Creating a Plan for Marketing that
Meets Your Hospital Business Objectives
Crafting any hospital marketing plan is a near-impossible task. The principal challenge is to satisfy the numerous and diverse internal demands, and to do so with finite (often shrinking) resources.
It needs to be a cohesive and coordinated plan that effectively reaches various audiences and serves or supports a range of service lines in a variety of service areas.
How to assign priorities among the many faces of an institution in the community? Patients recognize the facility, but individual needs are typically more narrowly defined among:
- Behavioral Health
- Emergency Department
- Outpatient Care
- Primary Care
- Women’s Services
What’s more, there are the needs, interests and influences of—and the consensus among—internal voices of administrators, directors, medical staff, employees and many others.
Making it all more complex, the competitive environment—and even the delivery system itself—is constantly changing. And the “customer” and their “purchase” are unlike any retail transaction. Often, the objective is to provide a convincing solution in advance of an actual patient need.
Did we mention patient experience/satisfaction, institution branding and messaging, professional reputation, wellness initiatives, community relations, cultural imperatives and government regulations?
The primary elements of a successful plan…
A marketing plan is a strategic document
to achieve specific business goals and objectives
over a specific time period.
The critical elements of a hospital marketing plan are detailed in a series of previous educational articles.
- Target Marketing – Establishing Target Customers
- Competition Analysis
- SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
- SMART Goals
- Strategies and Tactics
- Marketing Budgets
- Marketing System
It’s not an easy task, but a comprehensive marketing plan provides the insight and the tools to anticipate, assess, prepare, build a road map to follow, cover your bases, construct necessary support systems, protect yourself in the marketplace, win consensus, inspire a winning culture and specifically define the measure of your marketing success.
Disconnected marketers, and what to do instead…
In this circus-like environment that’s part art and part science, it’s nearly impossible to please everyone. Is it any wonder that many CEOs don’t really trust marketers? This observation isn’t exclusive to healthcare marketing. But, according to a Fournaise performance survey in business, 80 percent of CEOs believe that “marketers are too disconnected from the short-, medium- and long-term financial realities of companies.
“And that’s because 78 percent of these CEOs think marketers too often lose sight of what the real job is: to generate more customer demand for their products/services in a business-quantifiable and business-measurable way.”
In our experience, most successful marketing pros that we know are numbers-oriented people. A hospital marketing plan in their hands is designed to clearly express specific goals and quantifiable results. Ultimately, this is what creates business credibility with top management.
Internally, they have learned to communicate in hard numbers. They know that metrics, analytics and real-dollar Return-on-Investment (ROI) numbers are the primary language of administrators as well as physicians.
Doctors are trained in science, and they rely on evidence-based practices. Similarly, business-minded administrators, chief financial officers and managing executives will view a hospital marketing plan from the bottom-line up. Neither group will be overly impressed with what they regard as “soft metrics,” such as “the number of brochures created and printed” or even “the number of people attending an event” (production outcomes).
The true scoreboard of success is to create a marketing plan that is carefully aligned with — and supporting of — your hospital’s business objectives.
- Embrace Strategic Outcome Metrics — The number of website visitors, Facebook “Likes,” blog articles posted, social media mentions and the like constitute useful—but intermediate—data. Construct the elements of your marketing plan to account for quantifiable return on investment (dollars out over dollars in) and for specific numbers, such as trackable new patients, referrals and referral-source activity, preference and image ratings, measurable market share and the like.
- Drive Toward Realistic Expectations — The nature of strategic plans is to achieve quantifiable goals. For each service line or marketing campaign, include performance indicators that can be monitored and managed from baseline to conclusion. And, whenever possible, make midcourse adjustments that remove obstacles and enhance success.
- Research Prospects for Success — Business success favors those service lines where the marketing territories, target audiences and consumer needs are the strongest. Orient your plan to leverage those opportunities that meet public demand. It’s not about what you’re selling; it’s about what the market needs and wants.
- Firm Goals and Flexible Strategies — The nation’s health care system continues to reinvent itself, and any viable plan needs to adapt when necessary. A good marketing plan will hold to achieving the defined goals and objectives, but also recognize that anticipated strategies, tactics, media and budget to achieve the goals can, and sometimes should, be modified for success.
- Track Results in Real-Time — While after-the-fact analysis has value for future planning, immediate feedback is a guide to flexibility and often allows for midcourse changes. Push the winners; fix or stop losers. If you’re not tracking, you’re flying blind. You’ve got to track… constantly and preferably in real time.
- Execute with Enthusiasm — Marketing is neither a “nice-to-have” initiative nor a business afterthought. The sum effect of a plan is truly mission-critical for the viability and growth of a hospital, regardless of the size of the facility or organization. Consequently, an aggressive play-to-win attitude helps fuel success. The attitude is contagious with management, medical staff, colleagues, team members and ultimately the people and community that you serve.
A final thought…
For any hospital, large or small, the construct and implementation of a comprehensive marketing plan are complex and dynamic. (Please reach out to us, we can assist with that.) As a starting point, connect with us here for creating a plan that meets your hospital business objectives.
Uou’ll find more information about building a marketing system in our instructional library. And for related reading, click through to these articles:
- Hospital Advertising Evolves: Achieving Results in an Ever-Changing Industry
- Building a Hospital Website
- The True Definition of ROI: Metrics for Profitable Hospital Marketing in 2014 [Podcast]