The Role of Brand Communicators in an Outbreak

A lot of the work we do in healthcare marketing and communications is predictable. Brand-building, patient acquisition, and organizational support. But when a new health threat emerges, brand communicators have to respond quickly to help people minimize their risk of infection and to keep fear from spreading.

A lot of the work we do in healthcare marketing and communications is predictable. Brand-building, patient acquisition, and organizational support are long-haul types of activities that you sustain throughout the year. But when a new health threat emerges, brand communicators have to respond quickly to help people minimize their risk of infection and to keep fear from spreading unnecessarily.

That continues to be the case with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), which emerged from the city of Wuhan and Hubei province in China. Authorities suppressed news of the initial cases, so when it finally hit the news cycle, it seemed to appear menacingly overnight. From that point on, the media coverage was almost breathless in its reporting on the quarantine of millions and disturbing visuals of jammed hospitals turning people away. Some of the images circulated online were haunting.

Fear Spreads Faster Than Facts

Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked quickly to understand how COVID-19 spreads and its mortality rate, people thousands of miles away from the epicenter began to fear for their safety.

At times like these, brand communicators must find facts from trusted sources, like the CDC, and disseminate it across multiple touchpoints. The information has to be pushed out assertively, because fear raises cognitive barriers that make it even harder to absorb information and assess risk within an appropriate context. For example, at the same time that COVID-19 was making headlines, millions in the U.S. had the flu, more than 100,000 hospitalizations would occur, and more than 12,000 would die from its complications. Yet we are so accustomed to the flu that we perceive its risk as less than the risk of something new.

Spread Facts

If you work in healthcare, you are part of a crisis response team with a responsibility to share evidence-based facts to combat fear and misinformation. The outbreak continues and our thoughts are with those who are impacted.

But with an ongoing dose of information, we can help reduce the spread of unnecessary fear and the spread of the virus. Learn more about COVID-19 from the CDC.

Healthcare Marketing Messaging: Science Is a Cornerstone of Health

As lawmakers in California debated tightening vaccination requirements for schoolchildren, a protestor threw a menstrual cup with red liquid across the Senate chamber. Although that person’s goal was to disrupt a vote on the bill, it became law. The anti-vax movement is a sign of a larger issue facing healthcare.

In September, as lawmakers in California debated a proposed new law to tighten vaccination requirements for schoolchildren, a protestor threw a menstrual cup with red liquid across the Senate chamber. Although that person’s goal was to disrupt a vote on the bill, it was passed and signed into law. The anti-vaccine movement is one sign of a larger issue facing healthcare — growing public mistrust of science. This wave of doubt should concern all who work in healthcare.

Science is foundational to healthcare.

Yes, compassion in healthcare is essential. Yes, health insurance is an important mechanism to provide access. And yes, the cost of care will continue to challenge state and federal budgets. But what is the future of healthcare, if we turn away from science?

September also marks the annual Rally for Medical Research, an event where scientists from across the country gather in Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to increase funding for the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Each year, the NIH invests nearly $40 billion in the pursuit of basic, translational, and applied science through grants to more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and research centers. Lives are saved, improved, and extended with the scientific knowledge developed by this financial support.

What Healthcare Marketers Need to Ask Patients and Why

When we show up to a doctor’s office or hospital as patients, we expect there to be a treatment for whatever ails us. It’s easy to forget that today’s commonplace treatments were developed by the application of science to the human condition. So when we begin accusing pediatricians of harming children with vaccines, or denying that climate change is real, or mocking the science that tells us that too many chemicals are entering our water and food sources — we are harming ourselves. The emotional satisfaction we get from snarkiness is short-lived, but its implications for science and medicine are much longer. Will politicians continue to support scientific investment, if a growing segment of our population doubts its validity?

