Hospital Marketing: Lessons Learned from Zappos

September 11, 2009

Hospital Sign buttonThe value of a company is not just in revenues and bottom line numbers, but in the status of the brand.

The online retail giant, Amazon, agreed to purchase Zappos for just under a billion dollars. Why would the giant pay so much for a shoe retailer? Pete Blackshaw, Executive VP of Neilson Online Digital Strategic Services, pointed out in an article in Advertising Age that the value of Zappos was driven by customer service and employee advocacy. Amazon, who knows quite a bit about customer service, was willing to pay quite a price for a company that excelled in the details of customer service and who empowered their employees to always put the customer first.

True, hospitals are not often positioning themselves to fetch a huge sales price in the open market. But the value of a hospital is determined by its brand equity. Everyday consumers are making a decision whether a hospital is worth his/her time and resources. And they are making that decision on what kind of service they receive. They are determining if your brand is worth it or not.           

Blackshaw says Zappos is obsessed over a different set of numbers. They are consumed with providing outstanding customer service. They seek feedback at every level. They want to know what the consumer experience is and fix anything that prevents the customer from having a perfect customer service experience.

How many hospitals are tenacious about customer service? How many hospitals explore, examine and experiment with the details of their interactions with the consumer? Too many hospitals, I’m afraid, really don’t want to know the truth in the details. Too many hospitals are satisfied to provide adequate, but not outstanding, service. Yes, it is painstaking – it’s hard work. But it certainly paid off handsomely for Zappos. And it will pay off for those hospitals that get dirty in the details and are committed to providing outstanding patient experiences.

“Zappos, Powered By Service.” What hospital could dare use a branding line like that? 


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Hospital Marketing: Website Must Do More Than Provide Info

September 10, 2009

Consumers are expecting more from websites.  They want sites that are transactional.Hospital Sign button

Hospital websites have been a staple of hospital marketing efforts for many years now.  It’s not only expected, it’s a necessity. There is probably no hospital in America without a website.

As you peruse various hospital websites, most are fairly good and some are very good. All the necessary information is provided: location, services, careers, information for patients, schedule of educational classes and the like. And of course, the mandatory stuff that most visitors don’t read like mission statement, values and history are there. And some sites provide extremely helpful and quite comprehensive health information.

Is this enough? In an age where consumers expect websites to have interaction and commerce, most hospital websites come up short. Basic informational sites, regardless of how robust the information, are no longer adequate. Consumers expect to interact and transact business on websites. And hospitals need to take the next step in that direction. The more advanced hospital sites allow visitors to:

  • Order flowers from the gift shop to be delivered to patient rooms.
  • Select get-well cards online that can be customized and personalized, printed within the hospital and delivered.
  • Sign up for classes and seminars.
  • View their bill and make payments online.
  • Complete and submit electronically pre-admission registration forms.

As consumers depend more and more on the web to conduct business and to get things accomplished, hospitals have to adjust. Just providing information is not enough anymore. More will be expected. And the faster these services are available, the sooner hospitals can use their website to more effectively create points of contact with the consumer, establish a stronger relationship, build loyalty and enhance the brand. 

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Healthcare Marketing: Take a Lesson from Starbucks on Social Media

September 9, 2009

Starbucks has become the most popular brand on Facebook because they are engaging with their customers.

Coffee heart

Starbucks recently surpassed Coca-Cola as the most popular brand on Facebook with over 3.6 million fans. The Altimeter Group also named it the “Most Engaged Brand”.  Why has Starbucks been so successful with their social media efforts? Alexander Wheeler, Digital Strategy Director for Starbucks credits really listening to the conversation and engaging in the discussion in a way that makes sense.  

Hospitals are beginning to use social media.  In many cases it’s experimental, just trying it.  And in too many cases it’s a half-hearted effort.  Certainly, a hospital won’t rival Starbucks but it would be worthwhile to learn how to make use of social media effectively.  It’s more than just entry now and then.  It’s more than just slapping up a page and sending occasional tweets.  It’s about listening to the consumer and engaging them where they are, with information that’s important to them. 

Alexander continues, “It isn’t a PR indicative; its alleviating and creating great consumer value and great consumer relationships.”  It’s about using the medium to build relationships.  Its listening and responding to needs and interest.  It’s not just about being where people are, but it’s about being relevant and creating valuable experiences.

Starbucks has the advantage of using social media to promote events like Red Day and Free Pastry Day.  It’s pretty hard for hospitals to do that.  But Starbucks has received over 75,000 ideas from their social community.  They are engaging their fans and followers.  They are building relationships.

