Thursday, December 31, 2009
Assuming healthcare legislation will pass in early 2010, its time for healthcare systems to start thinking and learning about demand management.
Not the generating type of demand for services, but managing the demand that will naturally come from 31 million plus people suddenly having access to health insurance and healthcare services. Granted, the reforms will phase in over the next few year until 2014, when the healthcare reform actions will be fully in place. The coming demand for services will be unprecedented. And the current configuration of the healthcare system across the country for care delivery is not ready. Not ready at all.
Hospital beds taken out-of-service over the years. ERs strained from over utilization; lack of nurses and primary care physicians; this is a marketers dream. Maybe not to the CEOs and COOs out there, but you have an underutilized asset. That's assuming of course that you do have marketers in your organization and not just people doing stuff and making pretty brochures. If you don't you're in trouble.
Marketers can play an important part in this generational transformation process. It's time to step up and step forward and lead a transformation in healthcare marketing that is long overdue.
Running an advertisement attempting to generate demand for a services is not the same as understanding local market forces at play and how much potential demand exists for services in your community. The healthcare consumer is becoming more mobile than at any other time in the history of healthcare. Choice, convenience and access. Can you meet those needs?
The Walgreens, CVS and Walmarts of the world already understand this and with retail clinics, home care and ambulatory infusion centers they are already well positioned to take advantage of all that new demand that will be coming on-line. That's your business and they will do it faster, cheaper and with better customer service.
It all about managing demand, customer service, and the right mix of docs and services. Otherwise, long wait times for care and procedures, poor customer services and patients choosing to go where they can obtain needed care.
A mobile healthcare consumer. A hospital and doctors worst nightmare. Unless of course you can manage demand and deliver exceptional customer service.
With change come opportunity. Hopefully you won't lose that opportunity.
Happy New Year everyone, 2010 is going to be something.
I can be reached at 815-293-1471 for strategic healthcare marketing consulting services.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In one slide they presented what really summed up for me what most healthcare marketing is like. And I wish I had thought of it; which bring us back to the original question. Are you working in a HiPPO marketing environment?
Yes HiPPO! It was a moment in time where it all fell together. No marketing science, no qualitative understanding of markets, just opinion, hearsay and flavor of the day from reading an article someplace or seeing an advertisement. No primary or secondary market research or understanding customer needs except in the most superficial level. One maybe two people say something and then it’s the whole universe acts that way. I am the highest paid person here…. so go do this. A competitor does this, so you do this. I have made up my mind because I believe this to be true and I am the insert title here- CEO - EVP - VP etc.
An interesting concept that’s easy for you to determine if you too work in a HiPPO marketing environment. Take a step back and look at your healthcare company. When you do that the choices become really clear if you want to succeed.
My read on this….
A HiPPO organization will never reach its full potential and is characterized by a lack of sustainable mission, vision and values, short attention span, constantly shifting plans and priorities, inability to execute operationally, constant crisis and chaos and lacks a formal integrated planning process. Communication is poor interdepartmentally and marketing is seen as doing “stuff”. Proposed marketing solutions are seen an “elegant” and not as the right way to build revenue and brand because they aren’t expedient. It’s all about the HiPPO and what they believe regardless of any lack of foundation in reality.
I do think my time for change has come.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
A broad question which is really more than just a simple yes or no. And I for one, really don't know if an answer is possible due to the complexity of the question. Here's why......
A couple of weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with the CEO of a hospital regarding a Vice President of Marketing position, or was it Director? They hadn't quit made up their minds and advertised it as Vice President while their web site indicated Vice President/Director, the HR person said Director while the CEO never committed. Just a few red flags.
Another red flag was that the hospital set-up the interview for a specific time and they would call. The day came and yes they called.... 10 minutes late. No apology, no explanation, no initial courtesy to extend any kind of acknowledgement that my time was as equally as valuable as theirs.
The CEO and the Director of HR on one end of the phone and me on the other. The HR person never said a word the entire time. The CEO did all the talking. Another red flag.
