Monday, October 26, 2015

Can you make your sales efforts to physicians memorable?

Physicians are the lifeblood of many a healthcare organization.  With the focus and attention of the physician determining in large part the success or failure of so many providers and vendors, cutting through the din of messages and relationships can be a daunting task.  So how do you cut through all of the chatter?

The answer is in an integrated collaborative relationship between sales and marketing.

In many ways, one needs to be selling solutions to solve the physician practice challenges that allow them to make money and do what they love, practice medicine. There are some clear goals for your sales relationship with physicians. Help them  to practice medicine more efficiently. Support efforts to measurably improve the quality of care.  Help solve the cost conundrum and be cost effective. Easy to use you for the physician and office staff to use. And the services or sale, when delivered reduces the patient hassle factor by cutting down on complaints, or increase patient satisfaction.

With that in mind, some basic rules of thumb apply:

1) Your sales people must be using a common sales strategy across the enterprise. I have seen too many organizations where everybody's left to their methods. The result, incorrect messaging and using poorly designed home-grown materials. Your sales force activities are about relationship selling and acting as the liaison for the physician to your organization. If you don't have a method and training, chances are you will not be as effective as your competition. 

2)  Use a sales database system to collect information and the marketing department needs to have full access.  If you’re just starting to look at one, marketing needs to be at that table.  Don't assume that sales or IT knows what marketing needs. They don't.  Systems breed accountability on all sides of the ledger.

3) Create an interdisciplinary marketing sales advisory committee.  Where most organizations fall is the poor communication and working relationships between the two groups.   It’s time to get past the "the feet on the street" don't deliver the brand messages and promise in the right way, and all that marketing is good for is creating stuff,  because I need more stuff to leave behind attitudes. 

4) Train your marketing department in the sale approach that your sales people are using.  This way marketing begins to understand the opportunities and challenges faced, and how your sales staff is trained to overcome them.  All marketing materials should be created to be applicable and useful at some point in the sales cycle. It's all about shortening the sales cycle, and creating usable, effective collateral.

 5) Let your marketing staff accompany sales on calls and major presentations. They can be a new set of eyes and ears as well as providing them with new perspectives on the difficulties of selling. 

6) Cut down on the number of slides you use for presentations. An 80-page slide deck is all about you and nothing about your potential customer.  If you have to use more than ten slides, you don't know what you are talking about and don't understand your audience. Talking head are boring.

7) Have marketing attend your sales meetings and weekly funnel calls.  It's about relationships and dialogue. Marketing should have a role in explaining the organizational strategy, and what they are doing to generate meaningful leads for sales to follow-up on.

8)  Joint marketing and sales goals and objectives should be established.  Share in the pain and share in the gain.

9) Constantly evaluate and begin again.

As the consolidation of healthcare providers continue unabated across all channels, physicians will play an exceedingly important role in the revenue opportunities for your organization.  The physician is your partner. Make it memorable.

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

When was the last time you said "thank you" in ending the patient engagement?

Sometimes, the simplest of actions for patient or healthcare consumer engagement have the most dramatic effect.  Now that is not to say that technology like patient portals, educational materials, online appointment scheduling, use of social media, texting, outreach calls etc., don't make a difference.  They do but are in reality just a technological solution or a process leading to an end. 

The danger in a single focus on the shiny new technologies to engage can lead to unintended consequences, inadvertently alienating the individual or set back the engagement efforts. Engagement is a personal one-on-one experience in a time when all that organization looks for is a quick fix thinking that technology can save the day.

Successful engagement of patients and healthcare consumers is a two-pronged approach that is both technological and human in nature.  I have written much in the past about the technological approach and the need for effective interaction and engagement. But today’s post is really about the human side of engagement.  And that is simply saying thank you at the end.

Thank you to the doctor for trusting the provider with his or her patients.

Thank you to the family member or significant other for visiting and being part of the person’s care network.

Thank you for the healthcare consumer or patient for choosing you as the provider.

Thank you to your staff for their work.

I know that is not sexy technologically-driven marketing.  But it meets a basic human need to be appreciated and recognized as an individual. Everyone will say we do that already in one form or another. But I ask you to examine that statement or thought. Spend some time watching and listening in on how that thank you is delivered.   You may be very surprised.

Patient or healthcare consumer engagement is more than pushing messages out, using social media, or population health analytics providing on some level predictive actions based on data what an individual will need. 

Don’t forget that on the other side of those care alerts, smartphones, emails and educational materials that there is a person.  Not a member of a population health group. Not just a member of an insurance plan.  But a breathing living human being, whose needs, desires, hopes, dreams and actions crave to be effectively and meaningfully engaged.

Saying thank you to the patient or healthcare consumer ends the process on the right foot.   

Sometimes the simplest of actions can lead to the greatest engagement benefits.

Thank you for reading and being engaged.

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Has inbound marketing time come for hospitals?

Most marketing practiced by hospitals and health systems remains mired in traditional outbound marketing methods. That is pushing low-value content out in display ads, direct mailers, radio, billboard, etc., in the hopes that someone will pay attention and act. Calls to actions are generic in nature, and there is a lemming-like an approach by all hospitals in the same market to do the same thing at the same time. Commonly referred to interruption marketing, outbound is all about sending generic messages out to the widest possible number of audiences with no customization of content or message.