Hospital marketers can get more than just a cup of Joe from Starbucks.

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Healthcare Marketing: Let’s Go To The Movies!

September 8, 2009

film rollsMovie attendance increased 21% in the first two months of 2009 and year-to-date box office revenues are up 6.6%.  While other media is experiencing no growth and even declines, cinema advertising is a bright spot. 

More and more people are going to the movies.  Despite an economic recession, box office receipts have increased.  Instead of traveling or spending money on expensive items, people are enjoying the movies as a lower cost pleasure.  In addition, movies provide an escape from the hazards many people face at work or at home.

As more people head to the theaters, cinema advertising becomes a viable media option for healthcare marketers.  And it’s generally a younger audience than other mediums deliver – an audience that is sometimes difficult to reach.  It is true; this audience is not the biggest users of healthcare.  But it’s an audience marketers want to reach to start establishing an identity or a brand.

Because of the younger demographics, cinema advertising can especially be effective for recruitment efforts.  The promotion of healthcare career opportunities can be an excellent tactic by HR departments.

In the early years of cinema advertising the cost was high and the ramp up time was slow.  Technology has improved lead-time and a new aggressive sales effort has led to lower costs. 

Cinema advertising shouldn’t be the lead medium but it can effectively supplement traditional medium and reach an audience that is not so easy to reach.  Hollywood can be a big hit for healthcare marketing.

 

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Healthcare Marketing: Time Spent on Internet Leveling Off But Hospitals’ Advertising Opportunities Have Increased

September 7, 2009

Time spent on the Internet is leveling off because users are more savvy  and more familiar with it.

The time spent on the Internet was less than 6 hours per week in 2004.  That time has been increasing until this year.  Now the average time spent per week on the Internet is 12 hours but it is leveling off and not increasing according to Forrester’s Annual Survey.makro/nahaufnahme laptop/notebook

Are consumers losing interest? Hardly.  The time spent online is leveling off because they understand the web better and know where they want to go.  Consumers in their early days of usage explored, searched, played and experimented with the web.  As they learn and gain online experience they become more efficient.  Less time is spent just surfing and most of the time online is well defined because the user knows where they want to go or search engines help narrow the search to be more targeted. 

So a hospital’s online strategy is even more important.  The competition on the web increases everyday, but the average amount of time spent online is not increasing.  And with the emergence of Facebook and Twitter, is now consuming a significant amount of a person’s online time. 

The good thing however is because consumers are more focused and their choice of sites visited is much more narrow; the efficiency of web marketing is greatly increasing.  By knowing demographics, social graphics, and psychographics of the target audience, it’s easier to find where those people are on the web.   Web marketing becomes less about mass numbers of people on the web, but more about knowing the target audience well enough to know where specifically to find them on the web. 

Internet users are becoming more efficient with their time spent on the web, which enables marketers to be more efficient as well. 

 

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Hospital Marketing: Facebook Ads Offer New Targetability

August 17, 2009

Target

Specifically targeted groups – even if they are smaller in number – are very valuable when using Social Media for your hospital.

Unlike traditional media, Social Media is a conversation, a dialogue. You are more likely to build that relationship with conversation and dialogue when the group is more narrowly focused.

 Facebook Ads offer many opportunities to define your audience for your hospital with several new ones just released mid July.

  • Location: Target by country, state, city based on the users IP address (not their network or hometown). Pretty straight forward but maybe you are doing a mobile screening event outside of your customary market region or you excel at a certain procedure that is worth driving a distance for. Use this feature to place your ads outside your area.
  • Age and Sex: Offers a little more targetability than some media outlets. Your goal is to increase number of mammograms? Target women 35 plus and avoid teenage boys getting the ad.
  • Birthday: This is a new target feature. The obvious is to create an ad that appears to the user on their birthday wishing them a happy birthday from your hospital. Take it one step further and make the connection to enjoying more birthdays (or their family having them around for more birthdays) by them taking advantage of a certain service line/screening.
  • Keywords: These are based on a user’s profile and offer insight into the consumer. Target sports enthusiasts or those who enjoy gardening with ads for your hospital’s spine care.  Target those who enjoy grilling with recipes for healthy sides from your hospital’s cardiac care center.  This feature auto populates. Spend some time looking for users with activities that are a match for your hospital’s service lines.
  • Education: Allows you to target based on education level. Most beneficial if you are trying to reach graduates of a certain school (perhaps a nursing school for recruitment).
  • Workplaces: If you are looking to promote your hospital/service lines to employees at certain workplaces this can be a valuable filter. Perhaps there is a message you want to get to the workers at XYZ factory?
  • Relationship: Facebook users can choose Married, Single, Engaged, or In a Relationship in their profile allowing Facebook Ads to appear based on a user’s marital status. This feature could be beneficial in promoting your hospital’s Sleep Disorder Lab by targeting married women with ads that ask if their husband’s snoring is keeping them awake.
  • Language: Target specific segments of the population based on their language. If you use this, make sure the ad is in their language.
  • Connections: This is a newer filter allowing you to target or even exclude users based on events, pages, and applications that they have joined.  Maybe your hospital has a Facebook Page and you are using ads to increase the number of fans. Use this feature to keep the ads from appearing to those that are already fans.

