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.

The Most Important Digital Marketing Goals and Tactics for 2018

As we’re putting a bright holiday bow on the year that was, most marketers have put some thought into what they need to do in 2018. Here’s what some see as the most important digital marketing goals, challenges, tactics and more for the year ahead.

As we’re putting a bright holiday bow on the year that was, most marketers have put some thought into what they need to do in 2018. Here’s what some see as the most important digital marketing goals, challenges, tactics and more for the year ahead.

This data comes from Ascend2’s “2018 Digital Marketing Plans” survey summary report based on responses from 271 marketers in November 2017.

93% Increasing Digital Budgets

One key finding of the Ascend2 research is that digital marketing budgets are overwhelmingly going up. A combined 93 percent of respondents are seeing budget increasing at least marginally, and 41 percent are seeing significant increases.2018 Digital Marketing Budget Movement

And that’s not so surprising when you see that 94 percent of respondents also feel that digital marketing has become increasingly effective.

2018 Digital Marketing Effectiveness

Digital Marketing Goals

With those changing budgets, though, marketers goals have remained pretty similar.

The Ascend2 survey pool skews a little bit toward B2B, with 43 percent of respondents saying they’re primarily B2B marketers, 35 percent B2C and 22 percent marketing to both equally. That breakdown is important as we look at responses to the “most important marketing objectives,” which put lead gen and sales revenue at the top of the priorities list.

2018 Most Important Digital Marketing Goals

Many of those objectives are also on the list of greatest challenges to these marketers in 2018.

2018 Digital Marketing Challenges

Here’s how those goals and challenges compare:2018 Digital Marketing Objectives vs. Challenges

Most Effective Digital Marketing Tactics

With those objective and challenges in mind, what tactics do marketers expect will be most effective for them in 2018? Social media, content marketing and marketing tech lead the list.2018 Most Effective Digital Marketing Tactics

Some of those also show up on the list of most challenging tactics:2018 Most Difficult Digital Marketing Tactics

And here’s how those compare:2018 Most Effective Digital Marketing Tactics vs. Most Difficult

3 Takeaways

That’s a lot of raw data, and there is more available in the Ascend2 research. What does it tell us?

For starters, I do worry when I see so much more emphasis put on lead generation as an objective than customer experience. CX is on the list, but it’s clearly a lower priority.

Maybe that has to do with the B2B bias, but in 2018, I think it’s going to be critical for both B2C and B2B marketers to emphasize customer experience. We’re seeing experience as a more important indicator of customer success, and repeat business, than simple conversion metrics like lead gen.

When we look at the tactics, we have to recognize social media as a tactic that is seen as both effective and not too difficult to pull off. It jumps right out of that last chart, and is a powerful argument for getting into this tactic if you haven’t already. Compare that to data management, which is seen as less effective and more difficult. (Although I don’t see how you’re doing most of the rest of what’s on that list if you don’t have the data capabilities … Unless marketers are thinking of the data as something the provider handles, which is somewhat the case with social media advertising.)

And finally, I see marketing technology coming in as less effective than it is difficult, although only by a few percentages. To me, the tech is essential, much like data, and I don’t think we’re going to be able to get too much further in digital marketing without real mastery of the tech space.

Have you started looking ahead to 2018? If so, how do these results compare to your own analysis? What goals and tactics and more important to you for the year ahead, and most challenging? Let me know in the comments.

Consumer Reports Nets DMA ECHO Green Marketing Award 2011: Lessons for Every Marketer

One of the highlights of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 annual conference was the awarding of a special ECHO award to Consumer Reports, the organization behind the magazine of the same name. As a member of DMA’s Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility (CESR), I was one of the judges of this year’s competition, which looks to honor one marketing organization that has demonstrated environmental performance and sustainable practices in the design and execution of an advertising campaign.

One of the highlights of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 annual conference was the awarding of a special ECHO award—the ECHO Green Marketing Award—to Consumer Reports, the organization behind the magazine of the same name. As a member of DMA’s Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility (CESR), I was one of the judges of this year’s competition, which looks to honor one marketing organization that has demonstrated environmental performance and sustainable practices in the design and execution of an advertising campaign.

What makes the Consumer Reports entry remarkable is its demonstrated adherence to a set of environmental principles and practices known as the DMA “Green 15.” Established by DMA in 2009, the DMA Green 15 provides guidance to marketers on list hygiene and data management, paper procurement, printing and production, and recycling and workplace operations—all in an effort to support the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

The campaign itself was a recent subscription offer for Consumer Reports and ShopSmart magazines. The campaign did not sell an environmental product. It did not tout environmental claims. It did not involve environmental causes. Yet it won our discipline’s highest environmental marketing honor. Why? Because the campaign incorporated environmental sensitivity, efficiencies, and cross-company and supply chain engagement into everyday marketing planning and decision-making.

In short, the Consumer Reports effort is a blueprint that all marketers—commercial and non-profit—can replicate in their own everyday marketing.

Consider this excerpt from the entry:

We produced the Winter 2010/11 direct marketing campaign with the goal of strategically supporting the sustainability objectives of meeting our acquisition targets, serving the ongoing needs of consumers, and of being good stewards of the resources we use. Direct Marketing and Publishing Operations departments worked collaboratively guided by our internal Environmental Policy & Vision Statement to identify, implement, and track meaningful environmental choices made throughout the life cycle of the campaign season.

The overall environmental benefits of the choices we made included less energy and materials consumption, more benign manufacturing, and reduced emissions. Additionally, we promoted recycling of direct marketing packages that are recyclable, saved money, upheld response rates, and met our objectives.

The full entry incorporated actions that the Consumer Reports vendors undertook to increase efficiencies and environmental performance, as well as documented gains in paper procurement and use, mail design and production, and recycling and pollution reduction—all with measurements that document positive environmental impacts while achieving financial objectives.

I encourage all marketers to look to the example of Consumer Reports and its adherence to the DMA Green 15. In fact, the long-term sustainability of direct marketing depends on it.

Resources:
Direct Marketing Association’s Green 15 Toolkit for Marketers

With Special Permission, This Year’s DMA International ECHO Green Marketing Award Winner, Consumer Reports.

Editor’s Note: As of Autumn 2011, ConsumersUnion is newly rebranded as Consumer Reports.