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Tag Archives: Hospital

5 confessions of a burned out hospital marketer

This post first ran on the HCCN site in February 2016.

A few months ago, I wrote a short blog post inspired by several colleagues who had confessed to me that they felt burned out and chewed up in their health care jobs. You’d expect exhaustion from nurses and doctors; these were marketing professionals.

I felt grateful to share their stories, but didn’t think anything more after the blog post. It turned out to be one of the most shared and re-tweeted posts in our agency’s five-year history of writing for our blog.

Apparently, the post resonated with our colleagues in health care marketing. Our jobs have become infinitely more complicated in the last 24 months. We’re working more hours. We have more meetings. And for many of us, less staff, budget reductions. We’re being asked to solve the problems in health care with a roll of duct tape and a pair of rusted pliers.

[RELATED: The best ways to engage with hospital employees.]

I don’t have the answers, but I do have the benefit of working with many talented health care marketers who rise above the challenges every day and exhibit grace under (increasing) pressure.

Here’s five ways to re-inspire your health care marketing career:

1. Create more white space moments

Effective CEOs say that a key to their success is giving themselves time to reflect and enrich their knowledge base. When’s the last time you shut your office door and read a book for an hour? If that feels impossible, start with 10 minutes every two hours where you look away from the computer, put down the phone, shut the door and breathe in the calm. You’ll feel refreshed and more engaged when you return to putting out the fires. One of our busiest clients decided months ago to refuse any meeting requests on Fridays. She uses that day for her “deep thinking,” and swears her decision to avoid meetings on Fridays has helped her to be a more effective leader. (We love the idea so much we propose the hashtag #NOMEETINGFRIDAYS should go viral.)

2. Host a retreat

When’s the last time you took your team offsite and had the chance to look back and look ahead? This doesn’t have to be a costly affair—even commandeering a few tables at a local Panera for a few hours would suffice. At a minimum, host a planning retreat with your staff once a year (offsite!). You’ll gain a better grasp of your collective accomplishments and identify what you should focus on next.

3. Have heroes

If you can’t remember the last time you felt inspired, it’s time to go inspiration-seeking. Having heroes —or people you look up to—will be a source of inspiration for your chaotic work life. Heroes can be people you know in health care marketing, other marketing gurus (mine is Seth Godin), or other inspiring figures from history. Reading a great biography of someone you admire will give you clues on how to live a more enriching life.

4. Walk a mile in a patient’s shoes

Chances are, your marketing office is not in the main hospital. It’s easy to get caught up in your day to day, and when you are in the hospital, you’re focused on getting to the board meeting on time. It’s easy to forget why you showed up to your health care job all those years ago. Once a month, make a commitment to round the hospital. Observe the patients and family members. See their faces. Listen to their conversations. Empathize with their situation—their happiness, their fear, their sorrow, their frustration. Let go of KPIs for the moment and help, human being to human being. Health care is the business of life and death. Returning to this amazing truth will help you restore why this is your calling.

5. Connect with colleagues

We love attending health care conferences and reading Ragan’s content for the educational value, but also because it helps remind us we’re not alone. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is soothing. Travel budgets have been cut for many of our hospital colleagues, but try to get to a conference this coming year. Or attend your state society’s conference—I’m sure your local colleagues would love to see your smiling face, (or better yet, volunteer!). Even commenting on blog posts (hint, hint) can provide you an opportunity to feel more connected.

A few book recommendations:

I recently finished reading three great books that can aid in helping you rediscover your purpose, enrich your career, or simply help with time management skills.

  • Leaders Eat Last — Simon Sinek shows us why modern corporations are dangerous to our health, and what to do to change them.
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less — A fantastic call-to-arms to do less, but better.
  • Manage Your Day to Day — Short essays by brilliant people on what they do to simplify their work lives, be more productive, and creative.

This blog originally appeared here.

3 items that will wow your hospital CEO

Budgeting is always a challenge for any hospital marketer. You cut and tighten your budget in every way possible. Yet, you know your hospital’s CEO will want you to justify your numbers.

For hospital CEOs, it comes down to lowering costs, raising profits and improving patient interactions. If you can provide them with information about these items, you are guaranteed to get their attention. Here are three items that will get your CEO thinking critically when you begin to talk about your marketing budget:

Patient acquisition cost

Multiple studies have shown that, on average, the cost of acquiring one patient through traditional marketing is over $ 300. The costs for acquiring the same patient using inbound marketing is less than half of that. Check your hospital’s cost per patient acquired through traditional marketing in years past. Project what your cost per patient acquired will be with inbound marketing. This information will show your CEO that you are working to lower costs.

[RELATED: Learn new strategies to beat data overload and boost reach, results and ROI.]