A very general ad with little or no targeting may result in more click thrus – but can also result in wasted dollars. After all, a Facebook user out of your hospital’s marketing region, female and 18 is probably NOT the target audience for your hospital’s prostate screening event. In this era of having to be most frugal with budgets, why send her the ad and waste the money? Target instead.

 

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Hospital Marketing: Get Out Of Town!

August 16, 2009

Hospital Sign w ArrowEvery CEO, every marketer should sample his or her own product. But employees prevent them from seeing the truth.

A hospital CEO or marketer gets sick and has to be admitted to the hospital. GREAT! Now they can sample their product. But can they?

Probably every employee knows all the occupants of the executive suites, so when they appear at the hospital as a patient, they get the best room, the most attention and an extra dose of care.  So unfortunately their experience is not at all the experience that is common for other patients. 

I have a friend who was a hospital administrator who became ill out of town and had to go to the hospital. In that hospital, no one knew him so he didn’t receive the ‘special’ care that’s given to an insider or known VIP.

He said it really opened his eyes. He saw everything entirely differently. He noticed dust bunnies, dirty vents, cold food, hard beds, cracked paint, inattentive staff, slow response and conflicting information from various care providers.

His first thought was pride that his hospital was not run this way. And then he questioned if he could really say that. His experience at his own hospital was that of a special person. And he wondered if indeed this non-VIP treatment was exactly what if was like for those who visited his hospital. Needless to say, he came back with a renewed zeal to emphasize customer service.

Every hospital executive and manager should try in everyway possible to see things through the eyes of the patient. It’s easy to get so caught up in establishing procedures and rules to help lower costs and increase productivity, satisfy physicians, adhere to mandated guidelines and a zillion other things. And forget to see how the patient experiences the brand.

Every effort should be made to see it as the patient sees it. And because that has it’s limitations, patient satisfaction surveys, community perception surveys and even casual talk by former patients should be taken seriously.

Otherwise, maybe the only way we will see the truth is to get out of town.

 

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Marketing Your Hospital: Facebook Can Be Effective For Reaching the 55+ Market

August 13, 2009

facebook logo 2No longer dominated by college-age consumers, ads for your hospital on Facebook can be effective in reaching a more mature audience.

Service lines that traditionally target the 55 plus market including prostate and colorectal cancer, heart attack, osteo and stroke can be effectively promoted on social medium Facebook. In fact, the 55 plus segment saw the largest increase of usage so far this year. According to istrategylabs the number of Facebook users over age 55 increased more than 500% (from nearly one million to 5.8 million) from January 4, 2009 until July 4, 2009.

The 35-54 age segment also had some pretty significant usage increases. During the same time period as above, according to istrategylabs, Facebook users between 35 and 54 increased 200%. While the percentage is not as impressive as the 55 plus audience, the numbers are impressive when you consider that this percentage represents 20 million users compared to 7 million as of January.  Perfect audience to receive ads for your hospital’s branding campaign, colorectal or breast screening, spine center, etc.

Some other insights in the same report:

  • The south has the largest growing metro – Atlanta had a 142% increase.
  • Almost 17% fewer high school students are using Facebook compared to January of this year.
  • Nearly 55% of Facebook users are female.
  • Whether or not a user is a college graduate is difficult to determine as almost 80% of the users did not indicate their education level on their profile.

This shift in usage also means that Facebook eventually may no longer be the obvious choice for your hospital’s traditionally younger-skewed service lines.

According to istrategy, there was a decrease in college age users on Facebook of almost 22%. If the trend continues, young women may no longer be an obvious demographic to target on Facebook for your hospital’s obstetric services. Instead grandmother may be a better choice to target for her osteo health.