No one is suggesting that we should have blind faith in science and medicine. There is a need for healthy skepticism in all things. Research is fundamentally a way of challenging conventional wisdom, but is based on a process that physicist Richard Feynman once described as “a way of not fooling ourselves.” The scientific process — based on repeatability by different teams with a peer-review process — is the way to differentiate between what we believe to be true and what is demonstrably true.

Today’s polarization is driven by many factors — economic, political, and belief systems. In healthcare, clashes over health insurance, access to care, and its cost, pale in importance to a more fundamental disturbing trend: Do we still believe in science? The treatments that will cure cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s, and reverse heart disease will depend on our answer.

Should Marketers Be Taking a Pass on Hard-hitting Sponsorships?

As a healthcare marketer, you wear many hats. One is “generate brand awareness.” How and where you choose to elevate your brand — including sponsorships — is a reflection of your organization, your audiences, a strategic analysis of pros and cons, and shifting societal perspectives.

As a healthcare marketer, you wear many hats. One is “generate brand awareness.” How and where you choose to elevate your brand — including sponsorships — is a reflection of your organization, your audiences, a strategic analysis of pros and cons, and shifting societal perspectives. So when Children’s Health of Texas put its name on a high school football stadium, the sponsorship raised some eyebrows.

Football is a huge part of life in Texas. Having grown up there, I understand the proper construction of a three-day weekend: Friday is high school game day, Saturday is for college, and Sunday/Monday is pro-ball. Putting your brand name on a stadium is a marketer’s dream. I’ve had that dream, too.

A few years ago, the decision to put a healthcare brand on a football stadium wouldn’t have attracted much attention. Since then, however, the connection between football concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has become clear. The NFL uneasily acknowledged such a link in 2016. Other studies have shown that younger players are also susceptible to brain injury from contact sports at the college and high school levels. And parents are paying attention. The National Federation of State High School Associations reports participation in high school football has declined by 6.1% over the last decade, even as participation in other sports has grown. Other studies show even sharper declines in participation in youth football. Some of the decline is attributable to rising parental awareness about the link between hard-hitting contact sports and CTE.

So is this where a children’s healthcare brand should invest $2.5 million for a title sponsorship?

I am certain the decision to brand a football stadium was made with the best of intentions. It’s a high-visibility play, intended to create an affinity for the health system among parents as it expands its footprint. But in addition to securing eyeballs and mentions, brand placement is also about telegraphing organizational values and being mindful about clinical evidence. Will this sponsorship be paired with an equally visible effort to educate the public about how to minimize concussion risk?

To be sure, football is not going away. Athletes who excel at it become local celebrities, can get into stellar college programs and even dream of being in the NFL. Those who choose to play it should be able to do so. Brands associated with it, and other sports, often do well by association. But this is a tricky landscape for healthcare marketers.

Societal norms evolve. What would have been an easy decision a few years back may no longer be your best fit for a multi-year contract, moving forward. Ideally, brand placements position your organization as an exemplar of heightened conscience, as well as enduring core values. Only time will tell if the decision by Children’s Health of Texas struck the right balance with its audiences.

As you evaluate contract renewals or new sponsorship agreements, look beyond the sheer number of eyeballs who might see your brand. There are many ways to draw those eyeballs to your organization.

A marketer’s job is not to seize upon a high-profile promotional opportunity just because the cost-per-impression pencils out and you have the budget. The job is to choose sponsorships through a strategic lens.

Sponsorships, especially title sponsorships, should be chosen in the context of longer-term societal shifts and the values of the workforce in your organization — especially in healthcare.

A Few Thoughts on Healthcare Marketing Amid Neverending Brand Crises

Today’s news cycle operates at breathtaking speed. Headline after headline shoves its way into the spotlight and then is forgotten almost as quickly. So what does it mean for healthcare marketing when every refresh of the web browser seems to include another story related to healthcare?

Today’s news cycle operates at breathtaking speed. Headline after headline shoves its way into the spotlight and then is forgotten almost as quickly. So what does it mean for healthcare marketing when every refresh of the web browser seems to include another story related to healthcare?