Patient lifetime value

You should know how much revenue each patient will generate over a lifetime of using your hospital’s services. With a lower patient acquisition cost, the patient’s lifetime value should increase in proportion to that decrease. Check what your hospital’s patient lifetime value is using traditional marketing. Project what it will be using inbound marketing. This will show you are working to increase profits.

Online patient interactions

Use third-party research that shows the growing trend of online interactions in health care.

  • 80% of web users in America look online for health information.
  • About 160 million people use online resources to research a specific disease or condition.
  • Health information is the single most searched topic on the Internet, bar none.
  • 56% of web users in the U.S. look online for information on a procedure.
  • 44% of American web users look online for information on doctors and health care facilities.

Not only will these statistics justify your use of online marketing efforts but they will also help you advocate when and if you ever need to ask for a budget increase. With the help of data like this, justifying your budget and your use of online resources, will be easier—especially to demonstrate your department’s importance to the hospital itself.

Inbound marketing has the power to increase patient volume while lowering costs. Making this a major part of your marketing mix will make a significant difference.

Previously published material.

The cost of substandard hospital communication

More than 90 percent of physicians violate privacy laws by using pagers and other unsecured networks to communicate about patients. Systems lax about patient information violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. You may be wondering why providers would opt for antiquated technology when smartphones are available.

An infographic from Dickson Data says simplicity, range and reliability keep clinicians tied to pagers. However, patient safety is at risk when communication falters. The result? A PR crisis that can likely be prevented.


  • About 70 percent of accidental deaths and injuries in hospitals are due to communication issues.
  • The average 13-year-old has more capability with his or her smartphone than many ambulances.
  • Texting patient information violates HIPAA; each text carries a penalty of up to $ 50,000.

FREE DOWNLOAD: How to manage online patient feedback and brand reputation

Take a look:

(View a larger image here)


(Image via) 

Previously published material.

6 tips for writing a stellar hospital blog

While most organizations have made the foray into social media, the decision to launch a blog comes with many questions.

How do you leverage existing content and publications? Should you have regular contributors? Who will read it?

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute launched our blog, Insight in fall 2011, after a long and thorough planning process. It provides an opportunity to share the patient stories that inspire us, and the research discoveries that give us hope. Here are a few of the lessons we learned along the way:

1. Be strategic

Before you start designing the blog’s layout and assigning stories, think first about what you would like to achieve. Do you want to increase awareness of your organization’s expertise in a particular area? Who do you hope to reach? All content decisions should be tied directly to your objective and key audiences, so take the time to answers these questions first.

2. Show, don’t tell

While blogs provide an opportunity to highlight your organization’s brand image, it’s important to avoid being overly self-promotional. Provide concrete examples and let the reader decide for themselves. Marketing jargon like “world-class” and “patient-centered approach” are red flags that will turn readers away.

3. Analyze and reflect

Tracking click-throughs, comments, and sharing will make it easy to spot readership trends. Use this information to help guide future content decisions or test out a new approach.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: Digital Marketing Musts for Health Care Communicators]

4. Plan ahead, but be flexible

Posting regular content will give readers a reason to come back. But remember not to be so rigid that you don’t have room for late-breaking opportunities. Providing expert commentary on major news stories can help increase your company’s visibility, and make your blog more relevant.

5. Manage expectations

Even with the best planning and PR, your blog is probably not going to be an overnight sensation. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t always hold true online. It will take time to grow an audience, and not every post will attract huge readership and hundreds of comments. Make sure your stakeholders are aware of this, and keep them up to date with marketing initiatives so they have an ongoing sense of what success looks like.

6. Market your blog

If people aren’t aware of your blog, they can’t read it. Start with an internal campaign first—your organization’s employees can be your best ambassadors. Don’t forget to post news of the official launch on your website, reach out to your local newspaper, and tease new stories on Facebook and Twitter each week.

This post originally appeared on “Insight,” a blog by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

Previously published material.

5 ways to measure better at your hospital

Building a measurement strategy for your marketing/communication efforts isn’t easy. Particularly when you’re starting anew (or dramatically rebuilding what you’ve already done). Someone starting down this path usually begins the process with a look of confusion.

Measuring what you’re doing is daunting. Particularly with all the extra scrutiny we’re facing: tightening budgets, not enough time, an over-arching pressure to show ROI and proving what we’re doing is actually working.

There are so many things you can/should be measuring. There is so much to measure (and many more that you wish you could measure, but you don’t have access to the right data). At times it seems overwhelming.