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Hospital Marketing: The Dreaded Colonoscopy

August 12, 2009

first prostate examMaking it a simple, streamlined scheduling process for the patient can help your hospitals numbers as well as eliminating a truly preventable kind of cancer.

Increasing your hospitals diagnostics is such a challenge as more and more doctor’s groups and other businesses venture into diagnostic labs and services.  But one elective procedure that should be the easiest to sell, from the standpoint of prevention, is also the one that most patients do not want to even think about much less actually schedule-the colonoscopy.

Patients have all heard from Katie Couric and others the cry for every person to have the procedure at age 50 and thereafter as needed.   But what they may not have taken away from all this public awareness is that colon cancer is the one truly preventable cancer unless there are other risk factors such as Crohns’ disease or  a family history.

When there is so much for the patient to gain, and yes, the hospital to gain in procedures, why is this such a difficult procedure to market?

 Is it a taboo subject to put out there in traditional media?  Or just something that we think people won’t respond to with marketing efforts?

After all, it does take several steps or actions for the patient to actually accomplish

1.     First they have to find a gastroenterologist and make an appointment to see them.

2.     After that wait, they get a less than appetizing prep kit and prescription.

3.     They wait yet again for the scheduling of the procedure.

With all this waiting, it gives a patient plenty of time to find excuses and back out of the procedure…no pun intended.

One alternative to this delayed process I saw work very successfully was in a south Texas hospital.

Cultural taboos made it  even harder to convince the largely Hispanic population of the need for the procedures so they developed a colon center along with a team of gastroenterologists who worked on staff at the hospital. 

The center allowed patients to call for one appointment scheduling and they came by that center for a quick review and to pick up their prescription. With this  timely access, patients were often scheduled for the procedure itself within days.  Because there was a large uninsured population, pricing was included  as many diagnostics in that market were actually shopped by price.

Making it simple with one number to call and quick scheduling made all the difference in breaking through barriers to prospective patients.

An emotional plea from the city’s most known gastroenterologist, who had made his life’s work educating the public about preventing colon cancer, was featured in TV advertising along with newspaper ads and radio spots. 

The results: a 40% increase in colonoscopies for that hospital in the following 6 months and likely a good increase at the competition. 

The awareness raised in the local market served the hospital well but just as importantly, educated the residents of the preventative health measure they could all take and help to eliminate a cancer that can truly be prevented by taking early action

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Healthcare Advertising: Do Consumers Really Hate Our Ads?

August 11, 2009

Advertising tags cloudA recent poll indicates consumers actually have a positive attitude towards advertising.

Everybody is skeptical today, right? Nobody believes anything anymore. And certainly advertising is not to be trusted. This is sometimes the prevailing thought. Some believe that advertising is a waste and all of us involved in the craft are slimy, manipulative, greedy, self-serving hacks.

Not according to a study by Neilsen Media, ” Trust, Value and Engagement in Advertising” . More than 25,000 consumers were polled and revealed that consumers actually have a generally positive attitude toward advertising. Here are some interesting findings:

1.   Over 71% of the respondents believe advertising contributes to the growth of the economy.

2.   More than 68% agree that advertising stimulates the economy leading to better products and lower prices.

3.   Over 70% of North Americans responded that advertising provides useful  information that allows them to make better choices.

And despite what you may hear there was not a huge gap in credibility between traditional and non-traditional media, although text ads on mobile phones finished at the very bottom of the trust ratings with very low scores. And what may be even more surprising, trust in advertising overall was up from the 2007 survey.

And we can certainly conclude that healthcare advertising is no different. In fact, healthcare advertising, because it speaks to one of the most important aspects in a person’s life, has even more credibility and trustworthiness.       

So those of us in the business really aren’t as lowly as snake oil salesmen. There is credibility and effectiveness in what we do. The results of the survey are encouraging. But they will remain that way only if we take our responsibilities seriously by dealing fairly with the facts and always speaking the truth and never misleading.

Advertising is powerful and can be extremely effective, but that will only be true if we are honest, fair, and truthful. It is a serious and important responsibility. And in healthcare advertising we must accept an ever-higher burden of responsibility.

Skeptics can say what they want about the value of advertising but the only real enemy is ourselves. We can quickly destroy consumer confidence in our industry if we don’t hold ourselves to the highest possible standard.

Yes we will be aggressive in our efforts, but if we continue to accept the responsibility of truthfulness and fairness, we can continue to be proud of what we do. And by providing helpful and accurate information through our advertising we will also enhance and improve the lives of consumers who value and benefit from what we do.

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