Poor healthcare access. Astronomical health insurance premiums. Surprise bills.Medicare for All. Single Payer. Universal coverage. The list of healthcare grievances and proposed solutions goes on and on. The near-constant presence of these stories indicates a level of societal frustration that should worry all of us who work in healthcare.

Pick any one of these stories, and we can explain it. Poor healthcare access? Well, it’s related to a bottleneck in residency programs, a growing shortage of licensed providers and low reimbursements. Unaffordable health insurance premiums? That’s because the cost of covered services is high and demographic trends are driving more consumption. Medicare for All? Don’t you know that would result in hospital closures and massive layoffs? Each well-reasoned explanation becomes another brick in the wall.

healthcare marketing image
Credit: Getty Images by Jeffrey Hamilton

The seemingly unsolvable complexity of healthcare creates an atmosphere in which incremental improvements are unsatisfying, and Hail Mary visions of massive reform start becoming more palatable. That’s a risky spot to be in for an industry that dislikes market uncertainty. Industries that remain tone deaf to societal pressures become targets for disruptors. It’s starting to happen in healthcare around the edges, where the barriers to entry are lower, such as primary care and telehealth. Meanwhile, established players pursue vertical and horizontal mergers to keep patient volume in their delivery systems, which doesn’t address the underlying affordability and access challenges driving public discontentment.

As marketers, it’s important to understand and respond to the changing competitive environment. As communicators, we respond to media inquiries and help people navigate our systems. Let’s also remember that our scope of responsibilities includes raising difficult conversations about external perceptions with internal stakeholders. Without that ongoing engagement and a willingness to try new things, we may reach a point where the “system” is transformed around us through legislative action or competitive disruption.

How to Talk About Healthcare Marketing Strategy, Not Just ‘The Thing’

For many in healthcare, “marketing” is the department that produces fun stuff like brochures and giveaways, and not a strategic enterprise. The problem is that expertise is hard to see, while a brochure is in plain sight. How do you respond?

Does this seem familiar? A chief of service has been difficult to reach but then suddenly calls and wants to sit down to talk about “marketing.” At the meeting, it quickly becomes clear that all she wants is a brochure or an ad or a give-away item, not a marketing strategy. How do you respond?

Is Marketing Just for the ‘Fun Stuff’

For many in healthcare, “marketing” is the department that produces fun stuff. This reputation was well-deserved because healthcare marketers had been slow to pivot to data-driven, consumer-oriented methodologies used in other industries.

Once, a senior leader remarked I had “the best damn job in the whole place” because of all the fun he imagined we must be having in the department. He went on to describe a commercial where people avoided meetings with finance and operations but looked forward to going to marketing meetings because of the music and dancing. At the time I laughed outwardly and grimaced inside.

This legacy lives on. It persists despite the remarkable shift in healthcare marketing to research, strategy, technology, audience-based messaging, consumer journeys and understanding the operational and financial elements needed to generate ROI.

The problem is that expertise is hard to see, while a brochure is in plain sight. So internal customers will still call you for “the thing.” You can choose to view “the thing” as an albatross or an opportunity.

3 Ways to Change the Conversation

Now you’re seated around the table and realize they are using the term “marketing” very loosely. All they want is a specific type of deliverable. Do you fulfill the request? Do you interject a more accurate description, “oh so you are looking for a promotional piece”? Or do you try to steer them toward a bigger picture perspective? Ideally, the answer is all three.

Mentally you need to frame your approach as “yes, and…”

  • “Yes, we can do the brochure. And this gives us an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of your audience and their concerns, so we can address them here and on the website. That would help increase the number of new patient appointments.”
  • “Yes, we can produce the give-away item for the conference. And we can also put together a nurture program that communicates with your audiences before and after the conference, so they keep you in mind for referrals.”
  • “Yes, we would be happy to do a promotional plan for your department, and if we included that as part of a broader marketing plan, we could help grow service line volume and show a positive Return on Investment.”