We covered the usual questions. He really had not read my resume or application like he stated he did. When referencing some of the resume, he was a surprised oh really.... another red flag.
Then came the clincher. What do you do best Michael? Is it research? Design ads? Write copy? What do you.. do best?
My answer was marketing strategy and leadership. Well, it sure became quite. A buzz kill if there ever was one. That was not what the CEO was looking for. I explained that tactics are easy, strategy is hard. Marketing strategy is a coming together of critical key organizational leadership - senior management; Board of Directors; and physicians. Marketing strategy is built upon the business plan, financial plan and strategic plan of the hospital. Marketing leadership motivates, inspires excellence, rewards individual accomplishment, builds teams, doesn't care who gets the credit and grows the entire organization, not just a department. Marketing sits at the leadership table.
The concepts were foreign. Marketing to this CEO was ads, copy and stuff. Not leadership, not direction, just him telling you what to do and when to do it. Marketing does not sit at his leadership table.
By this time, I had lost any interest in the position.
Unfortunately, this type of story is replayed day-in and day-out around the country. Marketing does not sit at the senior leadership table. Marketing is seen as stuff. Marketing is not integrated into the culture and values of the organization. Hospitals, even after the advent of DRGs in 1983, still don't get marketing.
And I have been on both sides- for-profit healthcare GPO, international, medical device and pharmaceuticals and not-for-profit hospitals, integrated multi-state, multi-hospital health systems and nursing homes with some very important learning's.
Being in the for-profit world now, marketing strategy, leadership and execution is everything, not just "stuff".
Marketing leadership and strategy in the hospital segment of the healthcare industry is in deep trouble. A lot of that is due to the ego driven persona's of senior management, insular cultures divorced from the real-world and organizational arrogance because they are a "not-for-profit" "doing good things" so that means they can do whatever they want, as well as blame everyone else for the state-of-the-industry. It is also complicated by a lack of marketing knowledge. As the old saying goes, "you don't know what you don't know".
And with healthcare reform on the horizon, marketing leadership, strategy and execution will be needed more than ever.
Look around, for-profit companies are already at the fringes of the hospital world and making headway all of the time. Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and others play for keeps. The recognize a need, build a program and execute. They are not going away like some of my colleagues have expressed. They have plans laid for areas and stand to benefit from them financially while improving care and customer service at you and your physician's expense. Retail clinics, infusion centers, home health care is just the beginning.
Your future is not as bright as you may think it is. Time to get your marketing strategy and leadership act together. Your future depends on it.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Sterling Report
CMO Spotlight: Interview with Edward Vesely
Though there are many great examples of healthcare meaning hospital, health system and physician marketing across the country, it seems that these are far and few in-between. This is a shame really because of all the talented marketers that are in the industry. More often than not, we let well meaning individuals who in the end have not formal training or clear understanding of marketing to hold sway over the direction.
Now let me be perfectly clear so there is no misunderstanding, I do understand the sway that CEOs, docs and VPs hold over marketing. At the end of the day, he or she that signs the check wins, right or wrong. And there is way too much of that in healthcare marketing. Been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt.
So how do you exercise marketing leadership in that kind of environment? It takes a willingness to be brave. To exercise leadership. Not in the sense of throwing yourself into the fire, but by understanding the needs, politics and marketing understanding of the key decision makers.
Here are some questions for your consideration and thoughtful reflection:
As healthcare marketers we need to look in the mirror and ask have I done everything possible to create an understanding of marketing?
Have I ensured that the marketing plan is in full alignment with the strategic and business plan of the organization?
When I suggest a strategy or tactic have I communicated as best one can what the return on investment is?
Do in engage leadership in a discussion of the why of a strategy?
Have I been thinking strategically and not confusing tactics with strategy?
Have I reached out to key leaders and department heads when building the annual marketing plan for their input?
Do I understand the goals and objectives of key departments?
Have I been visible in the organization as the “go-to” marketing expert?
