Healthcare Marketing: Have We Lost Our Marketing Way?

August 6, 2010

Today’s emphasis on social media, analytics and ROI has taken the place of the “Big Idea.”  And brands are weaker because of it.

When you scan the topics of marketing conventions, examined the titles of webinars that are available everyday and study what marketing subjects are most tweeted, you will find the marketing landscape is covered and dominated by new processes and platforms.   All the talk is about social media, digital platforms, analytics, market segmentation and targeting, lead generation and tracking and ROI.   Where is the discussion about  “big ideas”?  About creativity?  About speaking uniquely to the consumers’ hearts and minds?

Now all of these things are important and create exciting opportunities.  But none of them really matter absent the right, break-through idea.   Where is today’s equivalent of Volkswagen’s “Think Small”, DeBeers’ “Diamonds Are Forever”, “The Absolut Bottle” or Avis’ “We Try Harder?”   Oh there are currently some great campaigns but it seems we have too often substituted creativity for things we can compute and measure.

Brands benefit from savvy marketing tactics and superior media planning but great brands are built with great ideas.  Sure there are some new powerful media platforms but they cannot make a bad idea good.  Or a build a great brand from mediocre concepts. All the best new communication platforms and the analytics that go with them can’t capture the heart and soul of a brand.  Or the critical position in the consumers’ minds.

Maybe our first question should be “what” and not “how”.  An architect conceives a great structure before deciding the tools and materials to use.  An artist has an idea for a subject before deciding on the techniques and colors. And a composer hears a grand symphony in his mind before deciding the instruments to use.   And as marketers, we should have a great concept, a big idea, before deciding where to place it.

New tactics and processes can make us more efficient but great brands they do not make.  Great brands come from breakthrough ideasMarketing should be less about analytics and more about inspiration. Less about measured results and more about creativity.   After all, great brands are created and transformed by big ideas.

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Healthcare Marketing: Digital Outdoor Provides Creative Options

April 4, 2010

With the emergence of digital outdoor, advertisers can switch creative in real time.  And that provides enormous opportunities for creativity that really cuts through the clutter.   

Just a few years ago, outdoor advertising was considered a dying medium.  That has certainly changed with the use of digital messaging on billboards and out of home displays.  And marketers are taking advantage of the new technology to reach out and grab consumers.

One example of creative use of outdoor is Vitaminwater, a Coke brand  in the United Kingdom.  Coke placed boards in train stations and at Piccadilly Circus with employees inconspicuously posted nearby to watch those that passed by.  Messages were sent to the digital board and placed under the Vitaminwater logo, which were specifically targeted to consumers who approached the boards.   The messages referenced clothing or accessories specific to the reader, along with the message to “go grab a Vitaminwater for energy.”

The purpose of the billboards was to engage consumers with the brand.  And indeed it did!  How could a passerby ignore a message directed specifically to him or her? And what a unique way to effectively draw consumers to the brand and communicate the brand message.

True, this may not be appropriate or feasible for a hospital but it does show how digital billboards can be creatively utilized.  Real time messaging provides enormous engagement opportunities for hospital brands. Hospital advertising doesn’t have to be boring or predicted.  The opportunities for creativity abound.  Even outdoors.

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Hospital Marketing: Online Video a Turn Off?

February 24, 2010

Research indicates that up to 25% of web viewers click off of pre-roll video.   Consumers do not want to watch a video before they can get to the information they want.    

A recent study by video analytics firm TubeMogel finds that nearly 16% of viewers click away from a pre-roll video ad rather than watch it before getting to the content they are seeking. And on newspaper and magazine sites, where interruptive advertising isn’t the norm, the percentage goes up to 25%, according to an article in Ad Age by Michael Learmonth.

Consumers just don’t want to want to watch a video before they can get to the information they are searching for. They consider it a nuisance and become annoyed by it.  Yet the easiest thing for marketers to do is to place a: 30-second TV spot on the web.   It’s already produced, it’s available, and it’s easy.  But they may be doing more harm than good.  Annoying the consumer may be what you’re doing.