These responses can open the door to market research, audience cultivation strategies and less comfortable discussions about appointment wait time, revenue and contribution margin, and the patient experience. It may not work every time, but it conveys the actual value you can bring and positions your team as more than the ‘department of stuff.’

Why Healthcare Brands Should Push for Annual Wellness Visits

Open enrollment tends to consume healthcare marketing teams this time of year, but there is another piece of low-hanging fruit — the Annual Wellness Visit. By increasing the completion rate of AWVs by Dec. 31, you provide a meaningful service for patients, generate revenue for physicians and potentially boost your organization’s risk-adjusted reimbursements.

Open enrollment tends to consume healthcare marketing teams this time of year, but there is another piece of low-hanging fruit — the Annual Wellness Visit (AWV). By increasing the completion rate of AWVs by Dec. 31, you provide a meaningful service for patients, generate revenue for physicians, and potentially boost your organization’s risk-adjusted reimbursements.

Anyone enrolled in Medicare for longer than 12 months qualifies for a once-a-year AWV. This is a preventive health benefit offered at no cost to the patient. The AWV is a longer format office visit between a patient and provider to complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), discuss health concerns and document conditions that ultimately factor into the patient’s risk score. Because the visit is not associated with a specific health complaint and request for treatment, it can be harder for a patient or provider to see its real value. That may be one reason why only 14%-19% of senior populations typically have AWVs, but it offers four notable benefits:

1. The AWV Helps the Patient and Doctor Forge a Better Relationship

These appointments take 45 minutes to an hour, longer than a typical visit. The visit is a discussion that touches on family medical history, assessment for depression or cognitive impairments, a review of specialists seen by the patient, and other items. The appointment duration and nature of the discussion fosters a relationship that reduces doctor hopping and can improve word-of-mouth referrals.

2. Patients Who Have AWVs Tend to Have Better Health Outcomes

The whole purpose of the AWV is to translate information from the HRA into a Personalized Prevention Plan, all made possible by the extended conversation time. Because the approach is a form of shared decision-making, patients are more likely to feel an obligation to try and live up to it. And, as providers document specific clinical actions needed over the coming year, completions of those quality metrics also rise.

3. Some Medicare Plans Pay a Bonus

AWV is a focus of Medicare Advantage plans, and some provide bonuses to organizations that raise AWV completions

If your organization has an easily definable base of seniors, ask your contracting department if any of your health plan partners are offering AWV incentives. In some cases, you may be able to draw on health plan funds to offset your costs in promoting the service to your qualified patients. Mailers to patients, newspaper ads, messages via your patient portal, outbound calls and targeted digital ads are all ways to drive AWV appointments that occur by the end of the year. The end-of-year ‘expiration’ can be a motivating factor for patients who seek to maximize their health benefits while others find value in starting the new year off ‘right.’

4. More Time to Code Health Risks

The AWV gives the provider more time to code appropriate health risks and conditions into your EHR system, which can increase risk-adjusted reimbursements over the coming year.

Marketers focus on new patient acquisition, which is expensive, but may overlook substantive patient engagement tactics that impact reimbursement levels. Any communications directed to providers should indicate the Evaluation and Management (E/M) service code and a link for resources on how to bill if treatment or diagnostic modifiers need to be applied.

Although open enrollment is a natural focus for this time of year, a last-minute push for AWVs or a year-round strategy for communicating this benefit to older patients can yield financial and quality results for your organization.

Addressing Unspoken Fear in Healthcare Marketing

There’s a lot of fear in healthcare marketing — the unspoken fears that lurk in the minds of consumers, blocking their ability to absorb your content. Marketers who don’t address these nagging worries in the conversion funnel risk turning off prospects who are otherwise excellent candidates for that service line.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy
Credit: Pixabay by Gerd Altmann

There’s a lot of fear in healthcare marketing. I’m referring to unspoken fears that lurk in the minds of consumers, blocking their ability to absorb your content. Marketers who don’t address these nagging worries in the conversion funnel risk turning off prospects who are otherwise excellent candidates for that service line.