Have I allowed myself to be an order taker producing lots of “stuff”?
Am I the organizational brand champion?
Am I willing to change and exercise leadership?
Am I willing to try new methods, learn about new marketing developments and tools as well as as apply them?
Am I willing to stop doing things the same old way with the same old result?
Does your organization respect what you do?
The list can go on of course, but you get the idea. In a world of immediate gratification, lack of focus and favor of the day, a marketing executive’s tenure has dropped from 3 years to 12 to 18 months. With such a short time horizon, you might as well lead and know no matter what the outcome is you gave it your best effort. Otherwise it’s a disservice to you, the company and those that depend on you for leadership.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Happy reading it if you really care about what is going on.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Its back-to-school time again, so everyone in their brother is touting those specials for school and sports physicals in various ads or direct mail pieces. Same day, next day, comprehensive, call for an appointment or just walk in.
Multi-specialty group practices, hospital ambulatory centers, solo practitioners and retail clinics are all offering the same essential service.
What caught my attention were three ads in the local paper from three different channels for these services in the market. It raised the question is anyone paying attention to their advertising message and how it compares to what can be viewed as competitors?
The multi-specialty ad - same day but you had to call for an appointment and gave no price but mentioned pediatricians implying a doctor will see you. The hospital ad - call first for a next day appointment, take advantage of our discounts, offer ends soon and gave a price. The retail clinic ad - same day, just stop by and gave a lower price. Thankfully, three very different choices for a consumer to make an initial decision to explore a purchase based on need.
The Group Practice:
If I am already a patient of the multi-specially group and have physician, I will probably call them and have insurance pay for it except for my co-pay. If I am uninsured or don’t have a doctor, I won’t go there because I won’t be able to afford the cost of care or they may not be part of my plan. The group practice will get existing patients which could have been reached more economically, personally and less mass marketing focused.
One-half page ad, lots of small copy in a gray scale box in a generally dark black and white ad with imagery of two kids doing cartwheels in yard. The imagery kind of works, but the gray scale, dark ad with too much copy makes it difficult to view. A total of 88 words. Consumers move right on buy.
The Hospital Owned Clinic:
What is convenient about calling for an appointment for the next day, seeing a price and being told there are discounts all in the same body copy? Is that the right price quoted or will it be cheaper because of discounts? Not clear- one or the other, give the lowest price or take the discount statement out, it only confuses people. Teeny tiny small print- payment due at time of service, immunizations not included.
I can see lots of copy in an ad with 124 words, three headlines and some bolded words, 4 column inches across top to bottom on the page, full color. Note to designers bolding words in copy is like shouting at someone. Not a good thing.
And contrary to what the CEO thinks, you are not differentiating yourself from anybody else because you bolded a couple of words.
How’s this for imagery, a nurse examining a kid with gloves on, holding an instrument to examine ears while looking at the camera and not the patient, photo-shopped into an in-ground outdoor pool setting. What is wrong with that picture?
Too confusing, too may messages, too much information for a really simple topic. Neither affordable nor convenient.
The Retail Clinic:
Price first, $30 think us. Smart, affordable choice. Right now and all year long. Just stop by for convenient…. A total of 56 words to get a clean, clear actionable message out. And setting up the opportunity for future service if not now then later we are always here. The ad is three column inches across, in a three color format, top to bottom on the page.
The ad speaks for itself.
Keep the doctors and CEOs out of the ad design and development.
Focus your message for a simple service.
Be aware of your target audiences needs and provide a solution.
Understand the price point.
Stop messaging that it is all about us and not about you.
Be a provider of solutions.
Think about the future and what a good customer experience from a simple service can bring to you.
Because when it comes down to a simple service that almost anyone can do, it becomes a commodity and is purchased on convenience and price.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Quick, what is the fastest way for you to build your brand in the community? Well, besides providing outstanding patient service and support, high quality care and so forth.
Try proactive media relations!