“Consumers have so many choices that 16% are going to leave your content just because you put an ad in front of it,” stated Brett Wilson, CEO of the video analytics firm.  “That’s a big paradigm shift – people don’t have to watch your ad”

Learmonth also cited research by YuMe that shows a completion rate of only 61% for 30-second video ads on the web. So clearly, using TV spots or videos as an ad, like a pop-up screen, is not highly effective.  Most people go online to gather information and do not want to have to watch an unrequested video ad before they can get to the content they are seeking.

Web advertising requires it’s own unique strategy and approach. While the brand must be consistent across all mediums, it’s not effective to just take traditional media and stick it on the web.  The audience expectations and tolerance levels are entirely different.  When you turn on your online video ad, you may just be turning off the consumer.

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Hospital Marketing: Surgical Tweets Keep Patients’ Families Updated

February 24, 2010

At least one hospital is now using Twitter to improve communications from the surgical suite to family members.      

Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida has begun using Twitter to send updates from the surgical suite to family and friends.  Instead of the family waiting, sometimes for hours, with little or no information about the surgery, Fawcett Memorial has someone in the surgical room sending tweets updating the status of the surgery. Even family and friends who can’t be at the hospital can follow the status.

In most causes there is little information about the surgery until well after the surgery is completed.  Sometimes a nurse will call the OR for an update for the family but the information is usually fairly sketchy.  Tweeting renders an extra level of service to family and friends.  They can know exactly what is going on in surgery and that provides a greater level of comfort and emotional connection to the patient.

Referring to the patient as “a patient of” and their doctor’s name and never mentioning the actual name of the patient prevent HIPAA violations. Both patient and surgeon have to give approval for the tweets.  The tweets are sent only to persons who are given the appropriate Twitter information and approval to receive the updates.

Many hospitals would react to this by arguing that they do not have personnel to send tweets and the nurses in surgery are all concentrated on the patient.  These are valid arguments. But for hospitals that are trying to get an edge in the marketplace, this could be a competitive advantage.  It certainly has the potential to create positive buzz and build loyalty to the hospital.

And it’s just one creative example how social networking can be used to improve service and enhance communication.  There are countless other ways it can be utilized.  Fawcett Memorial is next considering using twitter in the ER for the same purpose.  The availability and acceptance of social media and some creative thinking can truly break new ground in patient service.


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Hospital Marketing: You Have a New CEO… Now What?

November 22, 2009

When an outgoing, gregarious new leader arrives in town as your hospital’s new CEO, it can be an exciting process to help them find acceptance in the community.

Some hospital CEO’s are from an accounting background and prefer to concentrate their efforts internally, but an outgoing personality who wants to be visibly active in the community can be an asset for a hospital. The CEO is more than an internal leader  but an external one as well and when he or she has an effective relationship with the community, this can prove beneficial for the hospital during emergency situations, legal issues, expansion plans, requests from the community, and of course from an imaging stand point

But what to do when the new leader arrives? The expected introductions to the hospital’s board and employees and the usual press releases and Chamber of Commerce events are certainly in order.

Consider Twitter updates (Can be sent from a another leader in the community if your hospital isn’t yet tweeting but another reason we should be building our Twitter followers) with links to your hospital’s website for more info on the just-arrived CEO. Other social media should be considered such as Facebook ads targeted to your market, and possibly a live video feed question and answer via Facebook.  YouTube videos of interviews or snippets “into the life” of the new leader and perhaps his family can also help build a relationship with the community.

Healthcare related fundraisers such as ones hosted for the American Heart Association, Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society, or Diabetes Walks all offer an important opportunity for the new CEO. This kind of personality can make inroads quickly in a community by supporting and attending arts organizations, fundraisers and gala events.  Often times smaller, more intimate settings and events should be considered as they offer the new leader more quality one-on-one time with community leaders.