Fear is a funny thing. A little of it keeps you alert and causes you to be more careful. Too much fear and you cognitively shut down. The difference — in the first scenario you believe you can do something to minimize the danger, while in the other scenario you don’t know of a solution and you feel paralyzed.

Imagine marketing a service line for a serious health condition. Your reader may have insurance, but there’s a negative inner dialogue unfolding in his mind: “I will miss work. If I miss too much work, I might lose my job. If I lose my job, I won’t have life or health insurance. If I don’t have insurance or a job, I could bankrupt my family. They would end up with nothing.”

The prospect has catastrophized a possible outcome and now wants to avoid your messaging entirely out of both fear and guilt. And because these internal monologues are unspoken, it’s very difficult to get the kind of feedback that enables you to make improvements. If you have service line campaigns that are not performing, ask yourself if fear might be getting in the way and how you can break down those barriers to conversion.

You can address unspoken fears at several places along the funnel, starting right at the top and adding more detail along the consumer journey:

  • At the top of the funnel, consider adding a truthful, positive indicator into your outbound messaging that contrasts today’s treatment with what was available years ago. Advances in knowledge, techniques, and technology can help a fearful consumer move beyond legacy emotional assumptions and create a narrow window of reconsideration.
  • On your campaign page, proactively address common concerns while also streamlining navigational flow to your call-to-action. A generic FAQ link may be too subtle for consumers with nagging worries. Consider clearly labeled links such as “Time away from work,” “Insurance accepted,” “How outcomes have changed,” “Managing out-of-pocket costs” or similar topic-specific labels. Each item or grouping should conclude with your CTA.
  • System-generated emails triggered by user submissions as well as nurture campaigns should include links to content that normalizes typical concerns and provides reassurance that these can be discussed comfortably at the appointment. Some patient no-shows are caused by nagging worries that cause people to disengage even before an in-person consultation.
  • Consider adding a simple form at check-in that asks about the patient’s concerns and provides pre-populated topics to select. Patients can become surprisingly quiet when the doctor enters the room. If the provider knows what topics are weighing on the patient’s mind, the dialogue can be more meaningful and a foundation of trust developed.

And throughout this process, work with your organization’s best-performing providers as well as financial counselors, patient navigators, social workers and philanthropic foundation for insights that help improve responses to common patient concerns.

The ‘Aging-in’ Opportunity for Healthcare Brands

Healthcare marketers might focus on the 65 and up segment because of perceived near-term needs that will generate revenue quickly, or they might target much younger adults to earn maternity and pediatric customers in the hopes of larger CLV. But there’s a middle group who may be more persuadable: The younger aging-in population.

Health systems increasingly use return on investment (ROI) metrics as a means of instilling discipline into the marketing function. In turn, a marketer might focus on the 65 and up segment because of perceived near-term needs that will generate revenue quickly, or they might target much younger adults to earn maternity and pediatric customers in the hopes of larger customer lifetime value (CLV) estimates. But there’s a middle group who may be more persuadable: The younger “aging-in” population.

I’m not referring to “aging-in” in the almost-ready-to-sign-up for Medicare sense, but rather to the 50-64 year old population that often seems overlooked in health system marketing plans. This demographic is working, has seniority with their employer, has favorable commercial insurance, and is starting to consume more health services. They are starting to pay attention to the health category.

This segment combines the tail-end of the Baby Boomers and the leading edge of Generation X. Their life experiences were shaped by hard rock, disco and pop music, political scandals, gas lines, economic booms and the Great Recession. And even though they may now take blood pressure or cholesterol medications, they maintain a self-perception of being younger and are looking forward to this window of time between the kids finally moving out and the contemplation of retirement.