Consider that old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Here are a few tips on how to begin digesting that enormous pachyderm of measurement:

Bite #1: Realize you can’t measure the whole thing—pick one thing to start.
Pick a single marketing or communication activity that you are doing that is important to you—or more importantly, to your business goals. The best way to learn good measurement discipline is by doing it well one time, and then applying that knowledge over others in a broader way.

Bite #2: Pick something you have control over.
Some efforts involve multiple people or teams—either within your organization or outside. When you are getting started, it’s best to pick something you manage directly. Not only will it guarantee you’ll have access to all of the metrics, but you can also adjust and modify the activity if you need to improve.

RELATED: Join us in San Francisco for The Role of Communications in Creating Best Places to Work.

Bite #3: Realize that you can’t measure alone—seek help.
Be realistic about what you can and cannot measure. Sometimes you don’t have access to all the data to measure. Find people within your organization that can help you measure. Become friends with them, share with them your desire to measure and then ask for their help. (Bonus bite: if one of these people are in finance, they love to measure!)

Bite #4: Pick the right metrics.
There are hundreds of things you can measure. Maybe more. When you start measuring your efforts, take some time to focus on those metrics that make sense. Align them with your business goals. Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and spend your time measuring just those. Remember: just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to measure. Be selective.

Bite #5: Review, adjust, rinse and repeat.
Once you pulled together your first report, sit down with your findings. Review them in depth to determine if you can improve the way you measure. Share your report with others and ask for their input. Always seek ways to improve—good measurement discipline involves constant review. And then use what you just learned to find another thing you can start to measure.

Taking it one little piece at a time allows you to begin building the internal discipline you need to measure the effectiveness of your marketing/communication efforts.

And it will help prevent you from biting off more than you can chew.

You can read more from Chris Boyer here.

Previously published material.

5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing

5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing

Hospital marketing is tricky, to say the least. You just cannot inspire patients to visit a hospital. However, it is important for you to increase your patient base in order to do justice to all the investments you have made in your hospital. The solution: marketing your hospital in a subtle but effective manner.

Recent research by Capstrat on hospital purchasing trends revealed that how today’s customers research and purchase medical services does not correspond with the marketing strategies designed to reach them. From the way they reach the target audience, to how they brand their products and services and which networks they utilize to connect with potential patients, hospital marketers need a fresh approach.

Hospital marketing should not be restricted to brand-building or sales support.

It is about making a positive connection with patients, on their terms.

If your hospital’s marketing program is focusing on any of the following areas, it is time to reconsider your branding strategies and how you want to portray yourself to patients:

  • Non-care focus: Hospitals that focus on luxuries misinterpret why patients choose medical facilities. Patients choose hospitals on the basis of specific treatment expertise and online error-free or minimum-error medical histories.
  • Overusing outbound strategies: While many hospitals still use electronic media such as TV and radio ads and direct emails to capture patients’ attention, the marketing world has shifted away from outbound strategies. Instead, according to HubSpot, almost 92 percent of companies using inbound techniques such as blogs, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media witnessed an increase in site traffic and lead generation.
  • Short-range focus: Medical marketing requires patience. Since most patients do not need care immediately, hospital marketing must focus on the long-term nature of the industry. One of your potential patients may view an advertisement for your hospital but not need medical service for months or even years. Persistence and patience are must-haves for hospital marketers trying to attract more patients.

New rules for hospital marketing

Hospital marketing has taken an unforeseen turn. Some medical facilities are using hotel-like comforts to attract and pamper potential patients. However, these luxuries do not lessen concerns about high healthcare costs. Here are some of the newfound marketing rules you should adhere to for attracting more patients while building a strong, health-first brand.

1. Know your product

As a medical marketer, you spend most of your time thinking about your product. How to improve it, sell it, talk about it, whom to sell it to – this is what you are paid to dwell on. But here’s what you need to know: Customers rarely evaluate your product solely against other products in the same category. They have limited money to spend but have a lot of options. And if your products are deemed less important than others in the same category, beating out your competitors may not help you win the sale.

The solution

You must understand how your product category is perceived by your target audience in order to fully understand the environment in which you are operating. One of the easiest ways to start is by making some calls to current patients. Just ask them about the product options they have today and those they were considering when finalizing your product. Of course, a formal survey would be better. In addition, a survey would give you a reason to reach out to current and potential patients about things other than your product or service, which is a good thought.

5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing

2. Listen

What part of your marketing budget do you spend on listening versus telling your story? Most marketers spend most of their budget on telling. However, recent research has uncovered some surprising insights about what customers value most while purchasing a product. When asked, “What’s the advice you would offer to marketers trying to win your business?” empathy appeared at the top of the list. So, if you understand what customers demand and the challenges they face, your chances of success can go way up. Listen to your patients and hear what they have to say. Do not just assume that your product will fit everyone’s needs. So, are you listening?

