Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Have You Made Your Healthcare Marketing Resolutions for 2012?

New Year's Resolutions, for the most part, play an important role in most everyone's life. To lose weight. Live life more fully. Be a better husband, wife, or significant other etc. Value more what we have in our family and friends. And many more that I have missed. But have you ever considered New Year' Resolutions as a part of your business and managerial life?

So my last Healthcare Marketing Matters blog for 2012, is about New Year Marketing Resolutions. My own Top 10 list to get things started. What are yours?

10. Educate my organization about the value of my department and work. I will lead and prove my departments ROI.

9. Continue to scan other industries for their marketing successes. I will learn about them, adapt them to my industry, and implement successfully.

8. Expand my marketing education through webinars, seminars and conferences. There is always something new on the horizon to learn.

7. Integrate traditional, online and social marketing strategies. All are complementary to one another and drive multiple successes.

6. Innovate, discover the needs of my customers and drive consistent brand messaging.

5. Foster a spirit of and demand marketing excellence in my department. Good enough is not good enough. I owe nothing less to my organization and my customers.

4. Create brand zealots, and show what the brand promise, brand reputation and brand equity mean to my organization in revenue terms.

3. Stop using the words "unique", "state-of-the-art", and anything that is considered "buzz word" terminology in my marketing communications. Unique can be duplicated easily. State-of-the-art refers to yesterday's systems as things change so fast. Buzz words quickly fall out of favor.

2. Bridge the divide between sales and marketing and in doing so, together we will drive value, customer satisfaction and create customer evangelists all the while reaching new revenue heights.

1. Serve and be humble, for working in healthcare is a privilege, not a right.

Finally. I would like to thank everyone that read these posts over the past year. Your comments, suggestion and readership is very much appreciated. Healthcare Marketing Matters is now read monthly in 52 countries around the world. Maybe we aren't as different as we may all like to think when it comes to healthcare.

Happy New Year Everyone. Have a healthy, safe and prosperous year.




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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Do You Handle a PR Crisis Communications Event?

Sometimes, another organizations PR missteps, are an opportunity to learn how not to handle a PR crisis. Just ask the Chicago Bears, who historically have mishandled every PR crisis of the last 10 years, including the one the week of December 12. Yes that right, this one went on for a whole week, because they messed up right from the beginning.

Is your response to dive for under the desk? Do you send out poorly prepared underlings, to face reporters and the public? Does leadership, make proud pronouncements at the outset, that could come back to haunt you because at this point, you just don't know? Do you react as an arrogant organization with the, "How dare you question us response"? Do you think that it can never happen to you? Do you have a crisis communications plan in place?

Every healthcare organizations will face a PR crisis.

How you handle the communications, will determine the amount of brand damage, and length of time people remember. In this age of social media and the Internet, there is no, "We just need to wait 3 days to weather the storm", anymore.

Many times organizations respond with:
Lack of organizational understanding of the need to handle a situation as crisis communications;
Different, conflicting senior management messages;
Testy responses to questions;
Lack of preparation by speakers in understanding the seriousness of the communication;
Poor speaker body language;
No overriding organizational message;
Organizational arrogance;
Lost messaging opportunity ;
Appearance of blaming others;
The organization appearing not accountable;
The organization furthering to anger the media;
No response at all with the "it's just a three day story and will go away";
Sending out unprepared underlings to face the media;

Is it not true that any press is good press! Every day, someone somewhere faces a crisis communications issue which is handled poorly. Just look at the Chicago Bears for the past week. You need to learn from others and be prepared.

It's not hard, and should be part of your marketing strategy for 2012, as a separate communications plan. By following these planning guides, you can weather any storm, limit reputation, revenue and ultimately brand image damage.

Understand the nature of the situation;
Be transparent;
Be proactive in how you intend to address the situation;
Limit the amount of time senior leaders i.e. the CEO or president speak;
Make sure everyone has the same message and is on board;
Develop strong organizational messaging of care and concern;
Don’t scapegoat, blame others or give the appearance of blaming others;
Don’t tell people things will change when things are not changing;
Practice, practice, practice;
Bring in an outside PR firm for another viewpoint;
Understand that your reputation is built up over a long time and can be destroyed in a few short minutes;
Remember that it is not just a three day story;
Watch your body language;
Know your facts about past performance, reporters will be prepared;
Learn from others;
Each year engage in a day of media training for executives. Dealing with the media is a learned skill that the majority of executives do not have. It is not as easy as it looks.

Most importantly, engage the media all the time all year round. Why? Because, media relations is a year round activity. Not just when you have a problem. By establishing positive media relations with the good you do, you won't necessarily be cut any slack in a bad situation, but you will get the opportunity to tell your side. You won't if you don't have good media relations already in place.

Plan now for that crisis communications event, and you will better off as a prepared healthcare organization in 2012.






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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Will Healthcare Provider Debt Be The Next Financial Crisis?


The other day, I asked the question about hospital and health system debt as being the next financial crisis on several groups on LinkedIn. The response has been a resounding thud. The reason for the question was based on an article in Crain's Chicago Business, Monday, December 5, 2011, "New hospitals building debt", by Kristen Schorsch. It really got me to start considering the broader hospital and healthcare debt question in general, as healthcare continues to change in such dynamic ways.

And I believe that the 800 pound gorilla in the room, locally and nationally, is hospital and other healthcare provider debt.

It is no longer just a question of having an individual AAA rating.

When you view the changes in the healthcare reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. Declining admissions. Changes in reimbursement from production-based to quality-based. Payers introducing pricing competition, though user-friendly tools, which allow healthcare consumers to compare price of tests procedures and surgeries, etc., and know their co-pays instantly. Payers and governments not paying for never events. No reimbursement for readmissions. Employers choosing defined contribution models, letting employees choose their plan, incentivizing employees for prescription adherence and wellness and introducing financial penalties for poor health behaviors. The emergence of retail healthcare, retail workplace clinics and insurance. Falling investment income. Declining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. It all makes for a very uncertain outlook for healthcare debt repayment.