So, how do you persuade them? Targeting from a media perspective is relatively easy. The harder part is avoiding the clichés of ‘senior marketing’ that turn-off this segment. Here are three tips:

  • Don’t overly focus on age as part of your visual or narrative message. This group intellectually understands they are getting older, but attitudinally pushes back on messages that seem designed for the ‘senior’ set. This is an important distinction from older segments that embrace the ‘senior’ designation and silver-haired imagery.
  • Focus on their motivations. These prospects are interested in experiences large and small that they may have previously delayed. The emphasis is on the ability to ‘do.’ This is strongly tied to a person’s motivations for new experiences and why your clinical service line needs to be in the context of enabling an engaged lifestyle with minimal disruption.
  • They carry a sense of responsibility. This segment will go online to do research and can be cynical about superficial content, so make sure there’s a “there, there” when they land on your campaign page. This group solves problems at work and will approach a service line in the same way. Once they land on your page, your content needs to be structured to allow for deeper dives into volume/quality, return to work speed, how to access, cost considerations and next steps.

The 50- to 64-year-old aging in place segment represents a strong segment with favorable income and insurance, rising health needs and an increasing wiliness to listen to your message — as long as you don’t make them feel old.

Healthcare Marketing: Where Is the Puck Headed?

While there may be more professional ways of saying it, 2017 was a crazy year in healthcare marketing. Will they repeal and replace? What will happen with CHIPS funding? Will Medicaid be turned into a block grant program? Will CMS continue to move toward bundled payments?

Four signs point to where healthcare marketing is headed.
Four signs point to where healthcare marketing is headed.

While there may be more professional ways of saying it, 2017 was a crazy year in healthcare marketing. Will they repeal and replace? What will happen with CHIPS funding? Will Medicaid be turned into a block grant program? Will CMS continue to move toward bundled payments?

If the uncertainty at the federal level didn’t make your head spin, the pace of health system mergers might have — reaching an all-time high of 115 announcements. Now that we are three months in 2018, what can we expect for the rest of the year?

To be an effective marketer, you need to be aware of the macro forces shaping the industry and try to gauge what they could mean for the health of your region and your hospital or health system. It’s about considering where the hockey puck will be in two to three years, not just where it is right now. That type of thinking is great when the trends are fairly clear but harder to do when the environment is uncertain. There’s some bad news and some good news.

First, the bad news. The federal government will continue to roil healthcare in 2018, even though the likelihood of substantial legislative change diminishes as mid-term elections get closer. Merger activity will continue as providers try to develop sufficient scale so that future financial uncertainties can be managed. The number of consumers who have health insurance through the Exchanges will gradually decline because of the elimination of the penalty for tax filings in 2019.

The good news is that some tasks and trends will continue onward, and March is an ideal time to solidify your plans. Here are four things that haven’t changed:

The Move Toward Mobile

Hopefully your site already is mobile-friendly, but what does it let you do? Is your provider directory mobile friendly? Do the search results display in a click-to-call format? Can new or established patients request or schedule an appointment right from their phone? Does it render a map with location-aware driving instructions?

Time invested in improving the functionality of your mobile-friendly site is time well-spent.

Increasing Growth of Voice-Based Search

The popularity of voice assistants for the home is accelerating the use of voice-based searching. Voice-based searches often involve phrases such as ‘near me’ or ‘open now’ (or are implied) and are constructed differently than a keyboard-based search.

Find a search engine optimization firm with specific experience in voice-based search to ensure your visibility remains high as this type of usage increases.

Increasing Medicare and Medicare Advantage Coverage

Demographics are driving up enrollment in these programs, which has an impact on who you target, messaging, fulfillment, and use of communication techniques that increase Annual Wellness Visits or that decrease costly inpatient readmissions.

Dig into your local demographics and seek out multi-year sponsorships or tie-ins that elevate your brand among aging-in beneficiaries. Develop an outreach program that encourages seniors to use their Annual Wellness Visit benefit.