But in an age where the healthcare consumer and patient is increasingly taking control and making choices, is outbound marketing the best way to drive brand awareness, choice, and selection?

What is inbound marketing?

Simply put inbound marketing a series marketing actions designed to give healthcare consumers and patients a reason to contact you.  It’s about bringing the healthcare consumer or patient to you. Inbound marketing is commonly used in B2B to engage prospects and further build value and relationship with current clients. It’s a pull strategy as opposed to a push strategy marketing that hospitals and health systems use.  It’s not an either-or proposition; one needs both strategies well integrated to achieve maximum benefit.

Understand that inbound marketing focuses on “ reason to contact you” and not a “do you need a doctor?” or cancer services or insert clinical, technology, or building name here for outbound marketing. That means having thought leadership content that is engaging, meets a healthcare consumer or patient needs and prompts them to take action. The healthcare consumer or patient may not think its thought leadership in those terms per se, but it’s helpful and useful information that prompts them to make a decision.

The major component of inbound is SEO, blogging social media, content marketing, and review/referral sites. One is pushing relevant messaging based on the user personas and behavior characteristics that address their “pain points” and interests so that the hospital is staying top-of-mind in their decision-making process.

I submit for your consideration that is the healthcare consumer and patient now has a buying process.  And in that buying process technology is a major factor. They are searching for information on the hospital, health system or doctor, etc.  With that the case, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and connect on a very personal level?  Inbound marketing allows you to do that.  And it’s not sending an email with generic information.

I receive an email from Blue Cross Blue Shield every month with health information that is of absolutely little interest or any value to me. It does nothing more that clog up my inbox. That is outbound marketing.  I have several hospitals and health systems that send newsletters in the mail that are of little interest and value. They all go mailbox to the recycling bin.

If one considers the healthcare consumer or patient as the focal point of what they need, not what the hospital needs to generate revenue, then the task of marketing shifts.  The Marketing department needs to understand the buying journey of the healthcare consumer or patient buying process. Once that is understood, then it’s about having relevant and meaningful information available for them at any point in the process. That means the hospital marketing process with inbound marketing is to now attract, capture, nurture, convert, and finally expand.

Here is what happens for the hospital in shifting some of its effort from purely outbound to a strategically integrated combination of inbound and outbound marketing. The hospital does generate revenue, the cost of marketing decreases and marketing ROI increases.

But here’s the kicker for everyone worried about value and risk-based contracts. Because you shift to inbound marketing, the hospital is engaging and establishing a strong relationship with the healthcare consumer or patient.  In population health management, engagement and meaningful patient relationships are everything.  Without meaningful patient relationships and engagement population health management fails.

So what one does today will pay huge dividends tomorrow no matter what the payment system.

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Can providers succeed with the right words?

Words are important, and that is something that I can think we can all agree. How a provider uses words not only in the content but contextually, can greatly influence a positive or negative perception of the brand.

Words can drive an individual to take action, become motivated, inspire and in some cases by the contextual environment communicated by the words become life-changing. And we all know that words can unintentionally by use and connotation reach a pretty high giggle factor, raising more questions than answers. In some case, words conveying a position on a topic become oxymoronic resulting in a negative brand image.

With that in mind, how would you rate providers in the use of words?

An important question as I see more each day of providers and vendors using words that don’t say anything.  Lots of squiggles on a page intended to convey information but essentially say the same thing over and over again.  I increasingly see the use of jargon to cover up any real meaning. 

Cleaver and creative marketing communications are needed to cover positions and information in a way that hopefully motivates the reader in some way. But the real question at hand is what do they convey? What do those words convey in reaction and meaning?  Do they raise more questions than what they were intended to answer?   

Words matter.

A hospital states in an advertisement that we are patient-centered, and it’s all about you. The question then becomes what does the healthcare consumer think or accept that statement?  Is a consumers position I get it because everyone else makes that statement, but I don’t know means? Or maybe the healthcare consumer says wait a minute, you are a hospital that provided care to me. Are you saying that wasn’t the case last time I received treatment?  You are a hospital that provided care to me; did the hospital raise the question unintentionally that it hasn’t been about me?

Is patient-centered an oxymoron based on the person's experience?

Words matter.

Let us consider the health system that opens a new physician and diagnostic center for example. The only thing one reads about in the press, hears in radio interviews with leadership, sees in the ad are words defining the building as ever so convenient and patient friendly. What a great environment in their view but no words about the quality of care, services or price.  What words conveyed the reason I should go there to seek medical care because it is a nicely designed building?  

Observation. Hospitals are still so brick and mortar oriented to solve problems when the market is moving in a very different direction.

Words matter.

These are just a couple of examples.  But we all see that on a daily basis, whether it’s a product manager thinking they are creative writers or senior leadership thinking that meaningless language and jargon will win the day and build the brand.

Words do matter and the contextual use matters.

Words and their meanings matter, especially in a market that is becoming retail in nature and filled with healthcare consumer choice.

Maybe at some point, providers will begin to understand that words matter and begin to start using the right words, to convey the right message, at the right time.  Could this very well become a version of the Triple AIM for marketing professionals?

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