The biggest change is, that many of these models are designed to keep people out of the hospital.

The hospital is really becoming the last setting for care delivery. Moving from the top of the food chain to the bottom.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

When you consider that there are over 600 specialty drugs in the pipeline that treat complex and chronic medical conditions, that will place further volume and revenue pressures on healthcare providers. Adherence to the drugs will keep individuals out of the hospital.

Infused or injected, these drugs can be administer in the home or in an ambulatory infusion center. And specialty pharmacies and infusion centers are popping up like weeds. They will take business from hospitals, health systems and others. They are already doing so.

What do you think would happen, if all the remote medical monitoring capabilities that NASA has developed for the space program and International Space Station, were available to the average person in their home?

Though the truly empowered and involved healthcare consumer is still a few years away, today, a savvy consumer, by spending a little time and effort, can find the lowest cost option for diagnostic testing and treatment. Potentially never setting a foot in a hospital or hospital-based outpatient service for care.

Most healthcare leadership are following the, this is what has worked in the past business development and planning rules. Build a new hospital or replacement hospital; add a new patient bed tower. Develop another clinical service line and so on. Instituting 25-30 key objectives to achieve in a strategic plan. Really?

While healthcare executives and professionals answer the question in a LinkedIn group about what the hospital of the future will look like, lost in the discussion, given the disruptive nature of all these changes, is whether or not the patients will even be available to fill the beds.

In my opinion, the next big financial crisis could be hospital debt.

Has healthcare become "to big to fail"?


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Are Your Customers, Patients, Doctors and Employees Saying?

Customer Generated Media (CGM). It can be a great unknown. It can be helpful. It can be harmful. It can be your best friend, or your worse nightmare. It has the power to influence thousands, if not millions, in this mobile social media aware society we live in. CGM can make your brand the greatest on the earth. It can send you to the ash heap of history.

Anybody can blog.

Anybody can do a video.

Anybody can start a viral email campaign.

Anybody can create a facebook page.

Sorry to say this, but not everyone thinks you doing the great job that you think you are.

If your marketing department is not monitoring CGM and your customer experience from a brand perspective, then you and your specialty pharmacy, payer, hospital, physician practices, or any healthcare organization is at risk. People are not afraid any longer to say things publically.

It means that in the age of the Internet, disgruntled consumers and patients, unhappy employees, media, anybody, can opinionate about their experiences, post photos, interviews and show to the world how good or bad you are.

Anyone with a computer and Internet connection can create CGM. Doesn’t matter if what is written is true or false. The world doesn’t care. And those who read it will believe it.

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 your competition for that matter, you are losing control of your brand.

You operate in a virtual marketplace where consumers know more than about you than you realize.

You lose in a customer/patient driven fast-break. Disgruntled consumer creates Consumer Generated Media, and is picked up by mass media- print and electronic. You won’t even know what hit you.

Monitor CGM like you do your competitors and you can possibly prevent being a victim, limit potential damage and improve the customer patient experience in the process.

Welcome to the age where customers and patients are the new paparazzi.




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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are You Ready for Patient Engagement in 2012?

It has been a most interesting year of change for healthcare in 2011. Medical Homes, final regulations on ACOs, patient- centered or centric care focus, payment models beginning to move from production of care to payment for quality care and at least in some places, a growing understanding of the importance of healthcare marketing and branding. But, none of this will be successful unless you have an engaged patient.

In anticipation of still more change and continued progression to a fully reformed healthcare model, (regardless of what the Supreme Court of the United Sates rules), healthcare will never be the same. And it hinges in large part, on an engaged patient. Engaged in diagnosis and treatment. Engaged in wellness. Engaged in health plan selection. Engaged like they have never been before.

As you set your strategic marketing plans and tactical budgets for 2012, a key component is how you will begin to engage the patient, aka healthcare consumer. And it's not just wellness programs, seminars, community events or material copied on bright neon paper. It takes strategy, commitment and learning.

Here are nine strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly to patients, so that they can interact with you any way they want, when they want too.

2. Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging. Messaging needs to be relevant to the patient at the point in time that they need it. Personalized, customized, aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Patient incentives and motivational techniques will be needed to keep patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction, for ways to engage without cash. Be creative. Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools and techniques to engage. After all, patients are people too.

4.Create a sense of community. You have to compete for patients, especially if you are forming an ACO or employing physicians. You need to feed the beast. You have to get into the inner circle of your audiences and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. You need to shape patient behaviors to the point where they will recommend you.

5. Know your audience and with who you are speaking too. This is really back-to-basics CRM understanding. Gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture etc. You cannot engage the patient unless you are intimately knowledgeable about them, their needs and how to tailor the information they need to engage them.

6. Test and measure. This is no time to be reactive. You have to know how to approach patients and engage them, You don't have the answers. The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Fast Failure. We live in a world of technology and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With web, text messaging, mobile messaging, QR codes etc, if you structure it appropriately, and this is a big and, you are testing and measuring, you will know if it's working or not. If your marketing model is not working, get out. Get out quickly and allocate those resources elsewhere. Failure is successful because you learn from it. Fail fast.

8. Know the influence of the patients culture on behavior to engage them. You need to know who the individual is culturally, their affinity groups, and religious beliefs to name just a few items, beyond gender and age.

9. Time it right and add value. If you health messaging is not resonating with the patient when they receive it, then you have lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. That means knowing the patient like you have never known them in the past. For example, a patient or healthcare consumer, going to a restaurant to eat, or a supermarket to purchase groceries, means sending them health messages at that time, in order to enable them to make the right food choices. It's not impossible.

