How to Map Your True Hospital Marketing Area

Do you know your hospital’s true marketing area? This answer is a foundational element for any strategic healthcare marketing plan. The scope and shape of your marketing area determines what marketing strategies and tactics make sense when trying to increase hospital’s patient volume.

Do you know your hospital marketing area?

This answer is a foundational element for any strategic healthcare marketing plan. The scope and shape of your marketing area determines what marketing strategies and tactics make sense when trying to increase hospital’s patient volume.

You need to build hospital marketing area maps.

One of the ‘rules’ about marketing is that it’s usually more cost effective to increase frequency among existing customers than it is to attract entirely new ones. Although pure consumer selection does drive volume for some services, physician recommendations drive a greater share of volume for non-emergency inpatient admissions and outpatient procedures. (For today’s purpose, we will focus on ‘decision simplicity,’ physicians as customers and referral patterns, and tackle how to leverage pure consumer preference in another article).

The purpose of creating maps is to create a common, objective understanding of your primary and secondary marketing area. The size and shape will be determined by the distribution of your physician network, economic circumstances in different areas, competitor locations and expertise, traffic flow barriers and travel time.

After all, most healthcare is local. By understanding the size and shape of your marketing area, you can evaluate marketing and business development tactics with an eye toward impacting physicians and consumers.

Additionally, hospital marketing area maps are a great visual tool to use when explaining your marketing strategy and tactics to administration and medical leadership.

The first step is to work with your finance, strategic planning or business development departments to pull the information needed to generate your maps. Include 12 months of admissions/procedures to allow for seasonality and service lines that have a long lead time. Keep in mind these data pulls can take a while to fulfill, so submit your requests early in the strategic marketing process while developing messaging and proof points on a parallel path.

Slices to Consider in Your Hospital Marketing Area Map

1. All Patient Home Addresses/All Services

When working with patient information, HIPAA compliance is essential. The goal of patient origin mapping is to visualize patterns while preserving the anonymity of each ‘dot.’ (See tips at end.) The areas with the highest density of dots represent your primary hospital marketing area. Your marketing investment would extend beyond this core area when:

  • You are opening new satellite facilities near the edges or outside of your primary area.
  • Your competition has experienced substantial negative change in reputation, medical leadership or scope of services.
  • Your media options are scalable and are more cost-efficient than geographically targeted tactics.
  • You need to make a high-impact statement to raise top-line awareness, improve your hospital’s reputation, re-launch a brand, or attract and retain highly covered clinical leaders.
  • You are marketing a specialized service line where there’s greater willingness to travel.

2. Patient Home Addresses by Key Service Line

The more significant a diagnosis or procedure, the more likely it is the specialist will express a preference about where it would it should be performed, and the more likely a consumer will travel further for it. This is usually the secondary service area captured on your map. The dot density will be less, but the commercial or Medicare reimbursement may be very attractive.

To visualize your secondary service area by service line, you will need to define the CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes to include in the request you provide to finance or strategic planning. CPT codes are standardized and used in billing/claims processing to indicate the services rendered. The key is determining which CPT codes to include or exclude to get an accurate picture of just that service line’s market area for higher margin procedures. For example, in the case of an orthopedic service line, you may wish to exclude related services like physical therapy or lab tests and focus more narrowly on knee replacement surgical patients. You can get a 14-day free trail of a tool to identify CPT codes from the AAPC to help.

Transparency vs. TMI: Know the Difference

Marketers are constantly reminded to be transparent. And I wholeheartedly agree. But there’s also a line you must remember not to cross as a marketer.

Princess Bride Transparency memeMarketers are constantly reminded to be transparent — see for yourself. Google the phrase “marketers need to be transparent” and you’ll see more than 600,000 results ranging from “Why Transparency Is The New Marketing” to “5 Brands That Employed Transparency in Marketing — and Won.”

And I wholeheartedly agree. But there’s also a line you must remember not to cross as a marketer. And that line is from transparency to TMI … too much information.

Late last week, my friend Rachel, who works for a New York nonprofit, sent me an email she received from a marketing services company. She thought the subject line was interesting, but once opened, found the message to be wordy, overly personal and meandering. She wanted my “professional” take on it.

I read through it, but said that without seeing other emails from this company, I couldn’t tell if that was just the company’s voice, or if somebody was allowed to send something without further, and necessary, review. So Rachel sent me a few more emails. And this email, with the subject line, “I could use your help” stopped me in my tracks.

Help email
Note: I’ve blurred out the From line and the Rachel’s email address.

The image above shows the first two-thirds of the email, which is enough for this purpose. The first two paragraphs are the most problematic:

I’m reaching out to you today to ask for your help. I’m going to be honest even though this is hard to say out loud – but we had two pretty big projects fall through at the last minute this month. Two projects that we had cleared our pipeline to handle, and even hired new staff to support. Unfortunately, those clients had other concerns that they needed to attend – for completely understandable reasons, but that leaves us with a bunch of empty space right now that we need to fill with new work.

So we’re asking you to think of anyone you may know who might be interested in hiring us to help them get the marketing results they want.

Look, I get it. This kind of thing has happened to everyone. Projects fall through and it’s disappointing, frustrating and financially scary. No one wants business to slip through their fingers, especially if it seems to have happened despite your best efforts.

But you don’t email, seemingly, your entire subscriber base, asking for referrals. Because I seriously doubt the majority of this marketer’s email subscribers have done business with them previously, and it’s weird asking strangers for referrals.

I found this messaging tactic to be so strange that I emailed some of Target Marketing’s good friends for feedback (maybe I was missing something that was actually genius?).

Carolyn Goodman, one of our bloggers and president/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners, got back to me right away, and I found her take on the email to be very interesting.

What Do Marketing Executives Seek in Ideal Candidates?

Whether you are an active job seeker, or just seeking a promotion at your current employer, the job search process can be frustrating. I’m here to shed a little light on the hiring process from the perspective of hiring managers — CMOs, VPs of marketing, and directors of marketing

Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning
Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning

Whether you are an active job seeker, or just seeking a promotion at your current employer, the marketing job search process can be frustrating. It can often seem a mystery why you don’t get calls for jobs where you think you’re a match. And if you do get calls for interviews, then sometimes it’s a mystery why you don’t get the offer. What are they looking for in ideal candidates?

Well, I’m here to shed a little light on the hiring process from the perspective of hiring managers — CMOs, VPs of marketing and directors of marketing. Recently, I spoke to Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning. At OnCourse Learning, Evans manages a team of 41 that defines their overall go-to-market strategy across multiple on-line campus websites. His own expertise is in brand and product management and he has even developed three patents relating to marketing business intelligence for the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry.

Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Michelle Robin: What types of qualities do you look for in candidates?

Russell Evans: It varies by candidate. We follow a process called “Targeted Selection” which is a program put on by DDI (Development Dimensions International). We train our people how to interview using this method, and the specs for our jobs are based on competencies. Depending on the position, these might be things like strategic thinking, follow through and planning. We look for people that excel in those competencies tied to that specific job.

We have a pretty high standard on the quality of candidate we look for. In addition to the competencies, we also look at intangible qualities like teamwork. We want people who are good communicators, able to work through conflicts, can collaborate across different types of organizations, and then achieve break through results with that collaboration.

Robin: Where do you like to find candidates?

Evans: My best success has been through LinkedIn or referrals. I’ve been able to find top quality employees through people I’ve worked with over the years. Sometimes we use local publications like Crain’s Chicago Business and Careerbuilder to advertise openings.