Each morning, someone in the marketing department should be scanning the newspapers, news wires such as the PR Newswire and the Business News Wire and other media outlets to see the hot healthcare topic of the day. Once identified, look to your medical staff or your internal employees to see if you have any content experts. Find the angle about why this is important. Develop some materials such as a news release or statement, get some times the physician or hospital spokesperson is available and pitch them to the media. Put the materials on your web site. Use the news wires for a regional release.
It's all about speed, reaction and first to the media.
It's summer and that means a slow news period!
Two articles in the WSJ today worth commenting on. Outpatient surgery in the docs office and bad outcomes including death, and ten things you need to know about healthcare reform. Have any good quality examples of your docs performing outpatient surgery in their offices? What is your position on healthcare reform?
Sweeps month is coming up, never to earlier to establish your organization as the go-to content experts. Especially when it is a slow news day.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
What does that mean healthcare providers?
Watch the battle closely, you will have to choose.
What to do.
LEVERAGE, LEVERAGE, LEVERAGE...
Marketing departments should be working with senior leadership and in their communities to get a pulse from all constituent groups, not just favorites on the topic of healthcare reform.
As issues develop create media statements for local press on why you do or do not support.
Consider offering your facility as a town hall meeting place.
Find out where your docs are at. Help them understand the issues and develop PR/Media kits for them to use.
Consider web site updates and links to various organizations.
Become the local expert source for commentary and opinion.
Get leadership up to speed and in an Executive Speaker's bureau on the topic.
Move fast. Be proactive . Define your usefulness in this process.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Okay, who is kidding whom? Pharma gives up $80 billion for healthcare reform for Medicare Part D. Hospitals get on the bandwagon and give up $155 billion in Medicare funding. Total savings $235 billion. Is it real savings or just slowing the growth? Medicare and Medicaid programs are never really cut, just the rate of spending growth slows.
Its just the gov doing their own cost shift dance. You, me, we all pay for these "savings".
Biologic drugs for diseases under reform?
Pharma now wants legislation passed giving them a 13 year exclusivity on biologically derived drugs before biosimilar generics can be introduced. Granted they are complicated and expensive to produce, but really, 13 years to recover costs? Nonsense! I say 6-7 years max and then bring on the generics. Its not reform, just the same old game with different clothes.
Hospital marketing departments, time to tack action!
So hospital marketing and pr departments, what are you doing to drive change in your strategy and tactics to be ready for the new healthcare environment? If you haven't started already, you are behind the eight-ball.
Hint......Focus on PR and media relations. Money well spent and you can produce an ROI. Stop the silly ads.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
They have never done a direct mail campaign, print or electronic media advertisements or any other traditional types of marketing.
Yet everyone knows who they are and what to expect in the way of customer service and quality.
So Quality + Reputation + PR = Success. So on a local level, why do hospitals spend endless dollars on misleading ads and claims when the answer to market success lies before their very feet?
Monday, July 6, 2009
Its hard to exit programs and services. I have been saying for years that hospitals can not be all things to all people anymore. That means hard choices. It also means a de-marketing program for all those classes of trade that you exit from.
It will require organizational strategic planning, a willingness to tackle the scared cows, close collaboration with your physicians, intense internal communications and a solid de-marketing and communication plan to sell it to the community.
You will be required to collaborate with your competition. Hard to admit you can't do all things well. If you want to survive, you have too.
Find the expertise to assist you along. De-marketing is an area where hospitals have little experience.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Next year how about your healthcare organization producing some video release of with docs explaining what happens when a firecracker goes off in your hand. Use a crash test dummy. Great visual for media. Put it on your favorite public access channel too. At the very least place it on your web site.
Hospital pay raises
I know lots of people who are not getting raises in hospitals this year. But somehow there is always money for the CEO and senior team for a job poorly done. Can you say like, do the right thing and not accept a raise?
Time for a new marketing book
Your marketing is making you look stupid. How is that for a title? Starting on the next great healthcare marketing book and consulting tour. Its time for the industry to wake up and do it right before healthcare reform comes along and the playing field is leveled. How do you spell differentiation?