You are moving patients from passive healthcare participants to active healthcare participants. That's why you engage them. Time to get started.






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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Are You Improving the Physician Experience to Increase Volume and Revenue?

Any number of healthcare organizations are looking to increase admissions to drive revenue and volume by physicians. Some providers are returning to the days of employing physicians, and that seems to be making a big comeback for health systems ACO development.

Anyhow, sales staffs are popping up all over like weeds-in-a-field, complete with goals and objectives, territories and sales quotas for specific docs, along identified disease-states. In most cases, they are managed by people who have never sold anything in their life. The first time the sales person comes back to the organization with, "This needs to change" request, it all breaks down, because nobody internally wants to really change anything. Besides, with all the Stark considerations, we really can't do too much anyway.

What's wrong with this picture?

If you are really serious about growing revenue and volume, you must, not need too, you must, make changes in the physician experience in your organization. No matter that the healthcare consumer is in the beginning stages of learning how to be empowered. No matter that the payment model is changing from a production-based, to a quality-based. No matter, that you are employing physicians. If you want to grow volume and revenue, you need to change the physician experience with your healthcare organization.

Face it. Nothing happens unless you have a physicians order. No test. No surgery. No home health care. No specialty drug. No nothing.

To increase volume and revenue in this economy, where patients are putting off or delaying healthcare diagnosis and treatments, you need to break the mold. What will bring you the greatest Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI), running ads that tell consumers are how great you are because you just got an award? Which as a side note, research is now showing the consumer doesn't believe then anyway. Or, focusing considerable time, resources and energy on improving the physician experience across your entire organizational touch-points?

Its about their experience in admitting, treating and referring patients to your emergency room, hospital, pharmacy, surgical center or a home care agency, to name a few of the providers docs deal with on a daily basis. How easy is it for them to practice medicine in your facility? How many complaints do they get from their patients about you? How do you lessen the hassle factor for them to do what they want? Namely, practice medicine. Everyone is out there with the send to me, me, me, message.

More than your own perceived features and benefits.

Be ready to make changes in how you do things. When your physician liaison, account rep, or insert title here person comes back, and says he or she is finding obstacles that physicians are encountering in admitting or practicing medicine in your organization, be ready to make meaningful changes. If not, you're just wasting your time and money, sending out people to increase volume and revenue from a physician or multispecialty group. Nothing worse than over promising and under delivering.

And really, that's as far as I am going. If you don't know how to do this, then you need to hire me.




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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Will There be Brand Conflict Between Traditional Healthcare Organizations and an ACO?

Have you considered the question of your brand, or brands, the ACO brand you may create, or as an ACO participant? This is really a much more important question than you may think. For some healthcare organizations, it won't be, as they have a highly developed brand architecture and strategy. For others, that haven't been paying as much attention to their brand architecture and strategy, it will.

I would surmise that large healthcare systems and payers will be ahead of the branding game, and able to seamlessly create and launch an ACO under their current brand umbrella. I think the brand challenge for healthcare systems, will be when they have to contract for services outside of their traditional system.

In those organizations that have more brands under the sun than stars in the galaxy, it will be a challenge supreme. That is what happens when there is no clear marketing leadership in most of these healthcare organizations. If you did the brand market research as well, you would probably find in these organizations, no clear brand recognition and brand confusion in the marketplace.

Creating a brand for your ACO or participation isn't just throwing a name and logo up. Some items you need to consider:

How does the ACO fit into the brand architecture of the organizations?

What will be the ACO brand impact on the existing organization? If you are reducing cost, providing higher quality medical services and better outcomes, you need to consider that impact on other populations served not in the ACO. If they are not recipients of all these ACO benefits in their care, regardless of payment model, you are in for a world of hurt.

Does your brand promise for the ACO fit in with the brand promise for the traditional healthcare organization, outside of the ACO?

Are you a house of brands, needing to create and implement a brand architecture, fixing all those service and clinical program line brands?

What are the resources you have committed to creating the ACO brand, its brand promise, brand value and brand awareness?

Did you consider the need for market research to fully understand you current brand position and how the ACO will make an impact on existing brands? Did you budget for that expense?

Are you ready for the expense of fixing you multiple brands, creating a clear, definable brand architecture and strategy?

Will you create and implement organizationally, a brand manual that everyone is accountable to follow?

Will senior management support marketing in being the "brand police"?

This list isn't all inclusive. But, you have to start somewhere. Sooner rather than later.

On another note, Healthcare Marketing Matters is now read monthly in 49 countries. With some of the request for information and comments I receive, the U.S.A. doesn't have sole ownership of cost and quality issues. Others around the world are facing the same things more or less. And from what I can tell, have been far more successful than us.

Medepage (you can find a link in my notable sites), is an Australian- based international healthcare job search site, has added a blog feed from Healthcare Marketing Matters to its site. Thank you Tony!

With the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday next week in the U.S., I am not sure if there will be another post. The kids are off high school and the wife took off a couple of days. So maybe it's time to step back and recharge for a few days.

Thanks for reading




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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How Will You Market Your ACO Solution?

Now that the final rules for ACOs have been released by CMS, it seems that there is more positive interest in the ACO model first proposed under PPACA. The basic premise remains the same, to engage the patient, aka the healthcare consumer, in the care and treatment decision making process. Medicare ACOs remain open networks, meaning that members can go outside the ACO for service.

The marketing challenge before you is to attract members to your ACO, engage and retain them.

You must be prepared to deliver an individualized experience that meets the needs of that patient. A mass customization, of your patient experience process, down to the individual level. One size does not fit all.

