I have three quick stories:
- I was driving back from Michigan last week and did an informal survey of the billboards on the way back. Healthcare, of course, spends quite a bit on outdoor advertising, so a good chunk of them were for hospitals. Excluding fuel and restaurants, the remaining industries represented in my survey were: casinos, adult entertainment venues, roll-your-own cigarette stores, fireworks outlets, car dealerships, trial lawyers, and alcoholic beverages of various types. Perhaps it was just the region of the country, but it makes me wonder if a billboard is really the best channel to deliver a high-tech, caring service brand message and create patient loyalty.
- I went to a conference last year that included a breakout session for healthcare marketers to develop a sample strategic marketing plan and budget. The process essentially boiled down to allocating various percentages of marketing budgets to radio, TV, print and outdoor (and Web if lucky). There wasn’t much evaluation at all of why each media choice was made, or how the healthcare industry was changing, or about consumers demanding access to healthcare information. Perhaps in marketing we believe that’s I.T.’s job?
- On the radio this morning, there was a story about the movie industry being in trouble because RedBox, Hulu and NetFlix – all enabled by Internet technology – are taking revenue from those that would have otherwise bought DVDs.
So here’s the thing that healthcare marketers need to understand: This is not business as usual. The roof is on fire!
- $50 billion is being thrown at the healthcare industry! Is marketing even involved in the conversation?
- Internet technology is demolishing entire industries! How many billboards are you putting up this year?
- There are incredible changes going on in healthcare, shifting power struggles and moving supply and demand curves. Other than a new line item for “Web stuff” has your marketing budget really changed all that much?
Historically, hospital marketers have been invited to participate in only one of the four Ps of marketing: promotion. Shall we design a brochure or a billboard? In other industries, marketing is a critical player in evaluating the market and the three other P’s as well: developing products, selecting the place, and creating innovative packaging and pricing strategies.
The Web is going to change the healthcare industry – just as it has with others. It’s going to be a place where significant healthcare delivery happens. Pricing and packaging are going to change. And even the product will shift. And although healthcare isn’t traditionally known for its flexibility, the Web is still going to force your business model to adapt.
The stimulus funding and focus on the patient centered medical home are going to make you do more things online – connect with patients online in new ways that have yet to be defined. Marketers need to be involved at a strategic level in their organization to plan for these changes.
So, I challenge you. Is your marketing team talking about how changing economic and regulatory issues are going to impact how you deliver patient care? Are you invited into the strategic decision-making process in your organization?
Healthcare is facing the same tremendous changes other industries have already faced. But if your marketing strategy for 2010 is focused around more billboards, it’s time to step up your game and look at the bigger picture.
By the way, this is just the sort of thing our team helps clients with. See and understand the big picture. Make your marketing efforts vital to the success of your hospital (and prove it). Position your organization to align with industry changes. Work effectively across the organization. Want that kind of expert team at your back? Give us a call.