Research Is Worth It

When the environment is uncertain, you may notice an increase in suggestions about what you should be doing. Marketing is really about understanding the needs of your prospects and meeting those needs through services, communications, intake, and retention elements that make the journey a breeze.

If you have an objective, third-party research study about what your audiences want, you have a better chance of reframing conversations to how to address the needs of end-users.

Need help organizing your thoughts? This template can help.

Making Time for Strategy in Healthcare Marketing

Healthcare marketing teams juggle a lot of work. How do you decide where to focus? How do you show leadership that your efforts align with business goals? This article includes a helpful, downloadable template.

Healthcare marketing teams juggle a lot of work to support the organization and key departments. A typical day can include strategy, event management, creative development, corporate communications and a lot of random projects. It keeps everyone busy but may also leave you with a nagging concern about how time is spent.

How do you decide where to focus? How do you show leadership that your efforts align with business goals? This article includes a helpful downloadable template.

No Margin, No Mission

First, a short step back on why it’s important to be strategic in your use of time. Over the past few years, the uninsured rate declined to a record low of 8.8 percent nationally, bolstered by Medicaid expansion in 31 states plus D.C., commercial insurance through the Exchanges and an economic recovery that added jobs.

For hospitals, this meant more patients had some type of health insurance coverage, even if the reimbursement rate was lower than desired. That trend appears to have maxed out. The stalled funding of CHIP, $0 penalty for not having health insurance, uncertainty about rate stabilization subsidies and spiking premiums mean coverage is likely to contract by some amount. This will invariably impact your organization’s bottom line and intensify expectations of marketing.

“No margin, no mission,” is a commonly heard expression in healthcare, originated by Sister Irene Kraus, who led Daughters of Charity National Health Care System (now Ascension Health). Marketers are expected to help each facility earn discretionary choice among those with “good insurance” to earn revenue that helps offset uncompensated or under-compensated care. And so in your busy day, you have to make choices reflecting you understand that.

A Strategic Healthcare Marketing Framework

The foundation for decision-making is a clear link between the organization’s business goals and the marketing strategies and tactics developed and implemented by your team. This means tackling it from the top down, rather than instinctively defending how time is currently spent. Undoubtedly many of your activities support business goals, but in the absence of strong, obvious linkage, they may seem frivolous to a casual observer. The work you do matters; this template helps you show why and how it matters.

Feel free to use and modify this flexible template as needed: Healthcare Marketing Survival Guide Strategic Framework.

  • Start by expressing the positioning for your overall brand or service line. Everything you develop should flow from and reinforce that positioning.
  • Then capture high-level business objectives from your organization’s strategic/business plan, mission, board minutes or executive speeches.
  • Achieving each objective probably means you need to reach multiple audiences (internal, upstream and end-user) so list all of influencers and decision-makers that impact success.
  • Then you need to express the strategies/methods you will use to persuade each audience on an on-going basis. This is an opportunity to identify any market research efforts you might use to refine downstream elements.
  • Next, fill in the messages to deliver to each audience, tailored to address that segment’s perspectives, interests and motivations.
  • Then move to granular tactics, timing and measurements.

It’s easy to struggle with the difference between objectives and strategies, and Harvard Business Review did a nice article recently about that distinction here.

The template forces you to be succinct and to show clear linkage from left to right. At first, your grid will look like a partially completed tic-tac-toe board. Gaps may reveal where you are missing an opportunity to align. Any of your current activities and expenditures that don’t roll-up to a top-level objective may need to be re-considered, re-articulated or streamlined to free up time.

Your goal is to be able to quickly demonstrate how marketing is supporting the organization in the context of business drivers.

To work with this template, use the split cell, merge cell and delete cell functions. You can use shading/fill to black out non-applicable cells. And yes, you can also replicate this form in Excel.

The healthcare industry continues to undergo change and uncertainty. Your alignment with business strategy will help the organization and your team.