In entering the brave new world of ACOs, here are some things that you need to consider for marketing:

1.) Clear and easily stated Value Proposition. Not a mission statement, this is crucial for communications and focusing the message to members, employers, payers, government and community. Not flowery or full of jargon. It's your elevator speech that can be delivered in 30 seconds about your ACO, what you do and the value it brings. Twenty-five words max.

2.) Transparency and Quality dashboards. This is about improving care, using best practices, learning and improving as a system to the individual level, and by engaging the patient. If you do not plan to report back on at least a quarterly basis to your audiences, you will not be successful. You must be prepared to provide individual level utilization and quality patient reports, to engage the person in a meaningful way, to create change health behaviors, foster appropriate utilization of services and reduce costs.

3.) Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. You gave to be in constant contact and monitoring member attitudes, beliefs and reactions to you. VoC. It's all part of the patient experience program and process. These are open networks, if you are not fully and completely customer focused, trouble will ensue and it won't be pretty,

4) Ongoing customer experience management program and process. This isn't just about delivering a exceptional customer service at the point of care. You must identify all customer touch-points, from beginning contact to end point, and mange that experience across all of those touch-points. Here is what a customer experience program looks like:


5.) Highly integrated marketing plans. You will need to integrate your messaging like never before across the traditional, online, mobile and social media platforms. You can't afford not too. You also need a presence in all platforms. One that is sustainable over time through dedicated marketing resource allocation. One shot ads won't work; develop sustainable, integrated campaigns.

6) Comprehensive member communications. Ongoing communications beyond health and wellness tips. Communications that are individualized, engage the patient and are meaningful. They must also be delivered the way that the member wants them, be it on an Ipad, member web portal, email, hard copy etc. One size does not fit all.

7.) White pares and case studies. This is about transparency and quality that is data driven. It's about accountability to your members, payers, employers and physicians. Medical device, pharma and specialty pharmacies have been engaged in white papers and case studies driven by data for years. And it works. But, it will make you uncomfortable if you have never engaged in this type of activity and communication vehicle .

8) Marketing leadership. Marketing especially in most, not all hospitals and health systems, needs to move from the basement and take its seat at the senior management table, reporting directly to the CEO.  Marketing now needs to be seen in hospitals and health systems as a defined, accountable strategy , that is fully integrated into the business plan. That doesn't happen if marketing is not present and engaged in the discussions at the highest possible level.

9.)Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI). In an ACO, there is just no doing things because someone wants them. Every action must be measureable against a defined goal and objective. Every action must have a call to action. Every action must evaluated against a predetermined ROMI. If you are not held accountable and your activities are not measured, then how will you know you were effective and produced result?. What gets measured get done.

10.) Marketing automation systems. Need I say more. Marketing needs these systems to understand markets, track activities and campaigns, as well as produce various marketing reports and dashboards. This really in concept, is no different than financial reporting, clinical reporting, quality reporting systems etc. Capital budgets will have to be allocated to marketing in order to automate marketing functions and planning.

11.) Marketing staff evaluation. This is probably the hardest activity, but few have the level of staff with the expertise and capability, to operate in an ACO environment. You don't know, what you don't know. Clayton Christensen understands and says, " ACOs are a disruptive business model and they must compete for consumers. Providers that are not accountable and transparent will lose, and those that meet patient needs and improve care will win." Your marketing staffing, organizational structures and resources will be to be changed and adjusted in order to meet new market conditions.

Is there more? Yes. But you have to start somewhere. Marketing can't be just an after-thought. Too much is at stake.



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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Have You Listened to Your Automated Voice Answering Attendant Recently?

How often do you call in from an outside landline or cell phone, to your organization too experience what a customer does when calling? This isn't such a strange question. We all go through the evaluation process, seek the system we believe will reduce our cost, improve response and service, which will hopefully result in less dropped calls, increase customer or patient satisfaction and revenue.

But you know, sometimes we make the system so complicated, that we forget why someone calls us.

For this I have coined Mike's Law: "The smaller the organization, easier to use is the automated answering solution. The larger the organization, the more complex and harder the automated answering solution is to navigate." Use is very different than navigate. One implies simplicity, the other complexity.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

In calling a local hospital when a family member was hospitalized, it was really very straight forward. Dial in, hear the message, dial the extension or room number if you know it, or wait for an attendant to come on the line and assist.

I have found that most of the time you can short circuit the whole thing and just dial 0, get to the live person, and to where you need to be.

Then there is the most complicated system, integrating your existing customer data into the call, because you are a current customer. Then it plays what seems the game of 20 questions, tries to push you entirely to an automated solution to solve your problem, that could be resolved in less than 60 seconds if you could get to a live person.

When you keep trying to get to a live person, that systems automated response, keeps attempting to push you to an automated solution. Even when, I indicated every way that I could, three times (yes three separate calls), that I wanted to talk to a service representative before hanging up. The best part of the encounters was the "voice" telling me, "I can't help you, goodbye".

It was like being in a Monty Python episode.

From a marketing standpoint, your automated answering attendant is an integral touch-point in the customer experience chain. It may even be the first experience that someone has with your organization. But, how many times has marketing been included in selecting the automated answering attendant, beyond, writing the copy for the greeting, options menu and submenus?

Marketing should be involved in nearly every decision you make that effects your customers and patients from an customer/patient experience standpoint.

It's seemingly the rare organization that considers the experience and needs of customers in selecting the system. Its more based on what the needs of the organization and solutions to cost and headcount issues, than what will make the customer experience exceptional.

The moral of the story.

Consider the customer experience and the impact both positive and negative, that your automated answering system will have on a caller. You have a clear choice. You can make a customer evangelist with a great experience, or create a customer with a negative experience and view of your company, no matter what good you have done, simply because, you couldn't answer the phone.

After all, that old land-line technology, which even cell phone users will access is get to you, usually is the start of a positive or negative customer/patient experience.