The solution

It is about time you introduced some fresh elements into the marketing mix. To begin with, you can design a questionnaire. If you have tried almost every “telling” strategy under the sun, why not borrow a page from the political playbook and go on a listening tour? You can consider visiting current and potential patients, without any “promotional” agenda, and try to gather intelligence and build interpersonal relationships. However, if in-person visits do not sound like a good idea with your customer list or budget, you can plan a similar survey in a virtual environment.

3. Focus on after-sales

Skilled marketers focus on making the sale, but great ones know that what happens after the sale is just as critical. This is an important lesson for marketers. In most organizations, marketers focus most of their energy on the lead-up to the sale. This is because, essentially, salespeople and marketers are judged on sales numbers and their sales pipeline. Identifying potential clients, contacting them with the right message through the right channel, closing the deal. That is a typical sales routine. However, what happens after the sale is just as important.

Imagine replicating this scenario on hospital marketing teams and patients. Why? Because most potential patients depend heavily on word-of-mouth. They call their family and friends and look up online reviews in order to learn more about your hospital. And in those environments, what you did before attracting the patient to your hospital is not important at all. They want to know what happened after a patient visits your hospital. The real story is about the patient’s experience and his or her overall journey. If you are unable to shape that story, you are likely to miss the boat.

The solution

It is critical to map your marketing strategies against each touchpoint in the patient’s journey. If you are not spending a significant part of your total effort on what happens after patients visit your hospital, you have a lot of work to do. Surveys are certainly an effective way to keep in touch with patients after the consultation, and they can provide valuable feedback. Regardless of what strategy you choose, your goal should be to equip current patients with the information they need to help sell your services to their family and friends. Convert your patients into brand ambassadors.

5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing

4. Prioritize social media

As compared to other industries, hospitals have been slow to adopt social media. Most medical facilities have only a vague idea of what they would like to accomplish, but no defined goals, objectives or methods. They just “want to be on Facebook.” Many healthcare facilities understand the value of social media but are unsure of how to get the ball rolling or get their feet wet. Having a robust social media presence that supports all facets of your marketing strategies and engages your patients cannot be implemented overnight.

The solution

Consider the success of Mayo Clinic when crafting your social media strategy. The clinic’s Center for Social Media is the first of its kind. Mayo Clinic also has a YouTube channel that shows doctor interviews, treatment videos and stories about patients receiving outstanding care. New patients get eyewitness reports of the experience, right from check-in to follow-up care.

For healthcare marketers, social media is an opportunity to connect with potential and existing patients, discover partnership opportunities and seek professional advice. However, as medical professionals, you must keep in mind HIPAA guidelines when promoting your hospital and services on social media. Also, some social networks indulge in data-mining practices, which may turn off some of your patients. Having said that, most social media platforms provide benefits along with the much-needed security demanded by medical marketers. Design a social media strategy and start engaging with your patients. You can provide general healthcare advice and customer support and create brand awareness. Do not discount the power of hashtags and relevant images. With the right social media strategy, your marketing reach can get an incredible boost.

5. Strengthen the content marketing

The biggest mistake in content marketing is to create content that your target audience may not connect to or that does not portray your hospital as planned. Most content writers focus on creating sales-related and promotional content. Such content offers only a little or no value to your patients. Do not forget, your target audience is smart enough to identify and classify promotional content from informative content. Consequently, it is an attempt to sell your services and glorify your hospital brand that may make the potential patient abandon your website.
How to overcome this problem?

The solution

Whether a hospital wants to increase its email marketing conversion rate or improve the click-through on its website, content is the key. All you need to do is to create unique, useful and engaging content for your target audience. When a valuable piece of content is created, your readership will grow. This will gradually increase your viewership. Effective content marketing programs take time to stabilize. Do not expect a new blog to drive 100 new patients the first day. However, rest assured, if you consistently create useful and informative content, you will notice an increase in your marketing ROI.

5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing

Get the first-mover advantage

Traditionally, hospitals have been observed as caregivers embedded in a ‘build it and patients will come’ approach. Marketing and branding were not always given priority since it is critical to keep costs low.

While some of the modern hospital marketing rules are playing to the strengths of online communications, traditional media continues to play a role. However, because the technology has shrunk the desktop to pocket size, greater personalization and patient engagement is the way to go. You must evaluate if your hospital is falling short and then follow these modern rules for hospital marketing. Your patients and your bottom line will thank you.

The hospital marketing rules discussed in this article can help to build strong, sustainable marketing campaigns that will foster brand awareness, expand your patient base, improve your online reputation and help you to deliver on your promises.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

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