Speaking of healthcare reform... any clue on how you attract those individuals who can afford to pay privately and not wait in line for service? The next real battleground for revenue.
If you don't think there will be long lines and wait lists, just think about all those hospitals beds taken out of service when 47 million suddenly get access. Can you say, beds in the hallway?
Big insurance is in trouble and facing national healthcare on some level. Why should an employer pay outrageous premiums when they may have the possibility to opt into a government program. The financial analysts, Wall Street and investors will hate that. Too bad you already made your money.
Be a tax-exempt organization, you can behave just like a for-profit and not have to pay taxes. Pretty good deal
LinkedIn, facebook , twitter
If so inclined, you can follow me on LinkedIn, facebook and twitter now too!
Happy 4th of July everyone.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
With the media creating a panic about swine flu and the chances of a worldwide pandemic, now is the time for the healthcare system to step forward.
Get those PR and Marketing departments off their chairs and into the media, on your web site and into community with health, prevention and treatment options on the swine flu. Leverage the opportunity to do some good for a change instead of waiting for things to happen.
Okay, free consulting follows:
- First, get your docs together in rapid order and get them on board.
- Second, link your web site to the CDC, WHO, etc., and make a big deal out of it.
- Third, prepare some material for distribution in the community. i.e., grammar schools, high schools, private grade schools, senior centers, community groups, local employers etc., and such with tips and ideas for prevention, health information etal. That is what you do!
- Four, write a series of press releases and get them out to the local media and position a doc or docs from your medical staff as the content experts. Arrange some media interviews.
- Five, establish your hospital or health system as the "go-to" information source.
- Six, run some informational public service newspaper ads.
- Seven, write and distribute some PSAs for newspapers and broadcast media, don't forget local cable.
- Eight, get your docs into the community and speaking.
- Nine, be transparent and explain how you will handle a swine flu outbreak in your community.
- Ten, start over repeating steps one to nine again and again and again.
CEOs repeat after me, I will take advantage of opportunities such as this for the greater good of my community.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Ever think about it? Healthcare is built for a tie. Throughout the industry no one can ever get a competitive leg up. We all have the same managed care contracts, similar programs and services, even our docs go to a group of hospitals. So, in a commodity market environment, which healthcare is, and price is becoming king, how can anyone expect anything less than a tie? You can not be a clear winner, you can not dominate your market, you can not keep out new entrants. Okay, maybe for a short while but not indefinitely. Tie score, 7-7, "same ol same ol" across organizations and it may not change anytime soon. We all do the same things.
Breaking the tie
The only way you can break a tie is with your people. That's right, your employees. They make the difference and set you apart from the field. In a zero sum game where the truth be told, no one can really define service and quality, people make the difference. That is what doctors and patients will remember. That is how you can gain an advantage, that is part of the road to prosperity as an organization. Train them and get them into the community with presentations.
And oh by the way, there should not be a single presentation that anyone gives from the CEO on down that is over six slides. If you can't deliver a presentation in 4-6 slides, then you do not know what you are talking about. Stop the show up and throw up approach to information. People aren't stupid, they can read and that is exactly what they do when you put miles of information with 60 slides in a presentation. They read and don't listen, so why did you even bother giving a presentation? When you do that, then 80 percent of the presentation is about you, and only 20 percent about your audience. Think they really want to hear how great you think you are?
Employees satisfaction is one part of the puzzle to breaking the tie
Still think employee satisfaction isn't important or is only relegated to a bi-annual survey? Think again. The healthcare industry is built for a tie and if you want passionate committed employees and physicians, then you really need to treat them better. Otherwise, its a tie.
And ties aren't a lot of fun.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Stewart vs. Cramer
First this message. If you did not see the Jon Stewart's interview of Mad Money Jim Cramer from CNBC on Comedy Central Daily Show, you really need to see what everyone is talking about. I actually felt sorry for Cramer, but hey, CNBC needs to get its act together and figure out what their responsibility is in financial reporting. Yea for the little guy! Thanks Jon.