Which one do you want?



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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How do You Market Healthcare IT Solutions?

Having worked on marketing in the hospital, healthcare group purchasing and IT vendor side in Radiology Information System, (RIS), Picture Archiving Communication System (PACS) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR), the marketing challenges of selling into two spaces simultaneously, against a bevy of competition, seems to be increasing exponentially.

Just an observation, but everyone may be starting to look the same. It's easy to lose that differentiation every company craves, when selling similar products and services . In respect to all, the Healthcare IT space is beginning to look a little commoditized with a lot of product sameness.

So why is this happening? Lots of reasons. Let's take a short look at some common marketing techniques and what could be done to break the log jam. Less is more.

Key Messages

Leading provider, reducing cost, improving quality, reducing medical errors, innovative, next generation, improving productivity and efficiency, easy to use, interoperability with all systems, IHE, user groups that deliver real information, increasing satisfaction for the physician, C-suite and patients are key messages everyone is using. What is wrong with this picture? The pun is intended!

Sales and Marketing Integration

Marketing and sales really need to be more highly integrated than they are. It is much more than sales saying "marketing makes things look pretty", or marketing saying "if the feet on the street sold it the way we tell them it would work".

There needs to be a sales and marketing advisory committee, that is set up with sales reps from the various regions. Agenda driven, these weekly calls discuss what going on is sales, issues in the marketplace, what they are hearing about competitors and feedback on how the sales tools are being used. Marketing should be listening, understanding and discussing what is coming up. The sales force should be soliciting comments from the larger sales team and carrying information back.

Marketing should also be on the weekly sales funnel calls. Joint goals and objectives should be developed for sales and marketing collaboration. Share in the gain share in the pain. Marketing should also be going on sales calls and have access to trip reports in the Sales IT system. And, marketing staff should be trained in the sales methodology that is currently being used.

Case Studies

Case studies are important, and I would think everyone agrees on that point. Maybe however, our audiences suffer from information overload. The observation is that those documents are way too long. Sometimes, it seem like we get paid by the word, or we are so enthralled by our own system prowess, that we must write in excruciating detail. If I have learned anything about case studies and white papers for physicians and the C-Suite, it's two pages tops. And even that needs white space. Organize as follows; Background , Solution, Outcomes. And yes they can be written in two pages or less. Just because they are shorter doesn't mean you're treating your audience like an idiot. They most likely will appreciate the brevity.

Also, if you keep them shorter you can use them as the basis for email campaigns. But that too requires creativity. Use a video spokesperson to introduce the white paper or case study, to drive the audience to your web site. Its electronic and can be done for $15,000 or less, including email list procurement.

White Papers

White papers it is believed, add a measure of thought leadership to your space. They do, provided you are putting them out on a regular basis and (this is the important part), are more than you writing about what you know about. White Papers need to be used as mechanism for thought-leadership, not simply writing what you know about. To be a thought leader in your field, you need to write like a "thought- leader". That means taking on topics you may not feel so comfortable about. It may mean becoming a visionary and projecting out where an industry may be going. To be seen as a thought-leader, you must generate though-leading content.

For example, those vendors who operate in the international space, think of the lessons you have learned in single payer government sponsored healthcare systems, or in Europe where there is a mix of payers where everyone has health coverage. How do those lessons translate into the transformation of the American healthcare system? That is thought leadership.

Association Meetings and Trade Shows

Exhibits are what they are. But adding workshops, presentations and discussions on the booth are a must have. You are the focal point with the doctor, hospital, whomever is playing a supportive testimonial role. Yes, you do have a role as a presenter but this is the soft sell and credibility established as a the content expert, as well as showing you understand the pain and can make it go away. Consider being a major sponsor as well to access key decision makers one-on-one. Sales must have pre-established appointments on the booth. No appointments, no go. Immediate lead generation and follow-up on every booth visitor is another must.

Webinars

Needed, yes. However it seems that most people are still in the 9-5 mentality. Most physicians and professionals I know, are usually working in their office or the hospital. So why not have these webinars in the evening or early morning before they start reviewing x-rays? If they are not reading x-rays then they are not making money. Don't infringe on that valuable time. Be more responsive. For the C-suite, lunch time is usually good for them scheduled later in the week rather than early in the week or the middle.

Internet usage

Interactive, interactive, interactive. Readers neither have the patience nor the desire to have to read the fine print to see what they want. Make sure your site is user friendly and designed for mobile access. Use video messaging. Don't forget about facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, blogs, YouTube etc. Your audience is out there. Messages delivered across multiple channels are more effective then a one size fits all approach. Build a following. Have apps for your site. Use QR codes linked to account executives, white papers, case study or web site as suggestions.

Customer Evangelists

Got to have them. If your hospitals, doctors and others won't stand up for you, then you have a problem. You're just another vendor who can be replaced. Testimonials, implementation success stories, outcomes, data transparency, anything that show others are passionate about your product. Third party conferred credibility is a powerful medium and message. Don't lose sight of it. Find them and leverage.

And rankings do matter. KLAS is important. Add in ECRI and Hayes as well. Tie them all together if you can for your products with customer evangelist testimonials.

Media Relations

More than just press releases, this is the down and dirty of getting coverage. Major stories in targeted publications will do more for you than any advertisement, banner ad, webinar etc. people do believe what they read. You need a steady stream of news and information. Be proactive, build press relationships. Use the Business Wire. Target your messages for the specific press you are trying to attract. Build your news around current events in healthcare. Don't be afraid to issue a statement on your position on a topic of importance. Be seem as a content expert so that when news develops around the industry you're in, you become the go-to organization for the quote. it confers strong expert credibility for you and your companies solution products. Copies of articles can be used a leave behinds and in campaigns. Can't buy that kind of coverage and credibility. Build more than a press page- build a bio of the senior team and a speakers bureau for conference, seminars etc. If you are not out in the market presenting, then you are not being seen. Presence builds preference.

