long-term not short-term.
Influencer marketing’s time has come for providers, but it’s not celebrity driven, and one-off campaigns.  It’s about long-term beneficial relationships that create value for sustained success.

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.