Now back to the regularly scheduled program........
Hospital Advertising, my favorite subject
Seeing an increase in hospital advertising. Once again, it’s not clear what people are attempting to accomplish. That's because the strategic essence of marketing is missing.
Look, anybody can create an ad.
Anybody can hear the CEO, run out, spend some money and throw it up against the wall to see what sticks. How is your advertising supporting the business objectives? What is your brand message? Is a billboard on a busy expressway where people zip along at 65 miles an hour really that memorable? How about a call to action? What does your brand stand for and how is that supported by advertising? Do you even know what your brand is?
Please stop insulting consumers with promises of "World Class Healthcare". Unless you are Mayo, The Cleveland Clinic, John Hopkins etc, you don't have a world class healthcare offering.
Maybe you have missed the headlines and stories, but the US has the most expensive healthcare in the world, with some pretty dismal outcomes. There is nothing about a community hospital that is world-class. Unless you have people coming from around the world for care; not a believable message for me. And that goes for a lot of consumers too.
Really now. No awards like The Top 100 Hospitals, US News and World Reports ranking, Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award or even a JD Powers Patient Satisfaction award, how can you say with a straight face that your healthcare is world-class?
With that kind of marketing coming from agencies and marketing departments, this is what makes it so difficult to get people to understand the true nature of marketing. It is all about the marketing strategy. And there is a great gaping hole lacking some serious marketing strategy.
Figure out the right strategy first, then the rest comes easy.
Monday, March 2, 2009
With all the different systems and no common standards will this turn into a really more expensive version of the Betamax vs VHS video tape format wars from the mid 1980s with that ancient technology of VCR?
Now the budget contains another $600 billion plus for healthcare reform. All told, this totals in excess of $700 billion. Just the first down payment for fixing the system folks. I bet the AHA and AMA are busy figuring out how much they can get without having to change anything.
Like I said in previous blogs, its all about politics. Obama being a veteran of Chicago politics, knows that when he figured out how everybody gets theirs, reform happens. It has to happen. It is going to be expensive.
Now for all you CEOs out there who think they can hold on for a couple more years and things will go back to the way they were, hold on for the ride. If we can come up with a European style healthcare system- maybe. If we have the Great Britain Universal Healthcare System- here comes rationing and long waits.
To all those hospital marketing departments out there, here is a clue for future activity regardless of the system. Americans hate to wait in lines. So, your job is to figure out who can pay privately to not wait in queues for service. That's the nugget.
Why? Think about what happens when you suddenly increase demand and all those hospital beds that have been taken out of service. Combine that with a primary care physician shortage and lack of RNs, you get the idea.
Anything else and you have to hire me as a consultant.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Is your marketing department aware of CGM? Can they even tell you what this means?
Simply put if you do not know what CGM means you and your hospital, physician practices, or any healthcare setting is at risk.
CGM means Consumer Generated Media. It means that in the age of the Internet, disgruntled patients, unhappy employees, media, anybody- can write about their experiences, post photos, interview and show to the world how good or bad you are.
Anyone with a computer and Internet connection can create CGM. Won't matter if what is written is true or false. The world does not care. But those who read it will believe it.
Scroll through this blog and you will find plenty of examples of CGM: Silver Cross Hospital; Agfa Healthcare; Adventist; State of Illinois; etc.
Look at: Comcastmustdie.com; Ihatedell.net; Technorati.com; Youtube.com; MrConsumer.com, all examples of CGM. And it could be you tomorrow.
If you don’t know what your consumers are saying about you, or what your competition is saying for that matter, you are losing control of your brand.
You operate in a virtual marketplace.
Consumers know more than about you than you realize.
You lose in a CGM fast-break. Disgruntled patient or discharged employee creates Consumer Generated Media. CGM is picked up by media- print and electronic. You won’t even know what hit you. You lose control of your brand and message.
Welcome to the age where customers are the new paparazzi.