I have gone on long enough and probably too long for that matter. But from what I have seen in the segment of the healthcare industry, everybody is starting to look the same.

If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.





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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Do Your Employees Like Your Patients or Customers?


This may seem like a silly question to ask, or even to write about. But truth be told, beyond the customer or patient satisfaction numbers, chances are, your employees may not like your customers or patients all that much. I am not saying that your employees are treating customers and patients with open disdain or contempt. But, the lack of employee enthusiasm, concern and caring, communicated verbally and shown non-verbally in the workplace, with average to mediocre employee satisfaction surveys, may be a pretty good indication that your employees may not like your customers or patients a whole lot.

And that doesn't really help your efforts to improve the patient or customer experience.

When little differentiation exists to tell hospitals, doctors, specialty pharmacies, home health care and other providers apart, employees, liking their customers and patients, can set you apart from your competition. And with little opportunity existing now, and in the future, to differentiate yourself in your competitive healthcare vertical, success in experience improvement will only came when your employees like your customer, patients and you the employer.

Besides, they are your front-line brand ambassadors. The visual and emotional representation of your healthcare brand. And if they don't like your customers and patients, then what does that say about your brand?

This isn't rocket science. Employees are the best brand ambassadors that exist. They can do more to create customer and patient evangelists than you may even imagine. But, if they don't like you or your customers/patients, then creating brand evangelists will be even tougher.

Marketing has a role to play. And it's not just making things look pretty.

Marketing should be analyzing customer, patient and employee satisfaction data with HR to identify trends, challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Marketing should have a mystery shopper in place to document and feedback on employee interactions in three planes- live, on the phone and in social media.

Marketing should be involved in creating or purchasing that customer or patient service training programs.

Marketing should be working with HR or Talent Acquisition to develop that employee branding campaign.

Human Resources or Talent Acquisition as the case may be, has a lot on its plate in this too. But that is a topic for another day. It is also beyond the scope of this blog.

So if you want to strengthen your brand, become a market leader and succeed in your experience improvement efforts, then your employees are going to have to like you and your customers.

Can't have one without the other.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Has Healthcare Marketing Failed to Articulate Value?


On Monday, October 10, 2011, Deloitte released their latest Issue Brief, The Public View of Health Care Reform. I would also recommend highly that you read the 2011 Survey of Health Care Consumers in the United States.

Anyhow two items caught my attention from the Public View report out of many. The first is that and I quote: "Consumers perceive a complex, wasteful system sensing a lack of value for what is spent". "Consumers are critical of the U.S. health care system performance: 22 percent give it a favorable report card grade of "A" or "B" while 36 percent of consumers give it a grade of "D" or "F". In the second report, 2011 Survey of Health Care Consumers: " Satisfaction with U.S. health care system is low. 8 in 10 consumers see no system improvement and 3 in 4 believe other countries' systems are better. "

When you look at these consumer perceptions, one realizes very quickly that healthcare organizations are unable to articulate value. All that time, energy, resources and creativity spent to communicate that you are a quality healthcare provider has failed.

Why?

It is simple really, healthcare organizations have never talked about value. Never defined their brand in terms of what is the value, of what you do for the consumer. Much healthcare marketing communication is about you having "best" physicians in the region, or great high-tech equipment, we care and pictures of shinny new rooms and buildings. My favorites include "spa-like atmosphere", "world-class" and "unique".

Anyone wonder, why the giggle factor goes way up for consumers when they see this nonsense? They don't believe it, and it doesn't mesh with their experience. It may make you feel good and your Board happy, but at the end-of-the-day, it's not working.

What you are is doing is damaging your brand.

Sooner rather than later, you are going to have to articulate your messaging around the value that your brand brings the consumer. You can't run away or hide from it anymore. If you're not messaging brand value, then you are not being heard in the market. Sometimes, the reality of what you believe to be true, clashes with what the consumer wants from you. If you were doing your market research, you would have known this.

At some point, healthcare organization will have to develop strong value propositions. And communicate those brand value propositions to consumer. Communicating in meaningful ways about value that refrains from insulting the consumer with simplistic, self-centered messaging, that only increases the giggle factor in your market.

If you don't, that sound you hear, are the 40 percent of people in your market (Deloitte, 2011 Survey of Health Care Consumers in the United States), that would leave for what they perceive are better healthcare services starting their cars.




Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Integrated is Marketing Into Your Organization?

In a day and age, when consumers are bombarded from all directions and media for attention, it would seem, that marketing should play a more important role your internal organization and culture, than it may appear. No intent is made to downgrade your activities and internal communications about what marketing is accomplishing. But rather, asking a thoughtful question to consider.

Is marketing at the table then the Finance Department is staring to develop the annual financial plan and budget assumptions?

Is marketing at the table when the yearly business plan is in the initial stages of development?

Is marketing at the table when the product managers are deciding new product enhancements, new products, features and benefits?

Is marketing at the table when Human Resources is putting its headcount budget together and recruitment strategies?

Is marketing at the table when the annual sales plan is developed?

Not simply yes or no.

I think it is more a question of perception and opportunity, than what is right or wrong. But it seems to me, with so many avenues for consumers to learn about, and experience you, a marketing operation that is highly integrated into the organization and its culture, will find more success, brand awareness, market strength and revenue, compared to those companies where that's not the case.

Think of the power of a highly focused organization where marketing is fully integrated into most, if not all decision-making and planning? Employees become your strongest brand advocate through their engagement and contact with customers. Products and services are developed with enhancements that consumers want, not what someone thinks are needed. Growth plans based on market trends and developments, that have you meeting market demand and creating new markets, instead of adjusting your products and services to meet the financial plan revenue and return targets, forcing consumers into what you want.