Opportunities to Consider Sponsoring/Attending:

  • Gala fundraisers for local arts groups like the local museum of art, symphony, community theater or dance organizations.
  • Community-supported events hosted by organizations such as the Botanical Gardens, Land  Trusts, Green Initiatives or outdoor enthusiast events like bike clubs and hiking clubs.
  • Civic groups like Rotary Club. Lions Club, Jaycees or Jr League provide opportunities to network and show support for the community.
  • In smaller markets, involvement in high school sports and band booster clubs provide opportunities to meet families that are very active in the community.

Getting to know the community and making an impact through actual involvement can open doors quickly for a CEO who is so inclined. Converting marketing dollars to community event sponsorships can raise the profile of your new CEO as well as elevate the reputation of the hospital.  This can prove beneficial the next time the hospital needs the community’s or local political leaders’ assistance.

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Hospital Marketing: Social Media as Customer Service Tool

November 22, 2009

Hospitals and doctors are using social networking as a means of delivering a higher level of customer service by providing more communication with patients and their families. 

Every fifteen minutes the patient’s family receives an update on a Blackberry from the operating room, which gives them a status report and informs them how the patient is doing.  Surgeons use Twitter to report the details of an ongoing surgery.   Patients receive educational information from their doctor concerning the health issue they face. Prospective surgical patients watch a webcast of the surgery they are considering. Instead of going to the doctor’s office, a patient receives answers electronically to her health questions.

All the above are real examples of social media being used by healthcare providers as cited by Nirvi Shah in a November 9th article in the Miami HeraldSocial media tools are increasingly being used to provide information, and a higher level of customer service.

Many hesitate to use social media due to concerns about patient privacy.  But users avoid those concerns by using just one of a patient’s initials or just the age of patients. Messages are generally vague so that they would only make sense to the patient’s family.  And public posts are simply educational or very general in regard to details. 

Many patients consider the use of social media tools as modern day bedside manner.  It’s a way to make a stronger connection between the healthcare provider and patient.  It’s a means of making patients and their family more comfortable.

The tools of social media provide a wide range of opportunities to improve and enhance customer service.  Educational information and one-to-one conversations delivered through social media venues can be an extremely valuable asset to hospitals and physicians.  In a very competitive environment, the adoption of such tools can create a very significant advantage.     

 

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Hospital Marketing: Using ER Wait Times as a Marketing Tool

October 31, 2009

 Emergency Room Sign         

Some hospitals are using new technology to communicate ER wait times.

In the October 12, 2009 issue of Advertising Age , Abbey Klaassen wrote about HCA hospitals in south Florida using technology to communicate their ER wait times.   Current wait times are electronically sent to electronic billboards with a RSS feed and the times are shown on the billboard.  They also have an iPhone app that provides the wait times and a texting service.  Consumers simple text “ER” to a number, supply their zip code to a text reply and the wait time and a phone number is texted back to their phone. 

And Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon, Missouri is using Twitter to communicate ER wait times according to Eric Becker of Suburban Journals.

We must commend these hospitals for embracing new technology and using it to communicate with consumers.  Sure, there may be some risks and some pitfalls.  Melanie Arnold, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health points out that communicating ER wait times presents all sorts of possibilities of misunderstandings among patients.  A patient may show up expecting the communicated wait time and be bumped by more serious injuries or health problems.

Ed Fishbough, a spokesperson for HCA acknowledges that communicating wait times is targeted to less serious walk-in patients,  “Obviously, people who have a serious injury or medical condition should call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.”

Despite the concern, and there are legitimate ones, you must applaud those hospitals who are using new technology and channels to communicate with the public.  Those who do will reap significant rewards.  Fishbough added, the network of 12 emergency departments in south Florida has seen “significant increases in the number of patients visiting its ERs”.

New technology and new media as part of the communication effort of hospitals is something that should not wait.

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