Seems backwards to me, but that is U.S. business when compared to many other parts of the world, where it starts with the customer first and plans are developed and executed from there.

The world is so interconnected, that companies can no longer afford to have planning and decision-making processes that do not include marketing. That is more than an employee newsletter. Or sending out some update emails, displaying the new ad campaign or holding organizational meetings to explain what marketing is doing,

It is really about fostering and growing a marketing culture in the organization, where everyone has a stake in the outcome. That starts with leadership and a champions voice in the organization, C-suite and Board leadership that no longer accepts the status quo. This is about organizational change and the willingness to be not just successful, but a highly successful market leader. Without that, then a marketing focused organization is not possible.

Remember, if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.

You can find me on:
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/krivich0707
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mkrivich
Web site: http://www.themichaeljgroup.com

If you are interested in exceptional strategic marketing consulting, you can reach me through my web site the michael J group; email- michael@themichaeljgroup.com; or phone, by calling me at 815-293-1471.



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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Integrated is Your Marketing With Communications?

How much more effective would your marketing campaigns in traditional, online, social, mobile and Public/Media relations be, if you made a conscious effort to frame your messaging in your communications campaigns around the main brand and key messages you use in your marketing campaigns?

More often than not, brand messages in healthcare communications sometimes lack the level of integration and planning needed across vehicles and channels. Little, if any attention, is given to using communications as a strategic and integrative vehicle in the overall marketing effort. With so many different marketing activities and channels required to cut through the clutter, in order to leverage your key messages, you can no longer afford to not have your communications highly integrated with marketing.

Is that lack of integration a missed opportunity?

We are expected by our audiences to advertise, write white papers, create case studies, write impactful sales materials, partner with leading market research organizations to present "groundbreaking" topical surveys and results, as well as produce other materials.

People see, read and hopefully the key messages resonate, advancing the brand, generating sales leads, or in some cases, bring a sense of accomplishment to internal audiences, because in the end, all of these materials are "about us". Activity measurement as opposed to outcomes measurement.

Integrated communications can provide you with a continuous brand presence in the market that you cannot afford through paid efforts. It can successfully build positive impressions and solid opinions which after a while, will come to be believed about your organization.

If you are not integrating your brand messaging into your communication efforts internally and externally, your losing the opportunity of a lifetime, and potentially your markets.

You can continue the conversation with me on:
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/krivich0707
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mkrivich
Web site: http://www.themichaeljgroup.com

For more information, or to discuss your strategic healthcare marketing, customer experience management, marketing/sales integration or start-up needs, you can learn more at my web site the michael J group; email- michael@themichaeljgroup.com; or phone by calling me at 815-293-1471.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Can Transparency on Outcomes and Quality, Increase Volume, Revenue and Market Share?


Tough economy and getting worse. Hospital volume, scripts and specialty drug orders, flat or down. Little differentiation among competitors in many healthcare verticals. New proposed cuts in Medicare and Medicaid spending. High unemployment with no end in sight. Political gridlock. Healthcare payment models evolving from production payment focused on care delivered, to pay-for-performance based on quality outcomes. Price competition. And finally, a growing empowered healthcare consumer, taking control and playing an active part in the healthcare decision-making process.

With all this transpiring, most are taking the same past course of marketing action. Advertise services by making claims of world-class service. "Me too" messaging, attempting to driving volume because we focus all of our efforts and resources around you. (Isn't that what you are supposed to do anyway?) Sales forces all focusing on the same a therapy or drug class in specialty pharmacy which, in most cases, is the same as the specialty pharmacy down the street.

But nearly everyone, is missing the most important piece of the puzzle to generate demand, revenue and market share.

Where is the outcomes and quality data?

One area that is greatly lacking in most healthcare marketing, is an intelligent dialogue on your outcomes with your audiences. Payors', pharma and medical device, have recognized this and are leading in the use of quality and outcomes data to drive decision-making. It is time for the rest of the healthcare industry to catch up.

And in my experience, it works. Driving demand, volume, revenue and market share.

I maintain that even in this economy, there are healthcare dollars out there. Healthcare consumers willing to spend those dollars, if only that had a compelling reason to do so. With all other marketing avenues exhausted, healthcare executives weary from being in "survival mode" and facing new revenue pressures, one would think healthcare marketing would be able to answer some of these challenges.

Maybe it's time to give the healthcare consumer be it employer, individual or family, or any other stakeholder you can identify, quality and outcomes data to make decisions?

That's really the only avenue left for healthcare providers, to start talking about quality and outcomes. Engaging in a meaningful dialogue, that goes beyond accreditation logos and quality awards from third parties, to an actual honest-to-goodness quality and outcomes disclosure and discussion.

Few healthcare providers are willing. Most are afraid of this direction. But, it's a strategy and tactic that can break the current cycle of avoidance and loss. Leadership. Courage. The ability to be visionary. Recognizing that your customers, are best served by the healthcare organization that places them first in a meaningful way.

You have some choices here. Stay the course and do what you have been doing. Get lost in an endless paralysis by analysis loop. Mimic your competitors. Talk about quality and outcomes in vague terms. Or, be the first in your market, to establish a clear strategic marketing plan, focused on your healthcare consumers, about your brand in terms of quality and outcomes.

Sooner or later, you are going to have to do this.

If you are not willing to change, then don't expect a different outcome from doing the same old healthcare marketing that you have been.

You can continue the conversation with me on:
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/krivich0707
Twitter:    http://www.twitter.com/mkrivich
Web site: http://www.themichaeljgroup.com

For more information, or to discuss your strategic healthcare marketing, customer experience management, marketing/sales integration or start-up needs, you can learn more at my web site the michael J group; email- michael@themichaeljgroup.com; or phone by calling me at 815-293-1471.







Thursday, September 15, 2011

Are You Using Your Patient Educational Materials in Your Marketing Efforts?


When you consider all the time, resources and effort spent, in developing patient educational materials, by specialty pharmacies along the therapies of RA, MS, HIV/AIDS, Oncology and Transplant, payers, PBMs, pharmaceutical manufactures, disease-specific associations and hospitals, one would surmise that an opportunity exists, to use them in broader channel marketing efforts.

Pharma and disease-specific associations have great and innovative marketing programs around patient education. After that, specialty pharmacy's, PBMs, and hospitals, not so much. I think that their use in marketing campaigns will depend greatly on the quality of the materials. And in some cases, they are pretty poorly written and designed. Sometimes lacking all together.

But are all healthcare segments, especially specialty pharmacies, missing an opportunity to truly differentiate themselves in a lookalike marketplace?

I know. We all think we are the best at what we do, offering considerable expertise, advice and education to improve the health, compliance, adherence and healthcare IQ quotient of our patients. Is that really the case, or, is it just to show payers that you are engaged in direct patient education, supplementing the investment in out-bound call center infrastructure, using computer based clinical information systems, etc.

Patient education is a great medium to reinforce your brand, your brand promise and create customer evangelists. But that of course assumes, that you are doing original work in patient education. And not, just throwing together one-page disease information sheets, or using information from associations or pharma. Just because you throw some patient education materials in a med box, pass them out at a health and wellness fair, or use another other channel for distribution, doesn't mean that you are accomplishing anything. Other than your materials possibly reaching the recycle bin.

This is by no means a knock on any association or pharma materials, for they are great sources of information and advice. They just lack an organizational imprint of who you are, your brand and brand promise, to be able to showcase the breadth and depth of your knowledge and expertise. And that imprint doesn't mean putting your logo on the materials.

Besides the pervasive fear of competitors seeing what you are doing, patient education materials need to be on your web site, in easily accessible and downloadable formats. You can use QR codes in your mobile marketing, that take individuals to the patient education section. Reference them in your communications programs. Build a marketing strategy around them to differentiate you from other providers.

Be the first and everyone else looks like a "me too".

Sometimes, the simplest marketing strategy is the one that creates customer evangelists, improves health and well-being and positions you as a leader in your healthcare vertical.

Don't discount the importance of patient educational materials in your marketing and what they can do for you.

You can continue the conversation with me on:

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/krivich0707
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mkrivich
Web site: http://www.themichaeljgroup.com

For more information, or to discuss your strategic healthcare marketing, customer experience management, marketing/sales integration or start-up needs, you can learn more at my web site the michael J group; email- michael@themichaeljgroup.com; or phone by calling me at 815-293-1471.






Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are You Engaged in Disruptive Healthcare Marketing?


This is not about guerilla marketing. I am writing about engaging in what I call Disruptive Healthcare Marketing (DHM). DHM is a process that moves you from looking like a "me too" in your healthcare marketing, to forcing competitors into changing their game, reacting to you.

If for the sake of argument, you can agree that there is little meaningful differentiation, healthcare is becoming a commodity, price competition is beginning, and the healthcare consumer is becoming more empowered and taking control, then why would you continue to market the same old ways and play follow the leader in your industry vertical? Isn't that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Disruption is occurring across healthcare on a daily basis and well into the foreseeable future. So why isn't healthcare marketing keeping pace?

Much healthcare marketing is like Lemmings in a herd, falling over the cliff because everybody else is. If your marketing is so effective, then why do executives, especially in hospitals, talk of being in survival mode? Sounds like what you have been doing isn't working.

Disruptive Healthcare Marketing is contrarian in nature.

That's right, DHM is contrarian in nature, because you don't follow the leader and change a few things in an effort to look different, with the same essential message. It's about finding those meaningful points of differentiation that your consumer is looking for that will resonate. You ask the hard questions. You do the grunt work. You challenge conventional thinking. You challenge the culture and beliefs of the organization. You look at why someone is taking a particular strategy path, and understand why they aren't doing something else. You lead. It's about going in a different sustainable directions that builds volume, revenue and market share.

Everyone is chasing the same healthcare consumer and looking the same in the process.

Really, is your customer/patient satisfaction that much different from your competitors? Are your hi-tech medical devices so amazing that healthcare consumers and purchasers will flock to your doors? Can your valet service "out customer experience" the healthcare provider on the other side of town? Can your specialty pharmacy clinical sales tell you, without a 50 slide deck, in 25 words or less, how you are better than a competitor? Can you do a presentation to an insurer that that's not 80 slides of, all about you?

Are you saying to your marketing department, look what they did?

If yes is the answer to any of the questions, then you are not engaged in Disruptive Healthcare Marketing.

A Disruptive Healthcare Marketing model can look like this:



Disruptive Healthcare Marketing utilizes marketing in a strategically focused plan, to provide meaningful differentiation, positions you as the leader and create a brand story with lasting marketplace presence. It is highly integrated, sustainable and focused. DHM changes the organization. It will make you uncomfortable. But then, if you're not uncomfortable, then you really aren't changing.

Insert any audience in the center of the model and you have Disruptive Healthcare Marketing. Integrated, coordinated and not based on what your competition is doing, but upon you, your brand and your differentiable, sustainable message points.

Change or be changed. You decide.

You can continue the conversation with me on:
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/krivich0707
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mkrivich
Web site: http://www.themichaeljgroup.com

For more information, or to discuss your strategic healthcare marketing, customer experience management, marketing/sales integration or start-up needs, you can learn more at my web site the michael J group; email- :michael@themichaeljgroup.com or phone by calling me at 815-293-1471.